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Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

I can safely say that gingerbread, or anything molasses-flavored, is going to go over well in my house. Some people have their chocolate, their Proustian moment that renders them poetic. Apparently ours is gingerbread. And it turns us into stealthy nibblers.

I made a small pan of Martha Stewarts’s Chocolate Gingerbread, primarily as an olfactory impetus in ridding the house of the scent of bacon that I had cooked that morning. I don’t think the pan had even fully cooled before I slipped a knife through it and created a set of imperfect squares for us to sample. It was amazing; rich and moist with the tiniest hint of chocolate among the deep taste of molasses. Griffin and I nodded in agreement over this newfound treat. I pulled plastic wrap over the top and set it on the counter.

And then, a day later, there were considerable gaps in the pan. The next day, even more was gone. Something was amiss, because I’d only had one piece.

I can’t say I fault anyone for freely indulging in this treat. What I love about gingerbread is the lack of cloying sweetness that comes with most desserts. Gingerbread has enough going for it to give it dessert-like status, but it’s also like a teabread, and can be treated like a snack, or even a bit of your breakfast too. It partners equally with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream, a mound of yogurt or even topped with fresh whipped cream.

Or even just eaten out of hand, with a napkin to catch the crumbs.

This recipe, from Everyday Food, yields a moist and superbly tender cake, owing to the use of sour cream in the base. It’s a simple quick bread style recipe that takes minimal effort, but can taste fancy enough for a party, that is, if you can keep it around long enough.

Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Gingerbread Cake
from Everyday Food

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with a strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper. Dust paper and sides of pan with cocoa; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, ginger, pumpkin-pie spice, and baking soda; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg, and sour cream until smooth. Add flour mixture; stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Using paper overhang, lift gingerbread from pan. Transfer to a cutting board, and cut into 16 squares. Before serving, dust bars with confectioners sugar, if desired. (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 days.)

KATE’S NOTES:
I skipped the parchment step, instead just using cooking spray on my 8×8 pan. I did not add the chocolate chips, and probably would keep them out of future uses of this recipe. I just don’t think they’re necessary. The molasses taste was rich, the chocolate not so noticeable. I think that the addition of some extra cocoa would make it more balanced- and in future use I may reduce the molasses to 3 T. and increase the cocoa to 1/3 c. to see if it makes a difference. I also thought about the addition of 1 oz. melted bittersweet chocolate to increase that aspect a bit, and may try that. I don’t keep pumpkin pie spice on hand. I used a teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon each of nutmeg and allspice.

If you’re interested in other gingerbread recipes, you can find more gingerbread love with just a click.

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Mmm hmm….that’s right. Chocolate. Toll house. Bars. An unlikely sisterhood of fudgey brownie and the famous toll house recipe baked into a pan. I’m really a cookie lover at heart, but sometimes I just don’t want to scoop and bake repeatedly. Sometimes I just need to cream, stir, blend and fold myself into contentment, the end result being more easily achieved than what requires parchment, trays and repetitive movement. Take one recipe for your favorite version of a Toll House bar and stir some good cocoa powder into the dry goods. Take a bite and sigh with contentment. See? I would never steer you wrong.

I can bake. I love to bake. My lifeline to my guardian angel, my mother, lies in my mixer and flour container. With a spatula. I have no fonder memories of her than baking with her, the sunlight streaming in her kitchen window. I should recall her laugh, which was loud and shrieky, I mean, have you heard mine? She caused that, no doubt. My brother too. When he and I laugh together, people cover their ears. They wince. We get asked to be quiet in movie theaters, and we shock people. But her laugh, while amazing and warm was just a blue ribbon pinned on the strong and capable woman that she was, and that I strive to be. I may bend in the breezes, or twist against the savages of life, but no matter what happens, I am still the person she raised me to be, no more or less. With a spatula in hand. And cookies. They were her favorite. She made pies, bundt cakes (ooh, lime green ones sometimes. Eeek.) and she made bars too. But cookies were her specialty. Now I could do without the nuts that she loved, and to this day I haven’t been able to abide by the walnut, so overpowering was that in my youth and usually rancid if I am able to judge now. She put it in everything, and I picked them out of everything. If I was woe to forget to throw them away, the pile left behind would elicit one of her pretend indignant shrieks of “KATE!!!” because she just knew me that well. It was always me who carefully and diligently despised her walnuts. Or maybe my siblings were just better at remembering to dispose of the evidence.

One thing that Griffin does love to do is make cookies now and again. I like to keep everything on hand in case he gets a hankering for a homemade treat. The other day he was all set to make some Toll House bars when he discovered we didn’t have enough butter. With the saddest sigh that he could muster, he replaced all the ingredients he’d taken out and silently went upstairs. Mommy guilt overcame me. Although we had a few options available in the form of frozen commercial cookie dough, there is one thing that my teenager has inherited from me that sticks like glue: when he gets his mind on something he wants, he can’t settle for anything less. So the next day I went to the store and bought a lot of butter. Then when he was gone one night, I made a pan of bars and on a whim, added cocoa to the flour mixture.

My mom is probably smiling right about now.

Are there any alchemist secrets to baking? I’m really not one to ask, as for me baking is like looking at my right hand. It’s so much a part of me that I don’t recognize what might make it special. Or difficult. But plenty of people struggle with it. Baked goods fall flat, are dense and hard, they don’t rise enough or they balloon out of control. The fall when they come out of the oven. You know what? Mine do too. Even after a lifetime of experience, I can still often see fault in my bars. This pan, for instance, was so beautiful and fluffy when I pulled it out of the oven, and 20 minutes later, the center had collapsed like a mutual fund. It happens to me all the time but it never stops me from trying. They taste the same. And really, when I die, no one is going to be standing at my casket shaking their heads morosely and saying “Her bars always collapsed. It was so sad.”

The cocoa gives these familiar and comforting bars an added depth. While Toll House bars are nice and all, they really lack the pizazz of their more colorful and opulent baked counterparts. They’re reliable and sound but they’ve been left behind for everything sweet and dotted with sea salt, doused in browned butter, lavender essence and gold leaf. Oh Toll House, those new millenium treats smirk,  you are so 1975. Place them on a table with something exotic, and the poor plate will get skimmed over. Turn it into a delicate brownie-like, cakey and soft square, and it will stand apart. If nothing else, it will just make your mouth pretty happy. In a less expensive way. And we like that, don’t we?

Chocolate Toll House Bars
by Kate, adapted from the original recipe. My version is a little different so read it through. Some new tips are included.

2-1/4 c. AP flour (i used half whole wheat flour)
1 t. baking soda
1/2  t. sea salt (this is a personal preference; I don’t like the taste of iodized salt in my baked goods. use what is right for you)
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 c. softened butter – NO substitutions (or at least don’t tell me about it)
1/2 c. EACH white sugar and brown sugar (firmly pack the brown)
2 eggs
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/8 c. (or about 3 T. ) whole milk or cream (i used vanilla soymilk)
1  12-oz package Chocolate chips of choice (i use Ghiradelli semi sweets)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray. In a large measuring cup, whisk together all the dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, or a stand mixer, blend the soft butter and both sugars until fluffy and light. Be sure to really beat these well. The more air you incorporate into this, the fluffier your finished product. Beat it, scraping the bowl occasionally, for at least 5 minutes. Longer if you can.

Add the eggs, vanilla and milk. Blend well. Now remove the beaters and scrape them into the bowl.

Add all the flour at once, and with a stiff rubber spatula, begin gently folding it into the butter mixture. Remember to scrape across the bottom of the bowl and gently turn it over. Don’t stir it or you’ll deflate all that air you beat into the butter. Watch what you’re doing and when you’ve incorporated about half the flour, stop folding and add in the chocolate chips at this point. Continue to fold the remaining flour into the mixture, along with the chocolate chips. There will be a single magical moment when it all comes together in a beautiful glossy homogenized mass, and at this point, make sure there is no flour at the bottom of the bowl and then stop folding. Scrape it into the prepared pan and gently spread it to the edges. It’s fine if it doesn’t look perfect. Bake it for about 25 minutes, checking with a toothpick to determine if it’s done. Remove pan and allow to cool before cutting.

KATE’S NOTES:
I know that all recipes for these bars tell you to incorporate all the flour and then fold in the chips. Somehow this has worked for decades, but once you incorporate the flour, the more you stir and mix it, the tougher it will get and the bars will come out denser than you might expect. If you add the chips partway through the flour step, the finished product is lighter and you get more distribution of the chips. If you’re like me, you prefer your chip ratio to be even, not clumped up in some spots more than others. Even with the beating and gentle folding, these bars collapsed but they aren’t dense, just moist and fudgey.

This recipe calls for less sugar than any recipe you’ll find in print. With the addition of the milk, and of course those chocolate chips, there really isn’t the need for that much sugar. I’ve realized as I get older and experiment with baking that many, many recipes are too sweet, and cutting back sugar is always a good thing, isn’t it?

And yes, most recipes don’t call for milk to be added but if you follow this one, the additional cocoa needs to be balanced by a little more moisture, and the milk adds a nice touch, making them sweeter with a bit of richness. Experiment with what you have on hand. Flavored coffee creamers might be lovely to add a hint of something extra. And if they fall while they cool, no one will notice because they taste simply amazing. Especially for breakfast with some really dark coffee.

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fresh cherries 009

I almost thought to do this as a Wordless Wednesday post, but I simply can’t be quiet about fresh cherries and when I get passionate and excited about a food, my hyper-articulate and descriptive nature fully reveals itself and well, I just can’t stop. Either talking about them or eating them.

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This time of year, I’m not even that picky about how much a bag of cherries will set me back. This is one fruit that I will splurge on when in season without even a blink of an eye. And it’s the easiest to consume too; just a wash under water, a bowl for the pits and stems and no white clothing. I’ve eaten them until I feel like one big round fat cherry myself, lips and fingertips stained purple. I rarely make anything with cherries; they just don’t last long enough for me to search for the perfect recipe, I have little patience for the mess and hassle of pitting them by hand and really, I struggle with feeling like I am wasting this precious summer treat by putting it in anything, making it into something other than what it is- a perfect, simple, nutritious and fabulous treat. You do a great deal of good for yourself to snack on fresh cherries- they are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and contain high levels of antioxidants such as anthocyanins, quercetin and ellagic acid. They have high levels of vitamin C, fiber and anti-inflammatory properties. One cup has about 90 calories.

On or about the third bag of the dark and sweet red drupes that came into my kitchen, I started thinking about making something like cherry spoonfruit, or a cherry syrup to have on hand, then I began thinking about chocolate and cherries. Pretty soon, it was Chocolate Cherry Pancakes for dinner, with fresh and warm cherry syrup on the side.

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It was like having dessert for dinner. The key to a good pancake- besides a good heft and height- is that they taste good all on their own. I’m no spartan when it comes to my cakes; they’ve got to be chock full of something good, something flavorful and tasty enough so that I can eat it all on it’s own. These certainly fit that need. Chunks of sweet cherries, a sprinkling of Guittard semi-sweets and a hot pan was all I needed. That and an appetite.

Cherry Syrup
by Kate

(weights are approximate; this was totally thrown together)

1-1/2# fresh pitted cherries
1 c. water
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 T. lemon juice
Cornstarch for thickening (the amount you use will vary with the juiciness of your fruit)

Combine all ingredients in a heavy pan and cook at a simmer until fruit breaks down and releases it’s juice. Mix about 2 T. of cornstarch with 1/4 c. cold water to make a pourable liquid. Slowly pour into hot fruit, whisking constantly until thickened to your liking. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes more, or until liquid has darkened and becomes syrupy. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

This should keep in the fridge for a week or so, if it lasts that long. Enjoy on pancakes or waffles, ice cream, yogurt, cereal…..the possibilities are endless.

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Chocolate-Cherry Bread (original recipe from David Lebovitz)

Makes 2 loaf

1 1/2 cups (210g) dried cherries, well-chopped
1 1/4 cup (170g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process or natural)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
10 tablespoons (140g) butter (salted or unsalted), at room temperature
2 cups (400g) sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup (180g) buttermilk or plain yogurt (regular or low-fat)
1 cup (135g) walnuts, pecans, or almonds, toasted and finely-chopped
3/4 cup (120g) chocolate chips

To bake the cakes, grease two 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper or dust with cocoa powder. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C)

Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Stir together the eggs and yolk with the vanilla, then dribble them in while beating.

Mix in one-third of the flour/cocoa mixture, then half of the yogurt or buttermilk. Then mix in another third of the dry ingredients, then the rest of the yogurt. Finally add the remaining dry ingredients, and gently stir in the nuts, chocolate chips and cherries.

Divide and smooth the batter into the two prepared loaf pans and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let stand on the countertop for about 15 minutes.

Recipe Notes: I did not have yogurt or buttermilk so I used sour cream and it turned out fine, albeit very moist. I think vanilla yogurt would add a great flavor to this bread. I did not follow David’s original recipe of macerating the dried cherries in liquor; he used rum I believe, about a half cup, maybe and left the fruit overnight, stating that what liquid was not absorbed could be added to the batter after draining off the fruit in a mesh strainer. Chopping dried fruit of any kind is very messy and sticky; I dusted the cherries with a little cocoa powder to see if it would help. It did, and didn’t. I did not use parchment on the pans, just cocoa. One loaf went in the freezer.

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Mmmmm…..pudding

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Admittedly, if I fell into a bowl of chocolate pudding and drowned, I would die a very happy woman. I just love the stuff. Let me tell you though, if I am ever around a bowl of chocolate pudding that is large enough for an adult to fall into and drown, that in itself would be amazing. I would hope to get pictures before my death.

When I came across this new recipe for chocolate pudding, I was immediately intrigued because the main ingredient is silken firm tofu. Yep. Tofu. I know, I know….I scratched my head a bit too, it’s OK. But then I decided ‘What the heck!’ and made it. I’m always willing to learn something new.

People, I may never go back to my full fat, super ultra rich and thick chocolate pudding recipe that I love to death. Never.

Wait. Did I really say that??

Yes. I did. This stuff will blow your mind. You can send me packing if I am wrong, but the texture is so smooth and creamy, the taste so amazingly rich; my god, you would think it was made with the finest cream on earth. It will cure your most agonizing chocolate craving in one tempting lick of your finger; it will pursue and make a hasty retreat to any rotten day you’ve had and likely will make you wish to dance across your kitchen in the sheer spectacular-ness of it. Should you desire to eat it with fresh strawberries, I guarantee sweet dreams, for sure. Make sure no one is lurking nearby with a hidden camera or they may catch your brazen dive, face first, into it’s dark delicious-ness and some day use it against you.

Do you LOVE chocolate?? I mean, totally, incredibly, crave-it-til-you-can’t-see-straight absolutely LURRRRRRVE chocolate?? Then go…..NOW….and buy what you need and do yourself a huge favor. Make. This. Recipe.

Oh yeah. If you have kids, and they love chocolate too, send them to the neighbors first, or perhaps to a sleepover. For a weekend. You will not want to share. But if you do, have them taste it first before you tell them it has tofu in it if they aren’t so used to that sort of thing, because, really….they won’t know. Or care. Better yet, if you really wish to eat it all yourself and no neighbors or sleepovers are imminent, tell them it has tofu FIRST, and watch them recoil in horror. Then smile and say, with an all-knowing sigh

“You have no idea what you’re missing!”

Griffin did eat it, even after I told him it had tofu in it. He took another bite, looked at the pudding, then at me and said “What’s tofu again?? Is it chocolate?”

(recipe after the jump)

(more…)

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Chewy Chocolate Bites

4 squares Bakers unsweetened baking chocolate

1 1/2 sticks butter (no subs or all of the above mentioned will fail, trust me)

2 c. sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 t. vanilla

2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 350. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat (or use double boiler) until only small pieces remain. Remove from heat and stir gently to melt completely. Stir in sugar, blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, mix well. Chill for 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle. Shape into 1″ balls and place on greased cookie sheets about 2″ apart. Bake 8 minutes or until just set. Do not overbake. (again, trust me, don’t make ‘em crispy ‘cuz all that stuff I said earlier? Yeah, ain’t gonna happen) Allow to cool on baking sheet about a minute then transfer to wire racks.

These are fabulous all by themselves, a dense chewy and rich cookie with amazing chocolate taste. However, you could up the Christmas love by embellishing them any and all ways. Crush some candy canes and sprinkle over the top before baking; press pieces of peanut butter cups in them after they come out of the oven; drizzle them with melted white chocolate (or my fav….melted cappucino chips….this, I swear, could solve world peace) or how about spreading them with a thick layer of mocha icing?? The possibilities are endless and as long and varied as everyone’s imagination. Bottom line…..MAKE them! Do yourself a favor if the omnipresent and ridiculous commercialism of Christmas is in any way getting to you and making you want to hibernate, go into hiding with a container of these and let the rest of the world just fall away. I don’t doubt it would do you wonders.

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