Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chocolate Easter Bunnies

A Tail of Peter Rabbit...

I love the Easter Bunny. If you've been to my home you know I have a giant wooden Easter Bunny in my living room. He should be holding a basket with Easter eggs, but that function has come and gone. I got him at the Oakland Museum White Elephant sale, and although he's not chocolate, he reminds me of other Easter Bunnies I've known and loved.

Some Chocolate Bunnies are filled and some are hollow. Today a random tour through hollow and solid Chocolate Easter Bunnies. Perhaps the most famous of U.S. Hollow Easter Bunnies are those manufactured by R. M. Palmer. Back in 1948, Richard M. Palmer, Sr., designed and patented the technology that is still used today in their West Reading (PA) production facilities.  Palmer's vision was to give the old, tired chocolate bunnies of the day some new and interesting characteristics and names. The early bunnies named Flopsy, Peter Candytail, and Busy Bigby were not just "sitting" rabbits. Today, the list of their different styles of hollow chocolate bunnies is endless. They come in all shapes and sizes. And, if you're thinking the output of these hopping rabbits is slim, think again. Each year the R.M. Palmer Company produces 25 million hollow rabbits that range in size from 1/75 oz/4 inch high to  a 20 oz foot tall Grandbunny Heffelflopper.

In South Africa,  the traditional Chocolate Bunny rabbit reached gigantic height and weight. Duracel built a 3 ton-4 meter tall Chocolate Bunny (Duracel symbol: Energizer Bunny) in Johannesburg.  So much chocolate.What to do? Duracel put the edible giant Bunny to good use. It was chopped up and distributed to orphans. South Africa, where the AIDS virus is widespread, sadly, has a huge number of orphans because of the AIDS epidemic which has taken many of their parents.  

Watch a video of the Giant Chocolate Bunny HERE.

Some local bunnies at the Drugstores and Supermarkets: Lindt Gold Bunny (in photo at top). I like the looks of this one and captured a few at Cost Plus, Safe Way and CVS.  Others: Cadbury Solid Milk Chocolate Bunny. Being a dark chocolate fan, this is not my favorite. Dove Bunny: tiny little thing but tasty.


More High End Sophisticated Rabbits...are more to my taste. Anything from Jacques Torres. I love their chocolate. This year's Easter Bunny is a bit frightening in appearance. It's hand-painted with white chocolate features, bows, ear tips hands and tail. At $17, you've got to like the chocolate--and their chocolate is great. The 10 inch hollow rabbit comes in Milk and Dark Chocolate. I think the $9 Large Sitting Rabbit is more my style..a classic.

Speaking of retro, Christopher Norman Chocolates has a Racer Bunny. It's a hand-painted molded chocolate hollow bunny sitting in a woven convertible. Sooo cute. Who can eat this?


Martine's Chocolates has all kinds of lovely Bunnies, both sitting  (solid and hollow), Bunny Cartoon (solid), Bunny standing with Baskets and colored chocolate. Martine's chocolates, plus special artisan chocolate bunnies.

Vosges Rabbits: These are fabulous and this year they come in exotic flavors. These are molded with waving rabbit ears. Barcelona Bunny (Hickory smoked almonds  with grey sea salt (45% milk chocolate). Amalfi Bunny (Lemon zest and pink peppercorns and white chocolate) The Orchid Vanilla Bunny is really Tahitian vanilla bean with 62% dark chocolate. Toffee Bunny is one after my heart. He's the Vosges sweet butter toffee with pink Himalayan salt and deep milk chocolate. I've never met a toffee I didn't like, and bunny shape? Well, of course.

But I fell in love with Vosges' Mad Hare Orchestra. All five members of the Mad Hare Orchestra arrive together in solid 62% dark chocolate infused with Tahitian vanilla Bean. Each is individually wrapped in its own bag and tied with ribbon. The Mad Hare Orchestra also comes in Solid 42% Milk Chocolate with a touch of pink Himalayan salt.

Problem: They're so cute, I want to put them on the shelf.. I might just need to bite off an ear now and again.
 
Locally, I'm a big fan of Charles Chocolates, and I was sad to see them leave Berkeley. Last year I bought a box of their darling seated chocolate rabbits. Small individual rabbits placed in candy wrappers and boxed. I didn't find any this year. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. I did see their Bunny Collection Edible Chocolate Box. Painted chocolate collection of their Fleur de Sel and Bittersweet Chocolate Fleur de Sel Caramels. I'm sure they're excellent, but I'm into the whole Bunny shape, as well as the taste. 

See's Milk Chocolate Rabbit. A hollow, foil-covered Chocolate Bunny with a basket. 10 oz. There's also a small milk chocolate bunny in colored foil. These are a tradition, and they taste great.

I haven't really mentioned the filled Easter Bunnies: marshmallow, coconut and more exotics fillings. And, Apologies to all my chocolatier friends who provide fabulous chocolate bunnies at Easter. Couldn't get to them all, but welcome comments. Nice thing about a Blog is that I can add at any time.

And, the age-old question of what part of the Bunny do you eat first?

With all the new Bunny shapes and molds, it's not an easy answer.

Which part do YOU eat first?

Love to hear about your favorite Chocolate Bunnies. I bet there's a chocolatier near you that does some outstanding work.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Passover Brownies

Who doesn't love Brownies? I usually make my brownies with butter --and sometimes add yogurt or sour cream, and occasionally beets or bourbon. During Passover, you can certainly make Brownies with milk products, but if you plan to take them to a seder or you keep Kashruth, you might want to consider this recipe I adapted from Carroll Pellegrinelli: Heidie's Passover Brownies on about.com.

Passover Brownies

5 ounces dark Chocolate broken up or Chocolate Chips-- Kosher for Passover
1/2 cup margarine (butter if you're not serving or having with meat)
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 cup matzo cake meal
1/4 cup potato starch
2 teaspoons pure vanilla  (Madagascar)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate Kosher for Passover


I skipped the glaze. These brownies are chewy and sweet enough for me.

Preheat oven to 350F.  "Margarine" (instead of buttering) a  9" by 13" baking pan.

In a saucepan over another saucepan with water (or double boiler) melt together the chocolate and margarine. In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar at high speed until light and fluffy. Combine the matzo cake meal and potato starch. Add the melted chocolate alternately with the dry ingredients to the egg mixture until just blended. Stir in the nuts, the 1/2 cup chopped chocolate, and vanilla. Pour into pan and bake 40 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and cool on rack.

Heidi's original recipe called for 1/4 cup light corn syrup. Carroll substituted sugar and water, as corn syrup is one of the ingredients that should be avoided during Passover. Works for me!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

San Francisco Chocolate Salon: Award Winners

The San Francisco International Chocolate Salon this year was better than ever. I was lucky enough to be a Judge which meant I got to taste a lot of the chocolate, truffles, and specialities prior to the Salon. I know, it's a hard job, but someone's got to do it.

Lots of categories and lots of winners, so that means you can do mini-chocolate salons and tastings in your home. You can do a blind tasting with different parties focusing on different categories or several categories. Provide the first, second and third place winners. Yum. Then you can do it again. Or...Come of the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon next March...or to a Luxury Chocolate Salon near you: Seattle (July 11, 2010), Los Angeles (October 2010), Chicago or Las Vegas.

Following are the winners at this year's San Francisco International Chocolate Salon in multiple categories. For the complete list of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Honorable Mention, go HERE.

Just an FYI. I will be reviewing several of the Chocolate companies and chocolatiers individually over the next few weeks starting with the overall most Gold (Best) Awards: William Dean Chocolates. They're awesome!

Best Dark Chocolate: Individual Product Award: Amano Artisan Chocolate: Madagascar, 70% Dark Chocolate Bar. This was my personal favorite, and a bit harder to find in retail shops than some of the other Amano Dark Chocolate Bars (Amano Montanya 70% and Amano Ocumare 70% were tied for second place and their Jembrana 70% took third place). Actually the Madagascar 70% Dark Chocolate tied with the Guittard: Complexite Bittersweet Blended 70@ Bittersweet Chocolate. I love to use the Guittard in my flourless chocolate cake, and I've also used Amano's Montanya and Ocumare. I save the Madagascar for eating. Needless to say, Amano Artisan Chocolate won First Place in Product Line Award: Best Dark Chocolate.

Best Milk Chocolate: I'm not a big Milk Chocolate Fan, but the Guittard: Kokoleka Hawaiian 38%-Hawaian Milk Chocolate won First Place. Guittard won the Product Line Award.

Best Truffle: First Place: Coco Delice tied with William Dean Chocolate: 10 Piece Box of Chocolates with William Dean Chocolates for Product Line Award. I thought the Coco Delice truffles were fabulous. Very smooth. Vice Chocolates: 8 pc Variety Truffle/Caramel Box were quite good, and I'm a big fan of Vice, a local chocolatier.

Top Artisan Chocolatier: Amano Artisan Chocolate. No big surprise. These people know how to make chocolate.

Best Traditional Chocolates: Dolce Bella: 12 piece box of bon bons tied with Gateau et Ganache: 4 Piece Assorted Chocolate Bonbons in the individual product award with Saratoga Chocolates winning the Product Line Award. I voted for Saratoga Chocolates last year, visited their new shop in San Francisco, and thought this year's chocolates were sensational.

Best Flavored Chocolate: Jade Chocolates Genmai Bar tied with Vice Chocolates' Dark Chocolate Bar with Fig &Anise, both high on my list. Jade Chocolates won Best Product Line Award.

Best Gift Set: William Dean Chocolates

Most Luxurious Chocolate Experience: William Dean Chocolates

Most Delicious Ingredient Combinations: William Dean Chocolates: 10 piece Box of Chocolates

Best Flavored Chocolate Bar: Individual Product Award: Vice Chocolates: Dark Chocolate Bar with Fig &Anise. Product Line Award: Jade Chocolates.

Best Dark Chocolate Bar: Individual Product Award:Amano Artisan Chocolate: Madagascar 70% Dark Chocolate Bar. Product Line Award: Amano Artisan Chocolate

Best in Salon: Amano Artisan Chocolate, Vice Chocolates. William Dean Chocolates

Best Presentation & Packaging. I must say of all the topics, this one hit home to the artist in me. Some of the packaging  was just so outstanding, you didn't want to open the boxes. Many of the chocolates themselves were such fabulous works of art you didn't want to eat the, but I did.  Best Product Line Award: William Dean

Best Milk Chocolate Bar: Individual product Award: Amano Artisan Chocolate: Jembrana Milk Chocolate Bar: Product Line Award: Amano Artisan Chocolate

Most Gifted Chocolatier/Chocolate Maker: William Dean Chocolates.

Best Comfort Chocolate Product: Individual product Award: Kikas Treats: Caramelized Graham Crackers in Dark Chocolate, Product Line Award: Her Coconess tied with Kika's Treats

Best Toffee, Snack or Confection: Individual Product Award: Clarine's Florentines
Product Line Award: Clarine's Florentines (My all over favorites since they were new to me)*

Best Organic or Fair Trade Products: Individual Product Award: Alter Eco Fair Trade: Dark Quinoa Chocolate; Product Line Award: Alter Eco Fair Trade

Most Artistic Designs: Individual Product Award:William Dean Chocolates: 10 Piece Box of Chocolates, Product Line Award: William Dean Chocolates

New Product Award: Individual Product Award: Jade Chocolates: Terracotta Bar tied with Clarine's Florentines; Product Line Award: William Dean Chocolates

I blogged about chocolate caramels before, but I must say again that Her Coconess Pink Flake Salt Caramels were my personal favorites. Clarine's Florentines were the first product I received, and I loved the crispiness, sweetness, dark chocolate with just the right amount of gooeyness. Fabulous, and I've already bought more. I see these as a weekly staple.

FOR THE ENTIRE BEST OF THE SALON--SECOND, THIRD, HONORABLE MENTION, GO HERE.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chocolate Seders

NextDor, a Young Jewish Professional Organization is hosting a Chocolate Passover Seder next Friday night, April 2, at the Clunie community Center in McKinley Park in Sacramento. Traditionally seders take place on the first and second night of Passover. This is a tradition that celebrates the exodus of Jews from Egypt after 400 years of slavery.

At the Chocolate Seder, each traditional food found on the seder plate--hardboiled egg, shankbone, horseradish, parsley and Charoset will be replaced with a different kind of chocolate.

Chocolate eggs, white chocolate for the shankbone, bittersweet chocolate for the horseradish and so much more. Wine will be replaced with chocolate milk, and the salterwater replaced with chocolate syrup. There will, of course, be chocolate-covered Matzo.

The Jewish Law Students Assn at U.C. Davis is also hosting a Chocolate Seder on the second night of Passover.  If you think this is a new idea, you would be wrong. Various organizations, synagogues, interfaith groups and families have been having chocolate seders for years...not as long as traditional seders, but quite some time. There are many chocolate seders being hosted around the country, and some websites are selling edible chocolate seder plates.

Want to host your own Chocolate Seder? Party 411 has all the information you'll need.

Chocolate Seders, however, should not replace traditional ones in my opinion. Even for me this is a stretch...but I thought I'd pass along the information.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chocolate Covered Peeps

Of all my childhood Spring Candy memories, Peeps stand out. My sister and I still buy each other Peeps around Easter, even though neither of us actually eat the sugary marshmallow-y creatures any more.  Last year she bought me purple ones; I bought her yellow. You see where this is going? I'm a purist.

A few months ago I mentioned the opening of the Oxon Hill (MD) Peeps Store (near D.C.) Peeps are their own industry, and recently the Washington Post and Smithsonian Magazine reported on Peeps dioramas and contests. Certainly a good use for this national favorite.

In any case, this year brought the ultimate in the ever improving Peep: Chocolate-Covered Peeps, available in both Dark and Milk chocolate. These are not the small peeps packed together in rows. No, these Chocolate Peeps come in individually wrapped packages. Sadly, the cool sparkly coating of sugar is missing, and I think it would have been a nice buffer between the chocolate and marshmallow to make it stand out from the rest of the chocolate marshmallow candy. Anyway, the large singular chocolate covered Peep has a yellow-colored marshmallow center. Chris Schneewiss, brand manager for Peeps at Just Born, said, "These PEEPS® will please loyal fans and entice newcomers, perhaps becoming our biggest hit ever."  I beg to differ. With so many wonderful chocolate marshmallow treats out there from various chocolatiers who make their own marshmallows, why would I want this new Peep that's not a Peep.

So, let me tell you what I think. First the chick is not sitting, as in chicks all in a row. Well, he's by himself, and he's on his side, kind of.  He's pretty well shaped (better than the regular peeps who are articulated only until you pull them apart. It's the elastic quality of the "old" peeps that's all the fun for me.

Each individual Peep, then, of the Chocolate Covered Peeps has chocolate covering a yellow marshmallow center. The marshmallow part of these has less elasticity than the original peeps, and I didn't like that the yellow is from Yellow #5. O.K. As far as the chocolate went, well, it certainly didn't taste like the high quality chocolate I've been tasting for the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon.

O.K. should I be holding Peeps up to a higher standard?  Maybe not. After all, it's all about childhood memories. Maybe I personally don't want Chocolate Covered Peeps when I can create new memories with quality chocolate and marshmallow combinations. But, if I were a kid again, I bet I'd love them! So I'm not dismissing them altogether. The price can't be beat, and they're available at your local drugstore or supermarket.

And, just as an aside, Jacques Torres makes fabulous chocolate, and they sell Chocolate-Covered Peeps. Their name: Chirp'N'Dales. I haven't had these yet, but aren't they adorable?


Want to make your own Chocolate Covered Peeps using the original Peeps? Here's a recipe:

Melt some good dark chocolate or milk chocolate (about 16 oz/depending on how many you plan to make)

Remove Peeps from package. I would use Chicks since they're the original, but the other shapes (rabbits, etc) work well.

Insert a lollipop stick into the Peep. If you're using the chicks, do it the widest way (maybe this is why they're sideways standing up in the packaged ones--and why bunnies work better). 

Dip the Peep into the melted chocolate. Two chocies: Either cover the entire Peep or just dip one end as you would strawberries. Be sure and let any excess drip off.

Put on wax paper covered plate or cookie sheet and freeze for 20 minutes.


Question? When is a Peep, not a Peep? When it's Chocolate Covered.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rabbi Ilene Schneider Guest Blogs Mystery & Passover Chocolate Recipes

My Mystery and Chocolate lives cross again. Today, my friend  Ilene Schneider, a Rabbi, a Mystery Author, and a Chocoholic, guest blogs. Over the years, we've exchanged emails, Facebook and Blog comments, but we didn't actually meet until Bouchercon, the World Mystery Conference, last October in Indianapolis. Not only did we have a chance to chat, but she located a fabulous chocolate shop in which to have that chat. Good chocolate-radar, Ilene.

Rabbi Ilene Schneider is the author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries. Her Facebook Fan page is www.facebook.com/rabbi.author.  Chanukah Guilt (Swimming Kangaroo Books: 2007) was nominated for the Deadly Ink David Award.

Today she blogs Passover Thoughts, Mystery Writing and Chocolate Passover Recipes!  If you keep Kosher, you'll want to get Kosher-for-Passover chocolate chips in the recipes. You're going to love her recipes, and, especially her notes! Thanks, Rabbi!
***

Rabbi Ilene Schneider:

As I write this blog entry, Passover is only four days away. I am trying very hard not to think about it, but I have no choice. We have a total of thirty-five (thirty-six? thirty-seven?) people coming for the two Seders. This year will be the twenty-ninth time we have had our family and friends join us; that’s fifty-eight Seders, or approximately one thousand forty-four meals. You would think I’d be used to it by now.

The problem is that I am used to it. I know everything will be done on time, despite appearances to the contrary. I have a pattern – the same menu every year (with a few variations as I assess which dishes are always left over and which we run out of), the same basic shopping list (which, much to my delight, because I hate to shop, my husband handles), the same preparations beginning two days before the first Seder (carrot salad, cranberry-orange relish, onion kugel, fruit kugel on Seder-day-minus-two; chicken pieces, baking, set table on Seder-day-minus-one; boneless turkey breast, more baking, odds and ends like charoset and parve whipped cream and hot veggies on the day itself).

I admit that I am proud of my efficiency. I even print out the menu in a table with columns indicating which elements (including beverages and condiments) have been bought or prepared. On the night itself, I check off each dish as it is served. In that way, we avoid having broccoli for dessert.
So, why is it a problem? Because complacency leads to procrastination. And one thing I do not need is an excuse to procrastinate. (I’ll explain later.)

The protagonist of my mystery series, Rabbi Aviva Cohen, in her next foray into crime solving, Unleavened Dead, doesn’t need to worry about preparing for Seders. She attends the first Seder at her niece’s house and the second at her synagogue, where she leads a community Seder. Instead, during the week leading up to Pesach, she goes to a conference where she reconnects with a classmate who has been hired by a “rival” synagogue, tries to clear her niece’s partner from suspicion that she had murdered her new boss (who had fired her) in a hit-and-run accident, and wonders if the carbon monoxide leak that had killed a couple in her congregation had really been an accident. In between, she does need to clean her kitchen, though, and realizes again that one person living alone can produce a lot of wasted food. (You can read about Aviva’s cleaning out her refrigerator at my website: www.rabbiavivacohenmysteries.com. The direct link to the excerpt from this work-in-progress is: http://tinyurl.com/yeq6rb5.

Rabbi Aviva Cohen made her first appearance in the cozy mystery Chanukah Guilt (Swimming Kangaroo Books, 2007; available through amazon.com at http://tinyurl.com/yjevgdt, as well as other venues). Aviva and I are not the same person. She is a pulpit rabbi; I have mostly worked in Jewish education or non-profit organizations, serving in a part-time pulpit for a few years only when I returned to school for a doctorate in education. She has been married and divorced twice; I have been married to the same man, my first and only husband, for almost thirty-four years. She has no children; I have two sons. Her father died several years earlier and her mother, in her nineties, lives in an assisted living facility in Boston; my parents are in their early eighties, considered the “young elderly” these days, and live independently in a single-family house in Florida. She has an older sister; I’m an only child.
But we also have a lot in common. She is a rabbi in Southern New Jersey. She is short, beyond zaftig, has unruly red hair, was born and raised in Boston, and is in her fifties (okay, I’m now quite a bit older than I was when I first created Aviva). Want to know what Aviva looks like? Just look at me. People who know me say they can hear my voice when they read the book.

Another thing we have in common is recipes. Aviva doesn’t cook much, preferring to eat out (which is why there is so much spoiled food in her refrigerator), but when she does, her recipes are mine.
In addition to kugels for the Seder at her niece’s, Aviva is also doing some baking. The kugels don’t contain any chocolate, but the desserts do. I’m not the kind of cook who doesn’t share recipes (or, worse, one who leaves out some crucial ingredient or step), so here are my two favorite Kosher-for-Passover, gluten-free, non-dairy dessert recipes. I’ve copied the recipes as I received them, but I’ve also added the “secrets” that I’ve discovered after some disastrous results.

B’tayavon! (Hebrew for bon appétit.)

Meringue Cookies

Ingredients:
6 oz. package chocolate chips (Kosher-for-Passover)
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar

Instructions: Make sure eggs are room temperature. Combine egg whites and vanilla. Beat stiff but not dry. Gradually add sugar, and beat until very stiff and shiny. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at low oven (200-225) until dry to touch.

NOTES:
1. Don’t make this recipe if it’s humid out (unless your air conditioner is on) or they’ll be sticky. The same will happen if you over or under beat them.
2. Separate the eggs as soon as you take them from the refrigerator and then let the whites come to room temperature.
3. For each egg, I put the egg white into a small bowl, dump the yolk into the sink (unless I have a use for it), and then transfer the white into the mixing bowl. I do it one egg at a time so I don’t ruin the whole batch of whites if yolk gets into one of them.
4. Don’t use fresh eggs – they shouldn’t be “old,” but the fresher they are, the more difficult to separate and to beat.
5. I always beat the whites until frothy and then add the vanilla.
6. Want more chocolate? Add some cocoa powder to the whites. (Careful. The powder tends to fly all over.)
7. I don’t like to grease the cookie sheet, as the bottoms of the cookies darken. Instead I use parchment paper.
8. Don’t make more than three eggs worth at a time, unless you have several cookie sheets. The mixture won’t hold its texture for long.
9. Make more than you think you’ll need, or hide the cookies. Otherwise, there may not be enough to serve for dessert. My guests tend to munch on them before we sit down for the Seder.

Frozen Chocolate Mousse Cake
(Adapted from an Israeli cookbook)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup plus 6 tbs margarine
1 cup sugar
6 eggs separated (save yolks)
7 oz. melted bitter chocolate (kosher for Passover)

Instructions: Cream margarine with 1/3 cup sugar; add yolks one at a time, beating well after each. Add melted chocolate. Beat egg whites and 2/3 cup sugar, until stiff. Fold whites into chocolate mixture. Remove 1 cup batter and refrigerate. Fold nuts into remainder (optional). Bake in a greased 10" spring form pan or pie plate at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cool and spread with reserved batter. Freeze.

NOTES:
1. If worried about salmonella, bake the entire mixture. That’s what I do.
2. I’m lazy. I use the microwave to melt the chocolate.
3. When the cake cools, it will sink. I fill the depression with bananas, strawberries, blueberries or other fruit.
4. I buy a parve whipping cream and use it to “ice” the cake. It hides all the cracks that appear during cooling. The fruit goes on top.
5. Again, I line the pan with parchment paper. Greasing the pan makes the outside of the cake too … greasy.
6. A birthday on the night of the Seder? Use this recipe for a great birthday cake.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chocolate Covered Raisins Day: Raisinets and a Recipe

Today is National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day. If you read this blog, you'll know that I recently posted about Goobers, one of my favorite 'movie' candies, on Chocolate Covered Peanuts Day. Well, Raisinets were a close second for my movie treats. Given that they were made by the same company as Goobers that should come as no big surprise. Raisinets were first made in 1927 by the Blumenthal Chocolate Company. Nestlé acquired the brand in 1984 and added the motto "Taste the Sunshine." They are made with California Raisins and milk chocolate. There is now a dark chocolate version, as well.  I associate raisins with SunMaid, as I'm sure many of you do. Sun Maid also makes chocolate covered raisins, and they are very tasty. Many other confectioners make chocolate covered raisins, so check them out, along with your favorite chocolatier.

O.K. Raisinets are nostalgia foods for me. The real cook in me says make your own if you want to get a higher end chocolate covered raisin. Here's a simple recipe, and you can change it up by using different types of chocolate.

Chocolate Covered Raisins

6 oz Chocolate --60%-75% cacao fair trade organic chocolate, broken up
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla (Madagascar)
2 cup organic raisins

Combine chocolate and corn syrup in saucepan on top of another saucepan (or double boiler). Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cook until chocolate melts, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar, vanilla and raisins. Drop by half teaspoons onto waxed paper; chill. Store in refrigerator.

Very easy. Celebrate Chocolate Covered Raisins Day!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Matzo Brittle for Passover

Passover starts on Monday evening March 29 this year (lunar calendar), and I saw a wonderful recipe in the San Francisco Chronicle by Amanda Gold for Matzo Brittle. I love Brittle, but I've never made it with matzo. The saltiness and texture make it a natural. Read the entire article HERE.

MATZO BRITTLE

4-5 sheets Passover matzo
2 sticks butter or margarine (I would only use butter, but if you're keeping kashrut and serving meat first, you'll probably use margarine)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips (or broken fairtrade organic dark chocolate)
1/3 cup chopped roasted salted almonds, or coarse sea salt to taste (or other nuts: walnuts)

Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and grease the foil with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Arrange the matzo in one flat layer in the pan, breaking up and fitting the pieces as needed to cover the whole pan.
3. Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Once it starts to boil, continue to cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until it turns into caramel.
3. Remove the caramel from the heat and pour it evenly over the matzo, using an offset or regular spatula to coat all the matzo. Bake for about 12 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 minute, until the topping is slightly solidified. Pour the chocolate chips evenly over the matzo, and return to the oven for 1 minute to soften the chips.
5. Remove from the oven and, using the spatula, spread the melted chocolate out over the matzo in one layer.
6. Sprinkle nuts over one half of the sheet, and salt over the other (or add toppings to your liking). Let rest at room temperature at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate at least 1 hour, uncovered.
7. Break into pieces and store between parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container for up to 1 week until ready to serve.

Have a look at some other chocolate for Passover from last year's posts here on DyingforChocolate.com including Chocolate Covered Matzo to make or buy and an easy delicious  Flourless Chocolate Cake.

Photo: Craig Lee, styled by Amanda Gold

Sunday, March 21, 2010

California Strawberry Day: Strawberry Chocolate German Pancake

Today is California Strawberry Day, and I thought I'd celebrate with an easy to make Strawberry-Chocolate German Pancake. This recipe is from the California Strawberry Commission, and who knows strawberries better? Happy Spring!

A German Pancake is also known as a Dutch Baby. It's a cross between a souffle and an omelet. You make this in an iron skillet that bakes in the oven.

Strawberry-Chocolate German Pancake (Dutch Baby)

Ingredients:
1/4 cup sweet butter
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 cup (6 ounces) dark chocolate (65-70%), broken up
1 pint basket fresh California strawberries, stemmed and sliced
Powdered sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Melt butter in 10-inch ovenproof iron skillet.
In container of electric blender measure eggs, milk and flour, blend until smooth.
Pour into hot skillet.
Bake 2 minutes.
Remove from oven; sprinkle chocolate pieces over pancake and return to oven.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes until puffed and golden brown.
Top with strawberries and dust with sugar.
Serve immediately, cut into wedges.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Eat the Paint: Painted Chocolate

Ever wonder how those beautiful designs get on the chocolate at Recchiuti?

Check out this video: 8 hours in Dogpatch.

Maybe you were at the Ferry Building last month when Michael and artist Mark Alstelind had their "Eat the Paint" event.  Mark flew in from Paris and created gorgeous artwork from chocolate and colored cocoa butter, and Michael backed the images with an edible canvas of white chocolate (and re-enforced them with some delectable dark chocolate). For more photos of this event, go to the Recchiuti Blog.

Oh... it helps, too, that Recchiuti chocolates are incredibly good!

Friday, March 19, 2010

National Chocolate Caramel Day: Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies

I will admit there is nothing better than a Chocolate Covered Caramel. Since I'm a Judge at this year's San Francisco International Chocolate Salon, I got to taste quite a few.

Confections by Kay Dillon (San Francisco) has a lovely flat caramel covered with a nice Dark chocolate caramel with sea salt that I adored. She is the driving force behind the success of Beaux Gateaux Wedding Cakes and is now making confections. I got to hear her at the Commonwealth Club chocolate panel last Fall. So happy to taste this fabulous caramel again (with sea salt, of course).  Her Coconess  (Menlo Park) submitted Pink Flake Salt Caramels that incorporated Murray River pink flake salt. Yum! These caramels won Best Comfort Chocolate Product. Vice Chocolates (Oakland), another local company I've written about before,  had a fantastic Truffle Caramel. Sometimes I like my caramels firm, sometimes more chewy, and I must admit, there were lots of chocolate caramels to choose from for the judging.

I wrote about Goobers awhile back as one of my favorite movie candies...well Milk Duds is another.  I would prefer if the manufacturer used dark chocolate, but  I wouldn't pass on these. Goobers, Raisinets and Milk Duds sustained me during many movie marathons.  Milk Duds would work well in the following recipe if you make small cookies, but as I always say, the better the products, the better the results. There are a lot of more mass produced chocolate caramels that are quite good. Love to hear which ones you choose.

So today is National Chocolate Caramel Day, and I thought I should give a recipe--not for lovely chocolate caramel truffles and candy, but cookies that include them.  This recipe has chocolate cookie dough wrapped around chocolate covered caramels. Depending on the caramels you use, you can size the cookies. Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com. It's almost a sacrilege to use the lovely chocolate covered caramels from local artisans in this recipe, but if you want to make it all, here's Martha's recipe for  Deep Dark Chocolate Caramels. Then all you have to do is wrap them in the cookies. Of course, you'll need lots more time!

Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients
1 cup sweet butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla  (Madagascar)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Scharffen Berger)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional for me)
1 tablespoon white sugar
48 chocolate-covered caramel candies (small ones) or artisan chocolate covered caramels and adjust size of cookies

Directions
1. Beat butter until creamy. Gradually beat in white sugar and brown sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, and cocoa. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in 1/2 cup walnuts. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Combine remaining 1/2 cup nuts with the 1 tablespoon sugar. Divide the dough into 4 parts (depending on size of cookies you're making). Work with one part at a time, leaving the remainder in the refrigerator until needed. Divide each part into 12 or less pieces. Quickly press each piece of dough around a chocolate covered caramel. Roll into a ball. Dip the tops into the sugar mixture. Place sugar side up, 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets.
4. Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cool for 3 to 4 minutes on the baking sheets before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

National Oatmeal Cookie Day

Today is National Oatmeal Cookie Day, and I love Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies. The best way to make sure you have the very best cookies is to use the very best ingredients. I've used great chocolate from Amano or Guittard or Alter Eco that I break up into chunks. This is an easy recipe that consistently wins the hearts and reaches the tastebuds of friends and family. I've adapted this from myrecipes.com. I like walnuts rather than pecans, and I use sweet European butter, Madagascar vanilla and great chocolate.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Ingredients
1 cup sweet European butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla  (Madagascar)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups uncooked regular oats
About 11 oz. dark chocolate chopped into chunks
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.
3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring well. Add oats; stir well. Add to butter mixture; stir until well blended. Gently stir in chocolate chunks and walnuts. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until brown around edges. Cool on pan 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pan; cool on wire racks.

Easy and fabulous! Celebrate.


Photo: Charles E. Walton IV, myrecipes.com

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Car Bomb: Drinks and Cupcakes

An Irish Car Bomb is a drink that can be ordered in an Irish Pub--or the Bar on the corner.  To make an Irish Car Bomb, take a shot glass of  1/2 Bailey's Irish Cream mixed with 1/2 Jameson's Irish Whiskey dropped into  3/4 pint of Guinness. Then chug it down before it curdles. And, yes, the name refers to the notorious car bombings used by the Provisional Irish Republican Army during the "Troubles." Not exactly a P.C. name for the drink in these times.

According to Wikipedia, the Irish Car Bomb was created in 1979 by Charles Burke Cronin Oat, former owner and bartender of Wilson's Saloon, in Norwich, CT. The drink evolved from several earlier versions dating back to 1977. The Grandfather, the original idea behind a Car Bomb, was a mixed shot of Bailey's and Kahlúa coffee liqueur.  Oat was inspired to add Jameson Irish Whiskey to the shot, which made the shot bubble up vigorously like an explosion, causing him to remark that "the IRA just showed up!" Hence, the newly designed shot was known as the IRA. Two years later while drinking IRAs and Guinness, Oat got the idea to drop the shot into his half-finished pint of Guinness, with the words "Bombs away!" and the Irish Car Bomb was born.

The drink later spread beyond the city of Norwich due to increased advertising by Guinness beginning in the late-1980s. While Kahlúa was part of the original recipe, it is often dropped from the drink today. Some refer to that original recipe as a Belfast Car Bomb.

O.K. maybe not your cup of tea, but when you add chocolate to the same ingredients and bake it as a cupcake, it will be. Yesterday I mentioned Irish Car Bomb Brownie Bites, but I thought I should link to a recipe for the original cupcakes.

Smitten Kitchen has a recipe for Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling and Bailey's Frosting. This recipe makes spectacular Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. (See recipe below or go to the Smitten Kitchen site for recipe, photos and comments)*

Want an easier recipe? Jonas over at Drink of the Week has a recipe for Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes using a chocolate cake mix. He replaced half the water in the recipe with Guinness.  He then made a whiskey chocolate ganache and topped it with a Bailey's whipped cream topping. The recipe was inspired and adapted from the Smitten Kitchen.

There are a lot of variations on this recipe, and I'll bet they're all good. How can you go wrong with Guinness, Jameson's and Bailey's? Erin Go Bragh!

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the cupcakes:
1 c. Irish sweet Butter
1 c. Guinness
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2/3 c. sour cream

For the ganache:
2/3 c. heavy cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (broken up 65% chocolate.. or thereabouts/free trade, organic)
2 Tbsp. sweet Irish butter, softened
1 tsp. Jameson's

For the frosting:
1 c. Irish sweet butter, softened
6 c. confectioner's sugar
 3/4 Tbsp. Bailey's Irish Cream

Directions:

For the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prep a cupcake pan with liners or spray with Pam
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the Guinness. When the butter is melted, whisk to combine, then stir in the cocoa powder. Set aside to cool a bit.
3. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
4. Beat the eggs and the sour cream together in a mixer. Slowly pour in the cooled chocolate-beer-butter mixture and mix to combine. Slowly pour in the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pan, filling each about 3/4 of the way.
6. Bake for 16-18 minutes, then set aside to cool on a cooling rack.

For the ganache:
1. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it is just simmering.
2. Pour the simmering cream over the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
3. Whisk vigorously to melt the chocolate with the cream. If the chocolate isn't melting sufficiently, you can microwave for a few seconds.
4. Whisk the butter and whiskey into the ganache. The texture should be smooth and creamy.
5. Set aside to cool.

For the frosting:
1. Beat the butter in a mixer for 4 minutes until it is very fluffy.
2. Slowly add the confectioners sugar a few tablespoons at a time, making sure it is incorporated before adding more to ensure a lump-free frosting. You may not need the entire 6 cups of sugar.
3. Mix the Baileys into the frosting.

To assemble the cupcakes:
With an apple corer, core the center of the cooled cupcake. You can also use a small knife to do this. Fill the holes with the cooled ganache. Frost the Cupcakes with the Bailey's Frosting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bailey's Irish Cream Chocolate Cheesecake & other St. Patrick's Day chocolate recipes

Lots of fabulous St. Patrick's Day Chocolate Recipes. Everyone's blogging chocolate with whiskey, Guinness or mint!

Love & Butter has a really simple recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. She does add a bit of green food coloring, but there are some very natural edible food dyes if you search. Be sure to read the notes.

Keeping with the mint for the green for the Irish for St. Patrick's Day, Laura at Real Mom Kitchen has a recipe for Chocolate Mint Brownies. These are incredible with a layer of mint frosting and a layer of ganache.

Last week Love & Butter had another recipe that works for St. Patrick's Day. Not sure the name is P.C., but Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes have been around for awhile, and lots of people make them for St. Patrick's Day. Love & Butter did a great blog with a recipe for Irish Car Bomb Brownie Bites, made with Ghirardelli Chocolate's Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix, Guinness, Jameson, and Bailey's Irish Cream. How Irish can you get?

Tartelette has an incredible recipe for very cool Chocolate Whiskey Pots de Creme.

Stephanie Rosenbaum posted a Chocolate Irish Whiskey Cake recipe on Bay Area Bites. In her recipe, she used Ghirardelli Chocolate, but says Tcho and Guittard work well. She suggests other local chocolate for the cocoa. She used Ghirardelli, but Scharffen Berger, Valrhona or Droste work just as well. As I've mentioned before, your chocolate desserts are only as good as your chocolate. Use the Best!

What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine has a different recipe for Chocolate Irish Whiskey Cake. Just as there are lots of different whiskeys and chocolate, there are a lot of recipes for this St. Patrick's Day favorite.

Chocolate.com has a wonderful Chocolate Irish Coffee Mousse with Baileys Whipped Cream. Why drink your Irish Coffee when you can eat it?

Last year I blogged recipes for Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcakes and Chocolate Stout Cake, and an easier Chocolate Guinness Cake for St. Patrick's Day. Last week I blogged a great recipe for Guinness Stout Brownies.

I thought one more recipe would be good, just to round out the possibilities. I love this easy to make and decidedly Irish recipe for Bailey's Irish Cream Chocolate Cheesecake that I adapted from Allrecipes.com

Bailey's Irish Cream Chocolate Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (whirl them in a food processor)
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened Ghirardelli or Scharffen Berger cocoa powder
1/4 cup sweet butter (I use Irish butter)
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups white sugar1/4 cup unsweetened Ghirardelli or Scharffen Berger Cocoa powder
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Bailey's Irish Cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs, confectioners' sugar and 1/3 cup cocoa. Add melted butter and stir until well mixed. Pat into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes; set aside. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, white sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa and flour. Beat at medium speed until well blended and smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in the sour cream and Bailey's; mixing on low speed. Pour filling over baked crust.
3. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees F, and continue baking for 60 minutes.
4. With a knife, loosen cake from rim of pan. Let cool, then remove the rim of pan. Chill before serving. If your cake cracks, a helpful tip is to dampen a spatula and smooth the top, then sprinkle with some chocolate wafer crumbs.

You can also add a Bailey's whipped cream topping. I don't usually do that, but some people like it!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Guest Blogger: Eric Beetner: Double Chocolate Clouds

I just returned from Left Coast Crime where my two worlds of  Chocolate and Mystery collided big time. I mentioned on several panels that I was looking for mystery writers who have chocolate in their novels to Guest Blog here on Dying for Chocolate. Eric Beetner, author of One Too Many Blows to the Head, took me up on it. He'll be doing another Guest blog on Mystery Fanfare for my Partners in Crime series, authors who write with a partner.

Good Chocolate, Bad Chocolate
by Eric Beetner

I am a crime writer. I don’t write about chocolate. I beat people up, they lie cheat and steal. Often they end up dead. But I’m here today to talk about a real crime: bad chocolate.

I used to be ignorant. I grew up on mediocre chocolate. I picked Hershey kisses out of candy bowls and was perfectly satisfied with that. These days I’d sooner drink from the toilet. You see, several years ago my wife quit her job in the corporate offices of the retail industry and went to culinary school and studied to be a pastry chef. She started her own dessert catering business and in the process I became a chocolate snob.

I don’t drink wine. I find wine people pretentious. I am bothered by the fact that wine snobs will describe the taste of wine as anything under the sun from strawberry to anise to leather but never as GRAPE flavor. It’s made from grapes people! If no wine maker in the world can make wine taste like grapes aren’t they all doing it wrong?

But now I understand. I have chocolate.

“Aren’t they all the same?” people say. “Is the painting you buy at a yard sale the same as a Monet?” I say.

I am a dark chocolate guy. Don’t even call me unless it’s 70% or higher. In my office I always have at least two bars to choose from for an after lunch taste. With dark all it takes is a tiny sampling to satisfy that part of your brain that wants a treat. It’s scientific. Look it up. I had a 100% bar once and it was oddly satisfying. Not an everyday chocolate but it was a powerful jolt of the good stuff when you needed it.

For baking, my wife prefers Valhrona. Callebaut is good too. For eating I will also take a nice Valhrona bar, and they have become much more accessable/affordable. I love Green and Black’s. I’ll try almost any new chocolate and there are so many on the market. Vosges and their line of funky flavor combinations is always a treat. The chocolate and bacon bar did not do it for me, but I find myself strangely liking the one with Indian Curry. Kudos to them for making me try something new. I urge you to venture away from the Hershey aisle and strike out to try something new. Oh, it’ll cost you more but it’s worth it.

I embrace my chocolate snobbery. I don’t openly mock the wine people anymore. (except about the grape thing),  and I love my wife even more for bringing me out of my ignorance and into a world where chocolate can make or break your day. Sadly she closed her business to raise our two girls. An easy decision to make and worth it. (The girls, 2 & almost 4, have never known bad chocolate. Even at Halloween we take away the bad stuff after they go to sleep) I only feel sorry for the people who don’t get to taste my wife's amazing cooking on a regular basis like I do. She agreed to let go her recipe for her signature Double Chocolate Clouds. I like most cookies best the day after or at least when they’re cooled but these go down really well still warm and gooey. And for goodness sake – use good chocolate!


(Eric Beetner is the co-author, along with JB Kohl, of One Too Many Blows To The Head. Out now from Second Wind publishing.)

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CLOUDS
2 C flour
1/3 cocoa powder
2t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 C sugar
3/4 C butter (4oz)
1 egg
1/4 C sour cream
1t vanilla
1C semi-sweet chocolate chips
2T heavy cream
1/2 c melted choc (semi-sweet)

Method:
Melt chocolate, add heavy cream, then sour cream and let cool. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Cream butter, add sugar, beat about 2 minutes. Then add chocolate mixture, egg and vanilla. Add in flour mixture, then fold in chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes.
Cover w/ sifted confectioners sugar while warm.

Makes 24 (1.5 ounce) cookies

***
I can't wait to make these. Still catching up on my work, but I see these happening in my oven this week. Thanks Eric, and please thank your wife!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

St. Patrick's Day: Guinness Stout Brownies

It's a bit early, but I know you want to be prepared for St. Patrick's Day. Last year I highlighted Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcakes and Chocolate Stout Cake. Both good choices for the holiday.

There are plenty of chocolatiers that are 'Putting on the Green' for the Holidays with special bars, truffles and shamrocks. Check with your local chocolate shop...or I might list a few later in the week.

For now, here's an easy and delicious recipe for Guinness Stout Brownies I've adapted from About.com. The texture of these is fabulous: mousse, candy, fudge, cake. Just a note, you won't actually taste the beer, so have a pitcher on hand to drink.

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Scharffen Berger)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted room temperature sweet or Irish butter, cut into cubes
8 ounces dark 75% organic free trade chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup  broken white chocolate (make sure it's cocoa butter white chocolate)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup superfine or granulated sugar
1-1/4 cups (10 ounces) Guinness Extra Stout beer (see Note below)
1 cup 60 % chocolate, broken into small pieces (or chocolate chips)
1/8 cup (about) confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick foil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt until evenly combined. Set aside.

Melt butter, dark chocolate, and white chocolate  in a double-boiler over very low heat, stirring constantly until melted. Remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture, beating until combined.

Beat reserved flour mixture into melted chocolate mixture. Whisk in Guinness stout beer. The batter will seem a bit thin. Drop the 60% chocolate smaller bits of chocolate evenly on top of batter (some will sink in). You can use chocolate chips, if it's easier.

Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes on center rack in the oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.

Let brownies cool, uncovered, to room temperature. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Note: The Guinness should be at room temperature. This recipe uses a little less than a standard 12-ounce bottle of Guinness stout beer. Do not include foam in the measurement. Either spoon off the foam or let it rest until the foam subsides. 

Pour yourself a big mug of Guinness and drink while making ...or drink with Brownies!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oreo Elevator

What a great Oreo Ad on an elevator! This elevator is in a shopping mall. 
Created by Advertising Company: DraftFCB, New York



Hat Tip to Recipe Girl

Saturday, March 6, 2010

White Chocolate Cheesecake Day: Celebrate

Today is White Chocolate Cheesecake Day, and I just got a new cheesecake spring pan at the Oakland Museum White Elephant sale. Perfect!

Here's an easy recipe I adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. I changed the original graham cracker crust to a Chocolate Cookie Crust (see below).. much better, I think, but then I like chocolate.

Ingredients for Filling:

1 cup broken white chocolate (make sure it's good white chocolate that's made with cocoa butter)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 egg yolks
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease bottom and side of springform pan, 8x3 inches; remove bottom.
2. Prepare Chocolate Cookie Crust (see below). Baking 6-8 minutes and cooling.
3. Place white chopped chocolate in top of double boiler (or a saucepan on top of another saucepan with simmering water). Heat over low heat, stirring frequently, until white chocolate is melted. Remove from saucepan.
4. Increase oven temperature to 475ºF.
5. Beat melted white chocolate, 3/4 cup sugar and the flour in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Beat in cream cheese and egg yolks until smooth. Continue beating, adding the eggs one at a time, then the sour cream until blended. Pour batter carefully into crust. Cover pan with aluminum foil.
6. Bake 20 minutes; remove foil. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Bake 1 hour. (If cheesecake browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil during last 30 minutes of baking.)
7. Turn off oven and leave cheesecake in oven 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack 15 minutes. Run metal spatula along side of cheesecake to loosen before and after refrigerating. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 8 hours, but no longer than 5 days. Run metal spatula along side of cheesecake to loosen; remove side of pan. Place cheesecake on serving plate. Refrigerate if you plan to serve later.

I like my cheesecake unadorned, but you can always add fruit or chocolate sauce. 

Chocolate Cookie Crust:

Ingredients
30 chocolate wafers (to yield about 1 1/2 cups crumbs)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions
1. Put the cookies in the container of a food processor; process them until they are finely ground.
2. Transfer crumbs to a mixing bowl; combine crumbs, butter, salt, and vanilla; stir until the crumbs are moistened.
3. Press mixture evenly across the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and all the way up the sides of the pan; pack tightly so crust is even and compacted.
4. Bake in a 350° oven for 6-8 minutes or until crisp.
5. Let cool completely before filling.

Friday, March 5, 2010

And the Oscar Goes to...

I know I'll be making some special chocolate treats for the Academy Awards, but probably not as fancy as the Chocolate Oscar statuettes created by Chef Wolfgang Puck. They'll be featured at a Champagne Bar at the Governors Ball following the Awards Ceremony. They are dark chocolate coated with edible 14-carat gold.

There are a few chocolate companies that have gold foil wrapped chocolate Oscar statuettes. Not sure if there are any still available. Amazon says they're out of stock, but I found a listing HERE. These chocolate Oscar statues don't have the panache of those by Wolfgang Puck, and I doubt the flavor, but if you need one now, they're available, just do a search.  I also found Chocolate Oscar Statue in a Gold Box HERE. 

Want to make your own Chocolate Oscar? I saw a Chocolate Oscar Statue Mold on eBay.


Want to make Cookies instead?


I have a great Oscar Cookie Cutter I found a few years ago on eBay. Mine is a real nice copper one, but you can find a different one HERE. And here's another with a base HERE. It's not available from Cookies Seattle right now, but it's the one I have, and you can find it if you do a search.

Speaking of Oscar Cookies, Bakerella had a fantastic post this week on Oscar Cookies, making, decorating and standing them up on cookie bases. Her cookies sure look like the winners, and I bet they taste like them, too!

Have a great Oscar Night!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

National Chocolate Pound Cake Day

Today is National Chocolate Pound Cake Day. I've posted various pound cake recipes such as Kay Barley's Chocolate Walnut Pound Cake on Bittersweet Chocolate Day,  and here's another of my favorite Chocolate Pound Cake recipes that I've adapted from Southern Living. I've added ground chiles for a little more kick, but you knew I'd do that.

Buttermilk-Mexican Chocolate Pound Cake

8 oz chopped dark organic fair-trade chocolate
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla (Madagascar)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ancho chiles
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
* Dust with powdered sugar (optional)


1. Melt chocolate in a saucepan over a saucepan of boiling water.

2. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating 5 to 7 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Stir in melted chocolate, chocolate syrup, and vanilla until smooth.

3. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Pour batter into a greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan.

4. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to a wire rack, and let cool for another hour. Garnish with powdered sugar if you feel like it.

Interested in learning more about Food Celebrations in March. Check out Months of Edible Celebrations! Louise has everything you need to know... and then some!

Monday, March 1, 2010

National Banana Cream Pie Day: Chocolate Banana Cream Pie

Another day, another food holiday! Tomorrow (March 2) is National Banana Cream Pie Day, and I thought a Double Chocolate Banana Cream Pie would be a great way of celebrating.

This is a pretty easy recipe and uses natural ingredients. Don't forget to skim down to an easier Rachel Ray recipe. My recipe uses a chocolate wafer crust, so it's doubly chocolate.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BANANA CREAM PIE

CHOCOLATE CRUMB CRUST:

2 c. chocolate wafer crumbs (whirl a bunch of chocolate wafer cookies in the blender)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. melted sweet butter

BANANA CREAM FILLING:
3/4 cup  dark chocolate broken into small chunks
1 pt. heavy cream
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (Madagascar, if you have it)
2 eggs
4 tbsp. butter
2 bananas

For crust:
Combine crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press into a 9-inch pie pan, evenly coating bottom and sides of pie pan. Chill at least 10 minutes.

For filling:
Whip heavy cream with vanilla and powdered sugar until thick and creamy. Refrigerate.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In saucepan, melt 1/2 cup broken chocolate pieces over low heat.
Remove from heat and whip in 1 cup of the whipped topping you previously made and refrigerated.
Beat eggs and add to mixture.
Pour into pie shell and bake for 30 minutes.
Cool 15 minutes.
Slice bananas (cut in 1/4 inch pieces) and layer on pie.
Top with the remaining whipped cream mixture.
You can add the remaining chocolate and banana slices on top for decoration...or not.
Chill

TIP: To prevent a skin forming on the filling as it cools, be sure to cover it with saran wrap.

Want to make something even easier? 

Rachel Ray has a quick and easy Chocolate Banana Cream Pie

Ingredients

1 frozen pie shell, pricked several times with tines of a fork
1 package instant chocolate pudding, prepared to package directions
 2 ripe bananas, sliced thin on an angle
1 can spray whipped cream
1 dark chocolate candy bar

Pre-heat oven to 425ºF.

Bake pie shell 10-12 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and let cool.

Line the baked and cooled pie shell with a layer of chocolate pudding, about half of the prepared amount. Add a layer of bananas. Top with remaining prepared instant chocolate pudding and remaining bananas. Cover the top with a giant swirl of whip cream from the spray can, starting at the center and working out. Shave a chocolate bar with a vegetable peeler and top pie with shavings. Serve immediately.

Your choice: The first recipe takes a little longer and you'll be sure of the quality of the ingredients, but the other is as Easy as Pie!

Photo: Food Network.