Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chocolate Labs: White, Chocolate, Dark

I couldn't help but post this for the final post this year! Soooo cute. A different kind of chocolate. Have a wonderful 2010.

New Year's Resolution: Eat More Chocolate. It's good for you!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Champagne Truffles to Buy: Ring in the New Year

Ring in the New Year with Champagne Truffles. Don't have time to make them? Several great Chocolate Companies make Champagne Truffles.

Recchiuti San Francisco Champagne Truffles
Indulge in this version of a classic favorite. Dark chocolate truffle with 2001 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs from Napa Valley and confectioner's sugar.

Teuscher Chocolate of Switzerland
House specialty, the famous Champagne Truffle, is a delicate blend of fresh cream, butter and chocolate with a champagne cream center surrounded by a dark chocolate ganache, covered in milk chocolate and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Originally created by Adolf Teuscher, Sr. in 1947. Available also in an all dark version.

Jacques Torres
Jacques' Taittinger Champagne Truffles are a combination of milk chocolate, fresh cream and Taittinger Brut La Francaise. I love the cork shape of these truffles.

Vosges Champagne Truffle Collection
Artisanal dark chocolate truffles combined with Krug® Champagne. 85% dark chocolate with Grande Cuvee Champagne and shaped like a truffle mushroom.

Williams-Sonoma
La Maison du Chocolat, founded in Paris in 1977, is world renowned for its exquisite chocolate creations. La Maison du Chocolat selects and roasts its own cacao beans, and all of the chocolate is made from special house blends. Their collection of chocolate truffles are hand made at the La Maison du Chocolat workshop in Paris. Other truffles but includes Champagne truffles: dark chocolate truffles infused with Fine Champagne Cognac, covered with dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa powder.

Payard Truffles at Saks Fifth Avenue
Champagne Truffles

Neuhaus Champagne Truffles
Dark chocolate dusted with a frosting of powdered sugar with soft centers of champagne butter crea. Not for the superstitious. Neuhaus Champagne Truffles are sold in boxes of 13

Godiva makes a champagne truffle, but I haven't had one in awhile. I remember it was beautiful and very smooth, but there was more chocolate taste than champagne. Still Godiva truffles are great.

Scharffen Berger doesn't have Champagne Truffles, but John Scharffenberger's original winery (before he went into chocolate) made sparkling wine (Champagnoise methode). Scharffen Berger used to produce Chocolate Covered Zante Currants (champagne grapes). Not to everyone's taste. I didn't check to see if these are still made. They're nothing like Raisinets.

Which are your favorites?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Champagne Truffles for New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve is coming up and what a better way to celebrate than with Champagne Truffles. I like this recipe because it uses more champagne than most Champagne Truffle recipes. The Cognac also adds some zip.

Martha Stewart's Champagne Truffles
Makes about 3 dozen

* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
* 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon Champagne
* 1 tablespoon Cognac
* Coarse sanding sugar, for rolling

Directions
1. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Immediately pour hot cream over the chocolate in a medium bowl; stir until smooth. Stir in the Champagne and Cognac. Refrigerate until chocolate mixture is firm enough to roll into balls, about 1 hour. (or more!!)
2. Using a small melon baller or ice-cream scoop, form 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in coarse sanding sugar, and transfer to rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate truffles at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days before serving.

You can also use unsweetened cocoa or confectioner's sugar if you don't have sanding sugar. This recipe was in Martha's wedding section, so the sparkly white sugar looks great for weddings, but cocoa tastes just as good.. just different.

*What Is Sanding Sugar?
Sanding sugar is a large crystal sugar used as edible decoration that will not dissolve when subjected to heat. Also called pearl sugar or decorating sugar, sanding sugar adds "sparkle" to cookies, baked goods and candies. The sparkling affect is achieved because the sugar crystal grains are large and reflect light. You can order Sanding Sugar online or buy it in cake decorating departments.

Monday, December 28, 2009

National Chocolate Candy Day: Oreo Truffles

December 28: Chocolate Candy Day. Chocolate Candy can be whatever you want it to be: Snickers, Kit Kats, M&Ms, Whitman Samplers, See's Candy or chocolate from great chocolatiers such as Recchiuti, Green & Black, Dagoba, Askinosie, and many others.

What's your favorite Chocolate Candy?

For great coverage, reviews and news on Chocolate Candy, Chocolatiers and more, go to The Nibble.

And how could I not have a recipe today. So here it is. Easy, of course. I'm giving the brand names of the products.. it's one of those recipes.

Easy OREO Truffles
adapted from Baker's Chocolate as seen on Allrecipes.com

Ingredients
1 (16 ounce) package OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, divided
1 (8 ounce) package PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
2 (8 ounce) packages BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted

Directions
1. Crush 9 of the cookies to fine crumbs in food processor; reserve for later use. (Cookies can also be finely crushed in a resealable plastic bag using a rolling pin.) Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.
2. Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.) Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.
3. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.

How to Easily Dip Truffles
Place truffle ball in melted chocolate to coat; roll if necessary. Lift truffle from chocolate using 2 forks (to allow excess chocolate to run off) before placing on wax paper

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tasty Awards: January 14, 2010

January 14. 2010. The TASTY AWARDS: Celebrating and recognizing the year's best achievements in food and fashion programs on television, in film and on the web. Winners of the TASTY AWARDS will be announced and receive their honors on January 14th, 2010 at a red carpet Awards Show at the Kabuki Theatre in San Francisco, portions of which will be filmed for broadcast on national television in February 2010 to millions of households.

Lifetime Achievement Awards and other Special Awards
will also be presented to valuable contributors to the industry and the genre.
Actress Debi Mazar ("Entourage," "Dancing With the Stars," "Ugly Betty," UnderTheTuscanGun.com),
Chef Nathan Lyon of TV's "A Lyon in the Kitchen,"
Food Network's Host, Chef Tyler Florence
The Executive Producers of "No Reservations" and "Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie," Lydia Tenaglia and Chris Collins.

Anthony Bourdain, Top Chef, Project Runway, Cake Boss and Guy Fieri lead the awards finalists with several nominations each. (I'm a Judge)

Hosted by food and travel television star Zane Lamprey of "Three Sheets" fame (Scripps Fine Living Network), the two-hour red carpet event takes place at the Sundance Kabuki Theatre in San Francisco on January 14th. The program will air on stations nationwide in February 2010, reaching millions of households and on Hulu.com.

The show features a star-studded lineup of food and fashion TV celebrities, including Tyler Florence (Food Network), Joanne Weir (PBS), G. Garvin (TV One), Tanya Holland (Food Network), Leslie Sbrocco (PBS), Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library TV), Marcy Smothers (Radio), Novella Carpenter (Author), Anita Chu (Author), Dominique Crenn (Food Network - Next Iron Chef), Brian Solis (New Media Guru), Marissa Churchill (Bravo, Top Chef), and more.

Special Achievement Awards have been announced for Anthony Bourdain, Martin Yan, Paul Prudhomme, YouTube, Alton Brown, Jacque Pepin, Meryl Streep, Giada De Laurentiis, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," Modelinia and Tim Gunn, among others.

The viewer appetite and response to food and style programs has surged over recent years, making them some of the highest watched video content. The TASTY AWARDS spotlight the year's best achievements in food and fashion programs on television, in film, and on the web.

To see the nominees and categories for the 2010 "TASTY Awards" and to participate in the Viewers Choice voting, and broadcast and ticket information, please go to www.TastyAwards.com, as well as get updates on Twitter.

For the full list of Finalists and Categories, VIP Tickets and Updates, Sponsors & Partners, go HERE.

The January 14th Awards Show takes place at the Sundance Kabuki theater in San Francisco; the gourmet After Party at the New People center. Special musical performance of "Cake" by Charity and the JAMBand.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

National Candy Cane Day: Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars


Was the day after Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring... but there were lots of candy canes everywhere. Must be the reason someone designated this National Candy Cane Day. So what do to? What to make? Here's a scrumptious recipe I've adapted from the Food Network Kitchens for Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars. This covers all the food groups and in such a delicious way. This is a keeper!

Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars

Crust:
20 chocolate wafer cookies
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground coffee beans
1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Filling:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate (65% cacao+), finely chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature

Glaze:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon light or dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature
1/2 cup crushed candy canes (see Note*)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with foil.

For the crust: Process the chocolate wafers in a food processor with the butter, sugar, coffee, and salt until fine. Evenly press the crust into the prepared dish covering the bottom completely. Bake until the crust sets, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water, and stir occasionally until melted and smooth. (I don't melt chocolate in the microwave very often)*

Blend the cream cheese, sugar, and sour cream together in the mixer until smooth. Scrape down the sides, as needed. Add the eggs and mix until just incorporated. Add the chocolate into the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

Pour the filling evenly over the crust. Bake until filling puffs slightly around the edges, but is still a bit wobbly in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

For the Glaze: Melt the chocolate, butter and corn syrup over a saucepan with simmering water, stirring the ingredients together until smooth. Remove from head and add the sour cream. Spread glaze evenly over the warm cake and scatter the crushed candy canes over top. Cool completely, then refrigerate overnight. (This is an important step if you want to have firm bars)

Cut into small bars or squares. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Store bars covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

*Note: To crush the candy canes, remove wrappers and place in a resealable plastic bag. Use a rolling pin to roll and break the candy up into small pieces, about 1/4 inch or so.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 24: National Eggnog Day


Today is National Eggnog Day. I love eggnog, especially with a chocolate brownie or cookie. Of course, eggnog is a great ingredient in chocolate cookies and brownies and cakes. It's rich and creamy and adds that extra zip. This year I thought Eggnog Truffles would be great to make. Here are recipes for both Dark Chocolate Eggnog Truffles and White Chocolate Eggnog Truffles. Why not make both?

Dark Chocolate Eggnog Truffles

3/4 cup eggnog (good thick quality brand/or make yourself)
11 ounces dark chocolate 60%+, chopped
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat the eggnog over medium heat almost to the boiling point, whisking constantly. Do not boil.
Immediately remove pan from heat, turn heat to low. Add chocolate and butter to eggnog. Stir until chocolate is completely melted, returning to low heat if necessary.
Pour mixture into mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer at high speed for 5 minutes. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until mixture is firm but pliable.
In small bowl, mix superfine sugar with nutmeg and cinnamon; set aside.
Take 1 teaspoon of chocolate mixture and roll into a ball, then roll it in sugar mixture.
Place truffle in foil cup or on waxed paper tray (I don't use cups but they look festive if you do). Repeat.
Store truffles in airtight container in the refrigerator.

White Chocolate Eggnog Truffles adapted from Kori Ellis' recipe onBlissTree

1 pound white chocolate, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Rum
Ground Nutmeg (for sprinkling)

1. Melt 8 ounces of the chocolate (double boiler or microwave). Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, nutmeg and Rum in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended and smooth. Add melted chocolate; beat until well mixed. Cover. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. IMPORTANT: make sure they're cold and firm. Don't skip this step.
2. Shape into 24 (about 3/4-inch) balls. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Refrigerate until ready to dip.
3. Coat only 12 truffles at a time. Melt 4 ounces of the remaining chocolate in small microwavable bowl on MEDIUM, 1- 1/2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Using a fork, dip 1 truffle at a time into the chocolate. If you want flat bottoms, slide over edge of bowl when removing. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Sprinkle truffles with nutmeg. Repeat with remaining 4 ounces chocolate and remaining truffles.
4. Refrigerate 1 hour or until chocolate is set. Store truffles in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Don't have time to make Eggnog Truffles? Starbucks sells Eggnog Latte Truffles. Godiva has them in their 12 piece Truffle Holiday Box

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chocolate Mint Cookies: Three Ways

If you read my mystery blog Mystery Fanfare, you'll know I love themes. I did a whole week of Chocolate and Peppermint recipes here on Dying for Chocolate from drinks to cookies to cakes and fudge. So, today, I have another theme: Chocolate Cookies with Mints. There's such variety. Rather than reproduce all the recipes here (and I haven't tried the last one), I thought I'd just add links to the cookies--and to my favorite baking blogs. You'll love these recipes and the blogs. Hope you have time to make at least one of these recipes.

I was thrilled to see Chocolate Mint Crinkles with Mint Truffle Kisses on Recipe Girl. Based on this recipe, I picked up a bag of Hershey's Holiday Kisses at Target. Love them right out of the bag, but even better on these cookies. Also the green sprinkles give these cookies a real holiday feel. Each crinkle cookie is crowned with a chocolate mint Kiss. Beautiful photos on the website.

Two Peas and their Pod has a yummy holiday Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies recipe. These are dark chocolate cookies, so the green mint chips contrast very well. Mint chips from Guittard are great, and this recipe is sensational. I'm adding it to my favorite chocolate cookie recipes. I also experimented adding pieces of crushed candy canes with this recipe. Fabulous.

My Baking Addition made Mint Chocolate Cookies that look fabulous. Haven't tried these yet. The recipe calls for Andes mint wafers. Rather than the wafers being in the cookies, they are put on each cookie after they're baked until they've melted, then spread on top. Double deckers!

So many possibilities and who doesn't love chocolate and mint. Remember Girl Scout cookies? Thin Mints were always my favorite.

Photo: Two Peas and their Pod Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chocolate Sampler: December 22

Every week or so I do a Chocolate Sampler: News, books, reviews, tours. Basically what's happening with chocolate in the world.

I Love Chocolate Package at the Sofitel Hotels Sofitel Luxury Hotels invites chocolate-loving travelers to savor its exclusive “I Love Chocolate” package through Jan. 31, 2010 at 85 participating hotels worldwide. No matter the destination—whether New York, Paris, Hanoi or Buenos Aires—all guests will enjoy chocolate-infused stays complete with chef-prepared dark and milk chocolate confectionaries, gourmet cookies, and hot beverages. To sweeten the I Love Chocolate package, guests also receive their third night free.
  • Sofitel Luxury Hotel’s I Love Chocolate package includes:
  • Three nights for the price of two at participating Sofitel Luxury Hotels
  • Complimentary breakfast served in the restaurant each morning
  • An “all-chocolate afternoon tea” including hot chocolate, pastries and other delicacies
  • Complimentary late check-out of 2 p.m.
  • For more information, go HERE.
Leah Koenig tells you how to read Chocolate Labels: Parsing the cacao content on Culinate. From what the cacao percentage means to single origin, organic, fairtrade and more. To read the article, go HERE.
  • The Independent reports that chocolate sales are down despite the comfort food prediction. This is a UK survey and does not include small organic chocolate companies. It's more the Mars, Aero, Twix, Milky Way sales. Read more HERE. However, bear in mind that Premium chocolate is the fastest growing part of what will be an $18 billion chocolate market by 2011, according to a report by the market research group Packaged Facts. (NYT)
The Chocolate Wars continue between Cadbury and Kraft with Hershey waiting in the wings. Read the NYT article HERE.
  • Oline Cogdill of the South Florida Sun Sentinal has some 'tasty reviews' of 'dessert' mysteries in the Trib Live/A&E. Reviews include Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson, Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke, The Battered Body by J.B. Stanley and The by Joanna Carl. All but Carl give recipes. Carl gives chocolate facts and trivia instead. Great reading for the food/mystery crossover people like me.
And one of my favorite recipes of the week was on Zen Can Cook for the Perfect Chocolate Souffle. Great photos and instructions. I'm going to attempt this soon. I just love individual chocolate souffles like this.

Photos: L: I Love Lucy. R: Zen Can Cook

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chocolate Biscotti wih Cranberries

The other day I went to my friend Sue Trowbridge's home for a wonderful afternoon. She had bid on an auction item: a reading by a well known San Francisco Bay Area actor, and she was finally collecting. Sue provided various sweets, tea and champagne. My kind of repast. On her tea menu were Chocolate Biscotti. I had two chocolate biscotti recipes on DyingforChocolate awhile ago, one based on Dorie Greenspan's double chocolate biscotti, but this recipe had the added texture and tanginess of dried cranberries. I asked her about the recipe. The source was Parade Magazine: Bake Your own Gifts (December 13) by Dorie Greenspan, so I shouldn't have been surprised.

Sue commented,"I might try it sometime with dried cherries instead of cranberries. Also, it was a LOT of work to blend the dry ingredients into the egg/sugar mixture... I had to get Joe to help because my arm was getting tired! I bet it would be easier if one has a stand mixer that could handle stiff doughs. I just have a little hand mixer that is fine for cake batters & whipped cream, but not so good for anything thicker."

A word to the wise then, there's nothing like a KitchenAid mixer! I love my dark blue KitchenAid. It matches my dark blue O'Keefe Merritt stove that has a small but powerful gas oven. My other two ovens are electric: one convection and one conventional. There's nothing like gas for baking cakes and biscotti!

Chocolate Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp (3 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Sift together dry ingredients. Beat butter and sugar together until very smooth, then beat in the eggs. Mix in dry ingredients until blended. Fold in cranberries and chips.
2. Divide dough; put pieces on opposite sides of a parchment-lined baking sheet. Shape each into a 12-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick log. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes; cool 20 minutes.
3. Slice into 1/2-inch-thick cookies. Stand them up on the baking sheet; bake for 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Croquembouche

Continuing with the Chocolate French holiday theme, I thought I'd tackle the Croquembouche. Croquembouche (aka Croquenbouche) is a high mound of profiteroles (choux filled with pastry cream/creampuffs) sometimes bound by dipping in chocolate or carmel and decorated with threats of caramel, chocolate, ribbons or flowers. Croquembouche means Crunch in the Mouth. Although this lovely creation is served at French (and other) weddings, it's also created for other special events.

Two weeks ago on Chef's Academy the students made croquembuches. Chef Novelli made a very elaborate one to demonstrate, but I must admit I thought for all its technical merit, his final Croquembuche looked messy. Some of the students made better looking ones. Last night I was watching the FoodNetwork Sugar Holiday Challenge, and one of the Iron Chefs made a lovely chocolate Croquembouche. Haven't found that specific recipe yet, but the way I've always done it is by making cream puffs, stuffing themwith whipped cream or chocolate ganache, and then coating with chocolate (to stick together) and then drizzling chocolate over the whole thing after stacking. Not quite as pretty as drizzled with spun sugar, but either works. This is a fun dessert to eat since you deconstruct the Croquembuche. The Croquembuche is quite beautiful and will give a real wow factor to your holiday table. I usually make this for New Year's Eve, but any time or special occasion is great. Lots of people have a croquembuche at their Christmas table which is why I'm mentioning it today.

There's a great Video Demonstration on how to assemble a croquembouche. I chose this one because the croquembouche is drizzled with chocolate, as well as stuck together with chocolate.

I don't really have a recipe for Croquembuche. It's another one of those desserts that I just make without looking at a recipe.

But for those of you who are challenged in that arena, I found a recipe for Chocolate Croquembouche on the Epicurious website (Bon Appetit/December 2001)

Ingredients
Pastry Cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Cream Puffs
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs

Glaze
10 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preparation

For pastry cream:
Whisk sugar and flour in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Gradually whisk in milk, then egg yolks. Whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until cream thickens and boils, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer to medium bowl. Press plastic wrap onto surface. Chill pastry cream until cold and firm, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

For cream puffs:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine first 5 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil, whisking until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Remove from heat. Add flour and cocoa all at once; whisk until smooth and blended (dough will form ball). Stir over low heat until dough leaves film on pan bottom, about 2 minutes. Transfer dough to large bowl; cool to lukewarm, about 8 minutes. Using electric mixer, beat in eggs 1 at a time.

Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets in at least 64 scant 1-inch mounds. Using moistened fingertips, smooth any pointed tips on mounds. Bake puffs 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F. Continue to bake until puffs are firm and beginning to crack and dry on top, about 23 minutes longer. Transfer puffs to rack. Using small knife or chopstick, poke hole in side of each puff near bottom to allow steam to escape. Cool puffs completely.

Spoon pastry cream into pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch plain round tip. Pipe into each puff through hole in side.

For glaze:
Place 10 ounces chocolate in small microwave-safe dish. Microwave on high for 15-second intervals until beginning to melt; stir glaze until completely melted and smooth.

Dip bottom of 4 filled cream puffs into glaze. Arrange puffs, spaced about 1/4 inch apart, in square on plate. Dip bottom of 3 more puffs into glaze. Arrange in triangle atop first 4 puffs, pressing slightly so glaze holds puffs in place. Dip bottom of 1 more puff into glaze; place on top. Drizzle mound of puffs with some of glaze. Repeat with remaining cream puffs, forming 8 desserts. Refrigerate until glaze sets and holds puffs together, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Once again, if you don't feel like creating this yourself, you may be able to order it at your favorite bakery (French or otherwise). You can also use pre-made creampuffs!

Photo: Bake Decorate Celebrate

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bûche de Noël: To buy

After my post about Bûche de Noël the other day, and since I don't make my own Bûche de Noël, I thought readers might be interested in where to buy a Buche de Noel for the holiday.

If I were in Paris, I would probably have an impossible decision to make if I were to buy only one Buche de Noel since almost every patisserie makes a Buche de Noel. Sadly, I won't be in Paris, but if you are, here are two outstanding places.

Paris Perfect reports on the beautiful Bûches de Noël by Pierre Herme (Paris). One of the Buche de Noel is a Chuao Chocolate Buche with Cherry Accents and another is a Buche with chocolate and caramel.

Alexis Mabille has created a couture Bûche de Noël for hot-Chocolaterie Angelina. Mabille put his stamp on the traditional yule log with the pastry chef Sebastian Bauer, opting for a heart of creamy chestnuts, candied apple and a confit of yuzu and lime surrounded by milk-chocolate ganache and crisp pecans.Mabille’s bûche is not a log, but a "Cocoa" Chanel bag: quilted and studded with edible silver buttons, topped with Mabille’s signature silver bow. Limited edition. Availble December 21-26 at the Rue du Rivoli tea room.

Locations in the U.S.:
Payard Patisserie and Bistro in Caesars Palace Las Vegas.
Payard, Louvre Log, Chestnut Log and Berries Log. For pick up in NYC.
Aux Delices in Pasadena, CA
Citizen Cake has a Gianduja Buche de Noel, San Francisco, CA
Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, MI

I live in the East Bay (across from San Francisco). Here are two of my favorite places that sell Bûche de Noël:
La Bedaine (various flavors) and only $12 (1585 Solano Ave)
La Farine, 1820 Solano Ave (B) and College ave (Oakland)

Most fine bakeries and patisseries make Bûche de Noël for the holiday. Check them out.

And, lastly if you don't want a whole Bûche de Noël, several restaurants have Bûche de Noël by the slice on their dessert menus. Check with your favorite French restaurant.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Buche de Noel

A Bûche de Noël is not for the faint of heart. The few times I've had this Holiday Classic, I've bought it at a French Bakery. Bûche de Noël is the traditional dessert served during the Christmas holidays in France, Belgium, Quebec and other French related and Christian populated countries. Basically it looks like a log ready for the fire. The traditional Bûche de Noël is made from a Genoise (see recipe below) filled and frosted with buttercream. The Bûche de Noël is often iced to look like a piece of the branch has broken off. Sometimes there are fresh berries and meringue or marzipan mushrooms. The Bûche de Noël is one of my favorite holiday desserts. The log represents the hearth--the center of the house, and this yule log (Bûche de Noël) will be the center of your holiday table.

Here's the Bûche de Noël recipe from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri (HarperCollins) reprinted on Foodnetwork.com. If I were to make this, I know I'd do a more traditional chocolate butter cream, and I've given a recipe for that, but the coffee buttercream sounds good. If you choose the chocolate buttercream, you could always add a little Kahlua.

Ingredients

Coffee Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

or

DFC: Chocolate Buttercream: 3/4 cup whipping cream 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped, 4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

1 Chocolate Genoise Sheet, recipe follows

Marzipan:
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
For Finishing:
Cocoa powder
Red and green liquid food coloring
Confectioners' sugar

Directions

To make the buttercream: Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Turn the genoise layer over and peel away the paper. Invert onto a fresh piece of paper. Spread the layer with half the buttercream. Use the paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder Transfer to baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until set. Reserve the remaining buttercream for the outside of the buche.

To make the marzipan: Combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of the electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until the sugar is almost absorbed. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary; the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly. Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.

To make marzipan mushrooms: Roll 1/3 of the marzipan into a 6-inch long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths. Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms. Smudge with cocoa powder. To make holly leaves: Knead green color into 1/2 the remaining marzipan and roll it into a long cylinder. Flatten with the back of a spoon, then loosen it from the surface with a spatula. Cut into diamonds to make leaves, or use a cutter.

To make holly berries: Knead red color into a tiny piece of marzipan. Roll into tiny balls.

To make pine cones, knead cocoa powder into the remaining marzipan. Divide in half and form into 2 cone shapes. Slash the sides of cones with the points of a pair of scissors.

Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on the buche about 2/3 across the top. Cover the buche with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer the buche to a platter and decorate with the marzipan. Sprinkle the platter and buche sparingly with confectioners' sugar "snow."

Chocolate Genoise Sheet
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Pinch salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa
Special equipment: 10 by 15-inch jelly-roll pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment

Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees (test with your finger). Attach the bowl to the mixer and with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume.

While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa.

Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until well risen, deep and firm to the touch. (Make sure the cake doesn't overbake and become too dry, or it will be hard to roll.)

Use a small paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a rack and let the cake cool right side up on the paper. Remove the paper when the cake is cool.

Yield: 1 (10 by 15-inch) sheet cake

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chocolate Chunk Coffee Cake

Remember how you used to find great recipes on the back of the sugar box or bag? You'd cut it off after you finished the bag, and you'd save those paper recipes for years. Well sugar boxes and bags still have them, but your limited to the two or three that fit on the package. Most sugar companies now have great websites and blogs with those recipes and more. Domino Sugar is one of those sites. I found this fabulous recipe for Chocolate Chunk Coffee there, and it's a must bake for a holiday breakfast. Serve it with a great cup of Hot Cocoa. Perfect for guests, too.

Chocolate Chunk Coffee Cake

Topping:
10 oz - semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup - chopped walnuts
2/3 cup - Domino® Granulated Sugar

Cake:
3/4 cup - butter, softened
1 1/4 cups - Domino® Granulated Sugar
3 - eggs
1 1/2 cups - sour cream
2 teaspoons - vanilla
2 1/2 cups - all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons - baking powder
1 teaspoon - baking soda
1/2 teaspoon - salt

For better mixing results, have all your ingredients at room temperature. Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 10-inch tube pan.

In small bowl, combine topping ingredients; set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, sour cream and vanilla until well mixed. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl. On low speed, add flour mixture to batter, beating until smooth.

Spoon 1/3 (about 2 cups) of the batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the topping (scant 1 cup). Repeat layering 2 more times. Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pan.

Makes 12 servings.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Chanukah Chocolate: Cupcake Day & Gelt


There are eight days of Chanukah, so it's not too late to mention two of the more interesting blogs and recipes about Chocolate Chanukah that I've seen this week. The first is Chanukah specific, but the second you can enjoy any time. You don't have to be Jewish.

Today happens to be National Cupcake Day, so this is the perfect blog for today! Cupcakes take the Cake is a really fun site for cupcakes: for photos, for news, for links, for reviews! Everything and anything cupcake. Be sure and add this to your Blog Roll. But back to Chanukah. This week they blogged about another Blog: King Arthur Flour's Bakers' Banter. Now I think King Arthur Flour is great. It's a step above your regular baking flours, and I love their Blog. Lots of great recipes. But back to Chanukah. There's a really innovative post on a Cupcake Menorah with gorgeous cupcakes, cool wrappers and great concept. So much fun for the holiday! Of course, if I were to make this, the cupcakes would all be chocolate! The King Arthur Blog also has a cool video on how to decorate cupcakes. For more info, go HERE. Since there are eight days of Chanukah, you'll need two cupcakes for the first day, three for the second, etc. You'll need six today. How fun! Any good chocolate cupcake recipe will do. It's all in the icing, the cute wrappers and the concept!

You can never have enough Gelt (money), but when it's Chocolate Gelt (gold foil wrapped chocolate coins for Chanukah), sometimes you actually do have too much. What to do with left-over Gelt? Rhea Kennedy tells us on MyJewishLearning.com: Make Hot Chocolate! What a great idea. I especially like her recipe for Spicy Hot Chocolate. This is more of a South American Hot Chocolate than Mexican Hot Chocolate, and it will work with any leftover chocolate you have lying around. Should have added this to National Cocoa Day.

Spicy Chanukah Gelt Hot Chocolate

1/2-1 cup leftover Chanukah gelt (or other chocolate candy), at room temperature, chopped
2 cups milk, divided
1/2 cup water
1 pinch, or to taste, each of ground cayenne, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves
½ tsp. vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of the milk until just steaming. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir with a fork or wire whisk until chocolate is completely melted. If the chocolate isn't dissolving, return the saucepan to the stove and stir constantly over very low heat, or heat in a double boiler. Continue until completely blended and smooth.

Using the fork or whisk, gradually incorporate the rest of the milk and the water. Add the spices and vanilla extract. When the mixture is blended, heat over a medium burner until hot. To achieve a traditional South American scorched flavor, allow the milk to boil for a few seconds before allowing to cool slightly and serving.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chocolate Christmas Cookies

So many great cookies out there for the holidays. I will admit to loving all types of Christmas cookies, but this is a chocolate blog, so I've put together a few of my favorite cookie recipes. They are all easy to make, and they're all very easy to eat. Maybe too easy... they're so good. You can always have a cookie swap if you'd like other types of cookies for the holidays.

If you want these cookies to look more holiday-like, sprinkles with powdered sugar or fairy dust (red or silver sugar sprinkles, except for the chocolate sables)

The following recipes are adapted from What's Cooking America. It's a great site for recipes, tips, history and more.

Chocolate Espresso Cookies

3 ounces unsweetened organic fair-trade dark chocolate, chopped
1 (12 ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon red cayenne powder (or ground red chipotle powder)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons finely ground dark-roast coffee beans or instant espresso powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

As always buy the very best Chocolate. Your cookies will only be as good as the chocolate you buy!

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease 2 large heavy baking sheets.

In a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, and butter, stirring until smooth, and remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat.

In a bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs, sugar, and ground coffee on high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beaters are lifted, about 3 minutes, and beat in chocolate mixture.

Into egg mixture sift in flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until just combined. Stir in remaining chocolate chips and walnuts. Let the batter rest for about 10 to 15 minutes (it thickens slightly during this time).

Do not freeze this dough

Drop batter by heaping tablespoons about 2-inches apart onto baking sheets and bake in batches on the middle rack of oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until puffed and cracked on top.

Remove from oven and cool cookies on baking sheets 1 minute and then transfer to racks to cool completely. DO NOT OVER BAKE - these cookies should be slightly soft in the centers.

Makes about 40 cookies.

Chocolate Meringue Cookies

6 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1 /2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened chocolate cocoa (best grade)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or use Silicone Baking Mats

In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup cocoa and sugar together; set aside.

In a large bowl using your electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy/frothy. While beating to the frothy stage, add salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract. After reaching the frothy stage, add the cocoa/sugar mixture (1 tablespoons at a time) while continuing beating until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.

Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets (1-inch apart).

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 teaspoon cocoa and cinnamon. Using a sieve or a sifter, sprinkle mixture over the non-baked cookies.

Bake 90 minutes; turn off the oven, open the door slightly, and allow cookies to cool in the oven. Remove from oven and store in a tightly covered (airtight) container.

Yields 50 cookies.

Viennese Chocolate Sables
This recipe has been slightly adapted from the Chocolate Desserts cookbook by Pierre Herme, written by Dorie Greenspan.

1 3/4 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons Dutch-Process Cocoa
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered (confectioners) sugar
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons lightly beaten egg whites ( Lightly beat 2 large egg whites, then measure out 3 tablespoons)
Powdered (confectioners) sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds. Line two Cookie Sheets with Parchment Paper or Silicone Baking Mats. Fit a Pastry Bag with a medium-sized open star tip.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour and cocoa; set aside.

In a large bowl, using a whisk, beat the butter until it is light and creamy. NOTE: For the recipe to be successful, the butter must be very soft.

Whisk in the sugar and salt, then stir in the egg whites. NOTE: Don't be concerned when the mixture separates, as it will come together when you add the dry ingredients.

Gradually add the flour/cocoa mixture and blend only until incorporated. NOTE: You don't want to work the mixture too much once the flour is added. A light touch is what will give these cookies their characteristic crumbliness.

It is easier to work with this dough in batches. Spoon about 1/3 of the dough into your Pastry Bag. Pipe the dough into "W" shaped cookies, each about 2-inches long and 1 1/4-inches wide, and place 1-inch apart onto the prepared baking sheets. If desired, you may pipe the cookies in any shape that you desire.

NOTE: If you don't have a Pastry Bag you can use a plastic bag. To use one, you just need to cut off the closed tip after filling the bag with dough to squeeze out an inch-wide portion of dough at a time.

Bake the cookies for NO MORE than10 to 12 minutes or until they are set but neither browned nor hard. Remove from oven. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure that you don't put the dough on hot baking sheets.

Before serving, you can dust the cookies with powdered sugar.

The cookies will keep well in a tightly covered tin at room temperature for approximately 1 week. They can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 1 month.

Makes a lot of cookies.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December 12: National Cocoa Day


"Baby, it's cold outside" and since it's National Cocoa Day, it's a great day to make a good cup of Cocoa. When I was growing up there was only one cocoa in our home: Hershey's. Occasionally there was Nestle's. "Nestle makes the very best... ....chocolate" if you believed the advertising. I still have fond memories of Hershey's Cocoa. You made the syrup and then added sugar and milk, so you really made it to your liking. (In 2005 Hershey launched a SPECIAL DARK Cocoa)

But now that my cupboard is stocked with more sophisticated organic fair-trade cocoas and sipping chocolates, I always have a choice. Here are some of my favorites.

Rechiutti Dark Hot Chocolate
Dagoba Drinking Chocolate. Authentic Drinking Chocolate, Xocolatl Drinking Chocolate, Unsweetend Drinking Chocolate.
Chuao Spicy Maya Hot Chocolate, Winter Hot Chocolate, Abuela Hot Chocolate (lots of choices)
Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder (both sweet and unsweetened)
Dagoba: Authentic, Xocolatl, Unsweetened
Valor Taza Premium Drinking Chocolate
Ghirardelli Barista Dark Chocolate (this is for retail businesses)

Recipes:
  • Want to make really rich hot cocoa? Substitute chocolate or vanilla ice cream for half the milk. Make sure to stir the cocoa and milk all the way through before adding the ice cream.
  • For Cinco de Maya, I had a Recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate. Why wait until May 5? Make this today.
  • SavoryTV has Cafe Angelina's Chocolate L'Africain recipe. Cafe Angelina (226 rue de Rivoli) in Paris is famous for it's rich hot chocolate called Chocolate L'Africain for its Ivory Coast Cacao beans. Yum. This recipe is the next best thing to being there... well almost. Paris is Paris, after all.
And did you know that cocoa is also very good for you? Remember your resolution to drink more green tea for its cancer-fighting benefits? Well hot cocoa is a sweeter way to get your antioxidants. According to Cornell University food scientists, cocoa has three times more antioxidants than green tea. Drink up!!

Want to learn more about Cocoa? The Nibble has everything you want to know! Go HERE.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chocolate Sampler: December 11

CHOCOLATE SAMPLER: Every few weeks I like to do a round-up of Chocolate Stories, Reviews and News.

TRAVEL
  • The World's Largest Chocolate Fountain at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas is among the World's 10 Weirdest Romantic Destinations. World renown pastry chef Jean Philippe Maury spent a year and a half in design and planning to build this structure. The chocolate fountain is 27 feet tall and circulates 2,100 pounds of chocolate at a rate of 120 quarts per minute. There are three types of chocolate in the fountain and while you may not be able to eat directly from the fountain, Jean Philippe’s bakery offers plenty of the prized chocolate. Read the entire article here.
  • Chocolate Marmites: A Geneva Exclusive. Marmite here doesn't refer to the icky U.K. Marmite yeast extract blend; rather, every year, leading up to the weekend closest to December 12, bakery and chocolate shop windows all over Geneva proudly display chocolate cauldrons, or marmites as they are known, filled with marzipan vegetables and decked with red and yellow ribbons, Geneva’s colors. Families and businesses buy the cauldrons for a ritual that requires the youngest and the oldest member of any given group to smash the marmite open and then serve the chocolate shards and the brightly colored veggies to the others present. Read more at Suite101: Chocolate Marmites – A Geneva Exclusive: The Three-Legged Pots Are Filled With Marzipan Vegetables. Read more here.
  • Planning a trip to Normandy? Alençon that has two of the best chocolatiers: Jacky Pedro and Chocolat Glatigny. Chocolate making has been a speciality in Alençon, a market town in Lower Normandy, for over a hundred years. Jacky’s premises have been the site of a “chocolaterie” since 1895. The adjacent Chocolat Glatigny shop has a more recent history, established in 1975 in a medieval timber-framed building opposite the entrance to the church. Glatigny specialities include Les Sieurs d’Alençon or Squires of Alençon made from hazelnut paste flavoured with calvados, coated with dark chocolate and rolled in icing sugar, and Le Point d’Alençon a caramel ganache flavoured with green apple compote, coated in milk or dark chocolate and finely decorated with a lacework of white chocolate. Read the rest of the article on the Velvet Escape website.
NEWS
  • Megacompany Hershey debuted a new addition Hershey’s Bliss ® Chocolate line by introducing Hershey’s Bliss White Chocolate with a Meltaway Center. This new chocolate indulges Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate fans with rich and creamy white chocolate around a smooth, meltaway center. The domed-shape of the individual square fits the mouth, allowing the white chocolate to melt evenly. Lots of hyperbole in the press release, but I must admit it tastes great, but I'm a white chocolate fan.
Contests:
  • Don't forget you have less than a month to enter the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest. I posted about it here. Great prizes, great adventure ingredients. Deadline for the contest is January 3.
  • Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate: Share the Bliss ™ Essay Contest based on the New York Times best-selling book The Necklace. By taking a page from the book to help others experience the undeniable bliss of sharing just like the women of The Necklace, the Share the Bliss contest intends to connect women nationwide with the chance to share a 16.5-carat diamond necklace. Continuing through December 2009, consumers can visit www.hersheysbliss.com to enter the Share the Bliss contest by submitting their stories (150 words or less) of why they want to experience or be “blissed” the Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate diamond necklace. Lucky women will be selected to share the 16.5-carat diamond necklace for two weeks and will receive the necklace, a variety of Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate and a signed copy of The Necklace. Each winner will be asked to share their experience with the necklace through a blog on the Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate Web site and to help select the next winner, thus connecting women nationwide.
Have any CHOCOLATE NEWS to share? Post a comment.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chocolate for Chanukah

Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, starts tomorrow. When I think of Chocolate and Chanukah (Hanukah/Hanukkah/ so many ways to spell this holiday), I always think of Chanukah Gelt, those chocolate candy coins wrapped in gold foil that are given to the children.

Oh!Nuts sells a 24-Pack Elite Bittersweet Chocolate Coin Bags, a 24-pack Nut-Free Chocolate Coin Bags and a Dark Chocolate Coins case of 24 bags, as well as Milk Chocolate, a Chanukah Gelt Treasure Chest and more!
Divine Chocolate has fair-trade Milk Chocolate Hanukkah Coins.
Chocolate.com has lots of different chocolate products from wonderful chocolatiers tht include Chanukah Dreidels, Chocolate Covered Oreos w/Dreidle Design from Sweet Expertise, Coins, Bars and more.

Check with your local chocolatier and discover what they may be offering this year.

Want to bake something? You have eight days, so you can interweave some of your own chocolate desserts into traditional Chanukah fare. The Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot recipe I wrote about for Rosh Hashana would be a star for Chanukah.

And, here's a chocolate recipe the kids will enjoy--and maybe you, too. Chocolate Latkas. Note: these are not 'real' potato pancakes, but they look like them.

Chocolate Latkes from Cooking Jewish, originally from Chocolate Holidays by Alice Medrich: Yield: 2 dozen 2 1/4-inch cookies

4 large egg whites
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
3 1/2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (organic and fairtrade)
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla (I use Madagascar)
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil. Put some water in skillet and bring to low simmer.

2.Combine all ingredients in large heatproof mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel (ingredients heat up faster in stainless steel than in glass). Set bowl in skillet of barely simmering water and stir mixture, scraping bottom to prevent burning, until sticky and hot to touch.

3. Scoop rounded tablespoons of mixture about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Flatten each cookie slightly with fingers to resemble miniature potato pancakes.

4. Bake until cookies feel dry on surface and edges and protruding coconut shreds are dark golden brown (despite chocolate color) and interior still looks like melted chocolate, 13 to 15 minutes. Rotate sheets from front to bake and upper to lower about halfway through. Slide parchment paper onto cooling rack. Cool cookies completely before removing from parchment. The cookies are most delicious on day they are baked – the exterior is crisp and chewy and interior soft and moist. Cookies may be stored, airtight, 4 to 5 days.

You have 8 Days to enjoy Chanukah: Add some chocolate.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

Kristin King of the Norfolk Cooking Examiner has a holiday dessert after my heart. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles. What's so unique about these truffles is that they're easy, delicious, no bake and safe. I reported about the recall of raw cookie dough a few months ago, but that was more to do with processed refrigerator cookie dough. This recipe substitutes condensed milk for raw eggs, so it's definitely safe. Kristin King has a video on the Norfolk Cooking Examiner site. Always fun to watch.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles (adapted from original recipe)

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups flour
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, crushed into small chunks (highest quality organic fair-trade)

2 cups 60% bittersweet chocolate chips or broken chunks (small) of a good dark chocolate you
2 tsp shortening

Using a mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar together until fluffy; about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla, salt and flour; mix well. With the mixer on low, add the condensed milk until the batter is thoroughly combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Refrigerate this mixture for at least 15 minutes before working with it.

Using a tablespoon, shape into evenly sized balls and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet. If the dough is sticky, coat your hands with either flour or cooking spray. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the balls for 3 hours, or up to overnight.

To make the chocolate coating, combine chocolate and shortening in a microwavable bowl. Microwave on high in 30 second intervals until the mixture is melted and smooth. Using a toothpick or fork, dip the dough balls in the chocolate to coat. Drag the bottom across the lip of the bowl to remove excess chocolate coating. Place it back on the baking sheet. Once all the truffles are coated, refrigerate until firm; about 30 minutes.

Store the truffles in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Perfect for the holidays!

Recipe makes about 42- 1" truffles.

Photo: Norfolk Examiner. Kristin King

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chocolate Peppermint Ganache

I said yesterday I was finished with Chocolate Peppermint recipes and purchases, but I have one more handy recipe that you can make now and keep in the fridge or freezer. If you store it, just be sure to whip it up before you use it: Easy Chocolate Peppermint Ganache.

1 pint cream
1 1/2 lbs dark chocolate 60-75% cacao, organic and fair trade
1/4 tsp of pure peppermint extract

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in metal bowl Bring the cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes. Then start whisking from the center out, until all the chocolate is melted and uniform. Add the peppermint extract. Let it set.

There are so many uses for ganache. Here are a few: to frost cakes, cupcakes and cookies or as a filling in a layer cake. This ganache is also great for sandwich cookies and macarons. In a pinch you can make truffles with this ganache (just roll in cocoa). I've used this as a mousse: just add some whipped cream and whip it up. Who wouldn't love a Chocolate Peppermint Mousse for the holidays, served with chocolate shortbread cookies? This Ganache can also be used as a tart filling (with chocolate shells?) Crepes: make chocolate crepes with a thin layer of ganache--or stack with a layer of thinned ganache in between each crepe. So many uses. What would you do with this Chocolate Peppermint Ganache?

Fields of Cake had a great recipe yesterday for Candy Cane White Chocolate Ganache. Yummy. Looks fabulous, and you can use it in much the same way as above.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chocolate Peppermint Trifle

I love a good trifle, and I have posted several recipes for trifle before, but since I'm on a chocolate peppermint jag this week I thought what could be more English for the Holidays than a Chocolate Peppermint Trifle.

I use two recipes. One easy and quick, the other a bit longer but very good.

#1 Chocolate Peppermint Trifle.

This one is fast and easy to make, and you can use the Peppermint Bark you've made or purchased.

1 chocolate cake cut up into cubes
1 large box of chocolate pudding (add a couple of drops of Peppermint Schnapps to the pudding). Make the pudding.
Ghirardelli (or another--Trader Joe's--or your own) Peppermint Bark, chopped into chunks
Whipped Cream (I always whip my own with a little sugar)

Layering: Cake on the bottom, then add a layer of pudding, then a layer of the chopped up Peppermint Bark, then a layer of whipped cream. Then repeat. Top it off with finely crushed candy canes or a bit more chopped up Peppermint Bark.

O.K. I'm not much for proportions, but most trifles aren't. Use what you have, and I'm sure you won't go wrong.

#2 Chocolate Peppermint Trifle

This is the longer of the two recipes, but absolutely delicious. I've adapted Martha Stewart's recipe for Triple-Chocolate Peppermint Trifle. She has a chocolate cake recipe, but you can skip it and make a good chocolate cake from a mix, then follow the rest of this recipe.

You can make the trifle components the day before you assemble the trifle. Be sure and refrigerate everything in separate airtight containers.

FOR THE SYRUP
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup chocolate flavored liqueur, such as Godiva

FOR THE MOUSSE
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
12 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (the highest quality)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peppermint candies or candy canes

FOR THE PUDDING
8 ounces chocolate 40-65% cacao, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
3 large egg yolks, room temperature

FOR SERVING
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup chopped peppermint candies or candy canes

Make the syrup: Bring sugar and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Let cool completely. Stir in liqueur.

Make the mousse: Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Bring 1 cup cream just to a boil in a small saucepan. Place white chocolate in a food processor; with machine running, pour in hot cream in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl set in ice-water bath. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to hold ribbons on surface, about 15 minutes.

Beat remaining 1 1/2 cups cream to nearly stiff peaks. Fold into chocolate mixture, then fold in candies. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until thickened and almost firm, 4 to 6 hours.

Make the pudding: Put chocolate into a large bowl; set aside. Bring cream almost to a boil in a small saucepan. Whisk yolks in a bowl. Pour in hot cream in a slow, steady stream, whisking.

Pour mixture back into pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Pour through a fine sieve over chocolate; whisk until smooth. Set bowl in ice-water bath. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to hold ribbons on surface, about 15 minutes. Place plastic wrap directly on surface; refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

To assemble: Spread one-third of the mousse into bottom of a glass trifle bowl that is 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Top with a cake layer, and brush with half the syrup.

Top with half the pudding, then another third of mousse. Place remaining cake layer on top; brush with remaining syrup. Top with remaining pudding, then mousse. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 12 hours.

Beat cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Top trifle with the whipped cream, and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy or crushed candy canes.

This recipe is divine.

**
As with most recipes, you don't have to add alcohol, but a true trifle would have it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Peppermint Patty Drinks: Add Alcohol

76 years ago today, Prohibition was officially repealed in the U.S. with the ratification of the 21st amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So today's the perfect day to continue my Chocolate Peppermint Bark/Cookie/Ice Cream week with a hit of alcohol. I love Alcoholic Peppermint Patty Drinks. Here are a few ideas. As always, easy and delicious.

Peppermint Patty Hot Chocolate Cocktail

1 oz peppermint schnapps
1/2 oz dark crème de cacao
1 tsp crème de menthe
hot chocolate (the best quality chocolate)* (fill the mug)
whipped cream
Garnish with shaved chocolate or chocolate sprinkles and a candycane

Pour the liqueurs into a glass mug.
Fill with hot chocolate.
Top with whipped cream.
Garnish with shaved chocolate or chocolate sprinkles.

Chocolate Peppermintini

2 1/2 ounces chilled vodka
1/2 ounce chilled peppermint schnapps
1/2 ounce chilled white Creme de Cacao (or Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur)
Junior mints

Mix cold liquor together and shake with ice.
Strain into a martini glass.
Drop a few Junior Mints into the bottom of the glass or garnish the rim with crushed candycanes

Optional: I've used Godiva chocolate liqueur in place of the creme de cacao, and I've also used Chocolate vodka in place of both the vodka and Creme de Cacao. Just different. I'm not a stickler for proportions.

Peppermint Patty on the Rocks

1 oz peppermint schnapps
1 oz dark crème de cacao
2 oz cream

Pour peppermint schnapps, crème de cacao and cream in an ice-filled old-fashioned glass.
Shake by placing a mixing tin over the glass and give it a good shake.

Looking for other drinks to celebrate the repeal of prohibition? Check out DrinkoftheWeek.com

Photo: Candy Cane Martini Glasses from Artland

Friday, December 4, 2009

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream Sandwiches


I love ice-cream sandwiches, and I couldn't get over how much those Chocolate Peppermint Patty Cookies I wrote about yesterday looked like an Ice-Cream sandwich, so I thought I'd try making one. Here are a few variations based on my original ice-cream sandwich recipe.

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream Sandwiches

For the holidays and to continue the Chocolate Peppermint theme, take 6 big Chocolate Chunky Cookies (Pepperidge Farm Brownie is what I use, but any big firm chocolate cookie will work).
Lay out 6 cookies, flat side up.
Scoop slightly softened peppermint ice-cream onto the cookies.
Using a butter knife spread the ice cream to the edge.
Cover with another cookie, flat side down.
Spread smashed pieces of candy canes on a plate.
Roll the sides of the sandwich in the candy cane pieces until covered.
Wrap each sandwich and freeze.

Peppermint ice cream seems to be seasonal these days. When I grew up it was a year-round flavor. On long turnpike trips, my family would stop at the Howard Johnson's, and I would order Peppermint Ice Cream. It was the reward, I guess, for not fighting with my sister. Peppermint was my favorite. I know, a big surprise for a chocoholic. Maybe I developed the love of chocolate later?

For the ice-cream in the ice-cream sandwiches, Haagen-Dazs has a Peppermint Bark Ice Cream that's a rich white chocolate ice cream blended with crunchy dark and white chocolate peppermint bark and peppermint candy pieces. It's fabulous! Available September through December, so get some in the freezer now.

Baskin-Robbins has Peppermint as a flavor of the month. Peppermint Ice Cream with pieces of pink peppermint candy.

Dreyer's has a silky cool Peppermint ice cream mixed with pieces of peppermint candy. I think Edy's is the name of the same brand in other areas of the U.S.

Ben & Jerry's used to have Peppermint Schtick. It's a retired flavor, but you can always send them an email and ask for its return.

Check out your favorite local ice cream shop for Peppermint ice-cream. I bet they'll have some yummy ones. It's the season. Enjoy!