Category Archives: chocolate

Chocolate Covered Almonds

My roommate left a container of Trader Joe’s Chocolate Covered Almonds sitting on the counter not long ago. The good roommate that I am, I really *tried* not to eat a noticeable amount…but since she was away on vacation, I slowly decimated them. In my defense, they were unbelievably delicious! I decided I would make some of my own. I couldn’t find anything that was quite the same online but I did find a recipe that I think made an even better product–these with a hint of cinnamon to kick up the flavor. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: these will not last long if you leave them in plain sight.

Chocolate covered almonds

Even if you just sugared the almonds and didn’t coat with the chocolate, they make a devastatingly delicious snack:

Sugared almonds waiting for their chocolate

Chocolate Covered Almonds
Adapted loosely from this Chicago Sun-Times’ reader’s recipe for Chocolate Covered Almonds and this Serious Eats recipe, with chocolate tempering advice from David Lebovitz. I *highly* recommend reading DL’s post about tempering the chocolate because it makes a world of a difference–it’s not even worth making these if you’re not going to temper, in my opinion. That crunch is where it’s at.

1 1/2 cups whole almonds with skins on, toasted
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
A few pinches coarse-ground sea salt

1. In a medium saucepan, cook almonds, sugar, water, salt, and cinnamon over medium heat until the almonds have a dry, sand-like coating. Stir constantly to prevent caramelization.

2. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and cool in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. While the almonds are cooling, temper your chocolate. If you’re not sure how, see David Lebovitz’ instructions for tempering chocolate.

3. Once the almonds are cool, break off the huge chunks of sugar that have stuck to the almonds. Snack on them. Yum.

4. When the chocolate is at the right temperature, coat your almonds. You can EITHER dump the almonds in the chocolate, stir, and then individually separate; or you can dump the chocolate on the almonds, coat, and separate; OR you can do what I wish I had done, which is dip each almond in the bowl of chocolate on a fork and then place it on parchment paper on a different baking sheet. If you do the 2 easier/faster dumping techniques, you end up with giant clumps of almonds instead of individuals. Sprinkle the freshly-coated almonds with coarse sea salt.

5. Move covered + salted almonds to the refrigerator to set for about 20 minutes. In theory, they will not melt at room temperature (or in your hands) because of the tempering. Hurrah! Enjoy.

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Chocolate Silk Pudding

Chocolate pudding on the porch with spring strawberries
Though I am not usually a pudding person, a craving hit me last week and I sprung into action. I made (who else?) Smitten Kitchen’s version and threw some fresh strawberries in at the end to spruce it up.

I don’t think I cooked mine for long enough because it was *very* liquidy, but I actually really enjoyed it like this.

Chocolate Silk Pudding
The recipe below is nearly verbatim from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for chocolate pudding. I loved it without adaptation.

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
~6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped roughly
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Combine cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk. Use a heatproof spatula to combine milk and dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Whisk occasionally to prevent lumps. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture has thickened and coats the back of the spoon (without dripping), add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 3 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.

3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days. You can place plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent pudding skin or you can just cover the top of the serving dish with plastic wrap to encourage pudding skin–your choice.

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

Whew! I have been absent for a month because I have been cooking crappily and uninspiredly 🙂 But I’m back now with some delicious (albeit somewhat time-consuming and labor-intensive) cookies to share.

Good morning to you, too, cookies!

I found this recipe via Tastespotting a few months ago and have been meaning to make it ever since, but since the dough needs at least a few hours in the fridge I’ve just not had the opportunity. It was my duty to bring cookies to the tutors’ meeting today, though, so I had some notice in advance and got to it last night!

The cumulative review was “sparkly, cakey, amazing.” These are almost as rich as brownies, but with a nice chewy, sugary crust. (And I don’t like brownie edges!)

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen
Adapted from Brownies for Dinner’s recipe for Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies. I just realized I took my pictures this morning and was thinking that these made really good BREAKFAST cookies…I guess the truth is that cookies are great any time of day 😀

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon peeled ginger root, minced fine
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulphured molasses (weird spelling comes from my blackstrap molasses bottle!)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon boiling water
7 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about half a bag or just under 1 cup)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (for rolling)

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, and cocoa powder until well mixed (I used a fork). In a separate bowl, beat the butter and ginger with an electric mixer (or stand mixer, or your muscles) until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes if using electric. Add the brown sugar and beat for another minute until well combined. Add molasses and beat until combined.

2. Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water in a small cup; set aside. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat to combine (careful that the flour doesn’t fly out!). Add dissolved baking soda, beat to combine. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.

3. Turn the dough onto one half of a large piece of plastic wrap. Fold the plastic wrap and gently push the dough down into a 1-inch-thick disc. Place in a freezer bag or wrap in more plastic and chill until firm, at least 2 hours…I did it for about 3 with great results.

4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat. Roll the dough into 1.5 inch balls (bigger than you think!) and place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 deg F while you’re chilling the balls.

5. Roll the balls in the granulated sugar and replace on the baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until slightly cracked on the top. If you’re baking both at the same time, rotate halfway through. When they’re done, let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

Oh yeah, I measured the balls and the distance between (thanks, physics homework!):

No, I don't keep a clear ruler nearby for any reason at all...

Daring Bakers January 2010 Challenge: Nanaimo Bars

I am known for my…ahem…tardiness. I have historically done a terrible job of predicting how long it will actually take me to complete a task. I also hate to tell my friends that I’m going to be late, so I used to tell them how long it would be until I would *like* to get there (even if I suspected that it might be a bit longer).

For whatever crazy reason that’s changed in the last year or so. I mention this because this is the first month I’ve actually completed my Daring Bakers challenge not only on time, but 3 WEEKS EARLY! (Though I’m posting along with everyone else). It was a lucky coincidence that I would also get the input of a real live Canadian in assessing this month’s dessert, which hails from Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.

Nanaimo Bars

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

These are very, very sweet and rich. They’re best in small pieces…that way you can pop them at intervals instead of getting overwhelmed by big ones! They also freeze well (and I preferred them cold); I wrapped mine individually in plastic wrap, then threw them in the freezer a day before the event and they held up perfectly in transport.

Give yourself a couple of days to make these, since the graham cracker dough needs to refrigerate for a while. You can also cheat and buy graham crackers, but these are really cool to create, so I’d recommend it if you have time and the inclination. I made only a half batch of the crackers and still had leftovers for the Nanaimo Bars, by the way.

For Graham Crackers

2 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure vanilla extract

Directions:
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together.
3. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
8. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster–check early and often, because these can burn quickly.
9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziploc bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Graham Crackers

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened cocoa
1 Large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Graham cracker crumbs (see previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (any type, finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy cream (or whole milk with a thin pat of butter)
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla custard powder (Such as Bird’s)– Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Powdered sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted butter

Directions:
1. For bottom layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For middle layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder (or pudding mix), and powdered sugar together well. Beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For top layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool to a bit over room temperature (give it maybe 10 minutes). I let mine cool too much and it didn’t spread well! It should still glisten when you pour over the middle layer. Chill until firm, about 20-25 minutes.

Homemade Nanaimo Bars

Peppermint Bark

I love to make desserts, but I don’t love to leave dessert on my kitchen table for snacking on every time I walk by. I’ve been building up my list of holiday desserts for weeks now, but one was pleading for making: peppermint bark!

Simple and Elegant Peppermint Bark

After staring at the words “peppermint bark recipe” in my bookmarks toolbar for the longest week of all time, I finally got down to work and slapped it together. It turns out this recipe is really, really easy…and the product is *so* beautiful. No one believed me when I told them it took less than an hour and only three ingredients!

The best compromise on quality and price for white chocolate that I could find was Whole Food’s 365 Everyday (the house brand) white chocolate chips. The second ingredient is indeed cocoa butter, but instead of the $9/lb for Callebaut, they were only $4/lb. I used Cadbury Royal Dark for the chocolate base, but I think I would use more bitter chocolate next time–maybe 70% cocoa or more–to balance the sweetness of the white chocolate.

Peppermint Bark
Adapted from Use Real Butter’s recipe for peppermint bark.

1 pound dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 pound white chocolate chips
12 candy canes

Press a piece of aluminum foil flat into a jelly pan, being careful to get the corners down. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave in bursts of 20 seconds on low power, stirring between each heating period. Be careful not to burn the chocolate. When melted, pour onto the tinfoil and spread with a rubber spatula to even thickness throughout. The edges do not need to be perfectly square. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until hardened.

While dark chocolate is in the refrigerator, break the candy canes in half then place in the food processor. Pulse briefly a few times until pieces are no bigger than 1/4 inch across. Place a sieve over a bowl and shake the crushed candy canes into the sieve so that the powder collects in the bowl.

Melt the white chocolate, careful not to overcook. Stir in the powdered part of the candy canes using as few strokes as possible. Spread the white chocolate-candy cane mixture over the hardened dark chocolate using a CLEAN rubber spatula. Sprinkle the larger pieces of candy cane over the white chocolate and gently press them down with your (clean) hands. Refrigerate for another 20 minutes or until hardened.

Once firm, remove from the pan by lifting the tinfoil. Cut the bark into pieces of your choosing and serve! These will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Daring Bakers November 2009: Cannoli

Yikes! I am late *again* with my Daring Bakers challenge. School + thanksgiving = tardiness in non-required tasks. But I’m so glad I ended up doing it, even if late–these came out FAR better than I expected from myself 😀

Daring Bakers November 2009 Challenge - Cannoli

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

The recipe calls for white wine vinegar; I only had apple cider vinegar on hand. It also calls for Marsala or sweet white wine, but I only had a box of Falling Star Malbec (which I used all of and a few drops of water to form the dough). The dough WAS a pain in the ass to roll out but eventually, I got it to between 1/16″ and 1/8″ (though I think it shrunk back a bit by the time I fried them, because they came out thick.)

I DID get some blisters on the cannoli! I was super-excited. It seems like they blistered better when I dropped them in the oil and let them cook without much interference. Oh, and I just used cannoli forms made out of heavy-duty tinfoil rolled into tubes.

YAY! Blistering!

I just dipped these in a quick dark chocolate ganache I made in the microwave, then chilled and filled them with canned whipped cream when they were ready to eat. And even though the shells weren’t perfect, man–deep-fried dough dipped and chocolate with whipped cream is apparently very difficult to screw up.

From the Daring Bakers Challenge, here is the recipe:

CANNOLI SHELLS
2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS:
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

An Amazing Cookie Baking Experience (Chocolate Walnut Cookies)

To make up for the giant fail-tastic post of my October Daring Bakers’ challenge, I’m posting an ode to Smitten Kitchen’s (adapted from David Lebovitz’s) chocolate walnut cookies.

This was about all that was left after a few minutes...

After a thrown-together dinner of grilled steak and steamed broccoli last night, Mike and I sat down for a night of TV (him) and homework (me). But instead of doing my Orgo pre-lab, I made cookies per his suggestion!

OH MY DEAR GOD. These were some of the best cookies I’ve ever made. A major difference was using cold butter, sliced up into 1/2-inch pieces, instead of softening it in the microwave. I also used my new electric beater (YAY! $7 on craigslist! several types of beaters! BEAUTIFUL and life-changing!) to mix these and I think that resulted in a better mixing job. I used half cake flour and half all-purpose, by virtue of running out of one. I ALSO chopped up the walnuts more finely than I normally would, which took care of the problem I’ve had with walnuts making the cookies too bitter. The toasted-walnut flavor infused the cookies and it was *great.*

Cliched but YUM

We ate a bunch last night–dipped in milk of course–and then Mike brought them to his office today, where they were another big hit. Natalie and Becca can attest to my singing the praises of these cookies all night.

My pictures suck, but that’s largely because I was too busy wolfing down cookies instead of taking pictures and experimenting with my new lighting setup (hence the funny changes in lighting here). REGARDLESS…go make these. Now!

Update: I’ve made these 4 or 5 times since I originally posted this recipe. I’ve found that the 1/2 cake flour, 1/2 all purpose flour combination is best. They are also much better with chopped up dark chocolate than with semi-sweet chips (or even semi-sweet bars). Good luck!

Amazing Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cookies
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Great Book of Chocolate.

Makes about 24 good-sized cookies.

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped dark chocolate (I used Hershey’s special dark)
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped fine

Preheat oven to 300F.

Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda.

Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chunks and nuts.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon balls and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Mine spread a lot so you should DEFINITELY give these plenty of space!

Bake for 15 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven, let rest for a minute or two on the pan, then remove and cool on a wire rack.