Archive for the 'chocolate' Category

Chocolate Drizzled Coconut-Almond Macaroons

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These cookies do not require any of the following:

  • Butter
  • A stand mixer
  • Even a sliver of baking expertise

Yet they  look fancy, taste great and only appear like you slaved in the kitchen.

I made these for the first time when I was 14 years old and fell in love with them. I really don’t even remember where the recipe came from, but I’d like to give a probable shout out to Cooking Light magazine. If you’re not familiar with coconut macaroons, they really aren’t a typical cookie. You have to really like coconut and the flavor of almond extract. They’re meaty and chewy in texture, and the almonds in this recipe give them a much needed sporadic crunch. If any of that sounds good to you (why wouldn’t it?), give them a shot.

Have a nice weekend!

Chocolate Drizzled Coconut-Almond Macaroons

2 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 large egg whites
1 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
8 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup sliced almonds pulverized for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients except for the chocolate in a bowl. Form balls from rounded tablespoonfuls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating half-way if you have uneven heat in your oven like I do, until edges of cookies are a light golden brown. Remove from pans while hot and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, make your own by nestling a heat safe bowl (glass or metal work great) over a sauce pot simmering with water. Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat and allow to cool just slightly. You can dip half of your macaroons in the chocolate, or to drizzle, fill a plastic sandwich bag with chocolate and snip off the tip of one of the bottom corners (be ready to drizzle immediately, as the chocolate will be-a-flowin’) and quickly zig zag over the baked and cooled macaroons. Finish by sprinkling with crushed almonds.

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Classic Brownies

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How is this possible:

I thought these were one of the best brownies I’d ever tasted and Jeff thought they were horrible.

What’s going on?

We ate them when they were still a little warm and gooey from the oven. Apparently this contributed to the problem for Jeff. He thought “they tasted like a melted candy bar or something.”

Okay. I still don’t get what the problem is. A melted candy bar sounds wonderful to me. However, I don’t agree that they tasted like a melted candy bar, unless it was a super special fancy schmancy decadent French dark chocolate bar laced with walnuts. I’ve never had one of those, so I can’t really say whether it not it taste like one melted.

These did taste like rich, chocolaty, chewy, fudgy perfection. You know, like how brownies should taste. I just short of licked all the crumbs off of the dish.

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Don’t worry this time about what Jeff thinks. I’m usually right all the time anyway. Just ask him.

Classic Brownies

Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
6 ounces chocolate, chopped (original recipe calls for 4 oz. bittersweet, 2 0z. unsweetened, I didn’t have unsweetened so I used 3 oz. bittersweet, 3 oz. semi-sweet and used less sugar than the original recipe)
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. instant espresso/coffee granules
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Center rack in oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line a 8X8 baking dish with foil and butter the foil.
2. Set heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Add butter and chocolate. Heat until just melted, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
3. Whisk in sugar. Mixture will appear grainy.
4. Whisk in eggs one at a time.
5. Add vanilla and whisk mixture vigourously.
6. Mix in coffee, then flour and salt until just incorporated.
7. Fold in walnuts with spatula.
8. Pour batter into prepared dish and bake for 30-33 minutes, until a dull knife cut into the center comes out clean.
9. Allow to cool completely in pan on a wire rack before turning out onto dish.
10. Slice into 2X2 squares (believe me, that’s plenty – they’re rich) and serve alone or with ice cream.

Double Chocolate Raspberry Zucchini Bread

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Ah ha! Remember me trying to make this a few weeks ago and coming out with a loaf of flavorless sawdust? Well, my cousin(-in-law) Chanda suggesting adding zucchini to make it more moist. What a wonderful idea, especially with all the zucchinis hanging around everywhere you turn. So instead of risking more ingredients being wasted on the old recipe, I looked up a chocolate zucchini bread recipe and then just added the delicious wild raspberries my father-in-law sent home with Jeff.

The result was exactly what I was looking for. SUPER moist and chocolaty with little bursts of raspberries here and there. MMMMmmmmmMMMmmmmmMMMMMMMMM.

Double Chocolate Raspberry Zucchini Bread
Adapted from Baking Bites

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk or buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup shredded zucchini (about 1 medium)
1/2 – 1 cup chocolate chips
1 – 1.5 cups fresh raspberries rinsed and drained

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vegetable oil, milk and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and stir until almost fully combined.
4. Add in the zucchini and chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed in the batter (batter should be fairly thick).
5. Gently fold in raspberries.
6. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with only moist crumbs attached.
7. Turn loaf out of pan and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf.

Three Sweet Years

Three years ago today Jeff and I were driving back to Chicago following our Cincinnati wedding at Alms Park. The previous day we had said vows, danced, got sunburned (just me) and smiled for pictures. Now we were headed back home to hop on a plane to California. It was the start of a beautiful marriage. After we traveled all of San Francisco by foot, pedaled across the Golden Gate bridge, got drunk for 3 days straight on really awesome wine, and opted out of sleeping at a creepy horror movie house, I’d done a rough tally that we successfully evaded death about 12 times.

I’m not being dramatic. we almost died on our honeymoon. I’ll save you some theatrics and just warn you never drive to Eureka no matter what the Chamber of Commerce website says; also, if you want to go to Mendocino, wait until you’re 50 – you’ll probably enjoy it more and definitely do NOT think it’s a good idea to drive Highway 1 down the coastline back to San Francisco.

Please learn from our mistakes. There are portions of Highway 1 that have eroded away and the road just isn’t there in one lane anymore. Your lane. They kindly warn you with a single orange cone, but if you miss the cone by chance, you and your lovely will be plummeting Thelma and Louise style into the Pacific. Also, it’s not the best road to travel at night. It’s dark. There aren’t gas stations for miles – tens of miles… twenties of miles. Oh and no cell reception, so don’t dare run out of gas. And there are deer. Lots of deer, flying out in front of your car on their way to the beach. Again – Thelma and Louise.

Thankfully, we survived Highway 1 along with a half dozen other flirtations with death and I took this as a great omen that our marriage was built to last.

So far we’re doing pretty good. We’ve smoothly made it through buying an apartment in a Chicago seller’s market and then selling it in a buyer’s market. We made it through both of us finishing (almost finishing) our educations. We made it through a big move to a new city and a new life. We made it through pregnancy. Childbirth. And 10 months of Marlo.

Doesn’t sound like much does it? It isn’t. I know. But I have faith we could make it through tougher times if they arrive.

So to celebrate our greatness as a duo, we had our favorite fancy meal last night, Pesto Halibut Kebabs. I was absolutely shocked when I visited the butcher yesterday and saw that the halibut was running only $17.99/lb. Wha?! I’m used to paying about $4 more per pound for the fish. Apparently the recession has really done a number on the demand for fancy fish and the prices have plunged, well, at least at Joe’s. So, I reccomend checking out the price of halibut where you live and feasting on it more often this summer. This is a really easy and quick way to prepare the fish. Turns out delicious every single time!

Pesto Halibut Kebabs
Adapted from Cooking Light



1 lb. Halibut skin removed and cut into 1-2 inch chunks
1 large red bell pepper cut into 1-2 inch squares
3 Tbsp. pesto
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
salt & pepper

If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 10-20 minutes so they won’t burn in the oven. Preheat broiler.
Combine pesto and vinegar in large bowl. Lightly season fish chunks with salt and pepper. Add fish and pepper squares to pesto mixture and toss to evenly coat. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Skewer fish and peppers, alternating so you begin and end with peppers. This amount makes about 4 kebabs with 4-5 pieces of fish per skewer.
Line kebabs in a baking dish coated with cooking spray and place under broiler for 8 minutes.

Serve to husband. See him smile.

See baby daughter look on with jealousy.

Jeff brought me home a bottle of Mumm Champagne (one of our favorite wineries from our honeymoon) and a bottle of Albarino – a wine we mutually love. Having a surprise dessert up my sleeve I opted to pop open the bubbly. I made these delicious Toffee Topped Brownies and dipped strawberries in the leftover ganache. It made for a lovely dessert with our Napa champagne.

Toffee Topped Brownie Bites
Adapted From Annie’s Eats

For the brownies:
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the ganache:
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

For topping:
Toffee bits (or coarsely chopped Heath Bars)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the unsweetened chocolate and butter. Cook and stir over medium-low heat just until melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt, and whisk until combined. Stir in the flour until just incorporated. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into each mini muffin cup.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until completely set. Allow to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Remove brownies from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache, heat the whipping cream in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it simmers; remove from the heat. Add the bittersweet chocolate to the heated cream, let stand for 30 seconds, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is well blended.

Gently dip the top of each brownie in the ganache and then sprinkle with toffee bits. Allow the glaze to set completely before serving.

He also surprised me with a pretty cool new cookbook called Local Flavors. It’s all about cooking with goods from farmer’s markets, which is just in time for Carmel’s Farmer’s Market season. Both of us are interested in trying new ingredients. Neither of us have a whole lot of experience with different greens like chard and kale. This book gives a lot of ideas on how to prepare these veggies. I’ll be sure to let you know when I stumble upon something fabulous!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sounds good right?

Almost any oatmeal cookie sounds good to me. Especially Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. My favorite cookies in the whole world are Potbelly’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. I might be willing to give my right arm for the recipe. You’d have to catch me on the right day (or wrong day – which is it?) I sent these to work with Jeff when I made them, and apparently they went over well. There was some positive feedback. Personally, I found the flavors really interesting. Nothing about the cookies really shouted “peanut butter!!” or “nutmeg!!” or even “cinnamon!!!” All the flavors just merge and played well together, and make you go “hmmmm” and then “mmmmmm.”. Make these this weekend for your kids, or your sig other, or yourself. Everyone will be glad you did.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
As seen on Two Peas and Their Pod. Originally from Dorie Greenspan.

3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp pure vanilla extract
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 1/2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks

Getting Ready: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Mix in the chips.

If you have the time, cover and chill the dough for about 2 hours or for up to one day. (Chilling the dough will give you more evenly shaped cookies.) If the dough is not chilled, drop rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets. If the dough is chilled, scoop up rounded tablespoons, roll the balls between your palms and place them 2 inches apart on the sheets. Press the chilled balls gently with the heel of your hand until they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be golden and just firm around the edges. Lift the cookies onto cooling racks with a wide metal spatula – they’ll firm as they cool.

Makes a TON of cookies.

A Tale of Two Chocolate Cakes

I love cake. No joke. My favorite part of weddings is the cake, and I’m a fierce critic. I know how much wedding cakes cost, so in my mind, it better be perfect. I honestly don’t care what you serve me for dinner, or how awesome your DJ was, your wedding cake makes or breaks the whole shabang in my mind. When Jeff and I got married, I took the cake very seriously. I wanted it to look memorable and interesting, but I wanted the taste to be just as memorable and interesting. I’m quite taken by the look of fondant icing (who isn’t) but I loathe the taste. When I met our baker, and she said she can make butter cream look like fondant, I fell in love with her. She wasn’t lying and managed to make a gorgeous cake inspired by our invitations. I remember very little from my wedding day, it was all a whirlwind, but I can recall the taste of our cake as if I had just had some for lunch. One layer, my choice, was spice cake with an caramel apple filling, and the second layer, Jeff’s choice, was dark chocolate with chocolate fudge filling.

If you couldn’t guess, Jeff’s favorite cake is chocolate cake, and so is his dad’s (at least I heard that somewhere, sorry Scott, if I’m mistaken). When we made plans to eat dinner at the in-laws a few weeks ago, I wanted to bring a dessert, and it absolutely had to be a cake. See, I don’t get to satisfy my affinity for cake often. I bake a lot, but usually it’s things that last longer than a day or two (most cakes croak in 48 hours) or things that are easily shared, i.e. thrown in a plastic bag and sent to work with Jeff. So, I seized this opportunity and looked for a classic chocolate Bundt cake recipe online. I found what I needed from Martha Stewart.

Chocolate Bundt Cake

I found this cake to be quite nice. In the words of Jamie Oliver, “it’s not going to change your life” , but I was very satisfied with the results of my effort. The glaze is really the star, so don’t skip or skimp on it. I did not add booze to my chocolate glaze, certainly not because I have anything against that – just that I don’t really have a whole lot of hard liquor hanging around. Instead I added instant coffee, and I’m glad I did. By all means, go for the Cognac, but I really recommend the coffee. Also, a note, the recipe asks for a 14 cup Bundt cake pan, I don’t have one that large and just used my 10 cup Bundt pan and baked it for 55 minutes. It turned out perfect.

For the cake:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream (4 ounces)
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional, but I think you should – it made the cake more interesting)

For the glaze:

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Cognac or rum (optional)
OR
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 14-cup Bundt pan. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Mix milk and sour cream in a small bowl.

Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add flour mixture, alternating with milk mixture, ending with flour. Fold in walnuts, if using. Spoon batter into pan. Bake until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Invert cake. (Cake will keep for up to 1 day.)

Make the glaze: Place chocolate in a bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering, if using coffee – mix into the milk now, then pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter and Cognac or rum, if using, and mix until smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Pour glaze over cooled cake.

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Sounds good, you say? What else you got, you say? How about a chocolate cake that is just like eating a wedge of dark chocolate fudge. This cake isn’t for the chocolate faint at heart. You feel just so-so about chocolate? Take a pass on this one. Do you have dreams of bathing in a claw foot tub filled to the brim with ganache (ahem, Borislava)? You might consider making this next cake, like right now.

As mentioned in the last entry, my parents and my sister made their way down to Indiana last weekend. My sister has found herself under a lot of stress lately, so I wanted to have a special dessert for her the night of our big dinner. Endless options? Not really. She follows a gluten-free diet so that creates a few obstacles when baking. Her favorite gluten-free dessert when dining out is a flourless chocolate cake. I thought this would be quite an endeavor to find a recipe for, not to mention actually making it. I was wrong. I found this great recipe on Whole Foods Market’s website and this cake seriously takes very little equipment and expertise. The result, however, like bathing in a claw foot tub filled to the brim with ganache. Enjoy!

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Glaze

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 3 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray, too, then set the pan aside.

Place two-thirds (8 ounces) of the chocolate and 1 cup (2 sticks) of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stirring often, melt chocolate with butter until completely blended. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. (Alternatively, you may use your microwave to melt the butter with the chocolate, if desired). Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sift cocoa into bowl and stir until just blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake has risen and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done. Cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate, removing sides of springform pan. Remove and discard parchment paper and set cake aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate glaze. Melt remaining 4 ounces chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, then stir in milk, honey and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly.

When cake has cooled, pour glaze onto the center. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, very gently smooth glaze along the top and sides of the cake. Chill cake, uncovered, for 30 to 60 minutes before serving to set the glaze and make the cake easier to slice.



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