Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chanukah Mashmallow Dreidels

You don't have to be Jewish to make these fabulous Chocolate Marshmallow Dreidels. A Dreidel is a four-sided spinning tops with a Hebrew letter on each side. During Chanukah (Hanukah, Hanukkah), children play a  game that involves spinning the dreidel and betting on which Hebrew letter will show when the dreidel stops spinning. Children usually play for a pot of 'gelt' -- chocolate coins covered in gold colored foil.

You won't be spinning these tops unless you want chocolate all over the floor, but making these Chocolate Marshmallow Dreidels is a fun activity to do with children.

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe for Chocolate Marshmallow Dreidels. If you want to take it up a notch, make your own marshmallows or buy some high end marshmallows made with natural ingredients such as those from Recchiuti. I usually use whatever dark chocolate I have, but you can use any great organic fair-trade chocolate. For the white chocolate I used Green & Black's White Chocolate that's made with Madagascar vanilla. I also used Paul Newman's Own Organic pretzel sticks. They were a bit long, so I snapped them in half.

Apologies for the poor caligraphy. Practice makes perfect, and I'm very out of practice. :-)

CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOW DREIDELS

Ingredients
12 chocolate kisses (I use Hershey's Kisses)
8 ounces melted dark chocolate
12 marshmallows (homemade or whatever you have)
12 thin pretzel sticks (I use Newman's Own)
2 ounces melted white chocolate (I use Green & Black)

Directions 
1. Dip bottom of chocolate kiss in melted semisweet chocolate. Press onto marshmallow; transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat to make 12 dreidels. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
 2. Cut small slit in bottom of each marshmallow (spray your scissors with PAM); insert 1 thin pretzel stick. Dip dreidels in dark chocolate, and return to baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.
3. Fill plastic bag or pastry bag with melted white chocolate; cut a tiny opening in corner, and pipe Hebrew letters onto 3 sides of each dreidel. I used a pastry bag with a tip, but I should have practiced a bit first so I wouldn't have any drips.
4. Refrigerate at least 5 minutes or up to 8 hours before serving.

Friday, November 29, 2013

BLACK FRIDAY CAKE

Today is National Cake Day, and as Black Friday sales have already begun--in the stores and online, I thought I'd post this great recipe for Black Friday Cake. You'll be the first in line! It's easy to make and delicious to eat. Don't be put off by the thin batter.. it will work!

Ever wonder about the origin of the term Black Friday? Black Friday is traditionally the Friday after Thanksgiving when millions of people in the U.S. start their holiday shopping!

There are many stories about the origins of the term Black Friday. In the 1950s, some factory managers referred to the day after Thanksgiving as "Black Friday" because so many workers called in sick. The day, noted one industrial magazine, was "a disease second only to the bubonic plague" in its effects on employees. In the 1960s, police in Philadelphia complained about the congested streets, clogged with motorists and pedestrians out shopping, calling it “Black Friday.” By the mid 1970s, newspapers in and around Philadelphia used it to refer to the start of holiday shopping. But its usage also has negative associations. In the1980s, some enterprising merchants turned it around. They pointed out tthat there was a "black ink" that showed up on balance sheets as a result of the day. “Black” refers to stores moving from the “red” to the “black,” back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit--a short hop to the idea that Black Friday was the day when retailers came out of the red and went into the black by beginning to turn a profit.

As retailers began to realize they could draw big crowds by discounting prices, Black Friday became the day to shop, with lots of bargains. Black Friday is a long day, with stores opening at 9 p.m. the night before or 3 am. in the morning on the actual Friday. It's just amazing to me that hordes of people stand in line for items they may or may not need, just because it's a bargain. For those of you who don't want to stand in an actual line, there are plenty of Black Friday sales online.

Planning to be at the stores Friday morning/Thursday night? Bring some chocolate to give you energy throughout the day. At home in your jammies shopping online? You'll have plenty of time to make and enjoy this delicious Black Friday Cake! This is an adaptation of the original Hershey's Black Magic Cake.

BLACK FRIDAY CAKE

Ingredients 
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups DARK cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee, cooled
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract

CHOCOLATE FROSTING
1/2 cup sweet butter, softened
2 oz melted very dark or unsweetened chocolate, cooled
3 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
2 tsp Madagascar vanilla

Directions
Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in large mixing bowl or stand mixer.
Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.
Beat at medium speed for two minutes. Batter is thin.
Pour batter into greased and floured 9x13 pan or two 9 inch cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees 35-40 minutes for 9x13, or 30-35 minutes for layer pans.
Combine frosting ingredients and mix with hand or stand mixer.
Spread frosting on cooled cakes.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

MASHED POTATO CHOCOLATE CAKE: THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS

If you're like me, you'll have a lot of Thanksgiving leftovers. I posted a recipe for Turkey Mole to use up the leftover turkey, but here's another great recipe for those delicious leftover mashed potatoes. This Mashed Potato Chocolate Cake recipe is easy and absolutely delicious. WARNING: This recipe won't work if you seasoned your potatoes with herbs or garlic. Mashed potatoes with butter or cream or cream cheese will work perfectly.

In case you want to make this as its own dish (not using leftovers), try the recipe I posted for White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes.

I've never met a potato I didn't like!

MASHED POTATO CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients
4 oz. dark chocolate (65-75% cacao)
1 cup sweet butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. Madagascar or Mexican vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 ounces dark chocolate chopped into chunks (or chocolate chips)

Directions
Melt chocolate with vanilla; cool slightly.
Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.
In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar and beat in eggs, one by one.
Add chocolate and mashed potatoes.
Beat in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk.
Fold in dark chocolate chips or chunks.
Pour into greased 13x9 x 2 inch pan (or Bundt Pan) and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey Mole

If you don't plan to give away leftover turkey tomorrow, you might want to make Turkey Mole! I make this Quick Turkey Mole with Taza Chocolate Mexicano or their Chipotle Chili Chocolate Mexicano, but any good chocolate will work!

So here's a Quick Mole recipe adapted from Paula Deen's Quick Chicken Mole. Perfect with Turkey.

Quick Turkey Mole

Ingredients
2 Tbsp good quality olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 chipotle peppers, roughly chopped
1 (10-ounce) can chicken broth
2 Tbsp peanut butter
4 ounces Taza Chocolate Mexicano, chopped
Leftover Turkey
Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), for garnish

Directions
Heat oil in heavy saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic and spices and continue to saute to toast and develop flavor. Add diced tomatoes, peppers, chipotles, broth, peanut butter, and chocolate. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and puree until smooth.

Take left over Turkey and either add to oven friendly saute pan or put in another pot and then cover with the Mole sauce. Braise in 350 oven for 45 minutes. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

HERSHEY'S 'PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE CAKE

Photo: Hershey's
Today is National Cake Day and what better cake to make than Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake? It always works, and it's rich and chocolatey! I often say there are great recipes to be found on 'product' websites, and when you're talking chocolate, Hershey's is a go-to site.

What's so great about this cake is that it lends itself to so many variations. See below!

HERSHEY'S 'PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE CAKE

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

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

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

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

VARIATIONS on HERSHEY'S 'PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE CAKE: 

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 25, 2013

Double Layer Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Pie: Thanksgiving

I posted this recipe for Double Layer Chocolate Mousse Pumpkin Pie in October for Canadian Thanksgiving, but it's so good it should be posted again for U.S. Thanksgiving! This recipe comes from the Dairy Farmers of Canada website Dairy Goodness.

So here's a fabulous Double Layer Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Pie for the Thanksgiving table because you can never have too many desserts.

Double Layer Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Pie

Ingredients

Crust:
1-1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (chocolate wafers that have been crushed)
1/4 cup sweet butter, melted

Chocolate Ganache Layer:
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp sweet butter, softened
1 cup 35% whipping cream

Pumpkin Layer:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup thick whipping cream
Whipped cream, to garnish
Freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Crust:
In bowl, combine chocolate cookie crumbs and butter until moistened and pat evenly into bottom and up side of 10-inch deep pie plate. Bake in preheated 350 °F oven for about 10 minutes or until firm. Let cool.

Chocolate Ganache Layer:
Place chocolate and butter in bowl. In small saucepan bring cream to boil. Pour over chocolate and let stand for 1 minute. Slowly whisk chocolate until melted and smooth. Gently pour into cooled crust. Place in refrigerator for about 1 hour or until set.

Pumpkin Layer:
Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat Cream Cheese and Sugar until fluffy. Beat in pumpkin, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger and cloves until smooth.

Whip cream. Fold half of cream into pumpkin mixture until light. Fold in remaining whipped cream until well combined. Spread over top of chocolate layer and smooth top. Refrigerate for about 2 hours or until set and firm. (If you make ahead: you can cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)

Garnish with whipped cream and nutmeg before serving.

Photo: Dairy Farmers of Canada

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Sides: White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes

Yesterday, I posted two different recipes for Spicy Chocolate Turkey Rubs for Thanksgiving. Here's my go-to recipe for a Chocolate Side Dish -- White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes. These potatoes are not sweet because white chocolate --real white chocolate -- is not really chocolate. White chocolate has a lot of cocoa butter in it, so these potatoes will be rich. The white chocolate takes the place of butter in a 'normal' recipe. I've changed fat free milk to regular milk, because let's face it.. I love the fat. You can even use cream! Make sure you use pure white chocolate made from cocoa butter and not those fake white chocolate disks or you'll have a tasteless mess. Want to make these a bit spicy? Add a few dashes of hot sauce when you add the salt.

Happy Thanksgiving!

White Chocolate Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients
3 lbs yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled
1-1/2 ounces white chocolate, chopped (make sure it's pure white chocolate made from cocoa butter and not just a hydrogenated shortening)
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup milk

Directions
Cook potatoes in large pot. Cover with cold water and bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender (25 minutes). Drain in colander set in sink (completely.. the less starch, the flufflier the potatoes) and return potatoes to pot. Add white chocolate to hot potatoes; stir until white chocolate starts to melt. Stir in salt.

Use electric mixer at medium-low speed to mash potatoes slightly. Pour in milk (or cream) and continue mixing until smooth, about 1 minute. Serve hot.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Spicy Chocolate Turkey Rub: Thanksgiving Barbecued Turkey

We barbecue turkey all year long, so it's not surprising that we barbecue the turkey for Thanksgiving. I love the smokiness and flavor that the barbecue brings to the bird. Barbecuing the turkey also leaves the ovens free for all those side dishes and pies.

Three years ago we started barbecuing our turkeys with spicy chocolate rubs. Here are two great recipes. We've made some adaptations, but the first recipe is for Spicy Chocolate Rub Recipe is adapted from  The BBQ Report.  Just combine everything in the Cuisinart until finely ground and pat on turkey.

This recipe is for chicken, so if you're planning a 20 lb. turkey, you'll need to increase the amounts.

SPICY CHOCOLATE RUB

Ingredients
1 cup natural unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tsp dried red pepper flakes, chopped fine
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 Tbsp granulated sugar

**
Want to get a little more sophisticated with the Rub? Kunde Family Estates (great wines to accompany your turkey) has a recipe for BBQ Turkey with Ancho Chile/Chocolate Rub. This recipe includes brining the turkey first. If you buy a kosher turkey it will already be brined. This recipe is for a 12-16 pound turkey, so if yours is bigger than that, you'll need to adjust the measurements.

ANCHO CHILE CHOCOLATE RUB

Ingredients
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp chile powder
1 Tbsp unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. chipotle chile powder
2 tbsp. softened butter

Directions

In small bowl, combine all dry rub ingredients. Mix well. In another small bowl, mash butter together with 2 Tbsp rub – set aside.

Place turkey in large roasting pan. With fingers, gently loosen the skin over breast meat and insert butter/rub under skin; gently rub over breast meat. Rub the outside of bird well with olive oil; then sprinkle generously inside and out with rub. Loosely pack  cavity with lemon and orange slices. Tie drumsticks together with kitchen string. Place in refrigerator and let sit; uncovered, 5 – 6 hours, or until ready to cook.

When ready to cook, prepare grill. If using charcoal grill, prepare for indirect cooking. For gas grills, heat to medium high. Put turkey in roasting pan on grill; add 2 cups water; cover. Turn all gas setting to low. Grill-roast turkey, basting with pan juices and rotating pan 180 degrees every hour, for 3 hours. (If using charcoal grill, add briquettes or mesquite every hour to maintain an even temperature). After 3 hours, insert instant-read thermometer in fleshy part of inner thigh to check for doneness. Thigh meat should register 175° F and the juices should run clear when thigh is pierced. If not done, cover and continue to cook; checking every 20 minutes for doneness.

When done, transfer turkey to a heated platter, cover loosely with foil and allow to sit for 20 minutes before carving.

Does Chocolate have a place at your Thanksgiving Table this year?

Friday, November 22, 2013

CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE: Round up & 2 Easy Recipes

I love a good Pecan Pie at Thanksgiving. Since I add chocolate to just about everything, Chocolate Pecan Pie is one of my favorites. Want to Drink Your Chocolate Pecan Pie? Check out this recipe for a Chocolate Pecan Pie Cocktail.

Here's a Mini Round-up of Recipes for Chocolate Pecan Pie. Be sure and check out the following Chocolate Pecan Pie Recipes before making your decision of which to make for Thanksgiving (or any time!) And, if you don't have a lot of time, I've added two Easy Chocolate Pecan Pie recipes below.

Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie for Mardi Gras
Kentucky Derby Chocolate Pecan Pie
Kentucky Derby Bourbon Chocolate Pie
Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
Fudge Brownie Pecan Pie
Kentucky Chocolate-Nut Pie Mix in a Jar  

1. EASY CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE 

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups sugar
Dash of Salt
4 Tbsp unsweetened DARK cocoa
2 large eggs
1/2 Tbsp Madagascar vanilla
1/2 can (6 ounces) evaporated milk
4 Tbsp sweet butter
3/4 cup toasted pecan halves
1 unbaked deep dish pie shell (make yourself or prepared--prepared is faster!)

Directions
Mix sugar, salt, and cocoa together.
Whisk together eggs, vanilla, and milk; stir into dry ingredients.
Add melted butter and stir until totally blended.
Sprinkle toasted pecan halves in pie shell.
Pour filling over pecans.
Bake at 350° for 45 to 55 minutes, or until filling is set and center is just slightly jiggly (don't overbake).

2. EASY CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE

Ingredients
1 unbaked pie shell (I like Trader Joe's pie dough, but you can make your own or buy another)
3 eggs
1 cup light or dark corn syrup
1 cup sugar (can be 1/2 brown & 1/2 granulated)
2 Tbsp sweet butter
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup Pecans
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or 4 ounces chopped dark chocolate

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter, salt and vanilla in large bowl using spoon (not in mixer). Fold in pecans and chocolate.
Pour into pie shell.
Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until top is slightly puffy.
Cool completely before serving.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

CHOCOLATE GINGERBREAD: 1919 Vintage Ad & Recipe

According to The Nibble today is National Gingerbread Day, but June 5 is also designated as National Gingerbread Day. I think today is more in keeping with Gingerbread Day. (Just an FYI, December 12 is Gingerbread House Day). I associate Gingerbread with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fall/Winter season in general. That being said, I hate to miss posting a chocolate holiday recipe, so I know you'll like this recipe for "Chocolate Gingerbread" from 1919 Crisco Advertisement.

I grew up with Crisco, and I still use it in many recipes. Crisco was introduced by Procter & Gamble in 1911 to provide an economical alternative to animal fats and butter. Crisco was the first solidified shortening product made entirely of vegetable oil. This was the result of hydrogenation, a new process that produced shortening that would stay in solid form year-round, regardless of temperature.

I love that the Crisco Cookbook in this Advertisement was only 25 cents! Check out this recipe for Chocolate Gingerbread Cake. Gingerbread season is almost upon us. Get Baking!



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

EXTRA NUTTY PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE BROWNIES

Today is National Peanut Butter Fudge Day! I've posted recipes for Peanut Butter Fudge, but today I'd like to change it up a bit with this easy recipe for Extra Nutty Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies adapted from a Pillsbury recipe. I don't usually use boxed mixes, but this is a good recipe. Of course you can make your own brownies and just add the layer of peanut butter fudge and 1/2 cup chopped peanuts. I've adapted the recipe a bit.. I really like the clean salty taste of plain roasted peanuts, rather than the recommended honey-roasted peanuts. I also add chocolate chips to the recipe and cut down on the peanut butter chips.

Have a Peanut Buttery Day!

EXTRA NUTTY PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE BROWNIES!

Ingredients
2 (15.8 oz) pkg. fudge brownie mix with chocolate syrup
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
 2 eggs
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
7 ounces peanut butter chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Directions
Heat oven to 350°F. Spray with nonstick cooking spray or grease bottom only of 13x9-inch pan.
In large bowl, combine brownie mixes, chocolate pouches from mixes, oil, water and eggs; beat 50 strokes with spoon. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour about half of batter into sprayed pan.
In large saucepan, combine condensed milk, peanut butter chips and peanut butter; cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until chips and peanut butter are melted, stirring constantly.
Spoon and spread peanut butter mixture over batter. Drop remaining half of batter over peanut butter layer.
Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.
Bake at 350°F. for 35 to 40 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan.
DO NOT OVERBAKE. 
Cool 2 hours.
Refrigerate 1-1/2 hours or until completely cooled before serving.
Cut into bars.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PIE

Photo: Annemarie Kostyk
Thanksgiving is coming up, and what's Thanksgiving without Pumpkin Pie?

I've posted several recipes for Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, but this is one of the best and easiest! This is from my friend Annmarie Kostyk, the Chocolate Goddess.

I love making this Easy Chocolate Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving, but I make a Chocolate Crust. I can never have enough chocolate! :-)

CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PIE

Ingredients
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 can pumpkin (16 oz.)
1 unbaked pie shell  (or make a chocolate cookie crust)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup half and half
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup dark chocolate (chopped), melted with 1 tablespoon butter

Directions
Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin in a medium bowl. Mix well.
Add eggs.
Stir in half and half and chocolate.
Mix thoroughly and pour into pie shell.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake about 40 minutes longer, until custard tests done.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Murder on the Orient Espresso Martini

My mystery and chocolate worlds collide again. Today I welcome Sandra BalzoSandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including nine books in two different mystery series from Severn House--the Maggy Thorsen Coffeehouse Mysteries and Main Street Murders, set in the High Country of North Carolina. A Wisconsin native, Sandy now splits her time between South Florida and North Carolina. In this post, Sandy tells us about her latest novel and gives a recipe for a Murder on the Orient Espresso Martini.

Sandra Balzo:
Murder on the Orient Espresso

I love classic mysteries. Suspects trapped in an isolated country house. Or the premise of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, a train stranded during blizzard conditions. The locked-room puzzle, with nature providing the lock. As a longtime Christie fan, I can't believe it took me eight books in my Maggy Thorsen mystery series to come up with the title, Murder on the Orient Espresso. As my kids would say, 'Duh.'

In Espresso, Wisconsin coffeehouse owner Maggy accompanies her main squeeze, Sheriff Jake Pavlik, to South Florida, where he's been asked to speak at a crime-writers' conference. Maggy is anticipating a romantic arrival in their hotel suite, but the couple is expected to attend a preliminary event: an excursion by train into the Everglades--a subtropical wetland of sawgrass marshes, scrub trees and mangrove swamps covering more than three thousand square miles--to re-enact Christie's own classic.

Dropping their suitcases in their postponed love nest, Maggy and Pavlik are hustled off to the departure station. In keeping with the conference's 'Murder on the Orient Espresso' theme and a limited budget, this inaugural train ride will feature a cash bar, caffeine-infused martinis and a sheet cake shaped like the fictional murder victim, serving knife plunged into his icing-covered chest.

Like Dame Agatha's novel, Espresso has a diagram of our fictional train, but I've also included a 'playbill,' pairing my characters with the Christie roles they play. My cast includes a gaggle of aspiring writers of varying talents and ambition, a literary agent and two guests of honor--womanizing reviewer Laurence Potter, who will play Hercule Poirot, with legendary suspense author Rosemary Darlington in the role of Mary Debenham. Darlington has just released her first novel in five years, an erotic romp which Potter absolutely eviscerated in a recent review.

Driven by an unseen engineer, the train chugs into the Everglades. Populated by native alligators, invasive pythons and even the occasional crocodile, this desolate "sea of grass" was transected east to west by only two routes until I built, however ineptly, my fictional railroad bed across it.

Soon--no surprise--things begin to fall apart on the train. Laurence Potter's wife, a cunning stowaway, suddenly appears. A raging storm rattles the cars with hurricane-force wind and torrential rain. Rumors of infidelity and stolen manuscripts abound. One guest of honor passes out after chasing Dramamine with an espresso martini, and the other goes missing. That cake knife disappears and the train slams to a stop, as though the locomotive hit a brick wall.

But what lurks outside the cars makes the interior drama seem like a tea party. Or at least a coffee klatch.

As you can probably tell, I had great fun writing Murder on the Orient Espresso. It's my hope you'll enjoy coming along for the ride.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Murder on the Orient Espresso Martini

1 1/2 shots vodka
1 shot Kahlua
1/2 shot crème de cacao
1 shot cold espresso

Into a shaker filled with ice, pour the vodka, Kahlua, crème de cacao and espresso. Shake well and serve in a martini glass. If desired, top with whipped cream. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

PUMPKIN PIE TRUFFLES: PUMPKIN TRUFFLES

Socola Pumpkin Burnt Caramel Truffles
I was a Judge at the Fall Chocolate Salon in San Francisco last weekend, and it should come as no surprise that with Thanksgiving coming up, there were a lot of Pumpkin Truffles to taste. Some were heavy on the 'pumpkin pie' spices, but some were very delicate with a combination of burnt caramel (Socola Chocolates Pumpkin Burnt Caramel Chocolate Truffles) or smooth 'unrobed' Pumpkin Spice Milk Chocolate Truffles from Neo Cocoa.

I think that there is nothing quite like a good Pumpkin Pie Truffle for the Thanksgiving feast or as a hostess gift (how retro is that?) or for yourself. Luckily you have the choice of buying them or making them. They're easy to make, but I am also quite fond of the See's Candies Pumpkin Pie Truffle. Seasonal flavors are popping up in chocolate shops everywhere. Check out your local chocolatier or check other chocolate companies that make seasonal Pumpkin Truffles listed at the end of this post. Get your order in before they run out.

***

I always have natural pumpkin in the cupboard. Besides using it for pies, truffles and cakes, it's great for doggie upset stomachs. I also have Libby's pumpkin puree because I grew up with it, and sometimes it's just what I want. I'm not much for making my own pumpkin puree. Lazy, I guess.

Truffles are so simple to make. The following recipe is from FoodNetwork for Easy Pumpkin Truffles. They are just that--easy and delicious. But in case you want to experiment, I've added some links to other Pumpkin Truffle and Pumpkin Pie Truffle recipes.

Easy Pumpkin Truffles

Ingredients
1 cup pumpkin puree
See's Pumpkin Pie Truffles
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground gloves
2 cups cream
1 pound dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 ounce sweet butter, room temperature
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
6 ounces melted dark chocolate
3 ounces cocoa powder

Directions
In medium saucepan over low heat, combine pumpkin, brown sugar and spices. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until mixture reduces by half and pumpkin looks dry. Set aside.
In medium saucepan over high heat, add cream. When cream boils, take off heat.
In heatproof medium bowl, add chocolate and hot cream. Let mixture sit for minute, then slowly begin to stir, starting in center of bowl and working outwards.
Once chocolate and cream are evenly mixed, add pumpkin mixture and whisk to combine.
Add butter and liqueur, if using.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
On parchment lined cookie sheet, scoop mixture into small balls using melon baller.
Place in refrigerator for 1 hour, or until chilled.
Remove truffles from refrigerator and dip each in melted chocolate.
Roll in cocoa powder and serve.  (Add some orange sprinkles for color*)

Other fun Pumpkin Truffle Recipes to check out:

Pumpkin Pie Truffles from Cake, Batter, and Bowl: Robed in orange white chocolate with insides of dark chocolate pumpkin ganache. Love the walnut half as a pumpkin stem.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles from The Yummy Mummy: White chocolate, gingersnaps, cream cheese and more. What's not to love?

Pumpkin Pie Truffles from Shugarysweets: Pumpkin-y centers robed in white chocolate.

Pumpkin Truffles from Cara's Cravings. Yum!

No time to make Truffles? Try these fabulous Pumpkin Truffles:

Socola: Pumpkin Burnt Caramel Chocolate Truffles: A rich blend of pumpkin pie spices, burnt caramel, Hawaiian sea salt and a splash of brandy.

Neo Cocoa: Pumpkin Spice Milk Chocolate Truffles. Infused with classic blend of spices traditionally used in making pumpkin pie. I love these smooth ganache shell-less truffles.

Coco Delice Pumpkin Spice Chocolates: Made with a ganache of white chocolate, pumpkin puree, and seasonal spices, enrobed in dark chocolate.

Godiva: Pumpkin Patch Truffles filled with creamy pumpkin-spice ganache and enrobed in milk chocolate.

See's Pumpkin Pie Truffles: Sweet spicy flavors of cinnamon and allspice combine with the rich mellowness of real pumpkin in these one-of-a-kind Truffles. Enrobed in See's traditional milk chocolate.

Friday, November 15, 2013

National Bundt Cake Day: Chocolate Pumpkin Marble Bundt Cake

Photo: Sunset Magazine
Love all these food holidays! Today is National Bundt Cake Day. According to Nordic Ware, the original makers of the Bundt Pan, "If there is a kitchen in the home, there is a Bundt pan." Even if there's not, I think my kitchen makes up the difference. I have all kinds of bundt pans. I find the shapes so versatile and fun. I'm always buying unique bundt pans at the flea market or White Elephant Sale. Because of the popularity of the Bundt pan, Nordic Ware designated November 15 as National Bundt Day 7 years ago.

"Today, there are nearly 60 million Bundt pans in kitchens across the continent," says David Dalquist, President of Nordic Ware, and son of the company's co-founders. "Almost a Bundt pan in every pantry... the cultural embrace of The Bundt is now seen as a uniquely American phenomenon.

Here are some Nordic Ware Pumpkin Bundt Pans for the Holidays:


Nordic Ware: Great Pumpkin Bundt Pan
And in keeping with the National Bundt Day Holiday Spirit, here's a recipe from Sunset Magazine (Charity Ferreira: 2003) for Chocolate Pumpkin Marble Bundt Cake. This marbled bundt cake features two separate batters: chocolate and pumpkin. The original recipe calls for a chocolate glaze, but that's optional. The cake is rich enough as it is.

CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN MARBLE BUNDT CAKE

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (3/4 lb) sweet butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin (I use an all natural canned pumpkin)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup buttermilk

Directions
1. In large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Add eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Scrape half mixture into another bowl.
2. To make pumpkin batter: Beat pumpkin into half the butter mixture until well blended. In another bowl, stir together 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and beat on low speed or fold in with flexible spatula just until blended.
3. To make chocolate batter: In another bowl, mix remaining 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cocoa. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the other half of the butter mixture (starting and ending with flour mixture), beating after each addition just until blended.
4. Spoon half the pumpkin batter into a buttered and floured 12-cup bundt-cake pan. Drop half the chocolate batter by spoonfuls over (but not entirely covering) the pumpkin batter. Repeat to spoon remaining pumpkin and chocolate batters into pan. Gently run the blade of a butter knife around the center of the pan several times, then draw the knife across the width of the pan in 10 to 12 places to swirl batters.
5. Bake in 350° regular or 325° convection oven until wood skewer inserted into center of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cake cool 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto rack, lift off pan, and cool cake completely.
Nordic Ware: Turkey Bundt Pan

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CHOCOLATE COVERED POMEGRANATE SEEDS: How to De-Seed a Pomegranate

It's National Pomegranate Month, and the Pomegranates are at the Farmers Market. I love their tart/sweet taste, and I've been putting them in my salad every day for the past month or so. If you're like me, when you were growing up, you had pomegranates once a year, mainly because of the time it took to de-seed them. There were various methods, but basically you picked each seed out, one by one. Because pomegranates have become a 'health' food, you can now buy just the seeds just about everywhere. But I love having the actual fruit around, and that's why I fell in love with the 'wooden stick method' of de-seeding pomegranates. Watch the video from NaturalMarketer below.

So what can you do with pomegranate seeds? Cover them with dark chocolate! Rich sweet dark chocolate goes very well with the tart pomegranate flavor, and the textures meld well. Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds make a great Fall snack, and you'll enjoy the benefits of both sources of antioxidants. 

DARK CHOCOLATE COVERED POMEGRANATE SEEDS

Ingredients
Pomegranate Seeds
About 7 ounces (depending how many seeds you have) of good quality Dark Chocolate, chopped

Directions
1. Line cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper.
2. Melt dark chocolate in double boiler or saucepan on top of saucepan of simmering water. Stir to make surechocolate doesn't burn.
3. Add dry pomegranate seeds (so if they've been in the refrigerator make sure to dry them) to melted chocolate and fold gently with rubber spatula until seeds are thoroughly covered.
4. Spoon clusters of mixture onto wax or parchment paper.
5. Place wax or parchment papered cookie sheet in refrigerator and let chocolate covered seeds cool for several hours or overnight.
Keep refrigerated. Will last 3-4 days.

Check out this Awesome Video from NaturalMarketer on How To De-Seed a Pomegranate (without the bowl of water)! Once you watch this and follow his directions, you'll never go back!!! I'm hooked!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chocolate Persimmon Bread Pudding

The other day I saw these beautiful persimmons at the Farmers' Market, and it got me thinking. I don't think I've ever posted a Chocolate Persimmon recipe. I love persimmons. My favorites are Fuyu Persimmons.

Because I love Persimmon Bread Pudding, I thought I'd post this delicious and easy recipe adapted from Whole Foods for Chocolate Persimmon Bread Pudding. It's the perfect Autumn dessert!  Be sure to use Fuyu Persimmons (not Hachiya).

CHOCOLATE PERSIMMON BREAD PUDDING

Ingredients
4 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
4 eggs
1 Tbsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 loaf challah, cut into 1-inch cubes (this also works well with a Brioche loaf)
1 cup chocolate chips (or a cup of chocolate chunks--65-70% cacao)
2 ripe fuyu persimmons, quartered and cut into 1/4-inch slices

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine half-and-half with sugar, cocoa powder, eggs and vanilla in large mixing bowl, whisking until smooth.
Add challah, toss to coat and set aside to let soak for 15 minutes.
Pour two-thirds of challah mixture into buttered 9 x 13 inch baking dish and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of chocolate chips (or chocolate chunks) and all of the persimmons.
Top with remaining challah mixture and remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips (chunks).
Place dish into water bath (large roasting pan and add hot water to the roasting pan until it reaches about 1 inch up the sides of the dish).
Bake for 40 minutes, then set aside to let cool, leaving dish in water bath.
Once cool, remove dish from water bath then cut pudding into squares and serve.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

WAR TIME CHOCOLATE CAKE: VETERANS DAY

Tomorrow is Veterans Day (aka Remembrance Day, Armistice Day). My father was a decorated Veteran of WWII, so today I'm posting a recipe from that era. Times were hard during the War, on the battlefield and on the Homefront. This recipe is for War Time Chocolate Cake. I think it was slightly easier to get sugar and cocoa in the U.K. than other places, although I've seen several versions of War Time Chocolate Cake in various British war time cookbooks. Milk and eggs were rationed, so this cake, which is quite spongy, does without.

During the Second World War, you couldn't just walk into a store and buy as much sugar or butter as you wanted. Because these items were rationed, you were only allowed to buy a small amount (even if you could afford more). The government introduced rationing because certain items were in short supply.

Some things were scarce because they were needed to supply the military - gas, oil, metal, meat and other foods. Some things were scarce because they normally were imported from countries with whom we were at war or because they had to be brought in by ship from foreign places. Sugar and coffee were very scarce. Coca-Cola even stopped production during the war because sugar in great quantities was not available.

Everyone was given a ration book that contained ration stamps for different items. Grocers and other business people would post what your ration stamps could buy that week, but it was up to the individual to decide how to spend the stamps and possibly save up the items for a cake like this.

Support our Veterans!

WAR TIME CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white vinegar
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cold water

Directions:
In large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt.
Make three wells in the flour mixture. In one put vanilla; in another the vinegar, and in the third the oil. Pour the cold water over the mixture and stir until moistened.
Pour into 8 x 8-inch pan.
Bake at 350°F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it springs back when touched lightly.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Cappuccino Creme Chocolate Truffle Pie

Yesterday was National Cappuccino Day, but it's never too late to celebrate with this awesome Cappuccino Creme Chocolate Truffle Pie!

This recipe is adapted from the Hershey's Kitchens.

CAPPUCCINO CREME CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE PIE

Ingredients
1/2 cup DARK Cocoa
1/3 cup sweet butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup Chopped Dark Chocolate (70-85% cacao)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
9-inch baked pastry crust (prepared or make your own)

(wait until ready to serve): CAPPUCCINO CREME: In mixer, combine 1 cup (1/2 pint) whipping cream, 1-1/2 teaspoons powdered espresso, 2 teaspoons DARK Cocoa and 3 tablespoons powdered sugar; beat until stiff. About 2 cups.

Directions
Heat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter over low heat. Stir in cocoa and sugar. Add sweetened condensed milk, chocolate and eggs; stir until smooth. Remove from heat. Pour into crust.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes - until center is almost set. Cool completely.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Just before serving, prepare and top with Cappuccino Cream.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Vanishing Oatmeal Bridge Mix Cookies

Last week I posted about What to do with Leftover Halloween Candy. This prompted a flurry of comments and recipes on my Facebook page, as well as personal notes. My friend Harriet Stay mentioned that See's Candies offered a recipe using a 1 lb box of their Bridge Mix. Bridge Mix is made up of almonds, pecans and raisins mixed with mini Molasses Chips, See's Caramel, California Brittle and more.. and all coated in milk and dark chocolate. Harriet  noted that the recipe is exactly the same as the one on the top of the Quaker Oats box called "Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies" substituting the See's Candies Bridge Mix for the raisins. I didn't find that exact recipe from See's, but I did find the Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies recipe. Of course, you might not have See's Bridge Mix at hand, but you can always use other chopped up Halloween candy in place of See's Bridge Mix.

VANISHING OATMEAL SEE'S BRIDGE MIX COOKIES

Ingredients:
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup SEE'S BRIDGE MIX

Directions
Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Add oats and See's Bridge Mix. Combine well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown.
Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely.

Variation: Bar Cookies: Press dough onto bottom of ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Black Currant Tea Chocolate Truffles: National Candy Day

Photo: Maura McEvoy
Today is National Candy Day and for me that means Chocolate Truffles. I've posted many truffle recipes on DyingforChocolate.com, but you can never have enough recipes. They're all slightly different and that makes for great truffle experiences!

I have a favorite site on Facebook... well, I have several favorite sites, but I really love Great British Tea Party. Recently I was skimming the page when I cme across this wonderful recipe for Black Currant Tea Chocolate Truffles. This recipe can be made with any 'flavored' black tea recipe. The original recipe is adapted Mary Jo Thoresen in The Oprah Magazine Cookbook (2008), via Delish. Photo: Maura McEvoy.

Black Currant Tea Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. crème fraîche
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp. sweet butter
1/2 ounce black currant tea (approximately 2 Tbsp. loose tea or tea leaves from 6 tea bags)
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Unsweetened cocoa

Directions
In small saucepan, combine crème fraîche, butter, and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea. Cover and let steep 5 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan.
Put chocolate into medium-size bowl. Bring crème fraîche mixture to a boil again and pour over chocolate. Stir gently until all chocolate is melted (do not whisk).
Pour into 9-inch baking pan and spread evenly. Chill until firm.
Line cookie sheet with waxed paper. Using melon baller (or small spoon), scoop chocolate to form balls about 3/4 inch in diameter, then roll gently into balls using palms.
Place truffles on lined cookie sheet; cover and chill just to set, about 1 hour.
To serve, place cocoa in pie pan. Add several truffles one attime to cocoa and swirl pan to coat.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Day of the Dead Chocolate & Recipes

Day of the Dead focuses on gatherings of family and friends who pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd in connection with the Catholic holiday of All Saints Day which occurs on November 1st and All Souls Day which occurs on November 2nd. Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar and chocolate skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.

Many cultures and countries celebrate Day of the Dead, but in Mexico and parts of the U.S and Canada it's tied to an historic Meso-American holiday that originated with the Aztecs 3000 years ago or earlier. When the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico 500 years ago, they found the natives practicing this ritual that seemed to mock death. It was a ritual the Spaniards tried unsuccessfully to eradicate. Although the ceremony has since merged with Catholic theology, it still maintains the basic principles the Aztecs intended, a view that death is the continuation of life. Life was a dream and only in death does one become truly awake.

Many people believe that during the Day of the Dead, it's easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. People go to cemeteries to communicate with the souls of the departed, and build private altars, containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

Skulls are a major symbol of the cycle of death and rebirth. The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual to honor the dead and exalt the sphere of death and rebirth.

Although sugar skulls are more common, chocolate skulls and coffins have become de rigueur. Celebrate Dia de los Muertos with three solid chocolate skulls sparkling with black salt eyes, in 3 chocolate flavors: Barcelona, Red Fire & Blanca. Day of the Dead Chocolate Skulls from Vosges.

Want to make your own? Mexican Chocolate Skulls sells skull molds. Their chocolate molds can be made with tempered chocolate, candy coating wafers, melted chocolate chips. Their mold designs were inspired by the famous Mexican woodcut artist, Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852 -1913). Here's a link to recipes using candy coating wafers, chocolate chips or tempered chocolate with these molds.

Mexican hot chocolate is one of my favorites. In Oaxaca during the Day of the Dead (and other times), the many chocolate shops serve hot chocolate that is a mix of cocoa beans, cinnamon sticks, almond and sugar ground together into a paste, then grated down and mixed with steaming milk. You can make a similar version easily at home. As always use the very best chocolate.

Day of the Dead Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
2 teaspoons good-quality ground cocoa
1 teaspoon sugar, plus extra to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground almonds. You can add more if you want a thicker texture
1 cup whole milk

Directions
Mix all ingredients, except milk, together in an empty, clean glass jar. Shake until completely combined.
Heat milk in pan and add chocolate mix. Bring to boil and reduce heat.
Simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly; use small whisk to froth milk. Serve hot.

And, for the Bakers out there, Sunset Magazine has a wonderful Pasilla Chile Chocolate Cake recipe for The Day of the Dead.

Day of the Dead Pasilla Chile Chocolate Cake

Ingredients
2 1/2 ounces dried pasilla chiles (chile negro) or 2 1/2 ounces dried ancho chiles plus 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (see notes)
1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup sweet butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
5 large eggs, separated
2 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar or finely crushed piloncillo sugar (see notes)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Powdered sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp Mexican vanilla or 1 Tbsp coffee-flavored liqueur such as Kahlúa

1. Lay chiles insingle layer on 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Bake in 400° oven just until pliable, about 2 minutes. Wearing rubber gloves, break off stems, shake out seeds, and break chiles into small pieces, dropping into small bowl; discard stems and seeds. Cover chiles with warm water and let soak until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain chiles and put inblender with 1/3 cup water; whirl until smooth, adding 1 more tablespoon water as needed to make thick paste. Push purée through a fine strainer; discard residue. You need 1/3 cup chile purée. If using ancho chiles, stir cayenne into the chile purée.

2. Line bottom of 9-inch cake pan (sides at least 1 1/2 in. tall) with parchment.

3. In large bowl over saucepan of simmering water (water shouldn't touch bottom of bowl), combine chocolate and butter. Stir occasionally just until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 8 minutes. Remove from over water and whisk in 1/3 cup chile purée, the egg yolks, vanilla, and flour until mixture is blended.

4. Pour brown sugar into small bowl and stir or whisk to break up lumps and loosen. In large bowl, with electric mixer on high speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until very frothy and foamy. Gradually add brown sugar to whites, beating until stiff, moist peaks form. With whisk, fold third of beaten whites into chocolate mixture until well incorporated. Then fold in remaining whites just until blended. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

5. Bake cake in 425° regular or 400° convection oven until set and center barely jiggles when pan is gently shaken, about 15 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack for about 15 minutes. Run a knife between cake and pan rim, then invert onto  serving platter. Lift off pan and peel off parchment. Let cake cool about 30 minutes, then chill until firm and cold, at least 4 hours; cover cake once completely chilled.

6. For best texture, let cake come to room temperature before serving, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Sift powdered sugar lightly over cake (for pattern, lay  stencil on cake before sifting sugar, then carefully lift off).

7. In bowl, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. Stir in vanilla. Cut cake into wedges and serve each with dollop of whipped cream.

NOTES: Dried long, dark, skinny chiles labeled pasilla or chile negro give this dark chocolate cake a subtle fruit flavor with a hot finish. If these are not available, use dark, blocky chiles labeled ancho, which are sweet and fruity with little heat, and add cayenne to boost spiciness. Both pasilla and ancho chiles are available in Hispanic markets. To use piloncillo sugar (also available in Hispanic markets), put it in a heavy zip-lock plastic bag, cover it with a towel, and pound it with a mallet or hammer until finely crushed. You can make this cake up to 2 days ahead; chill airtight.

No time to bake? 
Want a quick chocolate Day of the Dead fix? 
Try a Seattle Chocolates Dead Sea Salt Truffle Bar!


What to do with Left-over Candy!

When I was growing up Halloween was one of the most important nights of the year. I'd choose my costume early and make sure my seamstress grandmother had time to make it. I didn't go for store-bought costumes. I wanted an original. I would design it, and Bubby would sew it, and I'd be there every step of the way watching her and learning sewing techniques. Project Runway contestant in the making?

On Halloween night, all the children on my block were out. We didn't worry too much about what we'd get because we knew every single house on the block would have good candy. After we moved to the suburbs the ante went up with whole candy bars and more expensive loot. Needless to say, there was always a lot of candy left over. I mean, how much could one child eat? We weren't allowed to keep our stash in our rooms (to protect against bugs and mice--as if they would appear in my mother's superclean house), so all the candy was relegated to the kitchen. My sister and I noticed it being depleted, but usually too late. Most of it found its way into my pediatrician father's waiting room. Other kids who didn't walk those mean streets, knocking on doors, and yelling 'trick or treat' ate of the fruit of our labors.

Now as an adult, I buy candy for trick or treaters. Every year that candy sits in a bowl by the door--unloved, uncalled for. We don't get a lot of Trick or Treaters where I live. Maybe it's the times; maybe it's the Hills. Several years ago, I started buying only candy that I liked. Who wants to be stuck with candy you'll never eat? So there's always a lot of leftover candy at my house. I'm sure there is at yours, too, particularly if you have a few goblins and ghosts who made the Halloween pilgrimage. Here are several ways to turn that left over candy into culinary delights or needed donations.

1.  Use chopped Candy Corn or chopped Candy Bars in place of chocolate chips in cookies or brownies.

2. Chopped up Candy and Candy Bars can also be used as toppings for ice cream sundaes or over yoghurt.

3. Freeze it for another time when you get the munchies.

4. Make homemade flavored vodka. It needs some time infuse, but experiment with different flavors.

5.  Make Trail Mix with chocolate candy, raisins, peanuts and any other soft chewy candy.

6. Mix up a batch of biscuits and fold in some chopped Tootsie Tolls or Peanut Butter Cups.  

7. Add chopped candy corn to candied yams.

8. Make a Cookie Dough Pizza. Betty Crocker recipe: Mix 1 pouch of peanut butter cookie mix with 1/3 cup vegetable oil and an egg until soft dough forms. Press dough into ungreased 12-inch pizza pan. Sprinkle with your choice of toppings such as candy corn, candy bar pieces and nuts. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle 1 cup miniature marshmallows on top. Bake for another 10-15 minutes until marshmallows are lightly browned and cookie is set at edge. Cool completely in pan.

9. Pudding/Candy Parfait: Layer instant pudding with candy.

10. Use the candy to decorate your Holiday Gingerbread House.

11. Keep some in the car or your purse for emergencies (probably not chocolate which melts)

12. Donate: Nursing homes, doctor's offices, women and family shelters will take wrapped candy. Check first.

13: Donate: Operation Gratitude ships candy to U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East for Christmas time. (chocolate is more perishable)

14. Donate:  Ronald McDonald House will accept donations of wrapped Halloween Candy in many locations. Check first.

And two more recipes in case you haven't baked enough for Halloween:

1. BUTTER FINGER CAKE

1 angel food cake, crumbled
1/2 cup sweet butter
4 egg yolks
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
16 ounces Cool Whip, thawed slightly
8 large Butterfinger candy bars

Freeze candy bars in wrappers for at least two hours.
Crush bars (while in wrappers) using rolling pin.
Cream butter, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla and add Cool Whip.
In a 9 x 13 inch pan layer half of angel food cake; layer half of Cool Whip mixture; then layer of half of crushed candy bars; repeat. Keep refrigerated.

IF YOU WANT TO OMIT EGG YOLKS, SUBSTITUTE A SMALL PACKAGE OF INSTANT VANILLA PUDDING MIXED ACCORDING TO DIRECTIONS.

II. MILKY WAY BAR CAKE
Adapted from M&M/MARS. You can substitute other candy in place of Milky Way Bars.. depending on what you have left over.

1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts
15 bite-size (mini) Milky Way bars
1 cup low-fat buttermilk, plain yogurt or sour cream, divided
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sweet butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla
4 eggs

GLAZE
5 bite-size Milky Way bars
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12-cup Bundt pan or 10-inch tube pan with shortening. Sprinkle coated pan with nuts; set aside.
In heavy medium saucepan over low heat, melt candy bars with 1/4 cup of buttermilk, stirring often until mixture is smooth.
In medium mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda. In large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add flour mixture alternately with remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk, mixing just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Then, blend in melted candy bar mixture until thoroughly incorporated.
Spoon  batter into prepared Bundt pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from toven and cool 10 minutes. Invert onto wire rack and cool completely.

To Prepare Glaze: Melt candy bars with the butter and water until mixture is smooth. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake.

Still want to make something?  Cakespy suggests Deep Frying... be still my heart. Literally! I do have Reese's Peanut Butter cups left over. Do I dare?