Category Archives: Dessert

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.


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

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

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

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

Sweet Amandine’s Almond Tart (in Tartlet Form)

This year, I made Christmas lists for my parents for the first time since elementary school. Instead of listing “a hamster” 30 times on one sheet of paper like I did in second grade, I picked some food-blogger-worthy items–a few square bowls, a big geometric serving platter, and 6 cute ramekins recommended by Deb of Smitten Kitchen. I found Sweet Amandine’s recipe for Almond Tartlets via her beautiful photos on Tastespotting and I figured this would be the perfect chance to get those ramekins in use!

Sweet Amandine's Almond Tartlets

Her original recipe is meant for a single 9-inch tart. I found an amazing resource on allrecipes: Cake Pan Conversions for most sizes and shapes of bakeware! After learning that a 9-inch cake recipe usually yields 6 cups of batter, I initially planned on halving the recipe and filling 6 ramekins about half-way. It worked out that I only filled 4 ramekins, though–so this was a nice mid-week impulse bake.

The almond flavor is intense. I might pull back a little next time and maybe add a little kirsch, just to balance out the sweetness a little better, but otherwise these were perfect. They’re better warm, I think, but not hot. In total the prep and baking took about an hour, so this is definitely doable for dinner parties!

Jess (of Sweet Amandine) oh-so-helpfully annotated her recipe with guidelines for when to do what. Instead of copying-and-pasting here, I think it best to link to her recipe, since I did this almost exactly as described (though I did halve the ingredients). So here it is, Sweet Amandine’s annotated recipe for Almond Tarts.

I baked mine at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, but I started checking after 20 minutes so that they didn’t burn.

Enjoy! I will hopefully have some non-baking exploits on here soon, and I’m hoping to get back into the thrice-weekly posting schedule I had going before last semester. We’ll see. Keep your fingers crossed, dear reader(s)!

Easy-as-Pie Cranberry Cake

You know what bugs me the most at the grocery store? Buying things because they’re on sale (bad habit, I know), then ringing in up front and having it come up as the original non-sale price. At any other store, I’d say something–but when it’s 60 cents, I just feel silly! It happened last week with some impulse-buy cranberries I’d grabbed.

In the end it worked out well, though, since those cranberries found a delicious home in a simple, easy, and beautiful cranberry cake. Be forewarned that this is a time-consuming cake: it needs about 12 minutes of solid attention while mixing and then 60-75 minutes in the oven. But if you have company, you’ve eaten everything, and you’re on the 5th or 6th bottle of wine–as I found my group of friends on Friday night–this cake is perfect! Minimal ingredients and fancy-schmancy lookin’.

(I took a bite while taking pictures, yum!)

Oh–the kirsch and almond extract are optional, but I highly recommend them both. Kirsch is good to have around for fruity ice cream anyway (thanks, David Lebovitz!) and almond extract…well, it rules.

Easy-as-Pie Cranberry Cake with Candied Walnut Topping
Adapted from TheKitchn’s Recipe for Cranberry Cake.

Cake Ingredients
3 eggs
2 cups granulated white sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon kirsch
2 cups flour (I used a mix of mostly cake flour and some all-purpose)
12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries (I don’t think dried would work well here)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13″ pan or a 10-inch springform (which is what I used). Beat together eggs and sugar for 5-7 minutes. They will be pale yellow and will form ribbons when you lift the beaters. Add butter, vanilla, almond extract and kirsch, and beat for another 2 minutes until well-mixed. Stir in flour by hand. Batter will be very thick. Fold in cranberries until well-distributed.

Pour batter into pan; spread so it is even. Bake now or make topping below before placing in oven. Check at 45 minutes and every 5-10 minutes thereafter until a tester comes out mostly clean.

Topping Ingredients

1 cup walnuts (or pecans), toasted
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the brown sugar. Add walnuts and stir continuously for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture looks somewhat smooth. It’s okay if the butter and brown sugar don’t look totally combined. *Before* putting the cake in the oven, pour topping over cake batter as evenly as possible.

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.