Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kentucky Derby Bourbon Chocolate Pie: name changed to protect the guilty

What else is traditional chocolate fare for the Kentucky Derby? Derby Pie, what else? Of course, I've changed the name to protect???whom?? What's in a name. So here you have it.

Kentucky Bourbon Chocolate Walnut Pie has been served at the annual Derby Horse Race for over 50 years. It was a special recipe that was first made at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky. Here's my easy recipe. Makes 1 Kentucky Bourbon Chocolate Walnut Pie*

Prep Time: 5 minutes; Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar (1/2 brown/1/2 white)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon (it's a matter of taste)
  • 1 cup chopped English walnuts (you can vary this by using pecans)
  • 1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 - 9 " deep-dish pie shell (pre-made crust or roll on your own)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix flour and sugar. Add the eggs and melted butter; mix to combine. Stir in the bourbon, walnuts, chocolate chips, vanilla, and salt. Pour mixture an unbaked piecrust. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Pie should be chewy but not runny.

* Note: You can't legally call it a "Derby Pie" recipe. The name "Derby Pie" is trademarked, and the owners of the name are very aggressive protecting the name "Derby Pie."

There have been many modifications over the years, but the most important thing is to use Kentucky Bourbon.

Another variation: don't add the chocolate chips to the mix: Arrange them on the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Pour over the chocolate chips and bake.

Similar recipes to the one above are sometimes called Brownie Pie or Tollhouse Pie, but it's really Derby Pie.

And, my friend Janet Appel sent her personal recipe. Leave it to someone from Kentucky to have the 'real' thing.

BOURBON CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE
(Originally called Derby Pie)

FROM ENTERTAINING THE LOUISVILLE WAY-QUEEN’S DAUGHTERS 1969

1 stick melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup white corn syrup
4 eggs beaten
1 tablespoon Wild Turkey Bourbon
1 cup whole pecans
½ cup chocolate chips

1-9 or 10 inch unbaked pie shell

Mix the above ingredients and pour into the pie shell. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until fairly firm at 350 degrees. Let cool and set up before serving. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream. Serves 6 to 8.

Notes: We soak the pecans in bourbon over night and use a jigger of bourbon. We still add the tablespoon of bourbon to the mixture. White corn syrup is Karo.

Have a Great Derby Day! Be sure and bet on Chocolate Candy!

The photo is not mine. Apologies. It looks a lot like Derby, sorry, Kentucky Bourbon Chocolate Walnut Pie....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kentucky Derby Bourbon Balls

Chocolate Candy is a contender for the 135th Kentucky Derby, so with that name, my money's on him.

So what kind of chocolate candy should you make if you're not at the Derby, but you're watching at home? Well, you're drinking bourbon, so why not try these bourbon balls? My friend Janet Appel is from Kentucky, so you know they're good!

DOLLY APPEL’S BOURBON BALLS

1 ½ pounds pecans
8 oz of Maker’s Mark Bourbon
2 oz water
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar
3 pounds semisweet chocolate
3 oz paraffin

Break and combine pecans with bourbon, cover and set aside for 4 hours or more. Sift confectioners’ sugar and add pecans, adding sugar gradually to a working consistency until a small ball can be made ½ to ¾ inch in diameter. Water is to be used only to bring mixture to desired consistency. Add water only to prevent ball from falling apart. Mixture should be semi-dry. Prepare balls and place on a waxed papered cookie sheet. Place in freezer to cool. (Approx. 2 hours)

Melt chocolate and paraffin and mix well. Chocolate should not be too hot, just warm enough to work up. The warmer the mix, the thinner coating the bourbon balls will have.

Remove formed balls from the freezer when ready to coat with chocolate. With fingers dip each ball to cover half of ball and return to cookie sheet. After this step return to refrigerator to harden chocolate. (Approx. 1 hour)

To coat top half of ball when ready insert toothpick in the bottom that has already been coated and dip top in chocolate. Remove toothpick and return ball to cookie sheet. Refrigerate again to harden chocolate.

Store bourbon balls in refrigerator.

Note from Janet Appel: This recipe is at least 70 years old. It was Marty’s mother’s recipe. She loved to make chocolate candies. Fingers were used for a lot of mixing, holding, stirring. Today there are fine chocolate tools to dip with, and electric pots to melt the chocolate. Paraffin is needed no matter how good your chocolate.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sandwich Cookie Cake Pans


I don't usually endorse products, but the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Sandwich Cookie Cake Pans looks so cool, I have to mention it. This is a pair of baking pans that Williams-Sonoma suggests pairing the Chocolate cake with vanilla cream or trying a more sophisticated combo such as espresso-fudge cake with cappuccino cream filling. The set includes two nonstick baking pans that turn out cakes embossed with "cookie.'" They're cast aluminum pans that spread heat evenly for uniform baking. 9" diameter. Set of two. I always love novelty shaped pans, and I'll buy just about anything with words on it.

The email for the Sandwich Cookie Can Pans came across my desk this morning as a great present for Mother's Day. I suggest baking the chocolate cookie cake for Mom and presenting her with the pans as a present. You could make Home Made Oreo cookies to surround the cake. Now that would be a great present!

I've done two complementary blogs on this subject: Whoopie Pies and Home Made Oreo Cookies and I've had a lot of chocolate cake recipes.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chocolate Diet

My friend Steve went on a "chocolate diet" and lost 20 pounds. True, he added other foods and green tea, but he says the chocolate raised his energy level and helped him lose 20 pounds. Here's a more scientific look at chocolate as a diet food.

Dr. Hiroshige Itakura of Ibaraki Christian University says that eating chocolate can help you lose weight, but only under certain conditions.

1. The chocolate has to have a cacao content of at least 70%, and something in the 90% would be better.

2. You can eat no more than 1.8 ounces (about 300 calories) a day of chocolate and that needs to be offset by giving up equivalent calories in a daily meal plan.

3. The intake of the chocolate should be spread out and consumed during or before each of the three meals.

4. Following these guidelines daily for a month could lead to a loss of 4-6 pounds.

The greater the cacao content, the more effective its weight loss effects are.

Here’s how he believes the science works:

Cacao contains a polyphenol that absorbs glucose and burns fat.
Cacao combats the oxidization of cholesterol and thus works to prevent the hardening of the arteries.
The theobromine in cacao, that provides the bitter flavor, also has relaxing quantities (seratonin reuptake inhibitors) that can combat stress, a major cause of overeating. Chocolate has plenty of vitamins and minerals--it contains substantial amounts of A, B-complex, D and E and minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and zinc. The % RDA per 100g of chocolate will vary based on cacao content. Cacao also contains properties that fight harmful bacteria.

Dr. Itakura’s research on the topic first appeared in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology in 2000. If you’d like to try the diet, Itakura advises that the most effective way to eat chocolate is to let it melt in your mouth because it takes longer to consume and that will make the stomach feel full. Makes sense to me.

But... you can't have your cake and eat it, too, when dieting. The diet is for more or less pure chocolate. Sugar and milk additives decrease the effectiveness of weight loss. Put away the chocolate cake and brownie recipes during your dieting period.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

National Pretzel Day-Make it Chocolate Covered

I'm not sure who makes up all these very odd National holidays, and I'm not sure if they're real, but I did see National Pretzel day is April 26 on several sites. O.K., the internet isn't always to be believed, but I'm going with it. So happy National Pretzel Day!

I'm from Philadelphia, the home of the soft pretzel. When I was growing up, there were pretzel carts on almost every corner downtown. Usually we smeared our pretzels with mustard. The soft pretzels were very doughy on the inside but crunchy on the outside and dipped in rock (kosher?) salt. Since I always enjoyed baking bread, I used to make pretzels, easy to do.

So I did a little research on pretzels, and it wasn't surprising to find that the first commercial pretzel bakery in the U.S. was established in 1861 in Lancaster County, PA. In 1935, the Reading Pretzel Machinery Company introduced the automatic pretzel twisting machine. For a history of the pretzel, go here and here.

So when did chocolate covered pretzels come into the picture? Not sure, but don't you like everything with chocolate? Chocolate covered pretzels are usually make with hard pretzels. I love the salt/sweet thing.

Here's an easy recipe. Always use the very best chocolate.

1 1/2 good dark chocolate bars broken into pieces (6-8 oz?)
1 tbsp shortening
pretzels (until your chocolate runs out)

Melt chocolate with shortening in a bowl over simmering water. Remove from heat, but keep over the water.
One at a time drop pretzels into the chocolate. Lift out with a fork, tapping fork against side of bowl to let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
Put pretzels on wire rack (over wax paper). Dry until the chocolate hardens.

How easy is that?

Friday, April 24, 2009

National Zucchini Bread Day: April 25

April 25 is National Zucchini Bread Day, not to be confused with National Zucchini Day which falls on August 8 when the vegetable seems to divide and multiply and take over your vegetable garden. I love zucchini bread and what better way to celebrate than with a wonderful chocolate zucchini bread. When I first started baking 'vegetable' breads, I used to use old coffee tins for baking pans, but that was a long time ago. I usually make my zucchini breads in bundt pans now, and I'm always amazed at the new shapes out there. Of course conventional loaf pans work since it is a bread, after all. Although most recipes say to let the zucchini bread cool, I don't follow that since by the time the aroma has filled my kitchen for an hour, I'm ready. I make short shrift of chocolate zucchini bread, so if you're like me, you'll want to make two or double the recipe, so others get a chance to taste these breads.

A few comments on zucchini. They're called courgettes, marrows (remember Hercule Poirot throwing the marrow over the fence in the opening of The Murder of Roger Acroyd?) and sometimes summer squash (although in my neck of the woods summer squash is a totally different squash).

I couldn't find my recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread since I haven't grown zucchini in several years. The recipe must be stuck in a drawer or tucked into a cookbook somewhere, so I thought I'd see if I can find anything that vaguely resembled it. The Geeky Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe (from What Geeks Eat.. eating and Thinking in Wisconsin) below sounds even better than mine. I'll probably make this one to celebrate National Zucchini Bread Day, and I'll try to remember to save the recipe for Zucchini day in August when the zucchinis are free or close to it.

Geeky Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Ingredients:
1 stick of butter melted (you can add more butter for a moister cake)
1 cup of dark brown sugar
1/2 cup of white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups whole wheat white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I would leave this out, but that's me)
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 cup pecans (I'll probably use walnuts)
2 medium zucchinis (about 3 cups) grated

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 large loaf pans with parchment.
Combine the butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl. Stir well until it is totally combined. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the butter/egg mixture to the flour and stir gently to begin combining. Stop and add the zucchini, chocolate chips, and pecans. Continue to stir to combine all the ingredients but don’t stir too much. Fill the loaf pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the bread comes out clean. Start checking at 30 minutes and then add time as needed.

When they are baked let them rest in their pans for 5 minutes and then move the breads out of the pans and onto a rack. Let them cool before slicing (if you can wait). Wrapped well they should last 4-5 days. They freeze well too.

Not content with one recipe, I looked on the Internet for something a bit different. I found this Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread recipe on RecipeZaar. Now the fact that this makes 4 loaves means its a zucchini bread after my heart. It's a Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread, too, so it's different from the traditional recipes, at least for me, and it looks simple to make.

Amy's Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
Ingredients
6 eggs
4 cups sugar
2 cups oil
4-5 cups shredded zucchini
6 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon (I might use the cinnamon in this recipe)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 (12 ounce) package miniature chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat together eggs, sugar and oil. Add zucchini and remaining ingredients, mixing well. Bake in 4 well-greased loaf pans for about one hour. Freezes well, if there's any left.

I'm glad this 'holiday' falls on a Saturday this year. Lots of time to bake, but I need to shop for zucchinis first.

Eat your veggies, but cover them with chocolate!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Three Chocolate Recipes to Make Before You Die


O.k. "Three Chocolate Recipes to Make Before You Die" is an odd title, but then aren't we all "Dying for Chocolate"? An email entitled 15 recipes to Make Before You Die landed in my inbox today from MyRecipes.com, and I had to check it out to see if any were chocolate. 3 were! That's a pretty high percentage!

So here are the three chocolate recipes that the folks at MyRecipes.com chose. As always feel free to send variations on these recipes. I put the fudge last because I think candy is harder than baking or cooking.

1. Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding. This is a very thick and rich pudding.

2. Chocolate Cake. A very decadent cake recipe with several layers and a chocolate ganache filling. Yum!

3. Creamy Chocolate Fudge. It's true. If you want to learn to make candy, start with fudge.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Green Chocolate

Green Chocolate: Ok, it's not really green, but here are a few more brands to add to the previous lists of earth-friendly chocolate. These are some of my favorite eco-friendly chocolates that use organic ingredients and practice fair-trade.

Green & Black's Organic chocolate
Endangered Species Chocolate (10% of net profits donated to help support species, habit and humanity). Coupon for $1 off a Walgreen's on the website until April 25.
Recchiuti Confections
Sweetriot (uses recyclable, reusable packaging that features emerging artists + all natural ingredients for dark chocolate 'peaces'
Charles Chocolates

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Orchids that Smell like Chocolate

Continuing my blog ties in with Earth Day, I posted a story yesterday about orchids and mystery and rainforests on Mystery Fanfare, my mystery blog. Since I was thinking about orchids, I thought I'd mention some orchids that smell like chocolate. Not quite chocolate, but the smell is the next best thing, especially if you love orchids.

Sharry Baby in a chocolate oncidium that produces multiple spikes with dozens of tiny blossoms. Although the petals appear to be delicate, they're really quite firm with almost a leathery feel--and the smell, well it smells just like chocolate! The scent can be addictive, but you won't gain weight. I have a few, and I'm pretty sure I picked them up at Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's, by the way, has some very fine earth-friendly chocolate, as well as great orchids.

Encyclia phoenicium is a fragrant Cuban orchid that smells of chocolate and sends up a spray of flowers with small Cattleya like shape. Not as easy to find as Oncidium Sharry Baby.

Remember, you can always eat chocolate in the hothouse while tending your orchids. Warm chocolate is soooo good.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dirt Cupcakes for Earth Day


So I was thinking about dirt cupcakes for Earth Day. Something for the kids (and the kid in all of us). I know I have a recipe for cemetery cupcakes I use at Halloween, but I couldn't locate it. In the meantime, I found a great recipe for Dirt Cupcakes with terrific step by step illustrations at the Bumbling Baker.

Materials Needed:
12 chocolate cupcakes
1 1/2 chocolate frosting
Oreo baking crumbs
Gummi Worms

Directions:
1. After baking up a batch of chocolate cupcakes (The Bumbling baker halved Martha's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes, recipe HERE), allow them to cool completely. Then, frost each cupcake with chocolate frosting, or with buttercream that's tinted brown or black. You don't want the frosting to be noticeable once the cupcakes are dipped in the cookie crumbs.
2. Use Oreo baking crumbs to coat the frosted cupcakes. You could always break apart a bunch of Oreo cookies and finely crush the cookie bits, but it's a heck of a lot of work, and these are supposed to be EASY.
3. Put the cookie crumbs in a shallow bowl so it's easy to dip the cupcakes.
4. Dip the cupcake in the cookie crumbs.
5. Making sure you really get it in there.
6. Don't forget to roll the sides of the cupcake in the crumbs too.
7. Until you can't see any frosting and the cupcake is totally coated.
8. Grab a wooden spoon, and use the end of the handle to poke a hole deep into the cupcake.
Then pop a gummi worm in the hole.

I saw a lot of other recipes on the web, but I liked this one the best. Haven't tried it yet, but the ingredients look right, the directions are simple, and I love the looks of 'dirt' on top with one single worm.

So now you have choices of chocolate for Earth Day. Be sure and read my previous posts on earth-friendly chocolate.


Mud Pie for Earth Day


My previous blog was about Earth-Friendly chocolate: what makes chocolate earth-friendly, so today I thought I'd give a recipe for Mud Pie, the perfect chocolate treat for Earth Day. The following recipe from the evite blog is a variation on the traditional Mud Pie. It's easy and delicious.

Mud Pie

  • 1½ cups chocolate wafer cookies, crushed into tiny pieces
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 pint coffee ice cream, softened
  • 1 tablespoon Kahlúa
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1 cup whipping cream, plus 2 tablespoons
  • ½ cup dark corn syrup
  • 12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Combine chocolate wafer cookies and butter and press into 9-inch pie plate. Place in freezer. Mix ice cream, Kahlúa and brandy. Whip 2 tablespoons whipping cream, fold into ice cream mixture, and pour into pie shell. Cover and place in freezer. Meanwhile, bring 1 cup cream and corn syrup to a simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Cool until lukewarm, about 20 minutes. Pour sauce over mud pie and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Earth Friendly Chocolate


With Earth Day coming up on April 22, I thought I'd put together a list and information about earth-friendly chocolate also known as eco-chocolate.

What makes chocolate earth-friendly?

A little background: There are issues related to chocolate that need to be taken into consideration. First the demand for chocolate is so great that there are forces at work (human forces) to clear more and more of the rainforests to accommodate single crop cacao tree plantations. This leaves open sunny fields that lower the levels of plant and animal diversity. Along with that is the fact that some plantations use large amounts of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides that devastate not just the land but animal and bird populations--and other plants.

Another big problem with cacao production is child labor. Although this is not an environmental issue it is being addressed by environmentalists and humanists. 284,000 children between the ages of 9 and 12 work in hazardous conditions on West African cacao plantations. Many cacao workers in Ivory Coast (more than 40% of world's cacao is grown there), are underage and overworked. Read more. This is where fair-trade advocates have targeted the large producers to improve working conditions. To read more about conditions and responsible scientists and environmental groups, go here.

So what earth friendly chocolate should you eat on Earth Day?

Look beyond the word "organic." Opt for "fair trade certified"

Choose chocolates made from local ingredients. Hawaii is the only U.S. state that produces cacao: The Hawaiian Chocolate Company is absolutely terrific since it's truly bean to bar on the big Island, so that's a great one!

Don't forget to check out if the brand uses recycled paper with no plastic inserts or plastic coating.

Here are a few on my own list, but there are many more, and I look forward to comments.

Republica del Cacao
Dagoba
Scharffen Berger
Green and Black
Pralus
Theo
Cacao Anasa
Yachana Gourmet
Charles Chocolates
Hawaiian Chocolate Company
The Grenada Chocolate Company
Rapunzel

As well as brands of organic chocolate bars, there are several non-organic companies that have organic lines.

O.K. so I know you're either feeling a bit guilty by now or very virtuous, but here's something chocolate you can do without any of the calories. Adopt a chocolate tree. For $49, The Foundation for Integrated Education and Development (FUNEDESIN) offers a certificate of adoption, two bags of Ecuadorian chocolate and 10% off the regular price of Yachana Lodge tours.

Want to read a real earth-friendly chocolate story? Two Brits went from the U.K. to Africa driving a truck that's using 2000 liters of biofuel produced from waste chocolate. Now that's really using everything chocolate!

Republica del Cacao

Frank Price, our TeamBuilding-Unlimited VP, is doing a short chocolate tasting tonight with a group of wine country event planners. This is part of a longer showcase of what our company, TeamBuilding Unlimited ,can and will do with clients. One of the 4 chocolates he chose was Republica del Cacao, a single original Dark Chocolate with 75% cacoa solids. This chocolate is wonderfully smooth with a slight floral aroma and a terrific lasting finish.

The Los Rios Province chocolate is a single original dark chocolate that uses the Arriba cacoa beans in Ecuador. They are both harvested and produced in Ecuador. The Plantations in Los Rios Province have exuberant rain forests, natural springs and rivers that help produce the legendary fine flavor with unmistakable aromas (you'll smell it once you get into the swing of things). What was really fun is that the bar, available at fine chocolate shops and online, contains tasting tips. You can have your own mini-chocolate tasting/appreciation. Listening to your senses: Appearance, Aroma, Taste, Touch and Listen. Buy a bar and read the notes 'adapted from The Chocolatier by Chloe Doutre-Roussel.' Or go on line and read a more detailed tasting list.

The origin of "Arriba" goes back to the 19th century when a Swiss Chocolatier traveling on the Guayas River was impressed by the aroma and asked workmen unloading cacoa sacks from a boat where the cacao aroma came from. They answered "de rio arriba" --from up the river.

Republica del Cacao was established four years ago as a project in search of rescuing one of the most valuable Ecuadorian agricultural treasures.: Cacao Arriba.

I have a hard job--tasting chocolate!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Queen of Sheba Cake

A friend of mine made a Queen of Sheba cake for Passover. I didn't think I'd ever made one, but as I started to do a bit of research, I remembered I had--a long time ago, and definitely more than once. I'm sure I watched the Julia Child episode when she made this cake (I watched them all many times), but I never really thought about this in terms of the perfect Passover cake. So I did a little research into this cake, not avoiding Mrs Child's classic recipe... just wanted a little history. In the course of my research, I found some very interesting articles and recipes including a very amusing article from Bay Area Bites that also went into the history of the Queen of Sheba, Come Back, Little Sheba and more.

Julia Child writes in "The Way to Cook" that this was the first French cake she ever ate, prepared by co-author Simone Beck, "and I have never forgotten it." Here's the recipe reprinted from Bay Area Bites for Reine de Saba. The recipe below does not include Julia Child's chocolate glaze. My feeling is you never have enough of a good thing--chocolate--so I've add it at the end.

The following will make one large Reine de Saba in an 8-inch cake pan, or make six petite versions in a large (3 1/2-inch diameter) muffin tin.

Ingredients:

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (bittersweet may be used)
2 tablespoons rum or coffee
1/4 lb butter at room temperature
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 egg, separated
2/3 cup finely ground almonds
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup cake flour, measured then sifted
one good pinch of salt

Preparation:

Pre-heat oven to 350F and place rack in the middle.

1. Melt the chocolate and rum or coffee (choose your poison) in a pot set over simmering (not boiling, please) water, stirring to combine. Cover, turn off heat, and leave alone. You'll come back to it later and it isn't going anywhere. Cream the butter and 2/3 cup sugar together until pale yellow and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks until paler and even fluffier than before. Add almond extract.

2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on low-to-medium until foamy, then increase speed as you like, adding 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

3. Return to your melted chocolate and give her a little stir. The consistency should be somewhat satiny and fluid. Beat in a bit of butter/yolk mixture at a time, stirring constantly so the yolks do not curdle. Repeat until all is one.

4. Combine almond meal, flour, and salt. Now add this dry mixture to your chocolate goo, incorporating bits at a time. When this has been accomplished, gently fold in egg whites, starting with about 1/2 a cup and working the rest in ever so skillfully.

5. Immediately set to placing about 1/2 cup of your batter into each of the six muffin tins. Give her a good, hard bang or two on your kitchen counter to level and remove any bubbles in the batter. Bake for 12 minutes, then begin to peek into your oven obsessively until finished. A pale, chocolaty crust should form, but the cakes should jiggle a wee bit, too. Ideally, a toothpick inserted about an inch from the edges should come out dry, but one poked into the center should not. When this has been achieved, remove from oven and let cool for, oh, I don't know, let's say an hour, because you've got other things to do. When ready to remove from pan, run a sharp knife around the edges of the cakes, invert onto a tray, and you're done.

Not exactly. At this point, you may either top them with a chocolate glaze or simply dust them with powdered sugar.

I do like the personal baking comments in the recipe above, but the writer does not include Julia Child's chocolate glaze. My feeling is you can never have enough of a good thing--chocolate--so you can add it.

For the Icing from Julia Child's original recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking:

2 ounces (2 squares) semisweet baking chocolate
2 Tb rum or coffee
5 to 6 Tb unsalted butter

Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in the small pan, cover, and set in the larger pan of almost simmering water. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth. Lift chocolate pan out of the hot water, and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time. Then beat over the ice and water until chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency. At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife, and press a design of almonds over the icing.

And, you can add a few dark chocolate squares to the top, too!

Don't Mess with our Chocolate


Frank Price sent me an article on Hershey's and the proposed petition to change the formulation of chocolate--a change in which the marketplace would have considered what is chocolate.

From the article on Chocolate News

From what I hear, it was Hershey’s that proposed and pushed a petition to the FDA to allow for the re-formulation of chocolate to allow for using any vegetable oil rather than the cocoa butter naturally found in chocolate. “By specific language in this Petition document, it would allow for the unlimited use of vegetable fats from any source and at any level to replace the cocoa butter in chocolate and still allow the product to be called chocolate,” said Don’t Mess With Our Chocolate, an organization founded by Guittard Chocolate to combat the petition.

Don’t Mess With Our Chocolate alleged that “the petition would allow liquor to be made by combining purchased cocoa butter and cocoa powder instead of solely being ground from nibs. In addition, the 50% minimum requirement can be voided if you want slightly reduced fat liquor—say 40%, which does “not rise to the level of a defined nutrient claim” (FDA language). In effect, we would now have a new form of ingredient that would also be called “chocolate liquor” which could then be used to make chocolate and would allow the use of even more vegetable fat in the final product that would be called chocolate.

Hershey's efforts to redefine chocolate failed. Yay! However, it closed Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt. Hershey's announced:

“The financial market and credit crisis has not had a material effect on our business operations or liquidity, to date. However, the increase in our cost structure and uncertainties in the financial markets and in the broader economy present challenges as we head into 2009.”

Guess there's no room for the artisan in meeting those challenges, even if there was a 31% profit increase.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Joseph Schmidt Chocolates to Close

Not wanting to ruin the holiday for so many Joseph Schmidt aficionados, I haven't mentioned the demise of the chocolate line that was announced around Valentine's Day. This Easter was the last for Joseph Schmidt which opened shop in 1983. The Hershey Company bought Joseph Schmidt Confections in 2005 and continued the brand. Now Hershey says they will be discontinuing the brand and closing its two Bay Area stores in San Francisco and San Jose by June 30. To read more, go here. Hershey says that Joseph Schmidt, the chocolatier, will remain a Hershey employee, but workers at the Castro and San Jose stores and the South of Market factory will be laid off. First Scharffen Berger, now Schmidt. A sad time for Bay Area chocolate.

The photo of Joseph Schmidt was taken by me at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Paques, Poisson and Paris

Oh to be in Paris in the Springtime! And, Easter, delicieux! Paris known for its fabulous chocolate shops goes all out to celebrate. There are the wonderful white and dark chocolate rabbits, ducks, bunnies, and--fish! O.k. this may seem odd to those of us who are used to chocolate rabbits and eggs, but chocolate fish? Poisson d'Avril fill shop windows in Paris.

The French celebrate April fool's day by pinning a paper fish on someone's back when they're not looking--and they celebrate by eating a ton of little chocolate fish. The origins of Easter Poisson d'Avril can be a bit cloudy. Does it have to do with Lent? Pisces? No one is quite sure. What we do know is that the chocolate fish appear at Easter when chocolate fish are consumed. Easter is sometimes in March, remember. These chocolates come in all shapes and sizes and ganache fillings.

For more on Fish and chocolate, read Sally Peabody's great article on Chocolate Atlas.

For some fabulous photos and drawings of chocolate fish in Paris, go to Paris Breakfasts. Carol Gillott is an artist/photographer and has a great handle on the Parisian chocolate scene.

Easter egg hunts have been popular for many years, and in France, hidden Easter fish were often the norm. See the excerpt below from Every Woman's Encyclopaedia by Gladys Beattie Crozier(1910):

Given a fine, sunshiny spring day, nothing could more delight children than the merry hunt round the flower-beds, under the shrubbery, amongst the nooks and corners of the kitchen garden, and along the banks of any gold-fish pond or tiny ornamental stream, where the realistic-looking Easter fish, whose in-sides are filled with chocolates - "poissons d'avril," as they are called in France - are hidden.

I think this is a very interesting and delicious twist on the Egg hunt. And, some of the chocolate fish have eggs under their gills!

Have a great holiday!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Brownie Cake

We've been having a lot of birthdays in my mystery reading group in the past few weeks. On Tuesday, my friend Janet Appel baked a Brownie Cake. It was fabulous, so I asked her to send the recipe. She's been making this for over 20 years, and I imagine it just gets better as she tinkers with the ingredients. The frosting is truly the "frosting on this cake"

BROWNIE CAKE, recipe by Janet Appel of I Have No Endings

Mix in a large bowl: 2 cups flour 2 cups sugar

Bring to boil: 1 stick butter ½ cup oil (I use Wesson)
1 cup water ½ cup cocoa (I use Hershey’s)
Stir every now and then.

Now pour over dry mixture and blend.

Stir in: 2 eggs (lightly beaten) 1 tsp. vanilla 1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp soda ½ cup buttermilk (or ½ cup of milk less 2 Tbsp, then add 2 Tbsp vinegar to sour)

Bake in a 10x15 inch cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 400 degrees or in a 9x13 pan for 25 minutes. (I use a glass pan)

FROSTING

Bring to a boil: 1 stick butter 6 Tbsp milk ½ cup cocoa
Stir every now and then.

Then add the above to the following:
1 pound box powdered sugar 1tsp. vanilla ½ to 1 cup broken pecans
Mix together.

When cake goes into the oven start the frosting. Let cake cool to warm them frost. Do not turn out the cake. Leave it in the pan.

NOTES:
I use 2 teaspoons of cinnamon in the cake and 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla in cake and in the frosting. Sometimes I put a pinch of cinnamon in the frosting. When baking in the 9x13 pan, sometimes it takes 30 minutes. I check with a metal cake tester (a toothpick will work) in the middle around 22 minutes. You want the tester to come out clean. I do not use a mixer; you want a gentle mixing by hand.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Knipschildt Chocolatier: Handcrafted Easter chocolates

It may be hard to get these chocolates in the next two days, but I just had to mention Knipschildt Chocolatier's Easter offerings. Knipschildt has been producing handcrafted Easter chocolates for years. The Petit chocolate Egg Sampler of 4 eggs contains hand painted, handmade artisan chocolate eggs packaged in a purple or orange egg carton. The eggs in the mini-sampler consist of dark chocolate eggs with a dark chocolate ganache, milk chocolate eggs with a nougat ganache, white chocolate eggs with a passion fruit ganache.

The Chocolate Quail Eggs are considered a tradition at Knipschildt chocolatier. They are handmade speckled eggs that positively melt in your mouth. White chocolate egg with a milk chocolate nougat center, packaged in an egg carton.

Danish born Connecticut based Fritz Knipschildt, Matire Chocolatier, makes no compromises. He applies the highest standards of excellence to each and evry step of the chocolate & confection process.

Here's a tip from Knipschildt for storage and chocolate care:
1. Store chocolate in a cool, dry, dark place. Do not refrigerate chocolate.
2. Chocolates are best enjoyed at room termperature between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit
3. Between tasting chocolate, drink still spring water.

Rhymes with Orange

Rhymes with Orange is one of my favorite comic strips, and Hillary Price gives us a perfect strip today.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter Chocolate Desserts

So, I have my chocolate eggs and bunnies ready, but I thought I'd put together a few other ideas for Chocolate Easter desserts--or for any Springtime celebration.

Chocolate Nests. This is a wonderful recipe from Woman's Day. I particularly like this recipe because it's a mix of what else? sweet and sour. And, it looks so good. It takes 20 minutes to put together and 50 minutes to cook, and your friends and family will think you worked hours! Very artistic.

Ingredients:

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
2 cups (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
2 cans (5 oz each) thin chow mein noodles
Fill with: egg-shaped Easter candies such as Jordan almonds

Preparation:
1. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Lightly coat with nonstick spray.2. Scrape condensed milk into a medium saucepan or microwave-safe bowl; add chocolate chips. Place over low heat and stir often, or microwave on high 2 to 4 minutes, stirring every minute, until chips melt and mixture is blended and smooth. 3. Put noodles into a large bowl, pour on chocolate mixture and toss with a rubber spatula until noodles are coated.4. Drop generous 1⁄2 cups on prepared baking sheets. Lightly spray fingertips with nonstick spray. Form mounds into nests making a depression in the center to hold candies. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until set. Peel off of the foil; fill with candies.

Planning Tip: The nests can be made up to 3 days before serving. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Stephanie Jaworski on Joy of Baking has a yummy Chocolate Easter Cake suggestion. Take your favorite chocolate torte recipe (her recipe for the chocolate torte and the ganache is on the page) and cover it with a lovely smooth and shiny chocolate ganache and garnish with colorful sprinkles and candy. Make the torte a day ahead so it becomes dense and fudgy and doesn't break off.

Tyler Florence of the Food Network has lots of 'show-stopping" chocolate desserts for Easter, but this one caught my eye: Truffle tarts with Raspberries, and the "crust" is made with chocolate wafers or oreo crumbs, and the filling consists of truffle cream. The recipe is simple!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Chocolate Easter Eggs and Bunnies


Serious Eats had a good question about chocolate Easter bunnies and preferences. So what's better? Solid? Hollow? Dark chocolate? Milk chocolate? I think I'm partial to hollow, but since I haven't had a chocolate Easter bunny in a long time, I can't remember if I liked milk or dark chocolate. My taste today is for dark chocolate, so maybe I'll need to buy one of the bunnies. Can you buy just one? Don't they reproduce?

Chocolate Easter Eggs: Alison Ladman had a great recipe for the Associated Press for making your own Chocolate Easter Eggs. Looks like the end product would be delicious, but it's more for a candy maker, and I'm a baker. I don't really get "melts" and all. Lots of other chocolate egg recipes on Elizabeth LaBau's chocolate Easter Egg entry on About.com. There are even some I will try. Here's her recipe for Double Chocolate Easter Eggs. Might as well go for the Gold: double chocolate. And this looks relatively easy.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:

* 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
* 1 package (5.25 oz) chocolate pudding mix, not instant
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 lb powdered sugar, sifted
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 cup chopped walnuts
* 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate (can substitute bittersweet)
* 1 tbsp shortening


Preparation:

1. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and heat it over medium until the butter is melted. Pour in the pudding mix and stir until smooth and well-combined.

2. Slowly pour in the milk and continue to stir until mixture is smooth. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture is very thick and pulls from the sides of the pan.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in the walnuts and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

4. Form the mixture into about 20 egg shapes and place on foil-lined baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

5. While candy is setting, melt the unsweetened chocolate and shortening together in the microwave. Allow it to cool, but not set. If it begins to harden before candy is ready to be dipped, re-warm it in the microwave briefly.

6. Dip the eggs in the melted chocolate using two forks or dipping tools. Place them back on the baking sheet. Place the eggs back in the refrigerator to set completely.

***
Hotel Chocolate, a UK company, has some beautiful chocolate Ostrich Easter Eggs and even some Engraved Cocoa Pod Easter Eggs. Too late for me, I guess to order these.

So while I was searching, I found a cool site called Easter Eggs. Links to a lot of English Easter chocolate. Loved the 1/2 price Thorntons Easter Bunnies (milk and white chocolate). Not traditional in so many ways, and maybe a bit too cute, but such fun!

And Brett Moore has the top 9 Chocolate Bunnies for Easter. Maybe not too late to order. They all look great, and I think Brett vetted them on taste.

Chocolate Easter Bunnies


My uncle owned a candy factory, so you can imagine what my Easter chocolate memories were about: Rabbits and chickens and eggs, oh yes! Not sure if Uncle Victor brought home rejects or the real thing, but it didn't matter to our passel of cousins. His candy was delicious. I loved the chocolate bunnies and the chocolate coconut eggs--and there were also those hollow chocolate eggs with the vignettes in them--little scenes. What were they called?

So, I was in Safeway the other day getting a Starbucks mocha (what else?) when I saw this row of bunnies facing me. Got one shot before my camera battery gave out. Forgot totally I have an iPhone with a good camera, but hope you like this photo.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake


With Passover starting on Wednesday night, I thought I'd reprint my favorite flourless chocolate cake recipe. Since it doesn't rise and there's no flour, I think it would work for Passover. Don't hold me to it, but definitely try this recipe. It's simple and delicious. I use left over chocolate from our TeamBuilding Unlimited/Murder on the Menu awesome chocolate tastings.

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Ingredients 4 ounces (or more) fine-quality chocolate (not unsweetened, 70% cacoa or more)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder


Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan.
Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.

Break chocolate into pieces.
In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth.
Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture.
Add eggs and whisk well.
Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.
Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust.
Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.

Dust cake with additional cocoa powder or powdered sugar and serve with ice cream or whipped real cream.

Unbelievable and so easy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chocolate for Passover


Passover is coming up next week, and unlike my friends who gave up chocolate for Lent (don't worry folks, the end is near), there is absolutely no reason to give up chocolate for Passover. Well, yes and no. Depends if you keep kosher or not--and then to what degree, but I won't go there. Besides my interest in chocolate for which I have no 'real' education, I do have a PhD in Religion, and I do understand the fine points of kashrut. However, the following delightful treats--a combination of salt and sweet tastes-- are available to everyone whatever your religion.

So the question remains every year, how to enliven unleavened bread (matza, matzoh-spelling varies) that often tastes like cardboard? What else, add chocolate!

Here's a great easy recipe adapted from Ellen Helman that appeared in the Boston Globe several years ago.

Chocolate-covered Matzoh

6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
½ cup dark brown sugar
4 sheets regular unsalted matzo
8 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips


1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter or margarine. Add the sugar and stir well.
3. Place two matzos on each baking sheet. Divide the butter and sugar mixture among the sheets of matzo -- about 2 tablespoons for each one. With a rubber spatula, spread the mixture over the entire surface of matzo.
4. Bake the matzos for 6 to 7 minutes or until the topping is bubbly and brown.
5. Remove the sheets from the oven and immediately sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons of the chips. Let them sit for 30 seconds, then use a metal palette knife to spread the chocolate evenly.
6. Transfer the matzos to wire racks. Remove the foil from the baking sheets and set the racks on the sheets. Refrigerate for 30 minutes so the chocolate solidifies.

Don't want to go to all that bother? Streit's has a milk chocolate matzo. 7 oz. for $6.99
Indulge in Chocolate has a Kosher Chocolate Covered Matza which is covered in rich, dark chocolate and covered with colorful sprinkles! Cost is $31.95. for a 5 pound package. Judaism.com has this available in 1 lb boxes.

Want to be more adventurous? Several websites have recipes for Chocolate Covered Toffee Matzo. I'm a big David Lebovitz fan, living the sweet life in Paris. What chocoholic or foodie doesn't follow his blog? He had a great recipe for Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch last year. In this recipe, you're actually making more of a brittle. Be sure to substitute margarine for butter if you're taking this to a Passover seder where brisket will be served, but only if you assume it will be eaten during dessert, and if it matters, you should probably keep a kosher kitchen. But you can always bring this as a gift. There are a few companies that sell something similar, but it would be worth taking the time to make this yourself.

Want another Chocolate Passover treat to make. Here's a recipe for Chocolate-Covered Matzo Caramel Squares from Zelda's Sweet Shoppe in Skokie, IL.

Now let's get down to some chocolatiers. Charles Chocolates in San Francisco makes a great Chocolate Covered Matzah--pieces enrobed in their special 65% bittersweet chocolate. (This product is not certified kosher for Passover.) Vosges has a Dark Chocolate Matzo listed under its Crunchy Chocolate Snacks. This consists of broken matzo coated with their 64% cacao Venezuelan dark chocolate and finished off with a sprinkling of kosher sea salt. (Certified Kosher, but not Kosher for Passover,)

Here's one that I'm 'dying' to taste. Charoset Chocolate Matzo from Vosges. Dark chocolate broken matzo covered with apples, walnut and cinnamon. One stop shopping!

Passover starts on the evening of April 8, 2009.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chocolate + Bacon: Sweet and Salty


My friend Jeff sent me this photo (L) of Milk Chocolate Covered bacon from the This is Why You're Fat Blog. CCB is definitely one of the Seven Deadly Sins. On going directly to the source, I found this second treat, Chocolate Covered Apple Smoked Bacon. This uses dark chocolate. It's that sweet-salty thing that is so appealing. I found a recipe at Kevin's Tech Ramblings that includes the history of CCB.

Needless to say, the recipes and chocolate on today's blog do not observe the rules of kashrut.

O.K. maybe some of you just might not want to see exactly what you're eating. The Chocolatier Vosges offers Mo's Bacon Bar. Copy reads, "Breathe…engage your five senses, close your eyes and inhale deeply. Be in the present moment, notice the color of the chocolate, the glossy shine. Rub your thumb over the chocolate bar to release the aromas of smoked applewood bacon flirting with deep milk chocolate. Snap off just a tiny piece and place it in your mouth, let the lust of salt and sweet coat your tongue."
Mo's Bacon Bar: applewood smoked bacon + Alder wood smoked salt + deep milk chocolate, 41% cacao 3oz.

My search expanded as I wondered what other sweet/salty chocolate bacon treats were out there. A Good Appetite takes this treat to a new level with Dark Chocolate & Bacon Cupcakes. Well if you can put black beans in brownies, why not bacon in cupcakes? This recipe uses Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa, so now we're moving in the right direction--dark chocolate, that is. One warning in the recipe says not to skimp on the bacon, so that there is a nice chunk of bacon in each bite.

It's said that bacon covered chocolate originated at Marini's in Santa Cruz. Not sure, but I'd love to hear from others. Yumsugar has a fabulous recipe to make chocolate covered bacon at home. I think I prefer this recipe to the one above.

Of course, I needed to see if there were Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookie recipes. Yes, The Culinary Sherpas have a recipe. One of the comments on their Blog suggested Nutella and bacon crepes as a bacon/chocolate treat. Now that doesn't sound weird at all.

To update the 'special' Brownie recipes from the other day, and I knew there would be one, Bacon Brownies. This recipe by Mike Kirsch uses the Betty Crocker Hershey's Turtle brownie mix, but if you're a purist, you'll figure out you're own recipe from scratch.

This might be April 1, but this is not an April Fool's joke!

International Edible Book Festival

Louise of Months of Edible Celebrations sent me a note about the International Edible Book Festival that is held annually around April 1. According to Books2eat.com, the International Edible Book Festival is held on April 1st because "this is the birthday of French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), famous for his book Physiologie du goût, a witty meditation on food.

April fools' day is also the perfect day to eat your words and play with them as the "books" are consumed on the day of the event." This is global banquet, in which anyone can participate, and is shared by all on the internet and allows everyone to preserve and discover unique bookish nourishments.

The International Edible Book Festival is a creation of Judith A. Hoffberg and Béatrice Coron. The late Hoffberg got the idea over a Thanksgiving turkey with book artists in 1999, and Béatrice created Books2Eat website where despite the distances everybody can enjoy worldwide creations. They contacted friends and colleagues, and their first event took place in 2000. Since then the festival continues as an annual sensation.

The University of Texas, Austin, has a great website about their Festival.

Check out the internet for a Festival at a library, university or bookstore near you.

For the "official" global locations of the Festival for 2009, go HERE.