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Frankenstorm Cookies

Posted by on Oct 29, 2012 in Blog, Recipes | 1 comment

If you’re stuck inside while Frankenstorm brings high winds and pounding rain to the east coast, why not make some Frankenstorm cookies?

When I woke up this morning I looked outside and decided that I needed something sweet and something chocolatey. But in all my preparations for the storm–I bought water and cat food and tried to buy batteries (sold out everywhere I went)–I forgot to buy chocolate chips. Then I had a brainstorm. I had lots of chocolate chip material in my kitchen because I had bought a big valuepack of Halloween candy: 90-piece bag full of Butterfingers, BabyRuths, Crunch and 100 Grand Bars.

I opened the Halloween candy (one of the best parts about being an adult is you can open the Halloween candy before Halloween) and cut the candy into chocolate chip size pieces. From there it was easy to decide which recipe to use…original Toll House cookie recipe of course. Only in stead of adding chocolate chips, I used my Halloween candy bits. I made one portion with Butterfinger pieces, one with 100 Grand pieces, and the last portion with Nestle’s Crunch pices

The results were amazing. Frankenstorm cookies were born.

So, break into your Halloween candy and make your own Frankenstorm cookies.

 


 

 

Here’s the recipe for Toll House Cookies.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 (12 ounce) packageNESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. PREHEAT oven to 375 COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.
  2. ADD eggs one at a time to sugar mixture. Beat well after adding each egg
  3. GRADUALLY STIR in the flour mixture
  4. DIVIDE the batter into portions. Mix a different candy into each portion. Or you can mix them all together
  5. DROP by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets, or on baking paper on baking sheets
  6. BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. COOL on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Then eat….warm cookies right out of the oven.
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Chocolate Spice Trail Dessert

Posted by on Oct 8, 2012 in Blog, Recipes | 1 comment

One of my favorite fast chocolate desserts to serve at a dinner party is what I call the Chocolate Spice Trail.  This consists of  filled mini chocolate cups topped with spices.

My husband Gene and I came up with the idea of mixing chocolate and spices while tasting Advokaat (Dutch egg cognac).  We put the Advokaat into  mini chocolate cups (Belgian’s call these snobinettes) to taste the Advokaat. Then Gene mentioned that these might be good with a little cardamon on top.  I went to the spice cabinet and brought out the cardamon.   Then we wanted to try it with cinnamon.  “What about something hot and spicy like cayenne pepper? Gene suggested.  Before we knew it we had a dozen spices on the table. We were amazed at how each spice changed the taste of the Advokaat and the chocolate.  We started serving our spice adventure dessert to friends and they loved it.Advokaat (Dutch “egg cognac”).  

Since then we’ve experimented with different fillings (whipped cream, plain Greek yogurt, ice cream, and even cottage cheese), with different spices ( cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamon, and cayenne pepper), and even other toppings mixed with the spices (nuts, coconut shavings, and tiny pieces of dried fruit).

To prepare this dessert I put a selection of spices in small shot glasses and arrange them on a tray.  Then I place 4-6 mini chocolate cups on a plate for each guest.   The last item needed is the filling.  Sometimes I have one filling such as whipped cream and other times I give my guests a choice of 2  fillings such as a plain ice cream and plain yogurt.  You want a plain flavor filling so that it doesn’t overpower the taste of the spices.

The beauty of this dessert is that guests get to assemble the cups themselves. If it is a small group, I pass around the mini chocolate cups, the fillings, and the tray of spices.  If it is a larger group, I place the ingredients on a separate table and invite my guests to get up and make their chocolate spice cups.

Guests love this dessert because 1) it’s interactive, 2) they get to see how spices impact the flavor of chocolate, 3) they get to make their dessert just the way they want it, and 4)  it’s all about chocolate.

Thousands of years ago spices were prized above all else and adventurers (think Columbus) traveled the world in search of  trade routes. In the new world Aztecs worshipped Chocolate calling it the food of the gods.   This recipe combines two of the most historically treasured commodities of the new and old world.   Take your guests on a chocolate spice trail adventure at your next dinner party.



Ingredients

  • Mini Chocolate Cups – You can purchase the mini chocolate cups online through Amazon. Links to purchase the cups in dark, milk, and white chocolate are below.
  • Filling – You can provide one filling or several options.  You’ll want a filling that doesn’t overpower the spices.  Fillings that work particularly well include whipped cream, plain yogurt, and ice cream.  For whipped cream, you can make it from scratch or buy it in a spray can.  Plain Greek yogurt works well because it’s rich and think.  However, yogurt gives it a tangy taste.  You’ll need to use bold spices to offset the taste of the yogurt. Plain vanilla ice cream is another good option.  If you want to use a liquor, try Bailey’s Irish cream.
  • Spices – Start out by using the spices you have.  If you want to expand your selection, go to a spice store and buy fresh spices.  Spices lose their flavor strength over time.  If you don’t have a spice store nearby, then order spices online.  One excellent online source is Penzeys Spices.
  • Toppings – You might want to mix your spices with toppings.  Possible toppings include nuts (chopped almonds or walnuts), coconut or chocolate shavings, or chopped dried fruit (chopped dried cherries, cranberries, or apricots).  These items are available at most grocery stores.

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“Rock On Chocolates” for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Posted by on Oct 1, 2012 in Blog, Recipes | 1 comment

Make “Rock On Chocolates” for someone you love battling Breast Cancer in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Cancer treatment can play havoc with your sense of taste.  I remember when I was going through chemo water tasted off, crackers tasted like dirt, and salt was the only spice I enjoyed.  But chocolate, well chocolate always tasted good.

“Rock On Chocolates” are a variation of what the French call “Rochers,” meaning rocks. This version has you mixing and matching dark chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, and spices for a crunchy dose of chocolate therapy that is customized to meet the taste sensibilities of a loved one battling Breast Cancer.

RECIPE

Yield: 15 chocolates
Time: 2 hours from start to finish


INGREDIENTS

  • Chocolate – ½ pound (8 oz) of high quality dark baking chocolate. I recommend using Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet baking bars.  Ghirardelli chocolate baking bars are available at most grocery stores in 4 oz bars. You will need 2 bars for this recipe.  Another great option is Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 70% Dark Chocolate or Bittersweet Chocolate bars.  This is wonderful Belgian chocolate at a ridiculously low price ($4.99 as of Oct 1, 2012 at the Trader Joe’s near me.)

Buy Baking Chocolate.  Baking chocolate is found in the baking section of the store.  It usually comes in bars (4 oz. – 6 oz.) or 1 lb. blocks.  Make sure it says “chocolate for baking” or  “premium baking chocolate” on the wrapping.  You want to avoid accidentally buying unsweetened chocolate.  Also do not substitute chocolate chips. What makes chocolate chips keep their shape when you bake them in cookies is exactly the reason why you want to avoid using these bake-stable chocolate morsels for making candy.

  • Mixes – This is where the customization occurs.  Ask the person you are making the chocolates for what tastes good to them right now.  To get the discussion started read the list of suggested nuts, dried fruits, and spices below.  When a person goes through cancer treatment, their taste can be off. The beauty of custom chocolates is you can use ingredients that taste good to them at that moment in time.
    Amount – You will need a total of 6 oz of nuts and/or dried fruit to mix with the chocolate.  I recommend the proportion of 4 oz of nuts and 2 oz of dried fruit.  However, you are encouraged to have fun mixing and matching).
    Nuts (4 – 6 oz): Almonds silvers or walnut pieces. (NOTE:  Almonds and walnuts are two of the healthiest nuts.  Almonds are high in fiber, vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant), calcium, magnesium and selenium. Walnuts have the most antioxidants of all nuts and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
    Dried fruit (2 oz): Dried cranberries, dried candied ginger, dried orange or lemon.  (When I was going through chemo I found that citrus fruits tasted the best to me. The stronger the flavor the better.)

Nut Allergy Warning:  Do not attempt to work with chocolate if you have nut allergies.  Chocolate is often made in factories that also work with nuts.

EQUIPMENT/UTENSILS

  • 2 microwave safe plastic bowls
  • 1 spatula
  • 1 cooking thermometer
  • Baking paper (you can substitute a silicon mat or aluminum foil)
  • 1 tray, cookies sheet, or any flat surface that will fit into your refrigerator.

 

INSTRUCTIONS

STEP 1 – Preparing Your Work Area
Before you begin working with the chocolate, prepare your work station. You will need a large empty counter surface or table to make and assemble the chocolates. I like to have my trays ready with baking paper and my fruits and nuts in small separate bowls before I prepare the chocolate.

Avoid Odors in Refrigerator:  Chocolate will absorb smell.  Make sure your refrigerator is odor free before you use it to cool your chocolate.  You don’t want your chocolate to smell like last night’s dinner.

STEP 2 – Preparing the Chocolate
To begin you need to prepare the chocolate through a process of heating, cooling, and stirring called tempering. The heating melts the chocolate and breaks down its crystal structure.  The cooling and stirring makes sure that the right crystals (the beta crystals) become dominant so that your chocolate will harden and have a nice glossy shine.  There are specific temperature marks you need to work within.  You want to melt the chocolate at 100˚ – 115˚.  Then you want to cool the chocolate to 88˚ – 91˚ degrees Fahrenheit.

The Importance of Tempering:  If you try using chocolate by just melting it and not tempering it, your chocolate will have grey streaks (called chocolate bloom which diminishes the appearance but not the taste.  Chocolate bloom is the cocoa butter separating from the chocolate) and won’t harden properly (the chocolate will get hard in the refrigerator but start to soften when the chocolate reaches room temperature).

Melting the Chocolate

  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and place 3/4 of the chocolate into a microwave safe plastic bowl.  Place the remaining 1/4 of the chocolate aside in a separate bowl.
  • Heat the chocolate for 1 minute.
  • Remove the chocolate and stir.  You will notice that when you first remove the chocolate from the microwave it retains its shape.  Once you start stirring you will discover that the chocolate has indeed started to melt.
  • If the chocolate is not completely melted, return the chocolate to the microwave and heat for 20 seconds.  Remove  and stir.
  • Once all the chocolate is melted, take the temperature of the chocolate.  It should be somewhere around 100˚ – 115˚.  Don’t be alarmed if it is a bit higher or lower.

Cooling and Stirring the Chocolate

  • You are now going to cool the chocolate.  To do this you will add the small bowl of chocolate pieces you put aside to the melted chocolate in four batches.  This is called “seeding.”  After you add each batch stir the chocolate until all the chocolate is melted.  Be patient.  The chocolate will melt if you continue stirring the chocolate.
  • After you add each batch, take the temperature of the chocolate.  The chocolate is ready when it is between 88˚ – 91˚.  Because chocolate is impacted by ambient room temperature, your chocolate can cool faster one day than another.  Some days you will need to add all four batches to cool the chocolate.  Other times the chocolate will be cool by the second or third batch of seeding.  If it is a really warm day, the chocolate may not be cool enough even after you add the fourth batch.  If this should happen, place the bowl of chocolate in the refrigerator for 3 minutes.  After 3 minutes remove the bowl and stir.  Then take the temperature again.  Repeat this process until the temperature is down to between 88˚ – 91˚.

Ease of Making Small Amounts – Chocolate is easiest to temper when done in small amounts.  When you temper large amounts of chocolate it takes longer to cool the chocolate to a consistent temperature because the chocolate on the top of the bowl will cool faster than the chocolate on the bottom of the bowl.

Testing to Make Sure Chocolate is Ready – You can test to make sure your chocolate is ready by dipping a knife in the chocolate and then placing the knife in the refrigerator for 4-5 minutes.  If the chocolate turns hard and shiny within that time your chocolate is ready.

STEP 3 – Making the Rock On Chocolates

  • Now that the chocolate is tempered you are ready to make the chocolates.
  • Pour the nuts and dried fruit into the bowl and mix with a spoon.
  • Spoon small amounts of the mixture onto the tray or cookie sheet covered in baking paper.  You should have enough to make 15 rocks.
  • Cool the chocolate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  You can leave the chocolate into the refrigerator up to 24 hours.

Shelf Life: Your chocolates should stay good for 2 months.  However good chocolate does best when stored in a cool and dry place.  Extreme variations in temperature will cause grey streaks to form.

 

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New Fruit for the New Year — Chocolate-Dipped Dried Fruit for Rosh Hashanah

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in Recipes | 1 comment

My Aunt Vivian always bought the most exotic fruit she could find to serve on Rosh Hashanah.

When I was young the only fruit you could find at stores were apples, oranges and bananas.  But Aunt Vivian would scour the markets for something new or exotic. One year it was star fruit.  Another year it was a big ripe pomegranate.

Today these fruits are readily available.  But when I was young serving exotic fruits was something we did for the High Holidays.

This year add the tradition of serving special fruit at your Rosh Hashanah table by making homemade chocolate-dipped dried fruit.

 

RECIPE

QUANTITY: 40 pieces of dipped fruit
TIME: 2 hours from start to finish

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb high quality baking chocolate.

    Buy Baking Chocolate.  Baking chocolate is found in the baking section of the store.  It usually comes in bars (4 oz – 6 oz) or 1 lb blocks.  Make sure it says “chocolate for baking” or  “premium baking chocolate” on the wrapping.  You want to avoid accidentally buying unsweetened chocolate.  Also do not substitute chocolate chips. What makes chocolate chips keep their shape when you bake them in cookies is exactly the reason why you want to avoid using these bake-stable chocolate morsels for making candy.

    Kosher Chocolate:
    Many of the finer baking chocolate is kosher.

  • Dried Fruit (one package of each)
    • Whole apricots
    • Mango slices
    • Flattened Banana
    • Pineapple rings

Pineapple rings, mango slices, and flattened banana work well with chocolate.

 

EQUIPMENT/UTENSILS

  • 2 microwave safe plastic bowls
  • 1 spatula
  • 1 cooking thermometer
  • Baking paper (you can substitute a silicon mat or aluminum foil)
  • 2-3 trays, cookies sheets, or any flat surface that will fit into your refrigerator.

 

INSTRUCTIONS

STEP 1 – Preparing Your Work Area
Before you begin working with the chocolate, prepare your workstation. You will need a large empty counter surface or table to make the chocolate-dipped fruit. I like to have my trays ready with baking paper and my dried fruits in small separate bowls before I prepare the chocolate.

Avoid Odors in Refrigerator:  Chocolate will absorb smell.  Make sure your refrigerator is odor free before you use it to cool your chocolate.  You don’t want your chocolate to smell like last night’s dinner.

STEP 2 – Preparing the Chocolate
To begin you need to prepare the chocolate through a process of heating, cooling, and stirring called tempering. The heating melts the chocolate and breaks down its crystal structure.  The cooling and stirring makes sure that the right crystals (the beta crystals) become dominant so that your chocolate will harden and have a nice glossy shine.  There are specific temperature marks you need to work within.  You want to melt the chocolate at 100-115 degree Fahrenheit.  Then you want to cool the chocolate to 88-91 degree Fahrenheit.

The Importance of Tempering:  If you try using chocolate by just melting it and not tempering it, your chocolate will have grey streaks—called chocolate bloom.  The bloom may diminish the appearance but not the taste since chocolate bloom is merely the cocoa butter separating from the chocolate.  Also, the chocolate won’t harden properly.  The chocolate will get hard in the refrigerator but will start to soften when the chocolate reaches room temperature.

Melting the Chocolate

  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and place ¾ of the chocolate into a microwave safe plastic bowl.  Place the remaining ¼ of the chocolate aside in a separate bowl.  The ¼ that you put aside  small should be broken into pieces no larger than chocolate chips.  The smaller the pieces the better.

When you prepare the chocolate for melting, break it into small pieces (the smaller the better). This aids in smooth and even melting.

  • Heat the larger bowl of chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute.
  • Remove the chocolate and stir.  You will notice that when you first remove the chocolate from the microwave it retains its shaped.  Once you start stirring you will discover that the chocolate has indeed started to melt.
  • Return the chocolate to the microwave and heat for 20 seconds.  Remove from microwave and stir. Because chocolate burns easily, it is best to heat it for short intervals.
  • Continue heating the chocolate for 20-second intervals until it is mostly melted.
  • When you have only a few small pieces left that are unbelted, do not return the bowl to the microwave.  In stead stir the chocolate until the last few pieces melt.
  • Once all the chocolate is melted, take the temperature of the chocolate.  It should be somewhere around 100-115 degrees.  Don’t be alarmed if it is higher.

Take the temperature of your chocolate each time you remove it from the microwave. Here I am using an infrared kitchen thermometer, one of my favorite chocolate utensils. (check it out on Amazon Etekcity Temperature Gun Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer w/ Laser Sight
)

Cooling and Stirring the Chocolate

  • You are now going to cool the chocolate.  To do this you will add the small bowl of chocolate pieces you put aside to the melted chocolate in four batches.  This is called “seeding.”  After you add each batch stir the chocolate until all the chocolate is melted.  Be patient.  The chocolate will melt if you continue stirring the chocolate.
  • After you add each batch take the temperature of the chocolate.  The chocolate is ready when it is between 88-91 degrees.  Because chocolate is impacted by ambient room temperature, your chocolate can cool faster one day than another.  Some days you will need to add all four batches to cool the chocolate.  Other times the chocolate will be cool by the second or third batch of seeding.  If it is a really warm day, the chocolate may not be cool enough even after you add the fourth batch.  If this should happen, place the bowl of chocolate in the refrigerator for 3 minutes.  After 3 minutes remove the bowl and stir.  Then take the temperature again.  Repeat this process until the temperature is down to between 88-91 degrees Fahrenheit.

The chocolate is ready for dipping when the temperature reaches between 88 and 91 degrees.

Temper Chocolate in Small Amounts for Better Results – Chocolate is easiest to temper when done in small amounts.  When you temper large amounts of chocolate it takes longer to cool the chocolate to a consistent temperature because the chocolate on the top of the bowl will cool faster than the chocolate on the bottom of the bowl.

Testing to Make Sure Chocolate is Ready – You can test to make sure your chocolate is ready by dipping a knife in the chocolate and then placing the knife in the refrigerator for 4-5 minutes.  If the chocolate turns hard and shiny within that time your chocolate is ready.

STEP 3 – Dipping the Fruit

  • When the chocolate is tempered you are ready to dip the fruit.  You will be dipping each piece of fruit individually.
  • Take one piece of fruit in your fingers and dip it halfway into the chocolate.  Then take the fruit and place it on the baking sheet.
  • Continue dipping each piece of fruit until all the fruit is dipped.

Place the dipped fruit on a tray lined with baking paper and cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

  • You need to work quickly because once the chocolate gets below 88 degrees it will start to harden.  If it does harden, you need to go through the tempering process again.
  • Cool the chocolate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  You can leave the fruit dipped chocolate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Shelf Life: Your chocolate-dipped fruit should stay good for 2 months.  However good chocolate does best when stored in a cool and dry place.  Extreme variations in temperature will cause grey streaks to form.

Make chocolate-dipped dried fruit a part of your Rosh Hashanah tradition.

 


RESOURCES


For more information on how to dip dried fruit and other items in chocolate, check out this wonderful video by Peter P. Greweling of the Culinary Institute of America. Greweling is the author of Chocolates and Confections at Home with The Culinary Institute of America.
Greweling has produced an accessibly written recipe book that refreshingly demystifies working with chocolate for the home cook.

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Honey Ganache Part 1: The Recipe Challenge

Posted by on Mar 23, 2012 in Recipes | 2 comments

I love a “use this ingredient” recipe challenge. Last week my friend Elisa asked if I could make a chocolate with honey for a party she was having. I had wanted to experiment with honey since last summer when my family in Portland, Oregon gave me a jar of honey from their bee hives. I accepted Elisa’s challenge and began work on designing a yummy honey ganache chocolate.

I started by going through my recipe books looking for ideas. Honey is not a popular ingredient in Belgian chocolates, so I was not surprised to only find a few recipes that used honey.

After trying three recipes, I choose one to use as my base for experimentation. Using that base recipe, I modified it by using different chocolates in the ganache (different dark chocolates as well as white chocolate.) I also experimented with infusing the cream with different flavors; I infused one batch with cinnamon, another with fresh thyme, and a third with fresh ginger. Another modification was using a glucose infused with honey for extra honey flavor. And finally, I experienced with different chocolate for the moulds. I tried the fillings in dark chocolate moulds as well as in white chocolate moulds.

When I had 10 different combinations I liked, I decided it was time to do a tasting. It just so happened that I was having a meeting at my house that week and used the tasting as a meeting icebreaker activity. I put all the chocolates out on a large table and gave everyone a score sheet to use to identify the chocolates they liked the best. Tasting the chocolates got everyone talking and laughing and having a chocolaty-good-time.

A close up of the four white chocolate honey ganache chocolates. White chocolate and honey ganache go well together.


As a big dark chocolate lover, it should come as no surprise that I came up with more dark chocolate and honey combinations.

My taste testers loved the chocolates, but after reviewing the score cards two flavors did emerge as the favorites: 1) white chocolate honey ganache infused with cinnamon and Speculoos cookie pieces and dark chocolate honey ganache with honeyed walnuts.

Dark Chocolate Winner: Dark chocolate honey ganache with honey roasted walnuts


White Chocolate Winner: White chocolate honey ganache infused with cinnamon and Speculoos cookie pieces

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Pumpkin Pie Pralines

Posted by on Nov 24, 2011 in Recipes | 1 comment

In honor of Thanksgiving, I made Pumpkin Pie Pralines. Here’s my recipe.

INGREDIENTS
130 g cream
50 g dextrose
150 g pumpkin puree
30 g sorbitol
435 g white chocolate
Spices (These are the amounts I started with. However I like bold flavors so continued to add more of each spice until I had a bold Pumpkin Pie flavor)
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon ginger
– 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
50 g butter (room temperature)

STEP 1
Bring cream, pumpkin, dextrose and sorbitol to a boil.

STEP 2
In a food processor, mix white chocolate, pumpkin mixture, and spices

STEP 3
When white chocolate is well mixed with pumpkin mixture add butter.

STEP 4
Taste filling to see if it needs more spice. Continue to add more spice until it has a rich Pumpkin Pie flavor

STEP 5
Let cook for 5-10 minutes. If you feel it is too runny, then add 2 tablespoons of melted cocobutter.

STEP 5
Put into a piping bag and fill.

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