Sunday, October 31, 2010

White Chocolate Halloween Ghost Pops

I've posted so many great Chocolate Halloween recipes and links to recipes this season, but I couldn't help posting one more. This recipe comes from Martha Stewart. It's simple and the perfect activity for Halloween. Great to do with children, too!

WHITE CHOCOLATE GHOST POPS
Makes about 15

Ingredients
12 ounces white chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli or Guittard white baking bars)
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Lollipop sticks
Mini chocolate chips

Directions
1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside.
2. Melt white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water; stir occasionally. Remove bowl; mix in oil. Drop 1 tablespoon of mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Use the back of a teaspoon to quickly spread into a ghost. Place a lollipop stick at the base, spinning to coat. Add chocolate chip eyes. Refrigerate ghosts 5 minutes, then peel off.

Photo: Marthastewart.com

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!


Saturday, October 30, 2010

National Candy Corn Day: Chocolate Candy Corn Truffles

I love candy corn. O.K. it's very sweet, but I only have it a few times a year. So knock me over with a feather if there isn't a National Candy Corn Day! October 30. I shouldn't be surprised. It's an American Halloween tradition.

Nothing says Halloween like candy corn!  Shaped like real pieces of corn, candy corn is as fun as it is tasty.  In addition to the original candy corn or yellow, orange and white, there are different varieties, including Indian candy corn which is brown where the original candy corn is yellow, adding a hint of chocolate  (it's only a hint and a bit waxy, and it's not real chocolate, but I don't care at Halloween).

The National Confectioners Association estimates that 20 million pounds (9,000 tons) of candy corn are sold annually. The top branded retailer of candy corn, Brach's, sells enough candy corn each year to circle the earth 4.25 times if the kernels were laid end to end. Too much information?

Candy corn was created in the 1880s by the Philadelphia based Wunderlee Candy Company and, by 1900, was being produced by the Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly), which has continuously produced it for more than a century. Candy corn is shaped like a kernel of corn, a design that made it popular with farmers when it first came out, but it was the fact that it had three colors - a really innovative idea at the time - that made it popular.

Originally, candy corn was made of sugar, corn syrup, fondant and marshmallow, among other things, and the hot mixture was poured into cornstarch molds, where it set up. The recipe changed slightly over time and there are probably a few variations in recipes between candy companies, but the use of a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, gelatin and vanilla (as well as honey, in some brands) is the standard.

Candy makers use a process called corn starch molding. Corn starch is used to fill a tray, creating candy corn shaped indentations. Candy corns are built from the top to the bottom in three waves of color. First, the indentation is partially filled with white syrup. Next, when the white is partially set, they add the the orange syrup. The creation is then finished up by adding the yellow syrup and then cooled. The candy starts fusing together while it cools. After cooling the candies, the trays are dumped out, the corn starch is sifted away, and the candy corn is ready.

There are a lot of Chocolate Candycorn recipes out there for Halloween:

Elizabeth LaBau has a recipe for Chocolate Candy Corn Bark. You have to love sugar for this one.

Bake at 350 has Last-Minute Chocolate Candy Corn Cookies    Yum!

And, from Sunset Magazine: Chocolate Candy Corn Truffles. I've adapted this recipe a bit, but not much. Simple to make and delicious. Perfect for Halloween!

CHOCOLATE CANDY CORN TRUFFLES

Dark chocolate and bitter orange offset the sweetness of candy corn in these fun but fancy truffles.  
Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes, plus at least 2 1/2 hours to chill. 
Notes: You'll need 64 fluted 1-in. paper candy cups for this recipe.
Makes 64 'square' truffles. Be sure you have friends!

Ingredients
18 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/4 cup Scottish or dark orange marmalade
1/4 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
64 candy corns (about 3 oz.)

Preparation
1. Line an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with a 12- by 17-inch sheet of foil or waxed paper.
2. In a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot water, use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to stir together chocolate, cream, Grand Marnier, and marmalade until chocolate is melted. Scrape chocolate mixture into prepared pan, smoothing top.
3. Chill until firm, at least 2 1/2 hours or (covered with plastic wrap) up to 1 week.
4. Put cocoa powder in a shallow bowl. Remove chocolate mixture from pan. With a long, sharp knife, cut chocolate mixture into 64 squares, each about 3/4 in. wide. Roll squares in cocoa powder to coat; place 1 square in each paper cup.
5. Gently press a candy corn into the top of each truffle. Store between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies: National Oatmeal Day

October 29 is National Oatmeal Day. I've posted Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies several times. As with most chocolate chip cookie recipes, you can never have too many! Variety, after all, his the spice of life!

Epicurious has a great recipe for Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. The steel cut oats (Scottish oats) give it a very chewy-crunchy flavor you'll love. If you don't have steel cut oats, you can use old fashioned oats, but you'll have a softer cookie. I use DARK cocoa powder for an even richer chocolate-y taste and dark chocolate (85% cacao bars, broken into small pieces) instead of chips, but you can use either.

Ingredients
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sweet butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
2 tablespoons steel-cut oats
1/4 cup dark chocolate (75-85% cacao, broken into small pieces or dark chocolate chips

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter large rimmed baking sheet. Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture and beat until moist clumps form. Mix in oats with spatula until evenly distributed (dough will be very firm). Add chocolate pieces or chips and knead gently to blend.

Using moistened palms, shape 1 generous tablespoon dough into ball. Place on prepared sheet; flatten to 2-inch round. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing rounds about 2 inches apart.

Bake cookies until center is slightly firm and top is cracked, about 14 minutes. Cool on sheet.

Celebrate National Oatmeal Day!

Photo: Epicurious

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chocolate Covered Menu: Nutella & Marshmallow Fluff Sandwich

Today is National Chocolate Day and what better way to celebrate than a round-up of the two hour Chocolate Twitter  #fnichat this past Monday. If you're on Twitter, you can search back to see some of the questions, answers and discussions... or even better, anyone can go to Cooking with Caitlin where there's a Chocolate Covered Menu from that Chat. You can follow Cooking with Caitlyn @cookingwcaitlyn.  Really three wonderful women!

I was thrilled to participate in the Twitter Chocolate Chat. I learned a lot and made a lot of new chocolate friends.  Other participants: @savvyhost, our host @cozifamily, and a couple of chocolate-dipped aficionados besides me:  @condoblues, @saucydipper, @fujimama, and @lonelygourmet.

If you don't Twitter, this may all seem like gobbledy-gook, but the Cooking with Caitlin site and some of the comments on it will keep you amused and drive you to chocolate.

In addition, the Chocolate Post today has several links  and photos to past chocolate recipes. Here's the recipe for  a really decadent dessert from Cooking with Caitlin. I've adapted it a bit. This recipe is easy and quick and includes ingredients in my pantry!

Nutella and Marshmallow Fluff Sandwich

Yield: 2 Whole Sandwiches
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients
1/2 Cup Nutella
1/2 Cup Marshmallow Fluff
4 Slices Brioche or Challah
3 Large Eggs

Instructions
1. For each sandwich, spread one side of the bread with a generous amount of Nutella spread  (or your own homemade hazelnut chocolate spread). Spread the other side with marshmallow fluff (again, a generous amount).
2. Once both sides are completely smeared, press the two sides together to create your sandwich.
3. Turn your burner to high heat and place a non-stick skillet on top.
4. In a bowl, add three eggs and whisk them together with a fork. Dunk the sandwich into the eggs, scrape off any extra mixture and place one side in the skillet.

5. After a few minutes, using your spatula, lift the sandwich to see if the side facing down is golden and crispy. When it is, flip and cook the other side of your sandwich. Because the sandwich is so hot, the marshmallow and chocolate will blend together.

6. When the second side is golden brown and crispy, the sandwich is finished and ready to eat!

Photo and Recipe: Cooking with Caitlin with permission

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chocolate Pistachio Apricots

I'm always looking for easy recipes that look and taste terrific! Sunset Magazine has been my guide for over 30 years. Dipping fruit in chocolate is easy, and the addition of chopped pistachio nuts gives this recipe a little something extra! I think these are just perfect for Halloween, too. Great for adults to nibble on while handing out candy!

Chocolate Pistachio Apricots

Ingredients
1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
24 dried large apricots

Preparation
1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Put pistachios in a shallow bowl.
2. Melt chocolate (see directions below). Remove from heat.
3. Holding apricots from one end, dip them 1 at a time into the chocolate, turning to coat about 3/4 of the apricot. Use a knife to scrape excess chocolate off the bottom back into bowl.
4. Hold apricot over bowl of pistachios and sprinkle the nuts over the chocolate.
5. Put apricot (nut side down) on baking sheet and repeat with remaining apricots.
6. Chill until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.
Store in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Melting chocolate: Be gentle. Fill a saucepan with 2 to 3 in. of water. Put finely chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl that will fit over pan (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water); set bowl aside. Bring water to a boil, turn off heat, then set bowl over pan. Use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to stir the chocolate frequently and encourage even melting. Once the chocolate is melted, stir well and use immediately.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies

October 26 is National Pumpkin Day! I've posted many chocolate pumpkin recipes over the years. Try Chocolate Pumpkin Bark or Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake or Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake or Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Here's a simple  delicious recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies that I've adapted from a recipe from Libby's Pumpkin. My mother's name is Libby, so I always love using Libby Pumpkin in recipes. "Libby, Libby, Libby, on the Label, Label, Label" FYI: These brownies are more cakelike than a chewy brownie. With that in mind, enjoy!

Ingredients
Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon DARK unsweetened Cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup broken dark chocolate chunks (or chocolate chips)

Directions
1. PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Spray 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. COMBINE pumpkin, sugar, egg, egg whites and oil in large mixer bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Add flour, baking powder, cocoa, cinnamon, allspice, salt and nutmeg.
3. Beat on low speed until batter is smooth. Stir in morsels. Spread evenly into prepared pan.
4. BAKE for 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares.

Here's a link to another Pumpkin Brownie Recipe on The District Chocoholic that also uses Libby's Pumpkin, but these seemed to be even more chocolate-y.

Do you have a favorite Chocolate Pumpkin recipe? Leave a comment.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vampire's Elixir from Skyy Vodka

Halloween is fast approaching, and here's a great and easy Vampire Drink that includes white chocolate liqueur!

"I vant to drink your blood!"


Vampire’s Elixir From Skyy 

Ingredients
Strawberry Syrup
1.5 oz. SKYY Infusions Raspberry
.75 oz. White Chocolate Liqueur
1 oz. Half and Half

Directions
1. Dress strawberry syrup on the inside and rim of a chilled martini glass.
2. Combine remaining ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into martini glass. Garnish with vampire teeth.

Photo: Yum Sugar 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Chocolate Candy

Some of my favorite Chocolate Candy for Halloween and do it yourself Spooky Boo Candy Pops

Moonstruck Chocolate Company. Give a Hoot!  Fabulous Owl Truffles.  In addition, they have bats (including a fabulous Blood Orange Bat), pumpkins (pumpkin truffles), creepy cat truffles, and a Halloween Truffle Collection that includes a bat, spider, pumpkin, monster head and eyeball.

Recchiuti

Halloween Motif Box, 8 pieces; 4 ounces
A spooky cast of characters is back for Halloween 2010! Four different hand-illustrated images on their signature Burnt Caramel truffles. Available October 8th through 31st only. Try them before they vanish.


Compartes Chocolatier Mexican Hot Chocolate Truffles. Dark chocolate truffles infused with their  sinful blend of Mexican hot chocolate spices - including cayenne and cinnamon. Adorned with Mexican "day of the dead" skulls

Choclatique.  Boo Box Halloween Chocolate Truffles. Eyes.  Choclatique blends a dose of yummy ectoplasm with a heaping helping of premium chocolate in our new Boo Box. The Ghosts' Eyes Tell Their Flavors: Chill-Worthy Cherry, Abominable Apple, Strawberry Blob, Bernie's Bones, Gruesome Grape, Boo Berry, Slimy Lime, and Chocolaty Goo.

 
Godiva. Chocolate Skulls Lollipops, Milk Chocolate Bat Lollipop and Ghosts





Want to make your own?  Try these molds and the following recipe from Wilton. You can buy these molds online or at your favorite crafts store or culinary store.



Help yourself to the ghost or bat candy pop of your choice.  Delicious candy in dark cocoa, light cocoa and orange make these inviting pops come to life. Set them on you dessert table for everyone to enjoy and serve themselves.

Wilton Spooky Boo Candy Pops 

Tools:
Spooky Ghost Lollipop Candy Mold (Wilton Spooky Boo Candy Pops) or any Halloween Themed Lollipop Candy Mold
Bats and Spiders Candy Mold
8 in. Lollipop Sticks
Decorator Brush Set
Parchment Triangles
Disposable Decorating Bags
Lollipop and Treat Stand

Ingredients:

Orange Candy Melts®
Dark Cocoa Candy Melts®
Light Cocoa Candy Melts®
White Candy Melts®
Primary Candy Colors Set
Garden Candy Color Set

Instructions
1. Melt Candy Melts according to package directions; add candy color if desired.
2. Fill ghost and bat candy molds with melted candy; tap mold to remove any air bubbles.
3. If using the ghost lollipop mold, position sticks in mold; rotate sticks to thoroughly cover with candy so they remain securely in place.
4. Refrigerate until firm. Carefully pop out candies. Attach lollipop sticks to bat candies with additional melted candy.
5. With brush, parchment bag or decorator bag filled with melted candy, add eyes and other facial features to candies.
6. Position lollipops in stand if desired.

What are some of your favorites?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chocolate Nut Bark: National Nut Day

October 22 is National Nut Day as opposed to Chocolate Covered Nut Day on February 25. I posted about Goobers last February.  Nuts seem naked without chocolate, and I've posted all kinds of chocolate/nut recipes over the past few years.

So I was thinking what would be a little different, but easy to make! I'm all about easy. Since I just posted about Chocolate Pumpkin Bark the other day, I figured why not Chocolate Nut Bark. I've made all kinds of chocolate barks over the years. Barks are simple, yet look and taste so professional.  They're easy and delicious!

You can change up the Chocolate Nut Bark,  by using different chocolate --or combination of chocolates-- and different nuts.  Nut barks make great presents for the holidays or any time.  There's no real science to this. You can decide how thick or thin, how much chocolate to nut ratio. The ingredients below are only suggestions. :-) I also like macadamia nuts or walnuts in Nut Bark, especially with dark chocolate!

Chocolate Nut Bark

12 ounces chopped  chocolate (semisweet, milk, bittersweet) or 2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts)  -- more for later to dust (grind these or really smash them)

1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the nuts and combine loosely.
3. With a spatula spread the chocolate evenly on a parchment lined 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining finally ground nuts.
4. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
5. When the bark is hard, break into pieces.

How easy is that!

Happy National Nut Day!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

October 21 is Pumpkin Cheesecake Day. Last year I posted a Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake that is one of my favorites. By all means, give it a try. 

This year I thought I'd post one of my favorite Cheesecake Bar recipes. This recipe  for Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars is originally from Martha Stewart.com.  It's a good recipe as is, but I changed a few things. I make the filling using my mixer, not a food processor. I find the results are smoother,  and I'm better able to control the consistency and not overmix. I also use the very best quality dark chocolate. I love a chocolate cookie crust with pumpkin, so there's even more chocolate! These taste and look delicious. You can even stuff these in a school lunch...but only if they last that long.

CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE BARS

FOR THE CRUST
20 chocolate wafer cookies, (half a 9-ounce package)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons sweet butter, melted

FOR THE FILLING
2 packages bar cream cheese, (8 ounces each)
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces dark chocolate, 65-85% cacao, chopped

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
2. In a food processor, blend cookies with sugar until finely ground (you should have about 1 cup crumbs); add butter, and pulse until moistened.
3. Transfer crumb mixture to prepared pan, and press gently into bottom. Bake until slightly firm, 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4. Mix cream cheese in standing mixer until smooth. Add sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs, flour, pumpkin-pie spice, and salt; mix until combined. Set aside.
5. Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until melted--or melt in a double boiler on the stovetop. Add 1 cup pumpkin mixture; stir to combine. Set aside.
6. Pour remaining pumpkin mixture into prepared pan. Drop dollops of chocolate mixture onto pumpkin mixture; swirl. To create swirls, drag the blade of a paring knife through the chocolate and pumpkin mixtures several times to make a marbled pattern. Bake until cheesecake is set but jiggles slightly when gently shaken, 40 to 50 minutes.
7. Cool in pan. Cover; chill until firm, at least 2 hours (and up to 2 days). Using overhang, transfer cake to work surface. With a knife dipped in water, cut into 16 squares. Serve.

Photo: Marthastewart.com

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chocolate Mice: Halloween Treats

Here's one of my favorite Halloween recipes that I found a few years ago on allrecipes.com. I've tweaked it a little, and, as always, feel free to do the same. These Chocolate Mice are fabulous! They look adorable. Warning: They're pretty sweet, but then they're for Halloween! That's why I substituted darker chocolate.

CHOCOLATE MICE


Ingredients
4 ounces dark chocolate - - 65-75% cacao
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs (whirl chocolate wafers in a blender)

2/3 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
24 silver dragees decorating candy (those tiny silver candy balls) or icing gel or pearl candies
1/4 cup sliced almonds (try to match pairs)
12 (2 inch) pieces long thin red vine string licorice

Directions

1. Melt the chocolate, and combine with sour cream. Stir in 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until firm.
2. Roll by level tablespoonfuls into balls. Mold to a slight point at one end (the nose).
3. Roll dough in chocolate cookie crumbs. On each mouse, place dragees (or other decorating candy or icing) in appropriate spot for eyes (on the sides/not directly at front), almond slices for ears, and a red licorice string for the tail.
4. Refrigerate for at least two hours, until firm.

Place on a bed of graham crackers crumbs or vanilla wafer crumbs or Rice Crispies.

Hint: You can use this recipe to make White Chocolate Mice for Christmas!

Photo: Allrecipes.com

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes: National Chocolate Cupcake Day

Today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day, and it's a Holiday I can certainly get behind. I've blogged several cupcake recipes over the years. The one that is most timely, being that it's so close to Halloween is the recipe for Chocolate Cemetery Cupcakes.

Here are a few other recipes you might want to try today in order to celebrate National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Red, White & Blue Cupcakes
Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
Dirt Cupcakes (for Earth Day)

Don't want to bake? There are so many fabulous cupcake stores, that I'm sure you'll be able to find a chocolate cupcake to your liking!

Here's a new (to this blog) recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes, adapted from PillsburyBaking

CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Sugar
5 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1 large Egg
5 ounces dark Chocolate (65-75 % cacao), broken into small pieces (or chocolate chips)
2 1/2 cups Cake Flour
1 2/3 cups Sugar
1/4 cup DARK baking cocoa
1 1/4 cups Water
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
2 tablespoons Vinegar
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla extract

Preparation:
1. Heat oven to 350°F.
Line 24 medium muffin cups with paper baking cups.
Beat 1/2 cup sugar and cream cheese in large bowl until smooth.
Beat in egg until smooth.
Stir in chocolate pieces (or chips); set aside.
2. Beat remaining ingredients in large bowl on high speed 3 minutes.
Reserve 1 1/2 cups batter.
3. Fill each muffin cup 1/3 full.
Spoon 1 tablespoonful cream cheese mixture onto batter in each cup.
Top each cup with reserved batter.
4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chocolate Pumpkin Bark

I love seasonal candy, and Chocolate Bark Candy is at the top of my list. Halloween is definitely the time for pumpkin and chocolate candy. Cost Plus World Market has delicious Jo's Milk Chocolate Pumpkin Bark in a great tin. It's milk chocolate swirled with pumpkin.  Bissinger's Pumpkin Chocolate Bark has real pumpkin blended with milk chocolate.

Want to make your own? Elizabeth LaBau on about.com has a great recipe I really like her recipe because she uses dark chocolate. 

Pumpkin Chocolate Bark

For this recipe, you'll need orange oil-based candy coloring and oil-based candy pumpkin flavoring--water-based colorings and flavorings do not mix well with the chocolate.

Ingredients:
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips
1 tsp pumpkin-flavored candy oil
1.5 cups white chocolate, chopped, or white chocolate chips
orange candy coloring

Preparation:
1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or waxed paper.
2. If you would like to store this candy at room temperature, you should temper the chocolate by following these instructions. ( you cannot temper chocolate chips). If you are fine with storing the candy in the refrigerator, it can simply be melted as described in the following instructions. Place the semi-sweet chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating.
3. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, stir in 1/2 tsp of the pumpkin flavoring and stir until smooth. Scrape the melted chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it into a thin layer, about 1/4 inch thick, with a knife or offset spatula. Set aside at room temperature while you prepare the white chocolate.
4. Place the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating. Once melted, add the remaining 1/2 tsp of pumpkin flavoring, and a few drops of orange candy oil. Stir until well-mixed, and add more coloring if necessary to achieve the shade of orange you’d like.
5. Take a large spoon and drop spoonfuls of the orange all over the chocolate on the baking sheet. Use a toothpick or the tip of a knife to swirl the orange and chocolate together. Try not to swirl too much, or the color will become muddy and the swirls indistinct.
6. Refrigerate the tray to set the chocolate, about 15 minutes. Once set, break the bark into small irregular pieces with your hands. If the chocolate has been tempered, you can store it in an airtight container at room temperature, but if not, you should keep Pumpkin Chocolate Bark in an airtight container in the refrigerator to prevent it from becoming too soft.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Halloween Oreo Brownies

I love the seasonal Oreos. The Halloween Oreos are so much fun! You can use them in lots of ways including as a cookie crust for your favorite Pumpkin Cheesecake or in the folllowing recipes for Halloween Oreo Brownies...or just eat them straight from the bag! Orange and black, the colors of Halloween!

Easy Halloween Oreo Brownies
I use the Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix and crumble about 15 cookies into the mix.

Want to make your own Halloween Oreo Brownies? The following recipe is a no-fail and delicious. It's a double recipe, so be sure you have a lot of goblins around to eat these up! As always use the very best ingredients.

Halloween Oreo Brownies (Double recipe)

Ingredients
4 sticks sweet butter
1 pound semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate -- chopped
6 eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons Madagascar vanilla
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup flour -- divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
50 Halloween Oreos  (4 cups chopped)

Method:
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350.
Butter and flour an 11 1/2" x 17 1/4" x 1" baking pan. (or make in two 9x9 pans)

1. In a heatproof medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, heat butter, chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly.
2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar. Blend chocolate mixture into egg mixture; cool to room temperature.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together one cup flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture. In a small bowl, stir Oreos and remaining 1/4 cup flour. Add Oreo mixture to chocolate mixture. Pour batter into baking pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula.
4. Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted 3 inches from center comes out clean; do not overbake. Allow to cool. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped, until cold; cut into squares.

Adapted from Cooking Light and "O" Magazine recipe by Ina Garten

Photo by Cookie Madness (thanks)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cornmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

October is National Cookie Month, but then every month is Cookie Month in my book, especially cookies with chocolate. Today I welcome Victoria K. Anderson as a Guest Blogger. Check out her blog: DistrictChocoholic.
Thanks, Victoria!

As a lifetime chocolate lover, Victoria got very interested in examining the finest chocolate and chocolate-based creations after she finished her undergraduate work and took a job in Washington, DC. Now that she has nearly a decade of fine-chocolate sleuthing experience, she uses her blog to write about and review chocolate brands, chocolate shops, and chocolate treats. And of course, she posts chronicles of her chocolate-based kitchen adventuresand leaves the recipes for all to enjoy at districtchocoholic.blogspot.com/.

CORNMEAL CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES

One thing I love about recipe research is finding a combination of ingredients that seems unusual but sounds delicious. In perusing cookie recipes, I happened upon instructions for cornmeal cookies not just once, but twice: once when checking out David Lebovitz’s site (www.davidlebovitz.com), and a second time when looking over the massive recipe collection from Joy The Baker (www.joythebaker.com). If two such culinary masterminds both thought that a recipe for cornmeal cookies was worth posting, these must really be something.

There was only one problem: No chocolate in either recipe. None. I was left to examine each recipe, figure out how to incorporate chocolate, and give a hybrid approach a try.

Getting your tools out (Ingredients)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
½ tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate chunks (I used El Rey Mijao 61% Cocoa)

Getting to work (steps)
1. Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
2. Add the egg, then the vanilla. Beat until well-incorporated
3. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, cornmeal, baking powder, salt).
4. Add dry ingredient mixture to butter mixture until combined.
5. Mix in chocolate chunks (critical step).
That gets us the final dough product. Then the really fun part begins. These are not prepared like normal chocolate chunk cookies, which are basic drop cookies. Instead, they are shaped, frozen, and sliced before baking.
6. Roll the dough into a 4-inch diameter cylinder. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze.
7. After the dough has frozen, preheat oven to 325° F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
8. Remove dough from freezer, unwrap, and slice into ¼” thick discs.
9. Place discs on prepared cookie sheet, about 2” apart. Bake for 12 minutes and allow to sit for five minutes before moving to cooling rack.

I shared these with several friends and coworkers, who all thought this was a neat take on a chocolate chunk cookie that offered something a little extra. Give them a try yourself!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chocolate Bats & Cats, Witches & Brooms: Halloween Cookies

I found these wonderful 1960s Halloween Cookie Cutters at the Alameda Flea Market this month. What perfect timing! Love the box and the shapes. I've posted some great chocolate cookie recipes, but here's one I adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. Just a few changes, and she uses this recipe with her own bat and cat cookie cutters, so it's perfect! These cookies are very crisp. I think using dark cocoa gives them a richer taste.


Chocolate Cats and Bats, Witches and Brooms: Halloween Cookies

Makes 40 to 50

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled) plus more for rolling and cutting out dough
3/4 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons sweet butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
Small candies or sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt; set aside.
2. In large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg. On low speed, mix in flour mixture. Divide dough in half, and form into 2 disks, each about 3/4 inch thick. Wrap disks in plastic; chill until firm, at least 45 minutes and up to 2 days.
3. On a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper, using a floured rolling pin, roll dough 1/4 inch thick. (If dough becomes too soft to work with, refrigerate for a few minutes.)
4. Using 2- to 3-inch Halloween cookie cutters, cut out shapes, dipping cutters in flour as necessary to prevent sticking; place on a baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart.
5. Bake until surface is dry to the touch, 10 to 15 minutes (if decorating, press candies into dough halfway through baking-as in eyes on the cats, etc). Cool cookies 1 to 2 minutes on baking sheet; transfer to a rack to cool completely. Serve, or store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chocolate Cola: Guest Blogger Don Bruns

My crime fiction and chocolate worlds collide again. This time mystery author Don Bruns Guest blogs a personal 'vintage' story and 'vintage' recipe for Chocolate Cola. Don is the author of the Stuff Series and Caribbean Series, including Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and Bahama Burnout. And, did I mention he's multi-talented. Check out his music, HERE.

CHOCOLATE COLA by Don Bruns


My grandmother used to work at a soda fountain. I never asked her about her first job, but my mother told me this story. There was a Kresge's or some department store in Toledo, Ohio and my grandmother got a job pumping soda at the counter. I think most of the department stores had soda fountains back then. My grandma had a sweet tooth, even when I was growing up, and she baked raisin sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies and a home made cherry pie that would put a big smile on your face. Her apple pie wasn't so bad either.

Mom said that grandma always felt she should taste every drink she made, so she could accurately describe the concoction to her customers. And her favorite was a cola with chocolate. The elixir was simple. You added two pumps of chocolate to a regular serving of Coke. Or Pepsi. Or whatever cola you were serving. Chocolate and cola. How could you go wrong?

Well, you could go wrong by drinking too much of your favorite beverage. The third day on the job, Marvel Griffith was warned that her job was on the line. She was drinking away most of the profit. But, the recipe remains.

Take one can of cola. Pepsi, Coke, Royal Crown. Diet or the full effect. Put two pumps of Nestles Quick into the drink and stir. It may sound simple, but this drink could change your life.

As far as I know, Marvel kept her job and cut back on her personal drinking habits. For the mature drinker, try some cola and Baileys Irish Cream.

Those of you who are health oriented, the people who cringe at recipes that are laden with calories and fat content, here is an alternative.  Just shut up. A chocolate cola was my grandmother's favorite drink. Respect that!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Brown Derby Black Bottom Pie: Vintage Recipe

Here's another fabulous Vintage Recipe. T This Hollywood favorite from the Famous Hollywood Brown Derby is great for an Oscar Party...or any time. It's delicious. Found this ad in an online copy of Life Magazine, December 7, 1953. Main ingredients: Baker's Chocolate and Knox Gelatine.

Famous Brown Derby Black Bottom Pie! More Stars Love it! You will too! (the tagline)

FAMOUS BROWN DERBY BLACK BOTTOM PIE


Friday, October 8, 2010

Blue Cheese Truffles: Moldy Cheese Day

October 9 is Moldy Cheese Day. Don't you just love the name, Moldy Cheese Day? Perfect for October! For me, Moldy Cheese means Blue Cheese. O.k. I know there are a lot of moldy cheeses out there, but give me a good Stilton or Gorgonzola any day. So in honor of Moldy Cheese Day, I'm making Blue Cheese Truffles. Simple and delicious.

No time or inclination to make your own? There are several Chocolate companies that offer fabulous Blue Cheese Truffles, but my favorites comes from Lillie Belle Farms in Southern Oregon. Smokey Blue Truffles are available online HERE. I've tasted them at the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon, and they're delicious. Organic milk chocolate, Rogue Creamery's smoked blue cheese and toasted almonds. It's an awesome combination.

But if you want to make your own, try this recipe adapted from Harold McGee's Cookbook On Food and Cooking.

BLUE CHEESE TRUFFLES

FILLING
2 ounces Stilton, room temperature
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
2 ounces Scharffen Berger dark chocolate (70% cacao), finely chopped

COATING
6 ounces Scharffen Berger dark chocolate (70% cacao), finely chopped

Make sure the cheese is at room temperature.
In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese and sugar and mix until the sugar has dissolved.

Melt the filling chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water.

Use 2 ounces for blue cheese fillings. Make sure the cheese you use is at room temperature and very soft. If it is too firm, microwave it very briefly to soften.

Combine the melted chocolate, superfine sugar, and cheese and work together with a wooden spoon or flexible spatula until the mixture is homogeneous. (This may be easier if you add a few drops of water or a little butter.) If the mixture is too soft to shape, refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.

Roll portions of the mixture into 1/2-inch balls and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.
Melt and temper the coating chocolate. Dip the cheese balls in the tempered chocolate, letting the excess drain off. Allow to set at room temperature. Keep in a cool place and serve on the same day.

Note: Cheese will resume fermentation if left at room temperature, so this is one case where truffles should be refrigerated if kept for more than a day. Place on a sheet or tray and wrap snugly in waxed paper, then plastic wrap, before refrigerating. Allow to warm to room temperature before unwrapping.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes

I love peanut butter and chocolate. Who doesn't? Here's Paula Deen's Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcake recipe...to die for... It's so simple and delicious.

You can substitute your own brownie recipe for the box mix. Try my Aunt Sylvia's Brownie recipe. The directions remain the same. You'll love these peanut butter brownie cupcakes!!! These also have an orange and black look...perfect for Halloween!

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE CUPCAKES

1 (18 1/2-ounce) package chewy fudge brownie mix (recommended: Duncan Hines) or your own brownie recipe.
1 (12-ounce) package peanut butter chips or 24 miniature peanut butter cups (I use Reese's mini-peanut butter cups)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line 24 regular muffin cups with paper cupcake liners.

Prepare the brownie mix according to package directions for cake-like brownies.
Fill the cups half full with brownie batter.
Place about 1 tablespoon peanut butter chips in the center of the batter, or press 1 peanut butter cup into the batter in each muffin cup until the batter meets the top edge of the peanut butter cup.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cupcakes are set.
When they can be handled safely, remove them from the muffin tins and let cool completely on wire racks.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Scharffen Berger Adventure Contest 2010



It's all about Cupcakes this year in the 2010 Chocolate Adventure Contest sponsored by Scharffen Berger and TuttiFoodie. Combine SCHARFFEN BERGER artisan chocolate with one or more of 14 adventure ingredients, from saffron to stout beer. Create a recipe for whatever you think may give you a shot at cupcake fame. You can submit up to 10 recipes.

THE BASICS of THE CHOCOLATE ADVENTURE CONTEST
Each recipe must include SCHARFFEN BERGER chocolate—and at least one of the following adventure ingredients.
 
Stout beer (including oatmeal, chocolate, imperial or any other stout)
Ricotta
Buttermilk
Coconut milk, cream or butter
Saffron
Molasses (light, dark or blackstrap)
Adzuki bean
Fresh beet
Sweetened condensed milk
Chili pepper (fresh or whole dried)
Bee pollen
Meyer lemon
Almond flour
Sumatra coffee beans
 
Scharffen Berger will judge your creation based on creativity, taste, ease of preparation and whether the recipe reflects a spirit of adventure. Be sure and Review the Official Contest Rules for details.

GRAND PRIZE

$10,000 for the winning recipe as well as a delectable, custom selection of Scharffen Berger® chocolates. The winning recipe will appear in Food Network Magazine and the winner will get the chance to fly to New York City to distribute the winning cupcake on one of the city's Sweet Trucks. The recipe will be featured on chocolateadventurecontest.com, ScharffenBerger.com and TuttiFoodie.com.

SECOND PLACE
$7,000 for second-place. The winner receives a signed copy of Demolition Desserts by Elizabeth Falkner, Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, and The Essence of Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg as well as a delectable, custom selection of Scharffen Berger® chocolates. The recipewill be featured on chocolateadventurecontest.com, ScharffenBerger.com and TuttiFoodie.com.

THIRD PLACE
$3,000 for third-place. The winner receives a signed copy of Demolition Desserts by Elizabeth Falkner, Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, and The Essence of Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg as well as a delectable, custom selection of Scharffen Berger® chocolates. The recipe will be featured on chocolateadventurecontest.com, ScharffenBerger.com and TuttiFoodie.com.

To be eligible, combine any Scharffen Berger chocolate with 1 or more of 14 'adventure ingredients' (stout beer, ricotta, Meyer lemon, saffron, coconut milk, and others) in an original recipe. Get more information at chocolateadventurecontest.com.  Entries must be received by midnight January 2, 2011.





Tuesday, October 5, 2010

North Bay Chocolatiers

I came across this great article in the latest Special Wine Issue of NorthBay Biz Magazine. TeamBuilding Unlimited includes many of these chocolatiers in our Foodie Scavenger Hunts in Sonoma, Marian and Napa. This is such a great article. Be sure and include some of these chocolate shops or chocolate locations in your next visit to the North Bay (San Francisco Bay Area).

Chocolate on Top by Alexandra Russell, NorthBay Biz Magazine, October, 2010 Issue

Throughout the North Bay, you can find a number of individuals blending, dipping, rolling, molding and otherwise creating custom chocolates.

In an issue dedicated to all things wine, it seemed only fair to give a bit of space to another delicious indulgence. Throughout the North Bay, you can find a number of individuals blending, dipping, rolling, molding and otherwise creating custom chocolates. Some are fledgling, one- or two-person operations, others are well-established storefronts. What they all share, predictably, is a belief that chocolate makes everything better. Are you going to argue with that?

“I began dipping things in chocolate when I was in my 20s,” says Trishia Davis, proprietor and “head cutie” of CutieCakes Bakeshop, “random things—potato chips, cookies, fruit…everything I could think of. Then one day, I saw a picture from Europe of a Belgian bonbon. It was artistic and breathtaking; I’d never seen anything that had been so painstakingly created and that was meant to be a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds. I wanted to do that.”

Obviously, this is a woman destined for a life of chocolate, but it took some time for the stars—or are those sprinkles?—to align properly. In the meantime, Davis enjoyed a career in real estate and, in her spare time, read, studied and experimented with all things sweet and delicious. (“My neighbors loved me,” she laughs, “because you can’t possibly eat that much chocolate by yourself.”)

She now rents time in a commercial kitchen in Sebastopol and sells her treats at local farmers markets (look for the bright pink awning). “My vision is ‘dessert in the hand,’” she says. “I make small treats—cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, chocolates and caramels. A small reward can make a big difference.”

In 2009, Davis herself was rewarded when her coastal caramels (chocolate-covered butter caramels topped with sea salt) earned a double gold medal, her cherry cordial Devotion truffles earned gold medals, and her coffee-infused Apres truffle earned silver at the Harvest Fair competition.

With a background in geothermal development and international environmental policy, David Gambill may seem an unlikely chocolatier, but the truth is, like Davis, “I’ve been playing with chocolate forever,” he says. “I used to have chocolate parties, where I just made everything then invited my friends to come over and eat as much chocolate as they wanted…and I would make hundreds of truffles every Christmas and give them away as presents. Everyone started telling me I should sell chocolate.”

In early 2008, Gambill returned to Sonoma County from Washington, D.C., (he lived here in the 1980s when he worked at the Geysers), armed with a business plan. “It was time to make chocolates,” he says. Gambill took classes at SRJC to refine the business plan while, at the same time, honing his inner Wonka through online training and a brief apprenticeship with a chocolatier in the South Bay.

He started selling his truffles at local farmers markets and had made some inroads with local groceries when he visited Infusions Teahouse in Sebastopol to ask if they’d be interested in selling his sweets. The owner said yes and then asked Gambill if he wanted to buy the teahouse. Crazy, right? Not so much: “A tea-and-chocolate place had been part of my original long-term business plan,” he laughs. “So I did.”

Now available in more than 50 stores in Sonoma County, with hopes to expand soon into Marin and San Francisco, Gambill plans to build a production kitchen at the teahouse before the end of the year. With almost 70 flavors of caramels and truffles, a line of teahouse cakes and baked goods in development, and a five- (sometimes six-) day-per-week cooking schedule, it’s a needed addition.

Sonoma Chocolatiers won more medals than any other chocolatier at last year’s Harvest Fair, and has also taken second place in the Bohemian’s Best of the Bay readers poll in 2009 and 2010 (the first place winner, he points out, was primarily a chocolate importer).

Sacred Chocolate in San Rafael was founded by longtime raw food advocate Steve Adler after he read Naked Chocolate by David Wolfe (who then became a founding partner of Sacred Chocolate). “It was really the first published book on the subject of raw chocolate, and the deep study that went into it really blew me away,” says Adler. “Before that, I hadn’t realized that, all things considered, chocolate is probably the greatest food on the planet.

“It’s an amazing delivery method,” he continues. “Why not make it enjoyable to eat your vitamins, minerals and supplements along with chocolate? A lot of our bars are medicinal in nature. We’ve managed to combine some of the top herbs and super foods from around the world into chocolate—and really make them taste good.”

One choice, designed for “people who like more exotic flavors—maybe those more into the health and medicinal qualities of chocolate,” says Adler, is called Amazonian. “It really has the core medicine of the Amazon jungle in it: purple corn, jungle peanuts, cashews, acai berries, things like that. Because there are so many ingredients, you can let it melt in your mouth, and different flavor notes will show up for more than five minutes.”

Another interesting blend is called Immuno Mushroom, which contains 10 different medicinal mushrooms and has, according to Adler, “an earthy, woody flavor.” The consumer favorite, though, is Mylk, a dairy-free mimic of milk chocolate (whole, raw coconut is ground with the cacao to create a sweet and creamy product). The company also produces Truth truffles and a line of stoneground nut butters.

Unlike the other companies profiled in this article, Sacred Chocolate processes its own cacao beans—a time-intensive and painstaking process, especially when adhering to the tenets of the raw food movement. Using his Stanford engineering degrees (BS in mechanical engineering and an MS in aerospace engineering), Adler devised a way to produce a low-temperature, processed chocolate bar. This affords him other digressions from the norm as well.

“We’re a true bean-to-bar manufacturer, which is different from being a chocolatier,” he explains. “Chocolatiers are limited to the sweetener the chocolate already contains when they get it, which is usually processed white cane sugar—what I consider the ultimate drug of the human race. The problem is, chocolate is so bitter, very few people will eat a 100 percent cacao bar. That means sweetener is a necessary evil, so the goal becomes to make the healthiest choices we can.” These include maple sugar, coconut palm sugar and alternative sweeteners like enulin, erythritol and stevia. Because of these choices, many Sacred Chocolate offerings are low on the glycemic index (making them a safe choice for those with blood sugar concerns); all are dairy- and gluten-free.

Another unique addition is the skin (or husk) of the bean. “We believe there are a lot of vital nutrients in that husk,” says Adler, who adds that the beans he uses for these bars undergo a thorough washing process. “We’re not using the typical dirty cacao beans available on the open market, which have been fermented in piles. Our beans are so clean, they look like almonds.”

In Glen Ellen, Betty Kelly and her daughter, Caroline, run a more traditional operation—albeit with a Wine Country twist.

“In the late 1990s, I thought I’d like to get more involved in the whole ‘food and wine’ and hospitality milieu, which was really starting to take off,” says Betty. “I have a legal background—no restaurants, no hospitality, nothing related—and Caroline was still in high school.”

Undaunted, Betty started looking at businesses for sale, and that’s when she came across what, in 2000, would become Wine Country Chocolates. “When we bought the business, as part of the purchase, we got training from a master chocolatier,” says Betty. Once trained, it was time to move the business from its roots in the East Bay and change the name to one more identified with the pair’s Sonoma County home. This meant renting a kitchen while they experimented and tweaked the recipes, eventually developing their own techniques and flavors.

“Our truffles are creamier than most,” says Kelly. “We’ve taken the ratio of cream to chocolate to the absolute limit, which makes them very difficult to work with. We can’t roll them in a ball and drop them in cocoa powder like many other chocolate makers do. They’d just ooze back out.” Instead, Kelly had a machine specially designed to accommodate her “soft and flowy” ganaches by keeping them cold through the coating process. The customer response has been well worth the extra work.

After a few years at farmers markets, constantly fielding the “Where’s your shop?” question, mother and daughter decided there was enough community support. Another quick look around brought the thought, “‘There’s plenty of wine and cheese, but not enough chocolate.’ Then we thought about all the wine tasting rooms and decided to open a chocolate tasting room.”

That original shop in Jack London Village, which now houses a small production kitchen, has since been joined by one on the Plaza in Sonoma. Each day, the Kellys offer small tastes of two ganaches (truffle fillings) as well as three variant cacao percentages, from 38 percent milk chocolate all the way up to 72 percent extra dark. “We like to educate people on the different kinds of chocolate,” she says. Also like a winery, Wine Country Chocolates has a Truffle Club, which sends out samplers either monthly or bimonthly, depending on how you sign up.

Using rack card advertising at local hotels and visitors centers, the Kellys attract many tourists looking for a break from the wineries. They also supply logoed or custom-flavored chocolates wholesale to a number of wineries and hotels (“one bottle of strong red wine makes 60 truffles,” she says)—though she’s hesitant to name names, because, she laughs, “I think a few pretend they’re making them!”

Wine Country Chocolates creates custom chocolates for other types of businesses and events as well. “We do custom molds for several local hotels, businesses and corporate accounts, as well as for wedding and special events,” says Kelly. “It’s surprisingly inexpensive to have a mold made with a logo on it. We also make chocolate business cards and host private, after hours chocolate-making events for small groups.”

The notion of family business is nothing new to John Anderson and his wife, Tracy Wood Anderson, proprietors of Woodhouse Chocolate in St. Helena, where they work side-by-side with their daughters, Christina and Caroline, and Tracy’s mother, Chris Wood. Sous chef Laura McIntyre rounds out the team. “We both come from families where the husband and wife worked together,” says John. “When we met in college, we realized our temperaments were such that we’d be able to work together—and we sought that. We worked together at the winery and, when we sold that, we looked for another career where we could continue to work together.”

The winery he’s referring to was S. Anderson Vineyard, which his parents started in 1971 and the family sold in 2002 (it’s now part of Clif Lede Vineyards). “We’d reached a point where, the part of our souls that needed to make wine had been fulfilled, and it was time to move on to the next thing,” says John.

The Andersons’ next thing actually took them backward, to a business they’d considered years earlier. “In 1983, when we were studying our semester abroad from college [both attended the Claremont Colleges in Los Angeles], my wife and I first experienced European-style—particularly Belgian-style—chocolates. We enjoyed it so much that we actually considered that when we graduated from college, we should go into the chocolate business…but back then, we had the hat trick: no experience making chocolate, no business experience and no money.”

So instead, John went to work and Tracy earned a culinary degree and became a pasty chef at Domaine Chandon. Eventually, both ended up at the winery. In 2000, they went to see the movie Chocolat and were reinspired; what followed were years of research in techniques and equipment, courses in chocolate making at Barry Callebaut in Montreal and UC Davis, and, like everyone else interviewed here, lots of trial and error in the kitchen.

“However I describe Tracy is going to sound overly confident and solicitous,” says John, clearly still smitten, “but she’s an incredibly talented chef who can take on a project and make it happen.”

Step inside the Woodhouse Chocolate shop, and the European influence is immediately apparent. The d├ęcor—high ceilings, butter-colored walls, crystal chandeliers, wall tapestries and fine china accents—is based on a favorite Parisian hotel dining room. “It’s their color palette and everything,” he says. “We wanted to portray, in the surroundings, the elegance, beauty and quality of what people were getting in the chocolate.”

In addition to truffles, caramels, toffees and bars, Woodhouse has established a reputation for molded confections—people, vehicles, animals and toys—that recall the craftsmanship of a bygone era. “The figures have helped set us apart,” agrees Anderson. “You see them all over Europe, but not here. [And even when you do, they don’t typically have the] decoration work ours do, where we’re actually hand-painting the inside of the molds to make the object look decorated.” Think shimmering, multi-color scales on a fish or reptile, or perfectly detailed World War II-era airplanes, for example.

“One comment that tends to come up is that our chocolates look ‘old fashioned,’” says Anderson. “And, in fact, they do—by design. We’ve chosen to be very classic in our presentation. We want our things to appear timeless. Some people think this makes us appear less than cutting-edge…. Well, a Rolls Royce may not be cutting-edge, but they’re awfully nice.”

There are many popular chocolate-and-flavor combinations—peanuts, mint, coffee, caramel. The real fun comes, say the chocolatiers, in expanding the possibilities and devising unique combinations that challenge and delight.

“I like taking a flavor I remember from childhood, or that I like in another setting, and turning it into chocolate,” says Davis, mentioning her Devotion truffle (based on the sweet cherry cordials she remembers from childhood Christmases at her grandmother’s house) and Birthday Girl (which she created for the Santa Rosa 20/30 Club to mimic a Mudslide cocktail).

Wine Country Chocolates’ Betty Kelly often lets customers’ requests dictate development. “We generally add things that people ask for,” she says. “The last truffle we added was lemon tart; it’s chocolate ganache with lemon curd, so it’s really lemony with a bright, fresh finish. I’m really proud of that one.”

“There are some flavors you have to have,” acknowledges Gambill. “Beyond that, I think of other flavors I enjoy and combine them, like rosemary and goat cheese, or mango and coconut. Sometimes I’m inspired by other truffles I’ve heard about or tasted—then I radically reinvent them. Or sometimes, an idea just occurs to me, and I experiment until I figure it out.” His truffles choices include smoked chipotle, fig and cardamom, and multiple tea infusions (naturally).

Anderson agrees that you must keep certain standard chocolates (“people get very angry if they’re not available,” he laughs), but also enjoys his wife’s enthusiasm for experimentation. “She comes to chocolate from a chef’s background,” he says. “She’s studied world cuisine and has a lot of knowledge about savory and spice notes.” Like Gambill, the Andersons have found that, “chocolate doesn’t need to be sweet; it picks up and enhances savory flavors beautifully.”

Sacred Chocolate faces the further challenge of changing consumers’ preconceptions about raw chocolate. “We’re focused on the cutting-edge nutritional aspects,” says Adler, who initially developed flavor pairings for the company, “but we also want to make sure it tastes good.” The company has recently hired professionally trained pastry- and chocolate-chef Dereme Church to refine existing flavors, create new ones and oversee expansion of product lines.

Whether just starting out, establishing roots, celebrating success or forging their own path, everyone interviewed for this story shares an enthusiasm for their work. Words like “inspired,” beauty,” “magic,” “creation” and “love” crop up again and again. “The complexity of the flavor doesn’t get old,” explains Gambill of what attracts him. “In the first second, when you bite into chocolate, you register more than 500 flavors on your palate—and if it’s really good chocolate, the complexity of those flavors lingers a long time.”

“We’re creating the best product we can, in a conscious way, with love, gratitude and prayer,” adds Adler. “When someone eats Sacred Chocolate, I want it to be an experience on some level—mental, physical or spiritual.”

For Davis, it’s as much about the process as the end result: “Making chocolate nurtures me,” she says. “All my senses are engaged, and it feeds my emotions as well. It fills me up and makes me feel good.”

Anette’s Chocolates
1321 First St., Napa
(707)252-4228
www.anettes.net-flow.com

CutieCakes Bakeshop
Available online and at Farmers Markets
in Santa Rosa and Petaluma
www.cutiecakesbakeshop.com

Divine Delights
1250 Holm Rd., Petaluma
(800) 443-2836
www.divinedelights.com

Gandolf’s Fine Chocolate
Available online and at Farmers Markets in Santa Rosa and San Rafael
http://gandolfsfinechocolate.com

Halo Truffles
Homeward Bound of Marin
1399 N. Hamilton Pkwy., Novato
(415) 457-5179
www.homewardboundofmarin.org

Le Belge
Available online for personal
or business customers
www.lebelgechocolatier.com

Sacred Chocolate
Available online and at grocery
and health food stores in Marin and Sonoma counties (list available online)
(415) 456-3311
www.sacredchocolate.com

Sonoma Chocolatiers/Infusion Teahouse
6899 McKinley St., Sebastopol
(707) 829-1181
Also available online and at select stores in Sonoma County (list available online)
www.sonomachocolatiers.com

Viva Cocolat
110 Petaluma Blvd. N, Petaluma
(707) 778-9888
www.vivacocolat.com

Wine Country Chocolates
14301 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen
(707) 996-1010

414 First St., Sonoma
(707) 933-4475
www.winecountrychocolates.com

Woodhouse Chocolate
1367 Main St., St. Helena
(800) 966-3468
www.woodhousechocolate.com

Monday, October 4, 2010

Milk Chocolate Truffles: Ghirardelli LUXE Milk Chocolate Contest

Blogger ate the Ghirardelli LUXE Milk Chocolate contest comments, so I'm extending the contest until October 5. I found the comments, but still thought it best to extend the deadline. All you need to do is make a comment on today's blog or HERE to be entered.

Tell me why you are a Milk Chocolate Fan! Win a coupon for any One Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Bar or Bag. Just comment below on why you are a Milk Chocolate Fan. Winners will be chosen randomly. Contest closes at 5 p.m. October 5 

Ghirardelli makes baking chocolate, but if you only have a bar or two, here's something easy to make at home.

MILK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Ingredients
1 pound Ghirardelli LUXE MILK chocolate, broken into pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/2 cup Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder

Method
1. Melt milk chocolate, heavy cream and butter in the top of a double boiler or in a saucepan over another saucepan with simmering water on the bottom. As soon as the mixture is smooth, remove from heat and transfer into bowl or baking dish. Cover chocolate mixture with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.
2. Spread cocoa powder on shallow plate.
3. Using melon baller, scoop chocolate and roll into balls between your hands. Then roll the ball of chocolate in the cocoa until well coated. Place truffles on sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat until you finish making all the truffles. Allow truffles to set for about an hour.
4. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. Truffles are best served at room temperature.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ghirardelli LUXE MILK Chocolate Contest: Triple Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Are you a MILK Chocolate fan? Here's your chance to win a coupon for any One Ghirardelli Luxe Milk Bar or Bag. Just comment below on why you are a Milk Chocolate Fan. Winners will be chosen randomly. Contest closes at 5 p.m. October 5.  You never know, there may be consolation prizes.

In 2009 Ghirardelli created a new line: Ghirardelli LUXE MILK to honor milk chocolate lovers looking for the ultimate chocolate experience. 100% ALL NATURAL ingredients. Ghirardelli controls the entire chocolate-making process, beginning with selecting the best cocoa beans, to its proprietary methods of roasting to intensify chocolate taste, refining for velvety smoothness, and conching extensively to bring out sophisticated, nuanced flavors.
The LUXE MILK Chocolate collection is available in four flavors in 3-ounce bars and as wrapped singles in a bag format. The bars are available in your local grocery store as well as popular retailers such as CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Borders, or online at www.ghirardelli.com. So enter the contest now!

LUXE MILK Almond – Toasted almonds complement and enhance the flavors of the creamy-sweet milk chocolate base.
LUXE MILK Hazelnut – Lavished throughout this bar, all-natural deep-roasted hazelnuts add crunch and a distinctive, sophisticated flavor.
LUXE MILK – This bar delivers the ultimate premium milk chocolate experience – pure, all-natural milk chocolate with a velvety texture that melts smoothly in your mouth.
LUXE MILK Toffee – This all natural, rich and creamy milk chocolate is perfectly matched with buttery, crunchy toffee bits.  (My favorite!)

Just comment on why you like Milk Chocolate in order to win a coupon good for A Ghirardelli Lux Milk Bar or Bag. Entries chosen randomly.

Want to bake something special with Ghirardelli MILK chocolate? You've got to try this Afternoon Ghirardelli Delight Cheesecake Recipe from Ghirardelli Chocolate Championship winner Judy Olson from Braham, MN at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair. This incredible cheesecake includes all kinds of great Ghirardelli chocolate.

Afternoon Ghirardelli Delight: Triple Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake



Ingredients
1 1/3 cups shortbread cookie crumbs (about 22 cookies)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 (8 oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
4.5 oz Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate, melted
3.5 oz Ghirardelli intense dark evening dream chocolate, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup MILK chocolate crunchy toffee bits, divided
3/4 cup Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Garnish: additional whipping cream; Ghirardelli White Chocolate

Method:
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine cookie crumbs, melted butter and 1/4 cup sugar in small bowl. Press onto bottom of ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Bake 4 minutes.
Combine cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl; beat until creamy.
Add melted chocolate, eggs and vanilla; beat until well mixed.
Stir in 3/4 cup toffee bits.
Spread cream cheese mixture over crust.
Continue baking for 50-55 minutes or until center is set. Cool in pan 1 hour.
Remove from pan; place onto serving plate.
Meanwhile, place chocolate chips in small bowl.
Place whipping cream in small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat (2-3 minutes).
Pour over chocolate chips.
Let stand 5 minutes; stir until smooth.
Cool until mixture falls in ribbons off spoon (about 1 hour).
Spread over top of cheesecake; sprinkle outer rim of cheesecake with 1/4 cup toffee bits.
Cover; refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Garnish with additional whipping cream and drizzle with melted white Ghirardelli chocolate if desired.

Winners of the Ghirardelli LUXE Chocolate: Janet A, Pattie T, Elena Santangelo, and Gerry S

They'll be in the mail shortly.  This was a random selection process. Be sure and check out the next contest. Thanks for participating!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Outrageous Chocolate Cookies: National Homemade Cookies Day

October 1 is National Homemade Cookies Day. Every day should be homemade cookie day because there's nothing quite like cookies fresh from the oven! Today I thought would be a great day to make Chocolate Cookies. I've posted a few recipes for Chocolate Cookies over the years. Some of my favorites:  Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies, Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies, Chocolate Cookies in a Jar.

If you've tried those and liked them, you'll LOVE these. The recipe for these Outrageous Chocolate Cookies comes from Martha Stewart. And, they truly are outrageous. The dough isn't like most cookie doughs. It's much more brownie-like. Delicious. Lately I've been using Guittard Chocolate, but you can use whatever you have. Just make sure it's the BEST you have.

Hint: Don't overbake these cookies. They are definitely supposed to be crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. It's like eating a little bit of Heaven!

OUTRAGEOUS CHOCOLATE COOKIES

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons sweet butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure Madagascar vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl in 20-second increments, stirring between each, until almost melted; do not overheat. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.
3. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in centers, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.