Sunday, December 17, 2017

CHOCOLATE MAPLE SYRUP & CHOCOLATE MAPLE TRUFFLES: National Maple Syrup Day!

Today is National Maple Syrup Day. When I was young, we traveled to Canada, Maine, and Vermont for fishing trips (my father was a fresh water fisherman). One of my fond memories was seeing the taps in the maple trees in the woods. So magical to me.. a city kid. They were just like beer taps (or for me at that age, they probably looked like soda fountain taps). Tapping the trees for maple syrup was always the highlight of these trips. This experience broadened the school history lesson about the early settlers and Maple Syrup. Of course the indigenous people tapped the trees first, but that wasn't part of our lesson at that time. 

An individual maple tree can be tapped one to three times per year (depending on how big the diameter of its trunk is), producing up to 13 gallons of sap every one to two month harvesting season. Maple trees keep the starch inside their roots and trunk before winter sets in which is then later converted to sugar that appears in the tree's sap in winter and early spring.

It is the starchy sugar that makes maple syrup so characteristically sweet. In order to turn sap into sugar, it's heated and boiled to evaporate the excess water, with the concentrated syrup remaining. Sugar shacks were set up for this process, and those were also available for viewing in small Vermont and Canadian towns. I imagine they still are.

Want to know more about the history of Maple Syrup? Read "Tapping into the history of maple syrup" at Chronically Vintage.

What to do with maple syrup? Well, growing up, maple syrup at our house came in a little crock and was only used to pour over waffles and pancakes. But Maple Syrup is actually a great item to have in your pantry and can be used in lots of ways. Maple syrup is a healthy alternative to sugar in baked goods and desserts.

Conversion tips:
Substitute an equal amount of maple syrup for sugar.
For each cup of syrup, reduce the quantity of liquid ingredients in the recipe (water, milk, juice) by about a quarter of a cup.
Maple syrup can also serve as a one-to-one substitution for other liquid sweeteners, such as honey, molasses and corn syrup.

And, with the holidays coming up, here are two great recipes to make and give or serve: Chocolate Maple Syrup and Chocolate Maple Truffles.

CHOCOLATE MAPLE SYRUP

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups pure maple syrup
4 Tbsp unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chopped
Pinch of salt

Directions
Heat maple syrup in small sturdy saucepan over moderate heat until hot.
Whisk in cocoa powder, butter, and pinch of salt. Turn down to simmer and whisk for a minute.
Serve syrup warm.
Syrup keeps, covered and chilled, 1 week.

CHOCOLATE MAPLE TRUFFLES
This recipe is from the Pure Canadian Maple Syrup site

Ingredients for Centers 
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 cups dates, pitted and chopped
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp orange juice, just squeezed
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier or other liqueur optional

Ingredients for Coating
8 ounces premium quality bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

Directions
To prepare the centers, melt 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in double boiler over gently simmering water until completely melted, stirring only once or twice. Set aside.
Chop dates by hand, so they're not sticky (can become sticky if you use a food processor) If you are using food processor, place pecans in with the dates and pulse.
Add melted chocolate, Maple syrup, orange juice and liqueur; pulse until mixture just comes together. Alternatively, you can mix the ingredients together by hand in a medium mixing bowl.
To form and coat truffles, prepare coating:
Melt remaining 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate over double boiler of gently simmering water and cool to about 90°. While chocolate is cooling, form truffles. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Form truffles into small tiny bite sized balls. Place cookie sheet of truffles to left of you. Place melted chocolate in front of you and have sifted cocoa to right of you To far right have cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and or paper truffle cups ready to place coated truffles.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Guinness Chocolate Truffles: My Goodness, My Christmas GUINNESS

I love Guinness Chocolate Truffles. How great to have some of these Guinness Truffles around for the holidays. Make a lot. There won't be any left over! These really do taste like Guinness, and Guinness goes so well with Chocolate! They also make a great gift. My Goodness, My Christmas GUINNESS.

GUINNESS CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Ingredients
3/4 cup Guinness
1 pound dark chocolate  (65-75% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Cocoa

Directions
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler or saucepan over another saucepan with simmering water.
Gradually stir in cream.
Gradually add Guinness, stirring gently to blend.
Cover and chill overnight.
Shape mixture into 3/4 inch balls, using about a tablespoon for each.
Roll in cocoa (or roll in red and green decorating sugar for Christmas)


Happy Holidays!

CANDY CANE CHOCOLATE COVERED MARSHMALLOW POPS!

Today is Chocolate Covered Anything Day! So with the holidays coming up, here's a recipe for festive Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Pops. These chocolate covered marshmallows, and these Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Pops are easy and delicious and always a hit during the holidays. Everyone loves food on a stick! I used to use small candy cane for the handles, but I find the sticks are so much more manageable on many levels.

This holiday treat is a variation on S'mores on a Stick. All you do differently is use crushed candy cane pieces in place of the graham cracker crumbs. You can also use homemade marshmallows or good quality marshmallows, but I used packaged Marshmallows, as they always hit the spot for me!

CANDY CANE CHOCOLATE COVERED MARSHMALLOW POPS

Directions
Melt good quality dark chocolate in saucepan on top of another saucepan over simmering water. Remove from stove.
Crush candy canes and put in shallow bowl.
Put lollipop stick in marshmallow and dip and swirl marshmallow in melted chocolate.
Sprinkle chocolate (using spoon) with crushed candy cane bits.
If chocolate gets thick while dipping, put back on stove, heat a bit, and whisk.
Put finished Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Pops on parchment lined cookie sheet.
Repeat.
When you've dipped them all, put them in the refrigerator to firm up.
Bring them to room temperature before serving.
I put the Marshmallow Pops in Bonne Maman jam jars wrapped in a bit of red and white twine. Mason jars are great, too!

History of the Candy Cane from About.com:

During the 17th century, Europeans adopted Christmas trees as part of Christmas celebrations, and they often made cookies and sugar stick candy as decorations. The first historical reference to the familiar cane shape goes back to 1670, when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, bent the sugar sticks into canes to represent a shepherd's staff. The all white candy canes were given out to children during the nativity services. This tradition of handing out candy canes during Christmas services spread throughout Europe and later to America.

The first historical reference to the candy cane being in America goes back to 1847, when German immigrant August Imgard decorated the Christmas tree in his Wooster, Ohio home with candy canes.

About fifty years later the first red-and-white striped candy canes appeared. No one knows who exactly invented the stripes, but Christmas cards prior to the year 1900 showed only all white candy canes. Christmas cards after 1900 showed illustrations of striped candy canes. Around the same time, candy-makers added peppermint and wintergreen flavors to their candy canes and those flavors then became the traditional favorites.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Where to Buy a Bûche de Noël in the San Francisco Bay Area

A Bûche de Noël is the perfect centerpiece for any holiday meal--Christmas, Christmas Eve, or the Winter Solstice. Not everyone has the time, skills, or patience to make a Bûche de Noël (aka Yule Log) for the holidays, but there are lots of places you can buy a Bûche de Noël. Of course, you'll want to get your order in soon.

If I were in Paris, I would probably have an impossible decision of where to buy only one Bûche de Noël since almost every patisserie makes a Buche de Noel. Sadly, I won't be in Paris, but if you are, here are two outstanding places.

There are beautiful Bûches de Noël by Pierre Herme (Paris). One of the Bûche de Noël is a Chuao Chocolate Buche with Cherry Accents and another is a Buche with chocolate and caramel. Alexis Mabille has created a couture Bûche de Noël for Chocolaterie Angelina. Mabille put his stamp on the traditional yule log with the pastry chef Sebastian Bauer, opting for a heart of creamy chestnuts, candied apple and a confit of yuzu and lime surrounded by milk-chocolate ganache and crisp pecans. Mabille’s bûche is not a log, but a "Cocoa" Chanel bag: quilted and studded with edible silver buttons, topped with Mabille’s signature silver bow. And, almost every patisserie has its own version.

But, since I'm located in the San Francisco Bay Area, I thought I'd post several (but definitely not all) bakeries in the area that make Buches de Noel. I decided not to list all the flavors, but check with the bakeries. Get your orders in now in time for the holidays.

Bûches de Noël: San Francisco Bay Area

Tartine (SF) (Genoise filled with espresso buttercream, meringue mushrooms, pistachio moss, Valrhona chocolate Glaze)
La Farine, (Rockridge, Dimond, Fruitvale)
b. patisserie, (SF): 4: Chocolate Coffee Caramel, Coconut/Passion Fruit//Pineapple//Mango, Smore and Vanilla with Red fruits.
Bi-Rite (SF): TCHO Chocolate Buche de Noel
Miette (SF, Marin, East Bay): Traditional
Craftsman and Wolves (SF- 2 locations): Coffee, Hazelnut, Yogurt & Caramel
La Boulangerie (San Francisco) 
Bouchon (Napa). Two sizes of traditional Buche
La Bedaine (Berkeley): Three flavors
Sweet Things (Tiburon & SF)
Fleur de Cocoa (Los Gatos)
Douce France (Palo Alto)
Tout Sweet Patisserie (San Francisco and Palo Alto)
Cafe Madeleine (San Francisco)
Arizmendi Bakery (Oakland, San Francisco)
Masse's Pastries (Berkeley)
Sweet Bar Bakery (Oakland)
Fournee Bakery (Berkeley)
Sweet Adeline Bakeshop (Berkeley)
Gerhard Michler Fine European Desserts (San Francisco)
Moonside Bakery (Half Moon Bay)
La Bedaine (Berkeley)
La Parisienne (Oakland)
Chantal Guillon (San Francisco-check locations)
PanotiQ (Bay Area)
Le Marais (San Francisco)
Thorough Bread & Pastry (San Francisco)
Marla Bakery (San Francisco)
Noe Valley Bakery (San Francisco)
Mademoiselle Colette (Menlo Park)
Fleur de Cocoa (Los Gatos)
Douce France (Palo Alto)

Ici (Berkeley) has an awesome ice cream Bûches de Noël

Most fine bakeries and patisseries make Bûche de Noël for the holidays. Check out your local. Get your order in soon.

And lastly, if you don't want a whole Bûche de Noël, several restaurants have Bûche de Noël by the slice on their dessert menus. Check with your favorite French restaurant or bistro.

Chocolate Barks for Santa and Friends

Just 10 days until Christmas, and you might still need to make a gift or have treats ready for Santa. I can't think of anything easier or more versatile than Chocolate Bark. What do you have in your pantry? Well, chocolate, of course, and you can add anything to the chocolate, and voila! instant candy! Package your bark nicely in a tin, and you have a gift for Aunt Em! Put it on the table for Santa, along with cookies and milk, and he'll love it!

So here are recipes for a variety of Holiday Barks! Be sure and scroll down for links to other Chocolate Holiday Barks. Let's face it, you can never have enough bark! Woof!

1. White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Ingredients
1 pound white chocolate
candy canes, crushed to make 1/2 cup

Directions
Heat white chocolate in double boiler over low heat until melted.
Add crushed candy cane to white chocolate. Make sure white chocolate stays warm.
Pour mixture onto wax paper-lined cookie sheet, spreading very thinly with spatula.
Place cookie sheet in freezer until  mixture has hardened.
Take out of freezer and crack bark into small pieces.
Remove from wax paper and store at room temperature.

2. Microwave White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Ingredients
1 pound white chocolate
1/2 cup crushed candy canes

Directions
Place chocolate in microwave-safe dish. Microwave on 50% power, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and of creamy consistency.
Stir in crushed candy canes.
Spread on cookie sheet and place in the freezer until set (about 20 minutes).
Break into pieces.

3. Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Ingredients
12 ounces high quality dark chocolate
1/2 cup crushed candy canes
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Directions
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler (or saucepan on top of saucepan of simmering water).
Remove from heat, add peppermint extract and stir.
Pour melted chocolate onto cookie sheet lined with wax paper and spread out with spatula or wooden spoon.
Sprinkle peppermint candy chunks on chocolate and gently press in with hands.
Put in freezer until hardened (5 minutes).
Break into pieces. Store in fridge in an airtight container.

And, here are two recipes for festive holiday barks that feature red --and red and green--in the bark.

4. Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Ginger Bark

Ingredients
6 ounces dark chocolate (65-70% cacao), chopped
2 Tbsp crystallized ginger
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 tsp sea salt

Directions
Melt chocolate in top of double boiler or saucepan over saucepan of simmering water.
Remove saucepan with melted chocolate from stove and stir in crystallized ginger and half of pomegranate seeds.
Line baking sheet with parchment. Pour melted chocolate mixture onto sheet. Using a spatula smooth chocolate into even layer about 1/4 inch thick.
Sprinkle with remaining pomegranate seeds and sea salt.
Chill 20-30 minutes (until firm).
Break into pieces and store in airtight container, separating layers with waxed paper.
Serve same day, if possible.

5. Cranberry Nut Chocolate Bark
This recipe is from King Arthur Flour. I love the innovative recipes on the website and blog, and, of course, King Arthur Flour's great products! This recipe is very festive with red cranberries and crunchy pecans...and it uses both white and dark chocolate layers.

Ingredients
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup toasted diced pecans
2- 2/3 cups chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted
2- 2/3 cups chopped white chocolate, melted

Directions
Toss cranberries and pecans together. Set them aside.
Melt dark chocolate (in the top of a double boiler--see above), and spread into 8" x 12" oval on parchment paper.
Allow chocolate to set, but not harden completely.
Melt white chocolate (in the top of a double boiler-see above) and mix with about 3/4 cup of cranberries and pecans. Spread this over dark chocolate.
Sprinkle rest of nuts and fruit on top, pressing them in gently.
Refrigerate for about 10 minutes--no more than 20-- until hardened, then break into chunks.

6. Whiskey Marshmallow and Caramel Bacon Bark from Bakers Royale

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Trader Joe's Chocolate Passport: The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

I've posted before about Trader Joe's Chocolate Passport, and I'm so pleased to see The Chocolate Passport back at Trader Joe's this season. The Chocolate Passport makes a great stocking stuffer or hostess gift or even the basis of your own "chocolate tasting" during the holidays. Trader Joe's Chocolate Passport is beautifully packaged, as well as containing terrific chocolate from beans sourced from all over the world. Different amounts of cacao, too.

Each chocolate is sourced from eight original locations each with its own terroir. Trader Joe's Chocolate Passport takes you on a journey through the cacao-growing world: Peru, Ecuador, Venazuela, The Dominican Republic, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome, and Tanzania. The cacao ranges form 60-73%. Take a trip around the chocolate world!

At $9.99, this is a great bargain! This is also available on several internet sites, but at double the price!



Eight Nights of Hanukkah Donuts: Guest Post by Miri Ariel

Miri Ariel:
Eight Nights of Hanukkah Donuts

At Hanukkah in Jerusalem, you can find an assortment of donuts in all different flavors. Why the Donut for Hanukkah? Think oil. Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates the miracle of the oil that was used to light the menorah. When the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem, they found a vessel of oil but it was only enough for one night. However, instead of lasting for one night, it lasted for eight.

Of the recipes to try, these are the author of “The Mohel From Mars: A Hanukkah Story,” Miri Ariel’s favorites:

1) Fluffy Oreo Cake Donuts 
http://www.thebakingchocolatess.com/fluffy-oreo-chocolate-cake-donuts/

2) Nutella Filled Donuts
https://veggiezest.com/2013/07/29/nutella-filled-donuts/

3) Tumeric Chai Donuts 
http://www.rainbownourishments.com/turmeric-chai-donuts-and-9-things-i-learnt-in-my-20s-as-a-foodie/

4) Baked Red Velvet Donut Holes
https://www.dashofsanity.com/baked-red-velvet-cake-donuts-holes/

5) Reese’s Filled Chocolate Donuts
https://www.sugarandsoul.co/reeses-stuffed-puff-pastry-donuts-recipe/

6) Maple Pumpkin Donuts with Cinnamon Cream Filling
http://www.bakeaholicmama.com/2013/10/sea-salted-maple-pumpkin-doughnuts-with.html#.Wi7WDVWnGpo

7) Lemon Donuts with Rasberry Glaze
https://ashleemarie.com/lemon-donuts-raspberry-glaze-recipe/

8) Baked Smores Donuts 
https://realhousemoms.com/baked-smores-donuts/

***
Miri Ariel is the author of the #1 new release in Hanukkah books on Amazon, The Mohel from Mars. 

It follows Motti, a mohel, who discovers that he has another calling in life. In a modern retelling of the Hanukkah story, Motti lives a double life, by day as a mohel and by night as a Maccabee fighting the Greek space monsters known as Seleucids. 

Miri wanted to create an action packed story for Hanukkah that was both contemporary and fun. In a family of lawyers and doctors, Miri chose to be a writer and to follow her own path, just like Motti must choose to follow his in this unique and engaging Hanukkah story.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Homemade Chanukah Gelt: Coins & Truffles

The Jewish holiday of Chanukah lasts 8 days, so there's plenty of time to make more chocolate treats! Perhaps the most familiar form of Chanukah Gelt is a chocolate coin covered in gold foil. This tradition probably dates from the late 18th and early 19th century in Europe, when Jews figured prominently in chocolate manufacturing.

There are many chocolatiers who sell Chanukah Gelt, and some of it is very tasty, but if you want the very best, make your own!

The first recipe for Homemade Chanukah Gelt is from Oh Nuts! Sweet & Crunchy blog and is pretty traditional in appearance. This Chanukah Chocolate Gelt is fun to make with kids. Easy and quick. Perfect for the Holiday!

The second recipe is for Chocolate Truffle Gelt. The truffles can't really be flattened like a coin, but you can individually wrap them in gold foil to mimic the gold coins. Each truffle contains less than 1/8th teaspoon alcohol, that helps to "cook" the yolks in the mixture. One Tablespoon of orange juice can be substituted, but it will slightly alter the taste and consistency.

And, you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy any of this Chanukah Gelt!

HOMEMADE CHANUKAH GELT 

Ingredients
8 oz (about 1-1/3 cups) melting chocolate wafers (or dark or milk chocolate)
2 mini muffin tins
Gold luster dust
Clean food-safe paintbrush

Directions
Put chocolate wafers in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave wafers in 30-second increments, stirring after every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a pot over a pot over simmering water.
Drop a spoonful of melted chocolate into 24 mini muffin cavities. Don't use a lot if you want them to look like coins.
Hit muffin pans against counter to level out chocolate and reduce “peaks” on top of chocolate. Refrigerate pans until chocolate is completely set, about 20 minutes.
Turn pans upside-down over clean surface, and flex to release the coins. If some stick in pan, knock on bottom of tin to dislodge the coins.
Use clean, dry food-safe brush and brush luster dust over the surface of coins. Luster dust and water do not mix, so don’t get any fancy ideas about mixing them together to make gold paint–you’ll just end up with a mess. Dry brushing works better.

If you don't want to use the luster dust, you can wrap the coins in gold foil and press a coin pattern (or not) into the foil (preferably while still a bit soft).

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE GELT

Ingredients
6 ounces dark or milk chocolate
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1 Tbsp coffee liqueur, cognac, or Grand Marnier
Dried sweetened cherries
Cocoa
Gold foil paper

Directions
Put chocolate in one quart bowl and place in saucepan filled halfway with hot but not boiling water. Over low heat, melt chocolate and stir to remove any lumps. Remove bowl of chocolate from hot water bath.
Cut butter into 4 pieces and whisk in, one piece at a time, until smooth.
Whisk in yolks until thoroughly combined. (Mixture might look grainy and separated. Don't worry about using raw yolks; the yolks will essentially be "cooked" by alcohol in liqueur.) Then whisk in the cognac or other flavoring.
Cover and refrigerate for hour, or until mixture is firm but not rock hard.
Working quickly, place heaping teaspoon of chocolate in hand. Press dried cherry into center of chocolate and shape into ball, about an inch in diameter, covering the fruit.
Roll truffle in cocoa. Place on plastic wrap-lined plate, cover with additional wrap, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes for dark chocolate and 15 minutes longer for milk).
To create "coins," wrap truffles in gold foil.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

National Cocoa Day: 15 Unique Cocoa Recipes!

Today is National Cocoa Day,  and it's blustery outside. This is a great day for a good cup of Cocoa. I always post on National Cocoa Day, and this is an updated post with some new recipes. Cocoa or Hot Chocolate, whatever you call it, it's great--all year round!

A few years ago,  I posted several brands of cocoa that I enjoy, plus links and recipes. You'll definitely want to take a look. And, remember, using the best ingredients will result in the best cocoa/hot chocolate!

Want to know the difference between Natural and Dutch Process Cocoa? Click HERE.

Following are variations on classic Cocoa/Hot Chocolate. Some recipes are for one, some for four, and some for a crowd. Some use cocoa powder, others use chocolate bars, some have a mix, but all are delicious. If you have a favorite cocoa recipe, comment below with a link!


Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Ingredients
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1 Tbsp Madagascar vanilla
3/4 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces 70-80% cacao chocolate, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp peppermint oil

Directions: Add milk, cream, vanilla, and sugar to pot and place over medium heat. When milk mixture is hot, add chopped chocolate and stir constantly. Continue stirring, adding remaining ingredients. When mixture is starting to simmer, take off heat and serve.

Eggnog Hot Cocoa
What would the holidays be without eggnog? Try this and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp unsweetened Dark Cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions: In blender or processor,  combine egg, milk, water, cocoa, and nutmeg, blend until well mixed. Transfer mixture to top of  double boiler. Hear stirring occasionally, until mixture is steaming. Do not boil.

Argentinian Hot Cocoa

Ingredients:
4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp Madagascar or Mexican Vanilla
4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, broken into 1 ounce pieces

Directions: Heat milk, sugar, and vanilla in pan until almost boiled. Remove from heat and divide  into 4 mugs. Immediately, put piece of chocolate in each mug. It will melt and have a fabulous taste.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:
2 tsp good-quality ground DARK cocoa
1 tsp sugar, plus extra to taste
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground almonds. You can add more if you want a thicker texture.
1 cup milk

Directions: Mix all ingredients, except milk, together in empty, clean glass jar. Shake until completely combined. Heat  milk in a 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.

Mexican Hot Chocolate II

Ingredients
5  ounces dark Mexican Chocolate
2 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup hot water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp instant coffee
2 cups whole milk
1 egg (optional)
1/4 tsp Mexican vanilla extract
1 dried red chile pepper, smashed
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Directions: In saucepan over medium-low heat, add Mexican chocolate, honey, hot water, salt, coffee, and chile pepper. Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture just begins to boil; reduce heat to low and let simmer, stirring constantly, for another minute. Carefully stir in milk and let sit over low heat until chocolate is too warm to touch. In bowl, beat egg until frothy. Add vanilla extract and beat in well. Pour hot chocolate mixture over the frothed egg and beat for about 15 seconds. (until you have about foam on top) Pour into mugs. Sprinkle mugs with ground cinnamon and shaved chocolate.

Honey Hot Cocoa  

The flavor of your cocoa will change with the variety of honey. Try lavender honey, sage, wildflower.

Ingredients
4 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tbsp honey
4 cups milk

Directions: Combine ingredients in medium-size sauce pan. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally until hot.

Hot Cocoa with Brown Sugar

Ingredients:
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup water
4 cups hot milk
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
dash of salt

Preparation: In double boiler (or saucepan over a saucepan), melt chocolate and water together. Slowly mix in milk, sugar, and salt. Whisk until chocolate is smooth and blended.

Parisian Warm Chocolate
I'm not sure where I found this recipe, but it works! Anything French works! Lots of varieties on this. Experiment!

Ingredients:
1 cup whole milk
1/3 heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
6 oz chocolate- 65-75% cacao, chopped

Directions: Simmer milk, cream, and sugar together until just boiling. Stir in chocolate until melted. Don't let it boil. Serve warm in mugs.

Spicy White Hot Cocoa

Ingredients
4 cups milk
7 ounces good white chocolate (Guittard, Ghirardelli, Green & Black), chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions: Put white chocolate in medium metal bowl or saucepan over another saucepan of  simmering water, or in top part of double boiler. Melt chocolate, stirring occasionally until smooth. Stir in cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Whisk in egg until smooth. Gradually whisk in one cup of milk until completely incorporated (2-3 minutes). Gradually whisk in remaining milk, and heat until hot, but not simmering. Put in mugs and sprinkle with cinnamon or chocolate.

Peppermint White Chocolate Cocoa 
(is that redundant?)

Ingredients:
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
3 1/2 cups whole milk
6 hard peppermint candies, crushed fine
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2/3 cup whipping cream

Directions: Beat chilled cream with crushed mints until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate for about 1 hour. Heat milk to simmer, them mix in chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add mint extract and stir through. Pour into mugs and top with minty whipped cream.

Candy Cane Cocoa   
variation on recipe from Sean Paajanen at About.com

Ingredients:
4 cups whole milk
3 ounces 60-85% cacao chocolate, chopped
4 red and white striped peppermint candies crushed
4 small red and white striped candy canes
whipped cream

Directions: In sauce pan bring milk to simmer. Add chocolate and crushed candies. Whisk until smooth. Divide hot cocoa between mugs and garnish with whipped cream and serve with candy cane stirring stick.

Brandied Hot Cocoa

Ingredients 
4 cups milk
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp chili powder
5 Tbsp brandy
6 Tbsp whipped cream
4 tsp unsweetened DARK cocoa powder, sifted

Directions 
In saucepan, bring milk just to boil. Remove from heat.
Put chocolate in small saucepan and add 2 Tbsp hot milk. Stir over low heat until chocolate has melted, then stir chocolate mixture back into hot milk.
Add and stir in sugar. Stir in brandy and pour into four heatproof glasses.
Top each with whipped cream and sprinkle with sifted cocoa.

Kahlua Hot Cocoa

Ingredients
1/2 ounce semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup coffee
2 TBSP cocoa
1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Kahlua

Directions
Melt chocolate in saucepan over another saucepan over simmering water.
Once melted, add all other ingredients except Kahlua.
Raise heat to medium high, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth and just starting to bubble (2-3 minutes).
Remove from heat, stir in Kahlua.
Pour into mug and serve.
Add marshmallows or whipped cream as you see fit.

English Toffee Cocoa

Ingredients
4 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao), chopped
1 tsp Madegascar vanilla extract
1/4 cup English toffee, crushed
Whipped cream
Unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions
Combine milk, water, and sugar in saucepan and sttir over medium heat until just boiling.
Remove from heat, and stir in chocolate and vanilla.
Beat with whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is frothy.
Pour hot chocolate into 2 big mugs.
Top with whipped cream and crushed English toffee. Sprinkle with cocoa powder.

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup Dark Cocoa (I like Ghiradelli)
1/3 cup water
1 tsp Madagascar Vanilla
2 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Hazelnut Syrup (or Toffee Nut from Starbucks)
2 Tbsp Caramel Sauce, Caramel Drizzle
Whipped Cream (or Reddi Whip)

Directions
Mix Sugar, Cocoa, and 1 tsp Salt. Add water and boil for 1 minute. Add milk and heat until warm. Mix in Vanilla, Hazelnut Syrup and Caramel Sauce Pour into coffee cup and top with whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and sea salt  

About the photo: This Vintage Advertisement for Cadbury Cocoa is special to me. My sister, Judie Siddall, is the President of the Transferware Collectors Club and sells antique blue and white transferware (pottery), similar to what is pictured in this advertisement, although, her wares are much older. She can be found at Merlin Antiques. She also blogs at Dishy News.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Chocolate Candy Cane Cake: Retro Ad & Recipe

Here's a fun Retro Ad & Recipe from Pillsbury for Chocolate Candy Cane Cake. Of course, you can always make your own cake and frosting from scratch. Love these Retro Ads. The Snowman Layer Cake isn't chocolate, but it's so Retro cute with its marshmallow snowmen.



Sunday, December 10, 2017

Peelabanana for Santa: Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

O.K. I know Bananas don't jump to mind when you think Santa and Christmas, but the United Fruit Company thought you should. Check out this cool Retro 1967 Ad from the United Fruit Company. There's a recipe for Banana Quick Bread on the ad, but I am posting my favorite Banana Bread recipe--with Chocolate Chunks, of course. Santa can use the extra energy from the chocolate. Want to be festive? Double the recipe and bake it in a holiday bundt pan.

PEELABANANA: CHOCOLATE CHUNK BANANA BREAD

Ingredients
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-5 ounces dark chocolate (70-85% cacoa) very coarsely chopped (you can always substitute chocolate chips)

Directions
Heat oven to 350ºF. Stir eggs, bananas, oil, and milk until blended. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir until just moistened. Stir in chocolate chunks.
Pour into greased 9x5 inch loaf pan. Bake for 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cook in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cool on wire rack.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Pâtisserie, Chocolate Eclairs and National Pastry Day

December 9 is National Pastry Day. I know that pastries covers a huge range of baked cooks that include flour, butter, sugar, eggs and milk, but I thought today I'd mention the pâtisserie.  I can rarely pass a pâtisserie here or in France without going in and sampling the pastries. But the term pâtisserie has a very specific meaning in France and Belgium. It refers to a French or Belgian bakery that specializes in pastries and sweets. In those countries it is a legally controlled titles that can only be used by bakeries that employ a licensed master pastry chef.

I am not a maître pâtissier, and I imagine you're not either, but for National Pastry Day, I thought I'd post my go-to pastry recipe for Mini-Chocolate Eclairs.

My favorite eclairs are not the long thin "traditional" hotdog shaped eclairs (although I like those, too), but rather, the mini-eclairs. Pâte à choux.. little puff pastry.. that I've been making for years are simple to make and easy to fill. Well, I checked my blog, and I've already posted about these eclairs, but they're worthy of a re-post. They're so easy and yet look so beautiful and taste fabulous! Hope you enjoy making these as much as I do!

I've adapted this recipe for Mini Chocolate Eclairs from Paula Deen. It is one of my favorites because it's easy and fabulous! I never use margarine, so I've dropped that alternative from the recipe. Real butter is always best. As always, I use the very best dark chocolate for the topping. I've changed a few measurements and directions in the recipe for the novice Eclair Chef. If you're a purist, just click on Paula Deen's recipe above.

Because these eclairs are so small, feel free to have 3 or 4. :-) Yield depends on how small you make them, but I can get about 40 small eclairs from this recipe. They're great for a crowd!

Want to make these even more chocolate? Add a handful of chocolate chips or chocolate chunks to the egg cream filling or fill with chocolate cream instead: just add 1/4 dark cocoa to the dry ingredients. To fill the eclairs, I use a pastry bag, but if you don't have one, you can always fill a Ziploc bag and cut the tip off to pipe the filling into the eclair.

You will probably have some extra icing. Half the recipe if you ice sparingly. I'm all about chocolate, so there's never much left.

MINI CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS

Pastry:
1 cup water
8 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
3 eggs

Filling:
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla

Icing:
3 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400F.
Heat water and butter to boiling point. Add flour and stir constantly until mixture is smooth and forms a ball when tested in cold water. Remove from heat and let cool. Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. Drop dough from teaspoon, elongate slightly to form small eclairs (or drop in 'puffs'), onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until light brown. Set aside to cool.
Prepare filling by mixing all dry ingredients. Very slowly add milk over low heat and cook until mixture thickens (don't let heat get too high), so you don't have any lumps. Then pour this custard  into the beaten eggs, stirring quickly (so eggs don't cook). Cool and add vanilla.
With serrated knife, slice pastry puffs lengthwise (or if you have puffs make a hole), but not all the way through. Pipe custard mixture into the center.
Melt chocolate for icing, add sugar and cream. Cook over medium heat until soft ball stage.
Let cool and beat until smooth.
Ice tops of eclairs.


Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Dreidels for Hanukkah

Hanukkah starts this week, and these fabulous Chocolate Marshmallow Dreidels are perfect for the holiday. Easy to make and delicious to eat!

A Dreidel is a four-sided spinning top 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 dark chocolate. For the white chocolate I use Green & Black's White Chocolate that's made with Madagascar vanilla. I also use Paul Newman's Own Organic pretzel sticks. They are a little long, so I snap them in half. Or, you can just use a short lollipop stick.

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

CHOCOLATE COVERED 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 
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.

Cut small slit in bottom of each marshmallow or just one thin pretzel stick into the marshmallow. Dip dreidels in dark chocolate, and return to baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.

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.

Refrigerate at least 5 minutes or up to 8 hours before serving.

Friday, December 8, 2017

National Brownie Day: 90+ Brownie Recipes

Photo: Ghiradelli Gluten-Free Brownies
Today is National Brownie Day. I've posted many Brownie recipes over the years, including my favorite, Aunt Sylvia's Brownies.

Recently I came across the history of Brownies. Chicago Magazine says the recipe is credited to Bertha Palmer, wife of the Palmer House's original owner. Apparently the organizers of the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 asked her and the hotel to make a delicious and transportable dessert. Here's a link to that original Palmer House Brownie recipe.

Whatever the origins, Brownies have come a long way. Here's a Round-up of 90+ Brownie Recipes I've posted over the years. I'm sure I didn't catch them all, but it's an updated list. Several recipes are Gluten-Free.

And, to start, here's a link to Tips for Making the Best Brownies.

2016 Brownie Recipe Round-Up: 
Links to 50+ Brownie Recipes

Aunt Sylvia's Brownies

Double Chocolate Brownies  

Peanut Butter Brownies 

Elsie's Fudgy Mocha Brownies 

Merlot Brownies 

Peppermint Bark Brownies

One Bowl Oreo Brownies

TV Dinner Buttermilk Brownies 

Red, White, & Blue Star Brownies

Cherry Port Heart-Shaped Brownies

Super Moon Blue Cheese Brownies 

Double Chocolate Olive Oil Brownies

Extra Nutty Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies

Guy Fawkes Night: Bonfire Brownies

Peanut Butter Toffee Cheesecake Brownies

White Chocolate Brownies

Lemon Curd Brownies 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Best Ever Gluten Free Brownies 

Easter Egg Brownies 

Peanut Butter & Jelly Brownies

Milky Way Brownies

Gluten Free Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Brownies

Peanut Butter Marbled Brownies

White Chocolate Brownies with Macadamia Nuts 

Full Moon Brownies

Fudgy Mocha Brownies

Cream Cheese Brownies

Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies

Guinness Stout Brownies

Kahlua Brownies

Creme de Menthe Brownies

Blood Moon Eclipse Brownies

Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies

Strawberry Extra-Chocolately Brownies

Ghirardelli Gluten-Free Brownies

S'mores Brownies from a Mix

S'mores Brownies from Scratch

S'mores Brownies

Gravenstein Apple Chocolate Brownies

Cocoanut Golden-Brownies

Chocolate Walnut Brownies

Gold Rush Brownies  

Ghirardelli Gluten-Free Brownies

Nutella Brownie Muffins 

Sea Salt Caramel Brownies: 2 Recipes

Brownie Ice Box Cookies: Retro Ad & Recipe

Cherry Cheesecake Brownies

Honey Chocolate Brownies

Chocolate Raspberry Beer Brownies

Better Bacon Brownies

Congo Squares

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

Eggnog Brownies

Scotch Brownies

Tequila Brownies 

Brandy Alexander Brownies

Bourbon Cream Cheese Brownies

Chewy Pistachio Brownies 

Double Chocolate Fresh Cherry Brownies

Cocoanut Golden-Brownies

Red Wine Brownies 

Scharffen Berger Mother's Day Brownies

Glad's Brownies

Chocolate Merlot Mustard Brownies 

Mounds of Brownies: Chocolate Revelations

Candy Corn Brownies

Halloween Oreo Brownies

Halloween Brownies

Harvest Moon Pumpkin Brownies

Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes 

Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies

Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Passover Flourless Brownies (4 recipes) #Gluten-free

Dutch Process Cocoa Brownies

Spinach Carrot Brownies: Eat Your Veggies!

Judy Hogan's Healthy Brownies

Brownies in a Mug

Brownie Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches

Miss Piggy's Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Brownies 

"Mounds" of Brownies

Mexican Spicy Brownies

Brownie Bites with Cherry Jubilee Sauce 

Pudding Brownies

Brownies in a Jar

Decadent Quadruple Chocolate Brownie Pie

Retro Chocolate Brownie Pie

Chocolate Pecan Brownie Fudge Cake

German Chocolate Brownie Pecan Tarts

Thursday, December 7, 2017

How to Pack and Ship Cookies for the Holidays!

The first week in December is Cookie Week, and I'm continuing to post Recipes and Tips for Making the Very Best Cookies.

Since it's early in the month, you might be wanting some tips on Packing and Shipping Cookies for the holidays. If you're sending cookies to friends and family here and overseas (military), you'll want to get started. I've put together a few helpful hints, and I welcome any other tips that have worked for you. There are many ways to actually send cookies--USPS, FedEx, UPS.

Tips on how to Pack Cookies to Ship.

Start with the right type of cookie. That's key.

Cookies to avoid:
Fragile, buttery cookies that could end up as crumbs.
Cookies with jam or cream-filled centers.
Cookies that will be smudged  or broken if stacked together.

Cookies to include:
(Drop Cookies) Chocolate Chip or ( Bar Cookies), Biscotti, Gingersnaps, Sugar Cookies, Shortbread or Oatmeal.

Always Double-Box your cookies.
You can use plastic containers or a a sturdy carton or box to hold cookie containers. Always add packing materials around the first container. More on that below.

Now for the actual cookie box.
I'm partial to decorative tins. I pick them up at the flea market, garage sales, and the White Elephant Sale. They're pretty and useful. However, you may want to use locking plastic containers which create a good seal every time. Alternatively, you can use a shoebox or a coffee can. Either must be clean and 'scent' free.

Be sure and line the container with parchment paper or crumpled wax paper.

I probably don't need to remind you, but you should wrap different types of cookies separately, so the flavors and textures don't 'leak'. Crisp cookies get soggy next to soft ones. You can use plastic wrap between layers--and over the top.

Even better is to cushion each cookie. Wrap them in pairs or individually in plastic wrap or small plastic bags. Then put them in ziploc bags. Stack them in your container vertically or horizontally, packing tightly to avoid them moving, but not too tightly that you crush them.

Here's a great tip to keep your cookies fresh and moist. Add some marshmallows to the tin--loosely not in plastic.

If you're not using plastic sealed boxes, put plastic wrap over the top of the box before you close the lid, letting it drape over, to create an airtight seal. If you're using a tin, tape around the lid to add to the seal.

Before putting your container of cookies in the shipping box, put packing materials around for cushioning. Use a heavyweight cardboard shipping box, if you can. Bubble wrap or crumpled newspaper or foam peanuts are great for cushioning. Add at least 2 inches on each side of your cookie gift box Write fragile and perishable on all sides of the box.

Send overnight if you can, so they don't end up sitting in a warehouse. If not, be sure and mail early in the week, so they don't end up in the warehouse for extra days at the warehouse.

What cookies are you sending? Any packing and shipping tips to add?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Unique Gingerbread Cookie Cutters & Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

The first week in December is Cookie Cutter Week! What perfect timing. I've been posting holiday Cookie recipes this week, and I'll continue throughout the month. I love Gingerbread Boys & Girls, and I love these great cookie cutters for traditional and not so traditional Gingerbread People! Be sure and scroll down for a Recipe for an awesome Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies.

Yoga Cookie Cutters Set I: Lotus Group from Patti Paige Baked Ideas

Yoga Cookie Cutters Set 2: Down Dog from Patti Paige Baked Ideas

GingerDead Men Cookie Cutters:

NinjaBread Men:
Fred ABC Cookies Cutters: Which part do you eat first?

And some Vintage Gingerbread Boy Cookie Cutters






Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
Recipe from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito - Food & Wine Magazine

COOKIES

Ingredients
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup unsweetened DARK cocoa powder
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup molasses
2 ounces dark chocolate (65-85% cacao), melted and cooled

Directions
In medium bowl, whisk flour with cocoa powder, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In bowl of standing electric mixer fitted with paddle, beat softened butter with shortening at medium speed until mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add egg to cookie batter and beat until incorporated. Beat in molasses and then melted chocolate. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, beating between additions. Divide dough into 3 equal parts. Shape each part into disk, then wrap each one in plastic wrap and refrigerate cookie dough until chilled, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. On lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 disk of dough 1/4 inch thick. Using 4- to 5-inch cookie cutters, cut dough into shapes and transfer to prepared baking sheets. Reroll dough scraps and cut out more cookies.
Bake cookies for about 7 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking until tops are dry. Let cookies cool in pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining dough.

ICING
You can make Royal Icing or try this Recipe for Mascarpone Filling that doubles as Decorating Icing. Put it in a bag and pipe! Or use Wilton Decorating Icing in tubes.

Decorate your cookies. Let stand until icing dries, about 30 minutes.

Make Ahead: Chocolate-gingerbread cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Advent Calendar


CHOCOLATE REINDEER COOKIES!

Yesterday was Cookie Day, and I posted Tips for Making the Very Best Cookies! I can never have enough cookies--or cookie recipes. As much as I love Chocolate Chip cookies, Chocolate Cookies are my favorite. I love a good crisp chocolate cookie with a rich chocolate taste. As always that is achieved by using an excellent quality chocolate or cocoa and a perfect recipe.

I saw this recipe in the New York Times a few years ago as the cover story of The Holiday Issue, and I realized I'd made this recipe in the past. And, since the holidays are coming up, get out your holiday cookie cutters for this cookie. Reindeer Cookie Cutters are my favorite, and I have several because my last name is Rudolph! For the red noses on chocolate cookies, use a bit of red icing. You can make it, or buy a can or mix at the store. These cookies can be decorated, but why mess with a good thing? I like my cookies unadulterated. If you do decorate these cookies, use royal icing. Of course, you can use other shaped cookie cutters, such as Santa, Stars, Christmas Trees. Get creative with your cutters!

This recipe was sent to The New York Times several years ago by Mari Pfeiffer, a reader in California; it’s from the cookbook “Great Cookies,” published in 2003 by Carole Walter. The cookies have the great flavors of cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, and espresso powder.

RICH CHOCOLATE REINDEER COOKIES


Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sifted Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup superfine sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1/2 tsp boiling water
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted in double boiler (I use 90% cacao from Guittard and cut back a bit on sugar)
Optional: Royal icing, for decorating

Directions
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl of standing mixer, beat butter on medium speed until creamy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Add sugar in steady stream, continuing to beat for 2 minutes. Add egg, vanilla, and espresso mixture. Continue beating, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, then mix in melted chocolate.

Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients in two batches, mixing just enough to combine after each addition. Divide dough in two and form into two flattened disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Roll out chilled dough between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper until it's 3/16-inch thick. Cut into shapes, using cookie cutters of different sizes to use as much dough as possible. (The dough will not be as good if it is rolled out a second time.) Transfer cookies to baking sheets, 1/2 inch apart.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating sheets once to ensure even baking, or until cookies look set on top and have slight sheen. Remove from oven and wait 2 minutes before transferring cookies to wire racks to cool.  
Frost with royal icing, if desired. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Gingerbread House

Happy Cookie Day!


TIPS FOR MAKING THE VERY BEST COOKIES: National Cookie Day

Today is National Cookie Day! What a great day to celebrate. Glad it falls in December because the Holidays are all about Cookie Making. I've seen some wonderful new recipes and decorating techniques this season. Be sure and do a few searches to expand your Cookie Repertoire! You can never have too many cookie recipes!

Here are a few Cookie Making Tips. Love to hear any tips you have.

COOKIE MAKING TIPS

1. For me the most important 'rule' (this is not a tip, it's a rule) is to make sure you Chill the Dough. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Put the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours or put it in the freezer for 10 minutes. While you're working, if the dough becomes soft, just pop it back in the freezer for a few minutes.

2. Use the Correct Ingredients. If you haven't made the recipe before, follow it exactly and measure the ingredients carefully. You can experiment on your next attempts.

3. Up for debate: Some say that you should always roll out your dough between sheets of Wax Paper, not Parchment, because wax paper peels easily off the top of the dough. If you do this, you can then cut out the cookies, and they'll peel right off the bottom sheet. And, yet, some people swear by parchment. Give them both a try and see what you think.

3. Add Salt and Leavening to Butter and Sugar Mixture. If you really want your salt and leavening well distributed throughout the dough, beat it in with the butter and sugar.

4. Fats are major to the spread of a cookie. Generally speaking, fat equals flat, crispy cookies while less fat equals higher, cake-like cookies. Speaking of fats: Whipped spreads are not good for baking. Use butter, margarine, or shortening (Crisco). I mostly use unsalted butter, and I add salt as an ingredient.

5. Sugars: White sugar makes a crisper cookie than brown sugar or honey. Cookies made from brown sugar absorb moisture after baking, so they stay chewy. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes contain both brown and white sugars.

How to keep brown sugar soft? Put a marshmallow or a piece of white bread in the container. The white bread won’t get moldy nor will the marshmallow, and you’ll always have soft brown sugar. I like marshmallows better .. maybe it's just aesthetics.

6. Mixing: Proper mixing is important. Some recipes have a creaming step in which the fat and sugars are beaten together until light-colored and fluffy. Other cookies require a sandy texture, so the fat is cut into the flour. Over-mixing can incorporate too much air into the dough, resulting in flat, overly spread-out cookies. Follow the recipe instructions.

7. Temperature: Unless specified, ingredients should be at room temperature before mixing. Yes, Virginia, take the butter out the night before. For cut cookies, chill the cookie dough before baking. The cookies will hold their shape better. For drop cookies, you can keep them at room temperature before baking; the spoonfuls of dough will spread and flatten out.

8. Equipment and Baking: Not surprising to anyone who bakes, different baking sheets and ovens produce different results. I use rimmed baking sheets (jellyroll pans) for cookies rather than thin flat sheet pans, although some people swear by flat unrimmed cookie sheets. Instead of greasing each baking sheet, I use parchment for easy cookie removal and clean-up. Some of my friends use a silipat liner, but I don't.

9. Use fresh ingredients. I always replace baking soda, flour, spices, and baking powder at the beginning of the season. This goes for chocolate, too, of course! You're working hard on these cookies, and the very best ingredients will produce the very best taste.

10. Making a big batch of cookies? Be sure and cool the cookie sheet before baking another batch. Otherwise your dough might melt, and you'll have weird looking cookies.

11. Be sure and cool cookies on a wire rack. Don't skip this step or the bottoms might become soggy. And, definitely cool completely before storing them.

Love to hear other tips! Please comment!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

CHRISTMAS SCONES

Scones are the perfect pastry to serve with tea. Easy to make, easy to eat! There are so many varieties, but being that we're in the holiday season, I thought I'd post a great recipe for Christmas Scones.

A scone is  the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea, and I imagine you'll need lots of cuppas during the upcoming holidays. I serve my scones with clotted cream and jam, but then my grandmother spent many years in England, and we adopted some of the British ways of eating and drinking. Scones like biscuits are made from flour, leavening, a little salt, some fat, milk and a bit of sugar. As in making biscuits, you cut the fat into the dry ingredients, add liquid, roll, and bake.. But that's where the similarity ends. The texture of a scone is completely different from that of a biscuit. Scones are denser, drier, and more crumbly. They usually contain less butter, too. One other main difference is that in the making of scones, you uses your hands to massage the butter into the dry ingredients. This will help create the proper texture.

This recipe for Scones is originally from Epicurious. You can change up the nuts and fruits for different seasons, but here's one especially for the holidays.

CHRISTMAS SCONES

Ingredients
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided
3 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp finely grated lemon peel
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries (I use Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (or more) chilled half and half, divided

Directions
Position rack in top third of oven; preheat to 375°F.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk 2 Tbsp sugar and 1 Tbsp lemon juice in bowl for glaze.
In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, lemon peel, salt, and 1 cup sugar. Add chilled butter; using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Mix in cranberries and walnuts. Add 1/2 cup half and half and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Toss with fork until dough comes together in moist clumps, adding more half and half if dough is dry.
Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Press out each half on floured surface to 6-inch-diameter (1-inch-high) round. Cut each round into 6 wedges.
Transfer to baking sheet; brush with glaze.
Bake scones until golden and tester comes out clean, about 18 minutes.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

FRITTERS WITH A FUTURE! Chocolate Fritters for National Fritters Day

1930 Crisco Ad: Fritters with a Future
I'm a huge fan of fritters. Actually I'm happy with just about anything that's fried. Sometimes I think I should be Southern. I recently heard a chef on Chopped say, "I'm from Kentucky. If I don't know what an ingredient is, I fry it." Love that motto!

Today is National Fritters Day. According to Wikipedia, a fritter is"any kind of food coated in batter and deep fried. Although very similar to a doughnut it differs in the fact that it requires some base ingredient beyond the dough it is cooked with." Want to know more?  Read about Fritters from Renee Shelton at The Pastry Sampler.

Here's a very easy Chocolate Fritter Recipe from Brookelynne26 on Food.com. There are many chocolate fritter recipes out there, but I'm all about fast and easy. The quality of the fritters will change according to the chocolate you use. But you knew that, right?

Helpful Tip from Brookelynne26: "Make sure the chocolate pieces are completely covered with the dough so none of the chocolate leaks into the oil."

About oil. If you're not using oil all the time, be sure and check it before using it in this or any recipe. Some oils become rancid quickly, and you certainly don't want to spoil your delicious dish. My theory is to replace oil regularly if you're not using it. If it's not opened, it will last longer, but still be sure and check!

Happy Fritter Day! What kind are you making?

EASY CHOCOLATE FRITTERS

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
fresh oil (for deep frying)
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and refrigerated
confectioners' sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:
Sift flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar together into mixing bowl. Add egg, butter, and milk, and mix until smooth.
Slowly heat 3 inches oil to 340°F.
Dip chocolate into batter, coating each piece completely.
Fry fritters, a few at a time, in the hot oil until golden brown, about 1- 2 minutes.
Drain each batch on paper towels, then transfer to warm serving platter and dust with confectioner's sugar.