Sunday, January 31, 2010

Killer Kahlua Brownies from Mary Kennedy, author of Dead Air

Mary Kennedy, a Twitter and Facebook friend, and I share a mutual love of Chocolate and Mysteries. It's funny how the Internet unites people. I also do a team building event called Operation Military Giving through my company TeamBuilding Unlimited, and Mary also sends boxes to the troops with homemade goodies. Worlds Collide. Now Mary's first adult mystery, Dead Air, came out this month from Penguin and Reel Murder will appear in June, so I asked Mary to Guest Blog and share a chocolate recipe. Her Kahlua Brownies are Killer!

Mary Kennedy, author of Dead Air (Penguin, January 2010):

TAKE TWO CHOCOLATE BROWNIES AND CALL ME IN THE MORNING

Like Dr. Maggie Walsh, my heroine in DEAD AIR, I’m a licensed clinical psychologist. Of course, Maggie is a radio show host in sunny Florida and I live and work in not-so-sunny Delaware. But both Maggie and I love chocolate.

Why do we use chocolate for a quick boost, a way of making ourselves feel better? Some scientists believe it’s because chocolate contains a high level of phenylethylamine, which raises dopamine levels in the brain and is related to falling in love.

When I sent a goodie box to the troops in Iraq, I included Janet Rudolph’s wonderful “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles” along with Kahlua Brownies. And a copy of DEAD AIR, of course. If you’d like to try the Kahlua brownies, they are easy and delicious.

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:
3/4 cup cocoa, unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup melted butter, divided
1/4 cup boiling water, 1/4 cup Kahlua
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Preparation:
Directions for chocolate brownies
In a large bowl, combine cocoa and baking soda; blend in 1/3 cup melted butter. Add boiling water and Kahlua; stir until well blended. Stir in sugar, beaten eggs and remaining 1/3 cup butter. Stir in flour and salt. Stir nuts and the chocolate chips into chocolate brownies batter. Pour chocolate brownie batter into a greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or until chocolate brownies are firm and begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool before cutting into squares.

These are absolutely fabulous!--Janet

Saturday, January 30, 2010

National Croissant Day: Make Them Chocolate

Maybe we were sophisticated (I don't think so) or maybe my mother was a Francophile, but I remember croissants every Sunday mornings. From a bakery, I'm sure. I still adore croissants, and Chocolate Croissants are my favorites since I love bread, butter and chocolate: the three food groups.

I'm lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where are there so many fabulous bakeries. I have sampled multiple chocolate croissants, multiple times, and my favorites are always the ones with a big chunk of chocolate in them, rather than chocolate chips, but in a pinch, I'd eat those too. One major requirement: the croissants must be light and buttery to make the entire experience perfect.

I used to bake a lot of bread, and I've made my own croissants, but as I mentioned, no need anymore. But in case you don't have great bakeries near you, here are two quick ways to have great tasting Chocolate Croissants at home.

Easy Chocolate Croissants with a Hat Tip to Nigella Lawson
These are tiny, so I give you permission to eat more than one!

1 package frozen all-butter puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 hours
1/4 cup broken up dark chocolate, 65-85% cacao-about one bar.
1 egg beaten with a tiny bit of water (egg wash)
gray sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Unfurl the sheet of pastry and then cut it into 6 squares.
2. Cut each square diagonally to give 2 triangles (they will appear quite small). Put the triangle with the wider part facing you and the point away from you.
3. Place broken chocolate place about 3/4-inch up from the wide end nearest you.
4. Then carefully roll from that chocolate loaded end towards the point of the triangle.
5. You should now have something resembling a straight croissant, seal it slightly with your fingertips and curl it around into a crescent. Make sure they're sealed or your chocolate will ooze.
6. Place the chocolate croissants on a foil lined baking tray and paint with egg wash (beaten egg with a little water) and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 15 minutes until golden and puffy and fabulous!
***

Don't have time to do make these, but still want Chocolate Croissants for breakfast, Trader Joe's Chocolate Croissants to the rescue! One caveat. Take these frozen croissants out the night before to defrost. The next morning when you're ready, brush with eggwash, sprinkle with a tiny bit of seasalt (optional) and bake. You'll think you're in Paris. Cost: about $4 for 4. Can't beat that! Rumor has it that this is a very similar product (same chef?) as the Croissants from Williams-Sonoma at a much higher cost.

Celebrate the Day!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Whoopie Pie Pan from Williams-Sonoma

I've blogged about Whoopie Pies here and here, now Williams-Sonoma is selling a specific Whoopie Pie pan! I haven't had a problem making them by hand, but build a better mousetrap? Maybe.

According to the Williams-Sonoma Catalogue (online), the pan is designed with shallow wells to bake a dozen round cakes that pair together to make the tops and bottoms for six 2 3/4" diameter whoopie pies. Constructed of heavy-gauge aluminized steel, the pan features the signature Goldtouch™ ceramic-reinforced nonstick surface. Cakes bake evenly and release effortlessly every time. 14" x 10 1/2" x 1/2" high. A Williams-Sonoma exclusive. $24.95

There are actually lots of other chocolate uses for this odd pan including muffins and cookies. This is a Chocolate Blog, so I'm only thinking chocolate here, but if you get creative, you can make other foods in individual portions. But the real question is Do You Need this? I just have so much room. I like all the unique bundt pans Williams-Sonoma sells, and the Brownie Pan is great especially if you like your brownies with a crunchy outside. Sadly, I don't have these pans since I never have enough storage. So for the few times a year I make whoopie pies, I'll have to resort to the old fashioned way of dropping them onto a cookie sheet. I kind of like their misshapen appearance. But if you MUST have this, go for it! I must say that the Williams-Sonoma photo of stacked Whoopie Pies with piped filling is very cool.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Green & Black's to go 100% Fairtrade

The Guardian U.K. reported today that Green & Black's will be 100% Fairtrade by the end of 2011. This will make Green & Black's the world's leading manufacturer of organic Fairtrade chocolate. I find this great news, both for the environment, people, and my personal chocolate pleasure, as I really love Green & Black's chocolate.

Organic chocolate maker Green & Black's today pledged to switch its entire worldwide food and beverage range to Fairtrade by the end of next year, so it's much more than chocolate.

And, here's a piece of information I didn't realize. The company's Maya Gold chocolate was the first official Fairtrade product to go on sale in Britain 15 years ago. Its extended range of chocolate bar and beverage products in the UK will start to carry the distinctive blue and green Fairtrade logo from late 2010, and it is hoped that full conversion of the entire chocolate bar and beverage range in more than 30 countries will be achieved by the end of 2011.

Go, Green & Black's. And, yes, I know that G&B is a subsidiary of Cadbury, but the company has always been pioneers of fairtrade in the U.K. which they've been able to do with the big company backing.

Read the Full Article Here.

Chocolate Cake Day Redux: Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake


Since every day is Chocolate Cake Day to me, I think it's o.k. to post two Chocolate Cake recipes in a row. I can never have enough Chocolate Cake. One of the most classic Chocolate Cake Recipes is Hershey's, because they know chocolate. Their recipes have inspired cooks for generations. The particularly nice thing about this recipe is that Hershey's gives directions for a one-pan cake, three layer cake, a bundt cake or cupcakes.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

VARIATIONS:

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

"PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 27: Chocolate Cake Day

This may be the official Chocolate Cake Day, but chocolate cake day is any day for me. I've blogged recipes for flourless chocolate cake, red velvet cake, double chocolate cake, bittersweet chocolate bundt cake, brownie chocolate cake, 5 minute chocolate cake in a mug and lots of other delicious chocolate cake recipes. My company TeamBuilding Unlimited also has a Chocolate TeamBuilding event called Have Your Cake and Eat it, Too! in which participants cut up and stack and decorate chocolate cakes to reflect their company and team. Those large chocolate layers come from a local bakery.

Here's a fabulous recipe for Double Chocolate Layer Cake adapted from Gourmet Magazine (March 1999). The recipe below is for 2-10" layers, but you can do 3-7" layers. Remember to have the ganache cooled before icing. As with all chocolate recipes, use the very best chocolate, preferably organic, fair-trade.

Double Chocolate Layer Cake

For cake layers
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

For ganache frosting
1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter

Special equipment
two 10- by 2-inch round cake pans

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Make frosting:
Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.

Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency).

Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides. Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.

Other Posts on Chocolate Cake Day:

Mary Cunningham at Cynthia's Attic reposted her Chocolate Cake in a Mug! Great photo and slightly different recipe from the one I posted last Spring.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

National Pistachio Day: Nigella's Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

Today is National Pistachio Day, so of course I added chocolate. I love the combination of chocolate and pistachios for texture, color and taste. One of the easiest and most delicious recipes comes from Nigella Lawson. Here's her short video (3 minutes): Nigella Lawson makes Chocolate Pistachio Fudge. This fudge recipe is simple to prepare and looks and tastes great! Don't want to watch the video? I've adapted her recipe. It's a snap!

Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

Ingredients

12 ounces 70 percent dark chocolate, chopped or 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Pinch salt
1 cup shelled pistachios (I use about 1/2 cup)

Directions
1. Melt the chopped chocolate, condensed milk and salt in a heavy based pan on low heat.
2. Put the nuts into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin, until broken up into both big and little pieces.
3. Add the nuts to the melted chocolate and condensed milk and stir well to mix.
4. Pour this mixture into a 9-inch square foil tray, smoothing the top. (I butter the tray slightly)
5. Let the fudge cool and then refrigerate until set. You can then cut into small pieces approximately 3/4 by 1 3/4 inches or cutting 8 by 8 lines in the tin to give 64 pieces.
6. Once cut you can keep it in the freezer, no need to thaw just eat straight away.

Of course this recipe also works with other nuts. Pecans, Walnuts--I've tried them all.

Variations:
Don't add the pistachios to the chocolate mixture. Just crush the pistachios and sprinkle on top for more crunch.
Make truffles from the semi-set chocolate fudge. Make into balls and roll in cocoa! Yum. Chocolate Pistachio Truffles.

Celebrate Pistachios today!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chocolate Sampler: January 25

Chocolate Sampler: A Sampling of News in the Chocolate World

Contest:

Recchiuti has a Hot Chocolate Recipe Contest
. Recipe contest to see how creative you can be with hot chocolate using Recchiuti Dark Hot Chocolate. Send your favorite Hot Chocolate recipe and win a one-of-a-kind Recchiuti Snack-Attack Gift Box.
Fix your Recchiuti cravings with a S'Mores Kit, Dark Hot Chocolate Pistoles, the Marshmallow Gable Box, Sauce Duo and Asphalt Jungle Mix. Contest ends January 31, 2010. To submit online, go here. or email: tori@recchiuti.com or mail to Hot Chocolate Contest, Recchiuti Confections, 2565 Third St, Ste. 225, San Francisco, CA 94107.

Events:

Madison, WI: Chocolate: The Bitter and the Sweet Exhibit in the Bolz Conservatory at Olbrich Gardens. Centered on a cacao tree, this self-guided tour explores the cultivation and processing of chocolate through history, and the current growth of sustainable and fair trade practices among producers. Presentation by UW-Madison horticulture professor James Nienhus titled Theobroma Cacao: Food of the Gods on Saturday, January 30 (6:30-8 p.m), followed by a screening of the award-winning Chocolate Country documentary about the Loma Guacanejo cooperative in the Dominican Republic. Exhibit opened on Monday, January 4, and runs through Sunday, March 21. Olbrich Gardens, 3330 Atwood Ave., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily and to 5 p.m. on Sundays, . Call 246-4500 for more info.

Los Angeles (Torrance): January 26 to January 27: Bakon USA Showroom: Chocolate Class. Bakon USA in cooperation with Qzina presents an entry level two-day, hands-on chocolate making class. Participants will have the opportunity to create a variety of chocolates utilizing professional equipment. Two consecutive afternoons: Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 from 1pm to 5pm and Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 from 1pm to 5pm at the Bakon USA showroom. Instructor: Yves Keyaerts, Belgian Chocolatier. For more info go here.
310-533-3939.

San Francisco (and Saratoga): Mary Loomas of Saratoga Chocolates (3489 16th St. at Sanchez) is offering Truffle making Classes Jan. 30, 11 a.m.-2:30 (cost: $125). On Feb. 5, there's a wine and chocolate class, 7 p.m-8:30 p.m. (cost: $50). Tickets available by calling 415-861-8682. Check the website for Saratoga Classes.

Coming up in March: Mark your Calendar: San Francisco Chocolate Salon: March 20: 10:00am - 6:00pm, Saturday, San Francisco, Fort Mason Center, Festival Pavilion, 50,000 square feet of Chocolate, Wine and Confections Chocolate Tasting: Chocolate Demos, Chef & Author Talks, Chocolate Fashion & Body Painting, Wine Pairings, Sweet Beauty Chocolate Spa, Television Interviews, and more. Register online. Don't miss it!

Denver, CO: Chocolate for Vets- Chocolate Festival. January 29-January 31. Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, 7711 E. Academy Blvd."An Evening of Swing & Sweets" with the the Manhattan Swing Band on Friday night, followed by a two day chocolate market, kids activities, tastings and demonstrations on Saturday & Sunday. Admission to the Chocolate Festival also includes admission to the Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum at which the Festival is located. 303.595.0812

Odd News:

Swedes Swap Passwords for Chocolate Treats. Sweet-toothed Swedes are happy to trade their internet passwords for bars of chocolate, according to a poll carried out by an appalled computer magazine. The computer buffs behind PC magazine were left reeling after they sent a female reporter out on the town to pose as a representative for an anti-virus company examining computer users' password habits.

Anybody agreeing to answer a few questions was promised a bar of chocolate in return. And despite repeated calls from security experts for internet surfers to keep a tight lid on passwords, the sugary reward proved a distressingly successful lure.
Read the rest of the article HERE.

Be sure and check the last Chocolate Sampler HERE for more Chocolate News!

Send Your Chocolate News and Event Info!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

National Peanut Butter Day: Add Chocolate


January 24 is National Peanut Butter Day. I love Chocolate and Peanut Butter. Who doesn't love Hershey's Reese's Pieces? On National Peanut Butter Fudge Day (November 20), I posted a delicious and easy recipe.

Being that it's a holiday, I thought I'd post some likes to some of my other favorite chocolate and peanut butter sites:

One of my favorite recipes is Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows on Postpunkkitchen.

Don't want to bake but still want to celebrate? Haagen-Dazs has a fabulous Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream.

I also like to put peanut butter as a center in cupcakes.

Several companies make Chocolate Peanut Butter in a Jar. Want to make your own? Here's an easy recipe. You can also substitute this for peanut butter in recipes.

1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate, broken into bits
1-1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or a good Madagascar vanilla)
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (I have this around just for recipes)
1 teaspoon hot water

Melt chocolate chips in a saucepan over another saucepan with boiling water (double boiler, if you have it). Cool until barely warm, but still liquid.

Scrape melted chocolate into a large bowl. Add peanut butter, butter, sugar, and vanilla extract. Stir until thoroughly combined.

Mix instant coffee with hot water until completely dissolved. Add coffee to the chocolate peanut butter mixture until combined.

Place in glass jars with tight seals. Serve as a spread with cookies, crackers, or toast or use as a filling for cakes.

Great for gifts, eating out of the jar, or using in recipes (if it lasts).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

National Pie Day: Gone to Heaven Pie

January 23 is National Pie Day. Unlike some of these esoteric food holidays, it's easy to find the origin of this holiday. National Pie Day was created by the American Pie Council in 1986 to commemorate Crisco's 75th anniversary of "serving foods to families everywhere."

National Pie Day is a special day that is set aside to bake and cook all of your favorite pies. The American Pie Council encourages baking a few new pie recipes. And most importantly, it's a day to eat pies!

A few months ago posted an easy recipe for a Chocolate Silk Pie in my Wedding Pie article, but I like the following recipe I've adapted from Hershey's Kitchen. The name is Gone to Heaven Chocolate Pie, and it's true. I make my own chocolate crumb crust instead of a frozen or store bought, but if you don't have time, use a pre-made crust. Since this is a Hershey's recipe, I've used their dark chocolate chips. If you have other chocolate lying around, just chop it up, so you have about the same amount, and substitute.

Gone to Heaven Chocolate Pie

Pie Shell:
I would make a chocolate crumb crust. You can do this ahead to save time. Make two and freeze one, and you'll have one for next time! This one makes a 9" pie.

Ingredients
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped (70-85% cacao)
30 chocolate wafer cookies

Spray a 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish with nonstick spray (or butter it). Stir butter and chocolate in heavy small saucepan over low heat until melted. Finely grind cookies in processor. Add chocolate mixture. Process until crumbs are moistened. Press crumb mixture into prepared pie dish. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Pie Filling:
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or a better Vanilla if you have it)
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Hershey's special Chocolate Chips, divided
Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Directions:
1. Bake pie shell; cool. Stir together sugar, cornstarch and salt in 2 quart saucepan. Combine egg yolks and milk in container with pouring spout. Gradually blend milk mixture into sugar mixture.

2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Add 1-3/4 cups chocolate chips; stir until chips are melted and mixture is well blended. Pour into prepared pie shell; press plastic wrap onto filling. Cool. Refrigerate several hours or until chilled and firm. Top with whipped cream and remaining chocolate chips. (optional)

Photo: Hershey's Recipes with a plain pie crust.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Red Velvet Cake the Natural Way

My friend Louise over at Months of Edible Celebrations asked if I had a recipe for a Red Velvet Cake that doesn't use red dye. I do, but FYI: the color isn't the same nor is the taste. There's nothing like red food dye, the kind in the little bottles, to get that red color. I've tried the 'natural' red dye from Wilton's that I use in royal icing for Gingerbread Cooking decorating, but you have to use a lot of it, and for me, the color isn't 'true' and the cake tastes a little off.

So most red velvet cakes I've made have buttermilk and/or vinegar in them. The following recipe is as close as it comes to a 'natural' red, but don't be fooled, it's really a vegetable cake just like a carrot cake or zucchini cake.

Chocolate Beet Cake (Adapted from Diana Rattray --Southern Food at About.com)

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 -1/2 teaspoons soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1- 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder (use regular not Dutch Process)
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, Canola or corn oil
1-1/2 cups grated cooked beets
2 teaspoons vanilla
powdered sugar, optional

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350°

Combine flour, soda, salt, sugar and cocoa in a bowl; set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs and oil. Beat in vanilla and continue beating until well blended. Slowly beat in dry ingredients until well mixed; stir in beets. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 25 to 35 minutes, or until cake bounces back when touched lightly with finger.

Cool in pan on a rack. Frost cooled cake or dust with powdered sugar.

Since Red Velvet Cake probably came from the South, the original 'red velvet beet cake' probably had a 'boiled frosting' rather than a cream cheese or butter cream frosting.

I found the following recipe posted on the chowhound.com site in a discussion about 'natural' Red Velvet Cake. I love the story that goes with it. I haven't made it yet, but it sounds closer to a 'real' Red Velvet Cake because there's buttermilk & either the vinegar or beets. I think, though, that I would do a cream cheese frosting.

Chocolate Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Icing

When I was growing up, I always wanted a simple chocolate cake for my birthday. I still do. This velvety chocolate cake gets its name from its smooth texture and reddish hue. The original recipe called for red beet juice—in some parts of the country it is called beet cake—but was altered by manufacturers who added red food coloring to the cake. "Red coloring is evil and dangerous for children and other living things," Carole Greenwood, a chef in Washington, D.C. told me. She refuses to use food coloring but loves this buttermilk-based velvety chocolate cake, and uses red wine vinegar or beet juice for the color. She also makes her version less sweet, using both good-quality cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate.


For the cake:
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup good-quality cocoa powder
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons pickled beet juice or red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

For the icing:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease two 9-inch round cake pans.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the water and cocoa powder, and allow the mixture to cool.
3. Beat the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer, then add the vanilla, buttermilk, baking soda, and beet juice or red wine vinegar and stir well.
4. Sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, cornstarch, salt, and sugar into the bowl. Pour in the butter and then the egg mixture and blend thoroughly on low.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Cool the cakes for a few minutes, then turn them out onto wire racks, and frost and fill the center with the chocolate icing.

Chocolate Icing
1. Place the cream, butter, and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until hot and bubbly.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring slowly until smooth and silky. Add the vanilla and the salt. Taste and adjust the sweetness to your taste. Cool for about 15 minutes before frosting the cake.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marge's Red Velvet Cake

My friend Marge hails from Pennsylvania. She and her husband Arnie are great bakers and cooks. On New Year's Eve she made fabulous red velvet cake in assorted mini bundt pans. I've blogged about Red Velvet Cake before, but I must say this recipe has some interesting twists that made it moist and delicious. There are no photos. We ate the cakes.

This recipe is for "Red Cake" from Greensburg, PA.

1/2 cup shortening
3 tbsp cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp vinegar
red food color ("2 whiskey glasses full")
1 tsp vanilla

Mix cocoa with red food coloring to make a paste. Cream shortening, sugar, and eggs. Add the cocoa paste and beat well. Add flour and baking powder and stir in buttermilk a little at a time. Add salt and vanilla. Add baking soda and vinegar by hand; do not mix too much. Bake @ 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Icing:
1 cup milk
3 tbsp cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla

Heat milk and flour, stirring to form a paste. Allow to cool. Mix sugar, shortening, and vanilla and stir into milk and flour paste until creamy. (Marge prefers just to dust the cake with powdered sugar, or serve the cake with ice cream instead of using this icing.)

Thanks, Marge!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Everywhere: Chocolate Teas


So I've been out of touch the last few days mainly because I have been overwhelmed by Chocolate at the NASFT Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. Two huge halls at the Moscone Convention Center were turned into a gourmet food lovers paradise. I roamed those halls for several days specifically looking for chocolate, cocoa, and chocolate products, but it was hard not to be drawn in by the bacon, cheese, and gluten-free products. Over the next week or so, I'll try to summarize some of the new chocolate I found.

Let me start with something that will brighten your day, particularly if you're a tea drinker. The Republic of Tea introduced their New Chocolate Teas. I tried a few, and I was very impressed. These teas are truly "Like Dessert in a Tea Cup". I'm not talking cocoa or sipping chocolate at all. These are unsweetened herbal teas made from a base of rich, aromatic chocolate. The Best News: They're available now!

I fell in love with the Double Dark Chocolate Maté - USDA Certified Organic. It's made from Brazillian roasted yerba mate leaves (lots of antioxidants) in round tea bags generously dusted with all-natural dark organic cocoa powder. The chocolate is 100% natural, low-fat organic cocoa powder derived from dark chocolate (more antioxidants) that's been through the conching process so the chocolate has a smooth fine texture. This tea was fabulous, and only 5 calories per cup! It was suggested that you could add warm milk, but you don't need to, so lactose intolerant folks, no worries.

Also available:
Coconut Cocoa Herb Tea (because who doesn't like chocolate and coconut?). This dessert tea combines chocolate and coconut blended with roasted carob and dates for natural sweetness.

Strawberry Chocolate (aka Double Red Rooisbos). This 'tea for sweethearts' is a combination of chocolate and strawberry blended with naturally cafffeine-free organic South African Rooibos.

I've always been a big supporter of The Republic of Tea. Not only do they produce fine and delicious teas, but they support many important groups such as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Room to Read, and The Ethical Tea Partnership.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chocolate & Beer during SF Beer Week


It's no surprise that Chocolate and Beer go well together. You can drink a good stout with a nice piece of dark chocolate at home, or you can attend one of the two Chocolate & Beer specific events coming up in the San Francisco Bay Area as Part of San Francisco Beer Week. February 5-14, 2010. Lots of great tastings, dinners, and more!

February 6: Chocolate & Beer Festival at the Craneway Pavilion, Richmond

A fun afternoon of exquisite chocolates and local brews at the Craneway Pavilion at the Richmond Marina, part of SF Beer Week. Chocolate and Beer Festival tickets get you multiple product samplings, live entertainment, and raffle prizes.

Tickets are $18 in advance (with free event parking or free BART shuttle from Richmond. $25 day of festival at the door, with additional $5 parking -- make sure to plan ahead and get your tickets early!
The Chocolate and Beer festival benefits local charity. For info, go HERE.

February 12: Beer and Chocolate Dinner by The Beer Chef, Pavilion by the Bay, Treasure Island. Chef Bruce Paton C.E.C brings you the best in pairing chocolate-inspired dishes and beer at Treasure Island's Pavilion by The Bay. More details to come.

During San Francisco Beer Week, Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream will collaborate with local breweries to create a beer ice cream explosion. Any chocolate?

Want to do a 'formal' chocolate and beer tasting for your company? Contact Frank from TeamBuilding Unlimited.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tasty Awards Winners

I was lucky enough to attend the Tasty Awards Thursday night, and even luckier since I was a judge. People were decked out to the Nines as they anxiously awaited the presentations which were very entertaining! But if you weren't there, you can still catch some of the presentations on hulu.com with the full show in February. The AfterParty at the New People building was a lot of fun with chocolate and spirits. Chocolatiers from the Bay area were Saratoga Chocolates, Coco Delice, and Schoggi Swiss Chocolates (presented a wicked hot chocolate drink with a kick!).

The Tasty Awards were eye-opening for many. There are such fabulous programs on TV and the Web. You can still catch many of these, and who knows, maybe next year, you'll be a winner! For the complete list of nominees, go HERE.

The TASTY AWARDS celebrate and recognize the year's best achievements in food and fashion programs on television, in film, and on the web. Hosted by food and travel television star Zane Lamprey of "Three Sheets" fame (Scripps Fine Living Network), the two-hour red carpet event took place at the Sundance Kabuki theatre in San Francisco on January 14th.

The TASTY Awards for 2010 were presented in the following categories for programs, series or films on the Internet, on television, on mobile, and in theaters. Finalists Nominees were selected from programs submitted for consideration before October 28, 2009.

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS
OFFICIAL HONOREE AWARDS

Person of the Year Award: Anthony Bourdain
Tastemaker of the Year Award: Gary Vaynerchuk
Pioneer Awards: Martin Yan, Paul Prudhomme, YouTube
Lifetime Achievement Award: Alton Brown, Jacques Pepin
Outstanding Performance Award: Meryl Streep
Outstanding Inspiration Award: G. Garvin
Outstanding Vision Award: Tyler Florence
Outstanding Passion Award: Joanne Weir
Outstanding Entertainer Award: Giada De Laurentiis
Outstanding Animation Award: "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"
Outstanding Technology Innovation: Hulu, YouTube, iPhone, Flip HD
Stylemaker of the Year Award: Tim Gunn
Breakout Foodies of the Year Award: Hungry Nation TV, Chow.com, Zane Lamprey
Breakout Fashionistas of the Year Award: Modelinia, H&M, Rachel Zoe Project
Guilty Addiction of the Year Award: "Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock"
Great Taste Award: "What Not to Wear"

Best Drink or Beverage Program - TV: Three Sheets
Best Drink or Beverage Program-Web: Raising the Bar with Jamie Boudreau
Best Food Program: No Reservations
Best Food Program - Web: The Culinary Institute of America
Best Fashion or Design Program TV: Project Runway
Best Fashion or Design Program - Web: Style.com

JetBlue Airways Award for Best Food Travel Series: Television: No Reservations
JetBlue Airways Award for Best Food Travel Series: Web: Without Borders
Best Film or Documentary: Food Inc
Best Food or Drink Video Podcast: Avec Eric (Eric Ripert)
Best Fashion or Design Video Podcast: Vogue TV
Best Mobile / Out of Home Series: Top Chef Masters
Best Reality Series: Food: Top Chef
Best Reality Series: Fashion or Design: Project Runway
Best City or Regional Program: Check Please, Bay Area
Best Branded Program: Cooking.com
Best New Series: Cake Boss
Best Single Topic Series: Cake Boss

Best Newspaper or Magazine Program: Bon Appetit
Best Comedy Series: The Adventures of Jolene Sugarbaker
Best Critic or Review Series: Naked Wine Show
Best Male Host in a Series: Alton Brown, Good Eats
Best Female Host in a Series: Paula Deen, Paula's Home Cooking
Best Green or Organic Program: Emeril Green
Best How-To Programs: About.com
Best DVD or Subscription Series: Cooking for the Clueless
Best Home Chef in a Series: Average Betty
Best Chef in a Series: Cake Boss
Best Beauty Tips Online: ThreadBanger, D.I.Y. Fashion & Style
Honorable Mentions: Who What Wear TV, Cuisinart, Luxury Explorer TV

Taste TV who organized and produced the Tasty Awards also produces the Chocolate Salons in San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles. SF Chocolate Salon: March 20.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Molly MacRae's English Toffee

English Toffee Revisited! See the recipe from the National English Toffee Day post for English Toffee HERE.

Molly MacRae, mystery author of the Margaret & Bitsy series (stories in AHMM and first novel, Lawn Order, coming out December 2010) was given this recipe by her sister Jenny as a wedding gift. What a terrific gift. It's lasted for 32 years so far!

This is a simple recipe with delicious desserts. Photos are Molly MacRae's.

From Molly:

English Toffee

Use a cast iron skillet about 12" in diameter. On high heat, cook & stir till frothy: 2 1/2 cups sugar and 1 lb. butter. Keep heating and stirring till mixture turns golden brown. Remove from heat and pour on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with 1 c. chocolate chips. Spread chips smoothly when they've melted. Sprinkle top with 1/2 c. chopped walnuts. When cool, break into pieces of candy.

This stuff is fabulous. We make it every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, sending far and wide to friends and relatives whatever isn't snarfed at home.

Thanks, Molly.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kaye Barley's Bittersweet Chocolate Walnut Pound Cake

The other day was Bittersweet Chocolate Day, and I posted one of my favorite Bittersweet Chocolate Bundt Cake recipes. My friend Kaye Barley, who blogs at Meanderings and Muses about mystery and crime fiction, immediately sent me her own favorite recipe for a bittersweet cake: Chocolate Walnut Pound Cake. I like this recipe, and I can't wait to try it. Sadly no photos available of this cake. It doesn't sit around for long. So instead, I'm posting a photo of her trusted companion Harley who doesn't eat chocolate, I hope!

Bittersweet Chocolate Walnut Pound Cake

Ingredients:
sifted cocoa for preparing the baking pan
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup vanilla yogurt, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 3-oz. bars bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 325.
Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Dust with sifted cocoa (instead of flour).
Cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add the sugar gradually and continue to beat for 5 minutes
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, soda and salt. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the vanilla yogurt to the batter, ending with the flour. Mix in the vanilla extract, nuts and chopped chocolate.
Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake at 325 for approximately 1 hour and 10-15 minutes, being EXTRA careful not to overcook (mine only took an hour).
Let the finished cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn cake onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

About Kaye Barley: Meanderings and Muses: where we're building a community of friends sharing thoughts and conversations about anything and everything. Where a conversation might last a day, a week, or a month. And then pop back up again for another go round. Welcome! Meander along with us, enjoy your stay, and come back often. The genesis for Meanderings and Muses was a love of books; mystery and crime fiction in particular. While we'll ramble down a lot of different paths, our heart and soul will remain quite firmly planted in the mystery community. Honey. Southern women do not forget their roots.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hot Toddy Day: Make it Chocolate

I can get behind a Hot Toddy as a Food Holiday on January 11. Brr... it's cold outside, even here in Northern California. Actually a hot toddy is good anytime.

Hot Toddy might be an old fashioned name, but the Hot Toddy has served for centuries as a therapeutic drink. If you add chocolate, you get all those chocolate benefits, too. Alcohol and chocolate: a great combination.

Sunset has a recipe for Brandied Hot Chocolate a few years ago that fits the bill today. I've adapted it just a bit.

Chocolate Hot Toddy!

Ingredients
1- 1/2 cups grated dark chocolate (65-85% organic, fair-trade/your favorite)
1/2 cup dry milk powder (not something I have on hand except for this)
4 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons Armagnac
Whipped cream or marshmallows, for garnish

Preparation
1. In a medium bowl, mix grated chocolate and dry milk powder.

2. In a medium saucepan, heat whole milk over medium heat. Once heated, stir in the chocolate mixture and whisk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and hot.

3. Pour 1 Tbsp. Armagnac into each mug (four mugs total), then fill each mug with the smooth, hot chocolate mixture. Serve hot, garnished with fresh whipped cream or fresh marshmallows.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bittersweet Chocolate Day: Bittersweet Chocolate Bundt Cake

These food holidays are really odd, and I'm not sure who started them and who really sanctions them, but I guess I do. January 10 is Bittersweet Chocolate Day, not to be confused with Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Day on November 7).

Since I eat and review chocolate, the word bittersweet isn't really part of my lexicon. I certainly have purchased bars that are labeled bittersweet chocolate chips and bars, but usually I buy chocolate based on its origins, fair-trade and amount of cacao. Bittersweet is just too vague for me personally.

According to Wikipedia, Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor (unsweetened chocolate not liqueur) to which some sugar (typically a third), more cocoa butter, vanilla and sometimes lecithin has been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable in baking. Bittersweet and semisweet chocolates are sometimes referred to as 'couverture' (chocolate that contains at least 32 percent cocoa butter); many brands (the ones I like) print on the package the percentage of cocoa (as chocolate liquor and added cocoa butter) contained. The rule is that the higher the percentage of cocoa, the less sweet the chocolate will be. The American FDA classifies chocolate as either "bittersweet" or "semisweet" that contain at least 35% cacao (either cacao solids or butter from the cacao beans).

So using this definition, almost any of my recipes will work since I use mostly very dark chocolate.

Here's a recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate Bundt Cake adapted from Nestle Toll House's Chocolate Pound Cake recipe. It's easy and delicious. If you use a Nestle Toll House Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bar be sure and add more sugar to the recipe.

BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons Instant Coffee Granules (something you'll only use for this)*
8 ounces dark chocolate (75%-90%), broken into pieces, divided (save 2 oz for glaze)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup sweet butter, softened
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla
3 large eggs

CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR CAKE:
1. PREHEAT oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 10-inch Bundt pan.
2. COMBINE flour, baking soda and baking powder in small bowl. Bring water and coffee granules to a boil in small saucepan; remove from heat. Add 6 ounces chocolate; stir until smooth.
3. BEAT sugar, butter and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs; beat on high speed for 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture alternately with chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared Bundt pan.
4. BAKE for 50 to 60 minutes or until long wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes. Invert onto wire rack to cool completely. Place on plate. Drizzle with Chocolate Glaze

** Sometimes I pour the glaze over the bundt cake while it's still a bit warm. The cake absorbs the glaze, and it's yummy!

FOR CHOCOLATE GLAZE: Melt remaining 2 ounces of chocolate with butter in small, saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar alternately with water. Stir in vanilla extract. Drizzle over cake.

Want to celebrate Bittersweet Chocolate Day with a Book? Pick up a copy of Alice Medrich's Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate. She's the best! Chocolate recipes and info, some bittersweet.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

National Apricot Day: Chocolate Dipped Apricots


I love apricots, fresh or dried. They are one of my favorite fruits. So today in honor of National Apricot Day, here's a recipe for Chocolate Dipped Apricots. The brandy is optional and the type of chocolate you use will change the results.. maybe for the better. Who doesn't love chocolate dipped fruit? This is so simple and the chocolate dipped apricots will look and taste fabulous!

Chocolate Dipped Apricots
Makes About 40

1/2 cup broken pieces of a good dark chocolate (65% cacao or more)
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
Dried apricots

Combine chocolate and brandy in top of double boiler and heat until melted and smooth.

Dip half of each apricot into chocolate and place on wax paper lined pan. Refrigerate one to two hours until chocolate is firm. Keep in a cool place.

Friday, January 8, 2010

English Toffee Day


Apparently January 8 is a world-wide holiday: English Toffee Day. I absolutely adore English Toffee, and one of my favorite English Toffees is made by See's Candies. They call it Victoria Toffee. I also like their Toffee-ettes. I first had English Toffee on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Don't ask! Yes, there was salt water taffy, but I was drawn to the English Toffee and White Chocolate. Both were rarities in our household, so they were special treats!

English Toffee has several definitions, but for me it's any confection made by boiling sugar with butter or milk, surrounded by chocolate and nuts. What's your definition? Some people call this brittle. Whatever it is, you have the hard, soft and chewy all in one.

The preparation for making English Toffee is much like that for making candy barks. English Toffee can be made with dark chocolate of varying amounts or even milk chocolate or a mixture of both. Nuts can range from almonds to peanuts to filberts to hazelnuts. Such a range. Every time you make English Toffee, you can vary the ingredients to come up with a completely different taste. How fun! One thing, though, be sure and use real butter!!! European butter is divine, but any good quality sweet butter will work.

I've slightly adapted this easy recipe from Epicurean. You will need a candy thermometer.

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter (best quality)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla (Madagascar)
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao or higher)
2 oz milk chocolate (40-55% cacao)
1/2cup finely chopped pecans,walnuts, filberts, or hazelnuts (you choose)
Directions:
Combine butter, sugar, water and salt in a heavy 2- 1/2 qt pan. Cook over medium-high to high heat, stirring often, until candy thermometer reads 305 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Immediately pour into heavily buttered 9-inch sq pan, spreading to fill pan. Cool completely.
Melt semisweet and milk chocolate in top of double boiler stirring until smooth. Spread half of chocolate over 1 side of toffee and sprinkle with half of nuts Refrigerate until chocolate is firm. Reheat remaining chocolate until flowing. Turn toffee over and spread other side with chocolate and sprinkle with remaining nuts. Refrigerate until firm. When chocolate is set, break toffee into pieces. Store in airtight container in a cool place.

Cooking for Engineers has another great and similar recipe with photos.

I'll be at the Fancy Food Show next week, and I'll bet there's a lot of English Toffee. There was last year. I'll be sure and report back which companies are making the best!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chef Academy: Fricassee of Chicken with Chocolate

I'm a big fan of Bravo's Chef Academy, one of the latest cooking reality shows. On the show Chef Jean Christophe Novelli, world renowned Michelin chef has started a new Chef Academy in Santa Monica. In the show, he trains and 'transforms' 9 students who aspire to cook like professionals. He interviewed many possible students before coming up with an interesting assortment of types perfect for reality TV. There's a former male porn star now a graphic designer, an Orange County woman of 45 (remember Bravo has the Wives of Orange County reality show), a Navy submarine cook and a several others. Bravo's websites calls the participants Chefs; I call them students, and you can MEET THEM HERE.

Although I think Chef Novelli seems to be a very creative and excellent chef, I don't care for his interpersonal teaching skills. Perhaps he's great at showing how to cook and bake, and I must say I've learned a bit from even the abbreviated technique segments we see on the show. As a former teacher; however, I take offense at his mocking and often mean-spirited interactions with his students. They're all there to learn, they're all adults. Perhaps the fact that he hasn't reduced every student to tears (there have been a few) is positively miraculous. If someone passes, why spend 1-2 minutes teasing him and intimating that he didn't pass? Glad he's not my teacher. But I must remember this is theatre, and what makes for good theatre? Tension. So there's tension between the chef and the students, and among the students themselves. It makes for great TV, so as a television show, it's highly entertaining.

Since Chef Academy is listed as Season I on the Bravo website, I can only assume that Bravo plans another Season. I'll watch it. I'm sure there will be an equal amount of drama between the new students and Chef Novelli, and maybe I'll learn a little more about culinary techniques. To watch videos and clips of Chef Academy, go to the Bravo website, HERE.

This week the students tackled meat. I really loved the Chicken with Chocolate recipe. I didn't remember it being called a Fricassee, but of course that's what it is and what it says on the Bravo recipe website. When Chef Novelli first mentioned chicken and chocolate, I thought he'd be making a mole. Wrong culture--this is nothing like a mole.

Bravo's recipe website mavens give this recipe a moderate rating, and having watched the demo with Chef Novelli (although this isn't a cooking show a la Julia Child), I think it's fairly easy to reproduce. The fact that you never taste the foods on any of these cooking shows is especially hard for me in this one since he's teaching technique. Chef Novelli is always critiquing the student dishes, and I'm sure they're following directions, but with differing success. I watch most of the cooking shows on PBS, the Food Network, and it really depends on the slant of the writers/producers. I think Chef Academy is all about the personalities, but since I like reality shows, I'm o.k. with this.

Chef Novelli spends time critiquing the students sauces and dishes, so I'm not sure I'll reproduce this Chicken with Chocolate recipe to Chef's taste. The recipe on the Bravo Website is for 2 portions, so if you're entertaining, you'll have to adjust. That's not a matter of just doubling the recipe. That's where a bit of knowledge will help.

Being a chocolate maven, I can tell you to use the highest quality cocoa. Sweetened or unsweetened isn't mentioned, so I think it's a matter of taste. I would use sweetened, but that's me. I'll bet Chef Novelli is using unsweetened since there's sugar in the wine. For a list of some good quality cocoas, go here.

Fricassee of Chicken with Chocolate

Ingredients
4 Chicken legs - corn fed, organic or free range
2 Med sliced onions
1 tablespoon Cumin seeds
1 tablespoon Cocoa powder
1 tablespoon Smoked paprika
4 Garlic cloves
1 Sprig thyme
2 Bay leaves
1 Chicken stock cube
1 x 75cl Red wine- Merlot is preferred
Plain flour
White sugar
Sea salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1. Divide the chicken legs in half through the natural joint. Do this without splintering the bones.

2. Season with salt and pepper and dust with paprika. Add enough olive oil to coat and leave to infuse for at least 1 hr.

3. Heat a heavy based pan up and then carefully place in the pieces of chicken add the bay leaf and thyme and garlic.

4. Fry on both sides until golden and evenly colored. Remove from the pan with the herbs and garlic.

5. Add the sliced onions to the pan and sweat down until soft, add the cocoa powder and mix in.

6. Return the chicken pieces and herbs etc. and combine.

7. Sprinkle enough flour to absorb any fat residue and form a basic roux.

8. Stir in the wine and ensure there are no lumps and the sauce is just thickened.

9. Adjust the acidity of the wine with a little sugar.

10. Crumble in the chicken stock cube.

11. Bring to the simmer and remove any impurities that rise to the surface.

12. Place the lid on and cook in the oven for approximately 45-60 minutes.

Recipe from Food by Bravo site HERE.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

National Shortbread Day: Make them Chocolate

Today is National Shortbread Day, and, of course, it's always great to eat Chocolate Shortbread.

If you're looking to buy a good chocolate shortbread cookie, you should definitely try the Spicy Chocolate or Chocolate Espresso shortbread cookies from Emily's Biscuits & Cookies. These wonderful butter cookies have great flavor and texture, and they are nut and egg free. Emily has designed her cookies to pair with lots of foods besides milk including cheese and wine.

If you haven't discovered Rechiutti Confections, you're not reading this Blog. I love Michael's chocolates, blog and recipes. There's a recipe on the website for Chocolate Truffle Shortbread Cookies. These are absolutely fabulous. They're a bit time consuming, but it's well worth it.

Michael Rechiutti hails from Philadelphia, as do I, and he was the pastry chef at The Frog Commissary. I'm sure I must have had some of his desserts when I was in Philadelphia. We're both now in the Bay Area, and although you can get Rechiutti Chocolate at many fine chocolate shops and online, it's fun to pop into the Recchiuti Store at the Ferry Building. We include Rechiutti on our San Francisco Chocolate Tours.

Chocolate Truffle Shortbread Cookies

THE COOKIES
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (1 ½ ounces) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter with 82% butterfat, at room temperature
½ cup (3 ½ ounces) granulated cane sugar
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract, preferably Madagascar Bourbon

THE FILLING
4 ounces 65% chocolate, roughly chopped
1/3 cup (2 ½ ounces) heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (1 ½ ounces) powdered cane sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter with 82% butterfat, very soft (75°F°)
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract, preferably Madagascar Bourbon

Unsweetened natural cocoa powder for finishing cookies

These shortbread rounds are sandwiched with truffle cream made the old-fashioned way: by pouring hot cream over chopped chocolate. It creates a stiff filling that can support the top cookie in the sandwich.

Helpful hints from Michael Recchiuti: Contrary to many recipes that call for creaming together butter and sugar until fluffy, this method instead beats these ingredients until they are just combined. Overmixing beats in excess air, resulting in cookies that spread too much in the oven. The dough needs to rest for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator, so you will need to plan ahead. The cookies can be baked up to 4 to 5 days in advance, however, and stored in an airtight container. Assemble the sandwiches shortly before serving and keep them in a cool place before taking them to the table.

Make the dough:

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and salt together into a bowl. Set aside.

Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed just until combined. Add the vanilla extract.

Switch the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, pulsing the mixer to incorporate each addition before adding the next one. The dough will look dry.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead a few times just until it comes together. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

Bake the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottoms of two 12-by18-inch sheet pans with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Using a 1 ½ inch round cookie cutter, set out as many rounds as possible. Reroll the scraps only once, using less flour on the work surface to prevent toughness, and cut again. You should have 60 rounds in all. Place the rounds on the prepared pans, spacing them ½ inch apart.

Bake on the middle shelves of the oven, rotating the pans 180 degrees halfway through the baking time, until the tops are lightly cracked and hold a slight indentation when pressed with a fingertip, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on the pans on wire racks.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature until you are ready to assemble the sandwiches.

Make the filling and assemble the cookies:
Put the chocolate in a medium bowl.

Put the cream and powdered sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook at a simmer for 1 minute and remove from the heat.

Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate. Whisk the mixture by hand until the chocolate melts. Whisk in the butter, and then the vanilla extract.

Pour the truffle cream into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap so that the wrap is touching the surface, and refrigerate until the consistency of thick mayonnaise, 30 to 45 minutes.

Arrange half of the cookies, bottom side up, on a sheet pan. Put the truffle cream into a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch star tip and pipe a swirl of the cream onto the top of each cookie, distributing the cream evenly among them. Top each covered cookie with a second cookie, bottom side down, and press gently to adhere it to the truffle cream. Store in a cool place until serving.

Just before serving, sift a dusting of cocoa powder on the tops of the cookies. Transfer to a serving plate.

Monday, January 4, 2010

National Spaghetti Day: Make it Chocolate

Today is National Spaghetti Day, and what can be better than Chocolate Spaghetti? For National Pasta Day, I posted a very Easy Recipe for making Chocolate Pasta. I also posted a Pasta with Sage and Chocolate recipe in November. That recipe can be done with plain spaghetti but with cheese and chocolate in the sauce, so it's a savory dish.

So today for National Spaghetti Day, I have two different recipes. One is easier than the other, but they're both worth the effort.

Emeril Lagasse has a great recipe for Chocolate Spaghetti. It's a bit more involved than my original one, but has a completely different taste.

Chocolate Spaghetti with Whipped Cream, Sliced Strawberies and Chocolate Nibs from Emeril Lagasse (Food Network)

Ingredients
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar plus 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Pinch salt
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (Madagascar)
2 teaspoons walnut oil or vegetable oil (go with the Walnut Oil)
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon Nocello or brandy
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup chocolate nibs or finely chopped semisweet chocolate

Directions
Into a large bowl or on a work surface, sift together the flour, cocoa, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the eggs a bit at a time, working them into the dry ingredients using a circular motion with your hands. Continue working in the eggs, and add the vanilla and oil, until a sticky dough is formed. Knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic, and is no longer sticky. (Alternatively, place the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, add the eggs, vanilla and oil and pulse to form a ball of dough. Turn out onto a work surface and work to a smooth dough.) Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 4 fist-sized pieces and flatten into disks. One at a time, roll out each dough piece through the widest setting of a pasta machine, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Remove, fold into thirds and repeat. Continue rolling through the machine on 4 times, dusting lightly with flour to keep from sticking. Decrease the roller size down 1 notch, and roll through once, passing the dough through each setting twice until the desired thickness is reached and cut into spaghetti strands. Let dry briefly while assembling the "sauce."

In a medium bowl, beat the cream with an electric mixer at medium speed until it becomes thick and frothy. Beating, add the sugar and Nocello, and beat until soft peaks form, being careful not to overbeat. Set aside until ready to serve.

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until just al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander. Place the drained pasta in a large pasta bowl and toss with the whipped cream, strawberries and nibs. Serve immediately.

And a second easier recipe.

Chocolate Spaghetti and White Chocolate "Cream" Sauce

Spaghetti
2 oz dark chocolate (60% cacao +), melted, cooled
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour

White Chocolate Cream Sauce
2 oz white chocolate (Guittard or another 'real' white chocolate)
2/3 cup whipping cream

Add melted chocolate to eggs. Make pasta using chocolate-egg mixture and flour. Let rest for 30 minutes

Roll out pasta. Roll pasta sheets through a spaghetti cutter. Let spaghetti dry for 30 minutes.

In a large pan of boiling water, cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain spaghetti. Make sauce. Serve spaghetti with sauce.

Sauce
Blend white chocolate and cream in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and smooth.

For more information on spaghetti, its history, culture, recipes, go to that remarkable blog Months of Edible Celebrations!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Chocolate Bacon Peanut Bark

Chocolate and Bacon was the chocolate trend in 2009. What a great pairing! In 2009 I posted recipes for Chocolate Covered Bacon, Chocolate Bacon Brownies, Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies and a lot more. I also reviewed several chocolate/bacon foods to buy such as Vosges' Mo's Bacon Bar as well as links to other blogs and recipes. Susan Russo on NPR had a great article last week on different pairings of bacon with different foods, but this was my favorite. It's simple to make.

Chocolate Bacon Peanut Bark adapted from Susan Russo's recipe

8 strips bacon
16 ounces fair-trade organic chocolate 60%-75% cacao (chunks or chips are fine)
1 cup unsalted peanuts

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon, turning several times, until browned and done, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Chop finely.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add chocolate to a double boiler (or a saucepan on top of another saucepan). Once the water begins to boil, add the chocolate. Using a spatula, stir continuously, until smooth and creamy.

Stir in the bacon and peanuts. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and spread to 3/8-inch thickness. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. The bark should be hard and chilled.

Place bark on a cutting board and cut into pieces — any size or shape you'd like. Serve at about room temperature.