Monday, January 31, 2011

Brandy Alexander Drinks and Brownies: National Brandy Alexander Day

Today is National Brandy Alexander Day. A Brandy Alexander is a sweet, brandy-based cocktail that became popular during the early 20th century. It was supposedly created for the wedding of Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood and Viscount Lascelles, in London, in 1922. The Brandy Alexander is based on an earlier, gin-based cocktail called simply an “Alexander”.

From the Brandyalexander website comes the history that Movie Stars have consumed Brandy Alexanders on sets of movies and TV shows and during celebratory events over the last century.  Among the famous calls are by Jack Lemon in Days of Wine and Roses. In one scene Lee Remick receives a Brandy Alexander and is impressed with the chocolate flavor, yet smooth taste of the drink. In the pilot of the Mary Tyler Moore show, Mary calls for a Brandy Alexander when asked if she would like a drink at her job interview and Peggy on a blind date in an episode of Mad Men, Indian Summer calls for a Brandy Alexander.  Over time other movies made reference to Brandy Alexanders.

So with this exciting alcoholic Food Holiday, break out the Brandy and Creme de Cacao!

Brandy Alexander

1 1/2 oz brandy
1 oz dark creme de cacao
1 oz half-and-half
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the brandy, creme de cacao, and half-and-half. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the nutmeg

I'm not sure where I found the original recipe for Brandy Alexander Brownies, but I found a similar recipe at The Pioneer Woman that includes a recipe for Brandy Alexander Icing. My original recipe below includes optional walnuts, and I don't usually frost brownies. They're plenty rich the way they are, but I do use more chocolate, but then I'm always Dying for Chocolate.

Brandy Alexander Brownies

Ingredients
6 tbsp sweet butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tbsp creme de cacao
2 tbsp brandy
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:
In mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar till fluffy.
Add eggs; beat well.
Blend in cooled chocolate, creme de cacao, and brandy.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Stir into creamed mixture.
Stir in  chopped nuts (optional)
Spread in a greased 9x9x2 inch baking pan.
Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool.
Cut into bars.

Optional: Frost with Brandy Alexander Frosting before cutting into bars!

Brandy Alexander Frosting
2 tbsp Sweet Butter, Softened
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Creme De Cacao
1 tbsp Brandy

Mix all together!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chocolate Cake in a Jar

One of my Facebook friends was recently snowed in, and horror of horrors, she was out of chocolate. It got me thinking that one should always have a hidden stash just for these emergency situations. That doesn't have to mean candy; it can be cake! Chocolate Cake in a Jar is the perfect back-up. These cakes can be stored like any other canned goods, in a dark cool place. To be safe, if you're not going to eat this cake in the first few days (assuming it's sealed correctly), you can and should store it in the freezer. As in any food canning process, make sure the jars, seals and lids are sterilized, and that the seal is tight.

This recipe adapted from allrecipes.com is fabulous! It's perfect when you don't need an entire cake. Easy to eat, too! And delicious. Hint: Use the jar size in the recipe. Don't use a bigger size jar because it won't bake through, and the uncooked middle could become contaminated.

Chocolate Cake in a Jar

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon Madegascar (Madegasse is fabulous!) vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions
1. Sterilize 2 (1 pint) straight sided wide mouth canning jars, lids and rings by boiling for 10 minutes. Keep the lids and rings in the hot water until needed. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, water and cocoa powder. Heat and stir until butter is melted and mixture is well blended. Pour into a large bowl.
4. Stir in Flour mixture and blend. Add buttermilk, egg and vanilla and beat by hand until smooth. Stir in nuts.
5. Distribute evenly into the 2 prepared canning jars. Place the jars on a cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted deep into center of cake comes out clean.
6. Using heavy oven mitts, remove cakes from oven one at a time. Place a lid, then a ring onto the jars and screw them down tightly. Place the jars on the counter and listen for them to "ping" as they seal. If you miss the "ping", wait until they are completely cool and press on the top of the lid. If it doesn't move at all, it's sealed.
7. After it cools, cake will pull away from the jar and when you are ready to eat, open and the cake will slip out.
8. Unsealed jars should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within 2 weeks. Sealed jars can be placed in the freezer. The cake is safe to eat as long as the jar remains vacuum-sealed and free from mold. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chocolate Blueberry Pancakes: Two Ways

Today is National Blueberry Pancake Day. Add some chocolate, and you can celebrate this fun food holiday in two ways.

This first recipe is from Cooking Light. Just a few tweaks, and you'll love them! Perfect Buttermilk pancakes with the addition of blueberries and chocolate! These will be good this weekend. I usually have fresh blueberries around, but you can also use frozen.

BUTTERMILK BLUEBERRY CHOCOLATE PANCAKES

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1 cup Blueberries (less if frozen.. I like the frozen Wild Blueberries from Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup Dark Chocolate chips or Dark Chocolate, broken up (alternatively, you can use white chocolate!)

Directions
1. Spoon flour into dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (flour through salt) in large bowl, and make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, oil, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring until smooth.
2. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter onto hot nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray. Add Blueberries and Chocolate pieces (or Chocolate Chips).  Turn pancakes when tops are covered with bubbles and edges seem cooked.
***

So that's what you'll make fresh today! I'm also fond of Mixes in a Jar. Here's a quick and delicious recipe for Chocolate Blueberry Pancakes in a Jar. Make some to have on hand or to give as a gift. One helpful hint when making mixes in a jar is to really pack the ingredients in. Use a tamper, if you have one...except for the dried blueberries and chocolate.

CHOCOLATE BLUEBERRY PANCAKES IN A JAR

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried Blueberries
2/3 cup dark chocolate chopped into chip size (or chocolate chips)

Layer flour, then sugar, then the baking powder mixed with baking soda and salt in a 1-quart wide-mouth jar.  Add blueberries, then chocolate. Seal Jar. Cover jar with burlap or other fabric and tie with raffia or a bow. Attach gift tag with the following instructions:

Chocolate Blueberry Pancakes 
Makes 25 pancakes
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sweet butter, melted
Contents of Jar of "Chocolate Blueberry Pancakes"
1-1/2 to 2 cups whole milk (or buttermilk)

Mix eggs and melted butter in large bowl. Add contents of jar. Stir until well blended. Add 1-1/2 cups milk. Stir until dry ingredients are moistened.

Heat griddle or skillet. Pour batter onto hot griddle 1/4 cup at a time. Cook pancakes until golden on both sides.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Cake: Vintage Ad and Recipe

It's National Chocolate Cake Day, and this Peppermint Chocolate Cake is divine!

This Vintage Baker's Ad is is all about Janet! Well, yes, it's all about me!!!

I love these Baker's Ads that tell a story. The reality, though, is that they're pretty sexist. This ad dates from 1938, but the recipe is still great. I would substitute a few ingredients, but you'll love it!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Barefoot Contessa: Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake

It's always fun to see 'celebrities' at the Fancy Food Show. Ina Garten, better known as the Barefoot Contessa, was seated in a small booth in a darker hall at the Fancy Food Show last week. I almost missed her, but I'm glad I didn't. Every time I watch her show on the Food Network, I hope to be invited to dinner at her beautiful home, to dine in her lovely garden, or help out in her great kitchen.

The Barefoot Contessa has just published her 7th cookbook in the Barefoot Contessa series. The new one: How Easy is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, 256 pages, $35) is filled with tips and recipes for the home cook, more for beginners than the experienced chef, but great for all.

Of interest in this new cookbook to the Chocoholic is the Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake. I haven't tried it yet, but will soon. Let me know if you have.

MOCHA CHOCOLATE ICEBOX CAKE

Ingredients:
 2 cups cold heavy cream
12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Kahlua liqueur
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 (8-ounce) packages Tate's Bake Shop chocolate chip cookies, or other thin crisp chocolate chip cookies
Shaved semisweet chocolate, for garnish

Instructions: 
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or with a hand-held mixer, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, Kahlua, cocoa powder, espresso powder and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine, then slowly raise the speed and beat until mixture forms firm peaks.

Arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. Break some cookies to fill in the spaces. Spread a fifth of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering the cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake, and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut into wedges, and serve cold.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Irish Coffee Chocolate Cake

Today is National Irish Coffee Day. Last year I posted an Irish Coffee Chocolate Mousse recipe, and it's really good. This year, I'm posting a recipe for Irish Coffee Chocolate Cake. If you're a purist, you'll want to substitute your own chocolate cake and pudding recipes for the box mixes. If you're in a hurry, though, this is a great easy recipe! A terrific way to celebrate the day.

No time to bake? Go to your favorite Irish Pub and raise a glass of Irish Coffee. Have some chocolate in your pocket. Stir it in!

IRISH COFFEE CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients
1 box chocolate cake mix (Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake)
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee
3/4 cup Irish whiskey
1/2 cup water
1 small package instant chocolate pudding
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or broken up pieces of dark chocolate
Whipped cream

Directions
1. Combine the cake mix, oil, eggs, instant coffee, whiskey, water and pudding mix. Blend well. Fold in the chocolate chips/broken up pieces of chocolate. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan.
2. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles: National Peanut Butter Day

January 24 is National Peanut Butter Day. Chocolate and Peanut Butter: What could be better? I'm also paying homage today to Mr. Peanut. I grew up with Planter's Peanuts. Mr. Peanut, shaking hands with everyone, would walk the boardwalk in Atlantic City! What a treat. Ilso loved those hot salty peanuts, roasted right onsite. The original company was called Planters Nut and Chocolate Company, so what's not to love? Planters did make peanut butter, but I'm not sure for how long.

I've put together a Round-up of Chocolate Peanut Butter Recipes in celebration of National Peanut Butter Day...and below I've added a new easy recipe for Peanut Butter Truffles.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Peanut Butter Decadent Recipe supplied by Crime Writer Elizabeth Sims
Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies
Frozen Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Peanut Butter Fudge
Chocolate Peanut Butter in a Jar
Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles
This is a simple recipe for a peanut butter ganache truffle rolled in chopped peanuts adapted from a recipe in  CountryLiving.

8 ounces 75-85% dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup smooth Organic peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon Madegascar vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped peanuts

Directions
1. Place bittersweet chocolate, chopped, in a medium heat-safe bowl. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, cook heavy cream until it just begins to boil; then immediately pour over chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is thick and smooth. Stir in smooth peanut butter, vanilla extract, and salt. Pour into a shallow baking pan and refrigerate until set, 4 to 6 hours.
3. Spoon chocolate–peanut butter mixture, by the tablespoon, into your hand and roll into balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking pan and return to refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.
4. Place finely chopped peanuts in shallow dish. Roll the truffles in peanuts,  shaping each ball as you work. Keep refrigerated until serving.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blondies: National Blondie Brownie Day

Yesterday was Blond Brownie Day. That's a misnomer. Blondies are not brownies!  They get their flavor from brown sugar and not cocoa or chocolate, and they're wonderful for exactly what they are.


Over the years, I've added macadamia nuts, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, chocolate chips or a mix of different ones to the following recipe. The variety of additions is huge..but the basic batter is a delicious brown sugar concoction.

Blondies are simple to make, and I highly recommend them. I use dark brown sugar because I think it has more taste. Like any recipe, the quality of the ingredients makes a difference in your final product.

BLONDIES
Ingredients
1/2 cup sweet butter, melted
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup of chocolate chips or any other addition (walnuts, macadamia nuts, butterscotch chips, etc.. you can pack more in, but the consistency will be different...but more goey and delicious)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F
1. Butter and lightly flour an 8×8 pan.
2. Mix melted butter with brown sugar – beat until smooth.
3. Beat in egg and vanilla and whisk.
4. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and mix together. Stir in chips and/or nuts -or whatever you're using this time around :-)
5. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 20-25 minutes (350), or until toothpick comes out clean. Don't overcook.
6. Cool on rack. Cut into squares or bars.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Crème de la Crème Chocolate Pudding: Bobbi Mumm

My mystery and chocolate worlds collide again! I met Bobbi Mumm on Facebook and Twitter. So good to call her a friend, even if she does live in Saskatoon! That's what's so much fun about Social Networking! Recently Bobbi posted her recipe for Chocolate Pudding on Facebook, and I must say the photo had me at... well, chocolate. I asked if she'd do a guest post, and here you have it!

Bobbi Mumm is a mystery and thriller writer in Saskatoon, Canada where she works half-time as an event planner at the University of Saskatchewan. In 2009 Bobbi wrote her first novel, Cream with Your Coffin. This past year, Bobbi signed with a U.S. literary agent who is now pitching Cream with Your Coffin to New York editors. Almost finished her second novel, thriller De Rigueur Mortis, Bobbi has fallen in love, all over again, with the mystery that is Paris.

Bobbi Mumm:

When my family asks for pudding, one of my favourites is this recipe, adapted from The Joy of Cooking, Chocolate Pudding. The addition of the cream turns the slow enjoyment of this rich chocolate dessert into a sensory delight.

Crème de la Crème Chocolate Pudding (6 servings)

½ cup cocoa
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt (scant)
½ cup warm water
¼ cup chocolate shavings or chips (good quality dark chocolate)
2 cups low-fat milk
½ cup plus one tablespoon heavy cream (whipping cream)
4½ tablespoons cornstarch mixed into a paste (in a measuring cup) with
1/3 cup low-fat milk
2 teaspoons vanilla (real vanilla)

Stir dry ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan. Add water, mixing to a runny paste. Heat to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate shavings until melted.

Add milk and cream (2½ cups) to chocolate mixture. Stir in cornstarch paste. Mix thoroughly. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until it begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low, stirring, until mixture begins to simmer. Continue stirring and cook for one minute more.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour immediately into pretty glasses or dessert cups. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least three hours.

Savour by eating with a very small coffee spoon.

Photo: Bobbi  Mumm

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chocolate Granola Two Ways: National Granola Bar Day

January 20: National Granola Bar Day. There was a plethora of Chocolate Granola and Chocolate Granola Bars at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this week. I have to write a post about them, but in the meantime, I'm posting two recipes. One is for Chocolate Granola, and the other is for Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

CHOCOLATE GRANOLA 
Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients
3 cups regular rolled oats
1 cup Cheerios
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions
Preheat oven to 300
1. In a large bowl, toss together oats, Cheerios, brown sugar, slivered almonds, salt and cinnamon.
2. In a small saucepan, stir together honey and canola oil. Cook until warm over low heat, about 2 minutes.
3. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and chocolate until smooth. Drizzle over the oat mixture
4. Coat hands lightly with  light oil spray and gently mix chocolate mixture and oat mixture until combined.
5. Scoop out mixture and place on large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread to an even layer.
6. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
7. Remove and stir in cranberries.
8. Place on a wire rack until it has cooled completely.

Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars 
adapted from Margaret Tung on Cook Eat Share
 (makes two 9x9inch squares)

Ingredients
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat (or all purpose flour)
3/4 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 teaspoons Madegascar vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9 x 9 inch glass baking dishes with parchment paper. Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, dried cherries, slivered almonds, coconut, and chocolate chips together in a bowl.
2. In a separate bowl mix butter, honey, and vanilla.
3. Split mixture into baking dishes and use your hands to pat it into the square of the pan.
4. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
5. Cool and cut into bars

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chocolate Covered Popcorn: National Popcorn Day

Today is National Popcorn Day. I saw lots of Chocolate Covered Popcorn at the Winter Fancy Food Show, and I'll be doing a round-up of some great brands soon. In the meantime, Chocolate Covered Popcorn is simple to make. You can use dark or white chocolate--or both-- to drizzle over your air-popped Popcorn. Key: Drizzle sparingly on the popcorn.

CHOCOLATE COVERED POPCORN

1. Make a bag of popcorn (buttered or plain) and pop it according to the directions. (airpopping!)
2 Put the popped popcorn into a large bowl or a flat baking pan (for more even distribution).
3 Melt some dark or white chocolate or both (in separate bowls)  in the top of a double boiler (or in the microwave).
4. Drizzle the chocolate on the popcorn. You can always add more chocolate, but you can't remove it, so use it sparingly.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Walkers Shortbread Finger Dips & Chocolate Toffee Shortbread

I spent some time at the Walkers booth yesterday at the Winter Fancy Food Show. I'm a sucker for Scottish Shortbread. I've posted recipes for Chocolate Shortbread, but I really like Walkers Shortbread. It's made with butter, and what's better than butter? Well maybe butter and chocolate.

So this morning as I was dunking my Walker Shortbread Fingers into my tea, I came across a recipe that came with my Shortbread samples -- for Walkers Shortbread Finger Dips.

The Recipe is simple: just dip the Shortbread Fingers, Triangles or Rounds in chocolate and then roll in nuts, almonds, mini-chocolate chips, macadamia nuts, cocoanut. Whatever you'd like! Put them on waxpaper to cool, and you're good to go!

I've mentioned before that many food products have great recipes on their site, so I went to the Walkers site. Here's another 'recipe', this time for Chocolate Toffee Shortbread using Heath Bars or Heath Bits 'O Brickle Toffee bits. You can, of course, use any English toffee and any chocolate. I've adapted it just a bit. Be sure and use a good quality dark chocolate for the dip! You can use oil in place of butter, too.

CHOCOLATE TOFFEE SHORTBREAD

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups Heath Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee bits or Heath bars, coarsely chopped
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
4 packages (8.8-ounces each) Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread Fingers (48 cookies)

Directions
1. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper. Put toffee bits in a shallow bowl.
2. Combine the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler with a little water simmering below.  Stir until melted and smooth.
3. Hold a cookie by one end and dip it into the chocolate, turning, to coat three quarters up the cookie; let the excess drip back into the bowl.
4. Roll cookie gently in the bowl of toffee bits and sprinkle some of mixture onto the chocolate-coated top and sides of the cookie (to get an even coating).
5. Place cookie on parchment lined baking sheet.
6. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
7. Let cookies rest until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.


Chocolate-Toffee Shortbread Fingers will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

Photo: Walkers  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter Fancy Food Show

Still trying to recover from the First Day at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. I'm exhausted and sated, but there are more days to go!

Lots to post about trends in chocolate.. what's new, what's hot, but I'll do that later this week.
In the meantime, here are some photos.









Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chocolate Covered Figs

January 16 is Fig Newton Day! My Dad was a big Fig Newton fan. Me, not so much. However, I love figs, and I'm using this holiday as a jumping off point for Chocolate Covered Figs. Before I embark on recipes for Chocolate Covered Dried Figs, just wanted to let you know that Vice Chocolates' Dark Chocolate Bar with Fig & Anise is one of my favorite chocolate fig combinations! So if you don't have time to make Chocolate Covered Figs, you can always buy one of their great bars!

Last summer when fresh figs were available, I posted a simple recipe for Chocolate Covered Figs. Following are two recipes for Chocolate Covered Dried Figs. The first is alcoholic, because who doesn't love a drunken fig? The second recipe calls for stuffing the dried figs with walnuts, but contains no alcohol. Actually you can mix and match these recipes to come up with whatever you think is perfect for you! As always, use the very best chocolate and figs! Different chocolate, different figs, different tastes!

Chocolate Covered Dried Figs

Ingredients:
20 dried figs
Rum
10 ounces 85-90% dark chocolate, chopped fine
1/4 cup sweet butter
pinch of sea salt

Preparation:
Put figs in bowl and cover with run. Let them soak, covered, overnight in refrigerator.
Next day, drain well and pat dry.

Put chopped chocolate into top of double boiler, stirring. Add butter, stirring until smooth.

Take figs by stems and dip in chocolate several times, covering completely.
Put figs on rack over cookie sheet to catch drips.
When finished dipping, chill figs in refrigerator.

Non-Alcoholic Chocolate Covered Figs Stuffed with Walnuts

Ingredients
9 figs, dried
9 walnut halves
5  tbsp. dark chocolate (60-75%), broken up

Directions
Make small incisions in bottoms of 9 dried figs and stuff each with a walnut half.
Melt chocolate in double boiler until smooth.
Holding the stem, dip stuffed figs into chocolate.
Let them drip from a rack over a cookie sheet, or place on plate or wax paper.
Put the chocolate covered figs on the plate or waxed paper in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or more until chocolate hardens.

Photo: Vice Chocolates Dark Chocolate Bar with Fig & Anise

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chocolate Walnut Bars

This recipe for Chocolate Walnut Bars aka Chocolate Walnut Sensations comes from  Diamond Nuts of California. I've mentioned before that many food brands and associations are a great resource for unique recipes. You can always tweak the recipes by using your own ingredients. I've changed the recipe a bit, but I kept the "Diamond Chopped Walnuts" and "Diamond Harvest Walnut Halves". This is quick and easy, and the Chocolate Walnut Bars are a real taste treat! As always, use the very best Chocolate!

The Vintage Advertisement is not for these bars, but for a walnut chocolate cake. Another time! I just love vintage ads.

CHOCOLATE WALNUT BARS aka CHOCOLATE WALNUT SENSATIONS

Ingredients
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet butter, softened
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
1 egg
12-ounces (about 2 cups) dark chocolate, chopped and divided
1 cup Diamond Chopped Walnuts
Diamond Harvest Reserve Walnut Halves for garnish

Directions
Preheat oven to 375.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a large mixer bowl, beat brown sugar, butter and vanilla extract until creamy.
Beat in egg.
Gradually add flour mixture.
Stir in about 1 1/3 cups chopped dark chocolate and the chopped walnuts.
Spread into greased 9-inch square baking pan.
Bake 23 to 25 minutes.

Immediately sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup chocolate pieces over top. (Ok, this is optional. It's great, but it can be too sweet for some)
Let stand until chocolate become shiny and soft.
Spread chocolate evenly over top.
Garnish with walnut halves.
When cool, chill 5-10 minutes to set chocolate. Cut into 2- x 1 -inch bars.

The Tasty Awards 2011

Can't believe I wasn't able to make it to the Tasty Awards this year! Trying to live in the moment, here are the winners that were announced on January 13, 2011at a Red Carpet Awards show at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA. Portions of the show were filmed for broadcast and will be on national TV, as well as hulu.com and other sites.

In the meantime, here are the winners in various categories.
From the photos, looks like it was loads of fun!

Best Drink or Beverage Program: Television: Drinking Made Easy with Zane Lamprey (HD Net)
Best Drink or Beverage Program: Web Thirsty Girl TV
Best Food Program: Television Top Chef (Bravo)
Best Food Program: Web CHOW.com
Best Food Travel Series: Television No Reservations (Travel Channel)
Best Food Travel Series: Web Without Borders
The Kikkoman Award for Best Reality Series: Food or Drink Top Chef (Bravo)
Best Food or Drink Video Podcast: Avec Eric (PBS)
Best City or Regional Program: Check Please, Bay Area (PBS/KQED)
Best Branded Program: Cooking.com
Best Newspaper or Magazine Program: Food and Wine Magazine
Best New Series: The Great Food Truck Race (Food Network)
Best Single Topic Series Mexico: One Plate at a Time (PBS)
Best Critic or Review Series: Check Please, Bay Area (PBS/KQED)
Best Green or Organic Program: Chefs A'Field (PBS)
Best Film or Documentary: Eat Pray Love
Best Comedy Series: Jolene Sugarbaker: The Trailer Park Cooking Show
Best Home Chef in a Series:  Food Wishes
Best Chef in a Series: Good Eats (Food Network)
Best Male Host in a Series: Alton Brown (Food Network)
Best Female Host in a Series: Giada De Laurentiis (Food Network)

Here's a link to all the Nominees and other awards

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cocoanut Brownies: Vintage Ad & Recipe

Lately I've been enjoying Vintage Chocolate ads and posters, especially when they include recipes. This one for Cocoanut Golden Brownies is from the 1950s. Unfortunately Welch's Cocoanut Bars are no longer made. The recipe says you can't substitute any other bar; however, that's just a 50s advertising ploy. You can substitute a Mounds Bar. If you like a moister brownie, you can add a little more shortening! The recipe calls for butter or margarine--margarine being very popular in the 50s. I only use butter!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chocolate Oatmeal with Chocolate Chips: National Oatmeal Month

January is National Oatmeal Month, and I can't think of a more fitting food for those of you experiencing yet a second blizzard in the Northeast.

I've posted oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and other oatmeal recipes before, but this easy recipe for Chocolate Oatmeal with Chocolate Chips is healthy, as well as delicious. Oatmeal and chocolate are a wonderful combination, and both are good for lowering bad cholesterol.

I use old fashioned slow cooking Quaker Oats in this recipe, but you can always substitute steel cut oats. Just adjust your measurements.

Chocolate Oatmeal with Chocolate Chips

1 cup milk (you can substitute water)
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (I use Quaker Oats)
2 teaspoons Dark cocoa powder (I use Scharffen Berger)
2 teaspoons sugar (I sometimes use brown sugar)
Dash of Salt
Dark Chocolate Chips

Directions:
1 Heat milk and  pinch of salt in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer.
2 Reduce heat and add oats, cocoa and sugar.
3 Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally until thickened. Consistency is up to you.
4 Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes.5 Remove cover, stir
6 Sprinkle with dark chocolate chips

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nicaraguan Chocolate Milk: National Milk Day

January 11 is National Milk Day, and, of course, it should be Chocolate Milk. On September 27, Chocolate Milk Day, I posted that Chocolate Milk tastes great with a pinch of salt. It makes a big difference in bringing out the flavor of the chocolate.

Today I couldn't help but post the Borden Vintage Ad for Chocolate Milk (Chocolate Drink) that could be served both hot and cold, but it's nothing like the following recipe for Nicaraguan Chocolate Milk!

Want to try something different? This is Myriam Paiz's recipe for Nicaraguan Chocolate Milk that appeared in the April 1994 issue of Sunset. Rice gives the drink body and that with freshly roasted cocoa beans-- chocolate in a more elemental form--adds a fresh, complex flavor. Add to that some cinnamon, and there's a subtle spiciness.

Nicaraguan Chocolate Milk (Orchata de cacao)

1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
2 cups (about 2/3 lb.) cocoa beans
4 cups water
3 cinnamon sticks (each about 3 in.), broken into 1-inch pieces
8 cups whole, low-fat, or nonfat milk
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
1 cup sugar
Ice (optional)

1. Place rice in a bowl, cover with cool water, and let stand to soften somewhat, to 24 hours; drain.
2. Place beans in a 9-inch metal baking dish. Bake in 500 degree oven 5 minutes. Shake beans.  Continue to bake until beans smoke and some skins have split, 5 to 8 minutes longer.
3. In a blender, place half the rice, cocoa beans, water, and cinnamon. Whirl until ingredients are very finely pureed.
4. Place a large, fine strainer over a bowl; pour cocoa mixture into strainer and stir to extract liquid. Discard residue. Repeat with remaining rice, cocoa, water, and cinnamon.
5. Rinse strainer, then line with a double thickness of damp cheesecloth. Pour cocoa liquid through strainer into a bowl, stirring to extract all liquid; discard residue.
6. To cocoa liquid, add milk, vanilla, and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Serve plain or over ice. If making ahead, chill, covered, up to 3 days. Stir to serve Makes about 10 1/2 cups, 10 servings.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thin Mint Cookies from Pattie Tierney

Today I welcome back one of my favorite food bloggers, Pattie Tierney. Pattie and I share a love of mysteries and chocolate!  Be sure and check out her Blogs. Pattie has a passion for family, travel, dining, photography, gardening, making mystery and literary jewelry, and loves all things mysterious! Check out her blog Olla-Podrida for recipes, fabulous food photography and so much more. 

Girl Scout's Beware: You may lose cookie sales with this Thin Mint Clone!

THIN MINT COOKIES FROM PATTIE TIERNEY

Pattie Tierney:

This cookie is so easy to make you won't believe it, and you‚ll spend the rest of your life thanking me for giving you the recipe. Well, maybe you'll thank me just once, but profusely. To illustrate just how easy these are, let me set the scene in which I first prepared them.

It was Christmas night. My husband and I were involved in various preparations for our Boxing Day dinner the following day. He insisted, as usual, in standing in front of me at every turn. He also insisted upon helping me out by offering to make a couple of the sauces I needed for desserts namely caramel (that he burned beyond recognition) and mocha chocolate fudge (that came out just fine). I was trying to ice cookies that I'd made earlier in the day, and melt chocolate to sandwich others together. It was about 2 or 3 in the morning, who knows, really, as by this time it was all a blur; a Rocky marathon was running endlessly in the background, heaven knows why. I was punchy with exhaustion and happy to have finished what needed to be done. But when I looked into my little chocolate melting pan I found at least a cup of melted chocolate still remained. Not one to ever waste chocolate, yet knowing I couldn't put away this much by the spoonful, I remembered a little process my daughter-in-law had told me about wherein Ritz crackers are dipped into melted chocolate that has been flavored with peppermint extract, thoroughly coated, briefly refrigerated, and end up tasting like Thin Mints.

I was leery. Years prior I'd tried Semi-Homemade Sandra Lee's idea of doing this same thing with vanilla wafers. The reaction I got from my oldest son when he tasted one was, "Hey what is this? A vanilla wafer covered with chocolate?" Uh, yep, that's what it is.

Okay, it's worth a try, I thought. I pulled out a sleeve of Ritz crackers, dug out the peppermint extract (and felt fortunate that, first appearance to the contrary, the jar was not empty but had about 1/2 tsp. of extract coating the bottom of the bottle). I poured it into the chocolate, gave it a quick stir and began dropping the crackers into the melted mixture. It was almost too easy. I used a fork to flip them over in order to coat both sides, picked them up with my thumb and index fingers, and gave them a little back-and-forth shake in order to smooth out the top. I plunked them down on a piece of parchment and slid them into my packed fridge. Ten minutes later they were ready, but to add a little seasonal festiveness to an otherwise dullish appearance, I grabbed my bag of Ghirardelli green mint chips, melted about an eighth of a cup in a coffee mug in the microwave, dipped a fork into the mixture and just flung it back and forth over the tops of the cookies. They looked great, people loved them, and so did I!

I don't think there are really any specifics when it comes to amounts. I used a mixture of Ghirardelli semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips and enough mint extract to have the flavor land somewhere between the punch of Listerine and having you just say "Ahhhh."

All in all, chilling time included, I'd say these took me less than half an hour to complete. Leave the additional topping off and you can have a real treat in probably twenty minutes. Imagine! These were so good that I'll never buy a Thin Mint again.

Girl Scout Thin Mint Clone

1 12-oz. bag chocolate chips
3-4 drops peppermint oil
A sleeve of Ritz Crackers

Melt the chocolate over simmering water in the top of a double boiler. Add peppermint oil to taste. Dip crackers, coating well with chocolate, and place onto waxed paper to set.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cocoa Soup: National Soup Month

January is National Soup Month, and my friend Louise over at Months of Edible Celebrations sent me a link to Cocoa Soup. The thickening agent is what makes this a soup and not a steaming hot cup of cocoa. I was amazed to find so many cocoa soup recipes including Black Bean Cocoa Soup. So here are a few recipes to warm you up during January.

Icelandic Cocoa Soup, although it uses potato or cornstarch, is not all that thick. Nevertheless, it has a different texture and taste from regular drinking cocoa. Give it a try. The savory Cocoa Black Bean Soup definitely has a different flavor with the addition of the cocoa.

According to the website Gestgjafinn, Sweet Dessert Soups are common in Iceland and Northern Europe. This unusual desssert soup often surprises visitors to Iceland, who will not encounter it at restaurants but may be served it in private homes.

Icelandic Cocoa Soup

3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups water
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon potato starch or 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch of Salt

Directions:
1 Mix the cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan.
2 Add the water gradually and stir until smooth.
3 Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
4 Add the milk, reheat to boiling point and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
5 Mix the potato starch or cornstarch with a little cold water, stir into soup and remove from heat.
6 Salt to taste and serve.
7. Serve with crushed zwiebacks.

For a more fancy version, use 3 ounces semisweet chocolate instead of the cocoa powder and serve the soup with whipped cream instead of zwiebacks.

Want something savory?

Black Bean Cocoa Soup with Lime Zest

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 large carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cups low-sodium organic vegetable broth
2 tablespoons DARK cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups canned black beans
grated zest of 1 lime

Directions
Place the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the onion. Saute on low heat until onions are caramelized, about 15 minutes.Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and cook for 5 minutes.Add the vegetable stock, cocoa powder, and cumin. Stir well. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the black beans. Add the lime zest. Cook for approximately 20 minutes over low heat.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Elvis!

Today would have been Elvis Presley's 75th Birthday! The King was not a big fan of chocolate, but that didn't stop the commercialization and immortalization of his name in chocolate.

Happy Birthday, Elvis!

We know the King loved Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches, so Reese's came up with a Peanut Butter & Banana Cream candy especially for Elvis fans.



And, in case you like your platters in chocolate, here's a Russell Stover's Milk Chocolate Elvis CD. Not sure if this will fit in your CD player :-)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Oreo Tempura: National Tempura Day

January 7 is National Tempura Day. I've had ice cream tempura in a few local restaurants. Don't think I have the skills or inclination to duplicate that. I've had Fried Oreos, but that's not quite the same and Oreo Tempura. This recipe is from Tastebuds Gourmet Cafe and Flower Shop.  I haven't tried making this yet, but looking at the ingredients, seems like a light-ish tempura batter, and the  photo is divine! Oreo tempura, how can you go wrong?

OREO TEMPURA

Ingredients:
1 package chocolate Oreos (or other sandwich cookies) 

Tempura Batter:
1½ cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
2 extra large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
vegetable oil, for frying

Optional Garnish:
vanilla ice cream
chocolate sauce
chopped almonds or walnuts

1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar baking powder and salt. Whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, mixing only enough to combine.
2. Heat oil in pot, bring to boil.
3. Using a pair of tongs, dip the cookie in the batter. Get a thick coat of batter all over the cookie, With your tongs, dip the battered cookie into the boiling oil and release. The cookie will float to the top and will start to fry. After two minutes, flip over cookie for an additional two minutes. The cookie is ready when the outside is puffed and golden. Remove from oil and pat dry on paper towel.
4. Serve immediately with a scoop of ice cream, drizzle chocolate sauce and garnish with nuts of your choice.

Photo: Tastebuds (but I think the restaurant/website is now KosherStreet)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans: National Bean Day

January 6 is National Bean Day! I know you're thinking garbanzo beans, kidney beans and the like, but for me there are really only two  important beans: chocolate beans and espresso beans! I love Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans... the rich sweetness of the dark chocolate and the crunchiness of the espresso bean. OMG! Depending on how many you eat, you could be wired up for days!

FYI: You can make these with either coffee or espresso beans. The taste will change with the type of chocolate and the type of bean. Experiment with chocolate from different areas, as well as coffee from different parts of the world! However, I'm a big fan of Espresso Beans! I like the contrast and they're really roasted.

CHOCOLATE COVERED ESPRESSO BEANS

1/3 cup roasted espresso beans
1/2 cup dark chocolate, 70%-85 % cacao, organic, fairtrade

Melt chocolate until smooth in a double boiler or in a saucepan over another saucepan with simmering water on the bottom. Drop in a handful of beans and stir around. Lift out with two salad forks (letting extra chocolate drip a little back into the mixture), and set the beans on wax paper (or silpat mat). Keep the beans separated. Continue until all beans are covered and on the paper or mat. Let beans dry completely. They will harden overnight, but you can freeze them for about half an hour, if you can't wait! Once hard, the beans won't stick together. Store in air-tight container.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chocolate Whipped Cream: Recipes for National Whipped Cream Day

Another day, another food holiday. Today is Whipped Cream Day. I've posted lots of recipes that call for whipped cream including chocolate whipped cream for National Cream Puff Day. So today, I wanted to post two more recipes for Chocolate Whipped Cream.

Chocolate Whip Cream is terrific to add to desserts.  It's easy to make and delicious. You can use with just about anything including as an icing or filling (tarts, pies, etc). Just about anything you would use regular whipped cream for, including Strawberry Short Cake!

The first recipe for Chocolate Whipped Cream is from Martha Stewart.   Martha uses chocolate whipped cream for the filling of chocolate sandwich cookies. Fabulous! This first recipe uses Milk Chocolate. You can always switch and use dark chocolate.

I love these Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Chocolate Whipped Cream, and you can use any chocolate cookie recipe!

Before you make either of the following two recipes, have a look. The second Chocolate Whipped Cream Recipe uses a lot more chocolate, and it's dark chocolate. Which you choose depends on what you like and need!

CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM I (from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients
4 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar

Directions
1. Place chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside.
2. Heat sugar and 1 cup cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until sugar has dissolved.
3. Pour cream mixture over chocolate; stir until chocolate has melted. Let cool.
4. Transfer chocolate mixture to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add remaining cup heavy cream and beat on medium speed until thick and fluffy.

How easy is that?

Chocolate Whipped Cream II (from Sherry Yard)

I really love this recipe from Sherry Yard for Chocolate Whipped Cream. It's definitely more of a rich whipped ganache, but then isn't that what it's all about?  Sherry Yard was the executive pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck's Spago in Beverly Hills and shared this recipe on Cookin' with Good Morning America (December 25, 2003). It's also in in her book Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts.

Ingredients
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Directions
1. Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4 inch pieces and place it in a medium heatproof bowl.
2. Bring the cream and the sugar, if using, to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute.
Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl and working out to the sides. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes.
3. Pour the ganache into a medium container, cover it, and refrigerate it for 4 hours or overnight. It should be the consistency of peanut butter.
4. Once the ganache has chilled, transfer it to a large bowl. Using a balloon whisk, whip the ganache by hand until it just reaches soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Be sure to lift the whisk out of the cream with each pass to bring in as much air as possible. Do not overwhip. Don't worry if the cream doesn't seem firm enough. It will have the consistency of mustard but will solidify a little more after it sets in the refrigerator. You can also use a hand mixer.
5. Use this cream immediately to fill pastries, tarts, and cakes. After the dessert is filled, refrigerate it for about 1 hour to set the Chocolate Whipped Cream.

Photo: Martha Stewart

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Don't you just love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups? I like this Vintage 1950s Reese's Peanut Butter Cup advertisement.  I've posted other recipes that use Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. See the Vintage Ad for Frozen Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Reese's Banana Pops I posted on December 7, 2010.

So today, besides this Vintage Ad, I'm posting a fabulous no fail recipe that's adapted from Peggy Lynn's recipe (March 31, 2005) on Food.com.  This recipe was originally based on one from the Ruggles Grill in Houston. You will need to cook this cheesecake a bit longer than the original recipe directions (I've made the change). Make sure the cheesecake is cooked through. I also use fewer oreos in the crust or you'll have a lot left over. Adding the peanuts to the crust is a fabulous addition! I often leave off off the sour cream topping, but I'm including it in the recipe below, in case you want to try! You could always add a chocolate ganache as a topping. Just a thought.

Decorating the top of the cheesecake: I'm a purist, but you can add pieces of Reese's on the top or drizzle with chocolate or sprinkle with peanuts... whatever!

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Ingredients

For the Crust
4 cups crushed Oreos
1 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1/2 cup sweet butter, melted

For the Filling
2 lbs cream cheese, softened
5 eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 Reese's Peanut Butter cups, broken into pieces (maybe 4 per piece/your preference?)

(Optional) For the Topping
3 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup sugar

Plan ahead--cheesecake needs to chill for at least 4 hours. 

To Make the Crust:
1. Combine crushed Oreo cookies and peanuts that have been ground in a food processor with the melted butter.
2. Pat the crust mixture onto bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.

To Make the Filling:
1. Beat cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer until smooth.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Add sugar, peanut butter and cream; mix until smooth.
4. Stir in vanilla, then fold in peanut butter cup pieces with a rubber spatula.
5. Pour filling into prepared crust.
6. Place springform pan into a larger baking pan.
7. Pour hot water into the larger pan so that the water comes 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan.
8.  Bake at 275°F almost 2 hours (check at 1 hour 45--keep checking if not done in 2 hours), or until firm (but slightly springy--it will firm up a bit as it cools) and lightly browned.

(Optional) For the Topping:
1. Combine the sour cream and sugar and spread on the cheesecake.
2. Return the cake to the oven for 5 minutes.

9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for one hour.
10. You may run a knife along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan.
11. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Photo: Vintage 50's Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Advertisement

Monday, January 3, 2011

National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day: Chocolate Covered Cherries

Today is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day. When I was growing up, I always wanted the chocolate covered cherry in the Whitman Sampler Box. As I remember they were usually covered with milk chocolate, but I'm a dark chocolate fan. Here are two simple and easy recipes for Chocolate Covered Cherries to celebrate the day. If you don't have fresh cherries --well it's winter here in the Bay Area, and I like to buy local produce--you can use maraschino cherries. Just be sure to dry the maraschino cherries thoroughly. If you're using the maraschino cherries, save the juice from the jar to make the Chocolate Covered Cherry Cocktail at the end of this post! Either of these recipes would be great for Valentine's Day, so bookmark this page!

Chocolate Covered Cherries

Personally I like dark chocolate with cherries, but if you're a milk chocolate fan, go for it! As always, use the very best quality, organic, fair trade chocolate!  Hint: If the melted chocolate starts to harden  before you’re done dipping, put it into the microwave for a few seconds and then give it a good stir.

8 ounces of semi-sweet dark chocolate
1/2  pound of fresh, sweet cherries  (* for maraschino cherries, see below)

Wash and dry cherries.
Line a platter with parchment or wax paper.
Melt the chocolate in the top of a doubleboiler or in a saucepan over a saucepan that has boiling water (turned down when you add the chocolate).
Stir the chocolate constantly until it is completely melted and smooth.
Remove the chocolate from the heat.
Grab each cherry by its stem and dip into the chocolate. Swirl the cherry clockwise, coating the bottom 3/4.  It's always nice to see the cherry showing at the top.
Place the cherry on the parchment paper covered platter.
Repeat with the remaining cherries.
Place platter in refrigerator until chocolate hardens.
If not eating right away, put chocolate covered cherries in a covered container and keep them in the refrigerator for a few days.

You can use  the above recipe with maraschino cherries. Just be sure and dry the cherries thoroughly before dipping.

Feel like something alcoholic to celebrate National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day? Try this. Yum!

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cocktail

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add 1/2 ounce Bailey's, 1/2 ounce Kahlua. Add a few drops maraschino cherry juice. Shake. Strain into another glass with ice. Add a Chocolate Covered Maraschino Cherry for garnish!
 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chocolate Cream Puffs: National Cream Puff Day

Today is National Cream Puff Day. Cream puffs are so easy to make, and there are so many ways to make them special. You can make a Croquembuche that elaborate structure that is so popular at the holidays here and abroad.  It's really just a triangular stack of cream puffs drizzled with chocolate or spun sugar. You can stuff Cream Puffs with all manner of sweet and savory fillings.

The Cream Puff is a very versatile pastry and so simple to make! Basically it's a baked puffed shell of choux pastry. There are many different recipes, but following is a basic recipe for Cream Puffs and another non-traditional recipe for Chocolate Cream Puffs. I posted a different Chocolate Cream Puff recipe on the Croquembuche post last year, and you might want to try that one, too.

CREAM PUFFS

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour (some people use bread flour and that will really give these a different taste and texture, give it a try)
4 eggs

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425.
1. In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil.
2. Stir in flour and salt until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl.
3. Using a wooden spoon or mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.
4. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
6. When the shells are cool,  split and fill.

Chocolate Cream Filling

Ingredients 
14 ounces chocolate (65-85% cacao), finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Instructions

1. Place the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler over simmering water in lower saucepan (or in a double boiler). Stir just until the chocolate melts, then remove from the heat.
2. Pour cream into a bowl. Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat until soft peaks form. Add the 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, about 20 seconds.
3. Pour all of the melted chocolate into the whipped cream quickly, and continue to mix on high speed until evenly combined, about 1 minute.
4. Place the chocolate cream in a clean pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe into the bottoms of the cooled cream puffs. Replace the tops on the filled bottoms and serve immediately. Alternatively, spoon the cream onto the bottoms being careful not to put too much. Of course, it looks pretty when it's piped!
***

Or you can make Chocolate Cream Puffs. The following recipe adds cocoa to a traditional cream puff recipe. Stuff with sweetened whipped cream. You don't need to add the sugar in the cream puff recipe, but I find the chocolate cream puffs taste a little better since there's no sugar in the cocoa. Of course, you could try this recipe with sweetened cocoa. Let me know what you think if you do that.

CHOCOLATE CREAM PUFFS

Ingredients
1 cup water
1/2 cup sweet butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons sugar
4 eggs

Instructions
Preheat Oven to 400
1. Combine flour, cocoa and sugar in a small bowl.
2. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring water, butter and salt to a boil.
3. Stir in the flour, cocoa, sugar mixture, until a smooth ball forms. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth and shiny.
5. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls (golf ball size) 3 inches apart onto greased (or parchment lined) baking sheets.
6. Bake (in middle of oven) at 400 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until set and browned.
7. Remove to wire racks. Let cool before splitting. Cool puffs completely before filling with whipped Cream, Ice Cream, or whatever!