Tag Archives: chocolate

Happy New Year! … Leg of Lamb Roast and Oreo Cheesecake

Sorry for the belated post but I’ve been a bit lazy so I’ve got a bunch of stuff to share.

I made an Oreo cheesecake to go with my simple boneless leg of lamb roast New Year’s dinner.

The slices I cut for my dinner were from the fatty end of the roast and a BIT underdone so the roast, including the slices you see on the plate, went back into the oven for another 15 minutes. (Lesson learned, try the directions ON the package before you get creative.) The lamb looked like the picture below when I ate it.

The much nicer end of the roast

I didn’t have a lot of inspiration for a pretty cheesecake plating so here’s a profile shot.

Most of the cheesecake went into the freezer.

Christmas Sweets – Chocolate Chip Cookies and More Fudge

I don’t know many people who don’t like to munch on freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I ran across some Christmas themed chocolate chips in my pantry last week so I made a small batch using a recipe that Dana Mears shared to FB.

If you don’t want to be tempted by having the cookies around, freeze balls of the cookie dough and bake off a half dozen or so when you get a craving for freshly baked cookies.

After a bit of a break, I only made two kinds of fudge for Christmas … chocolate-mint, decorated with crushed candy cane, and eggnog. I started with the basic vanilla fudge recipe and added in shaved dark chocolate and mint extract, or French brandy, shaved white chocolate and nutmeg, for the two kinds of fudge, respectively.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate-Mint Fudge

I know it seems like I’m a bit fudge obsessed lately but it’s the easiest sweet I can make with pantry ingredients I have right now.

And, I’m still ticked off at the thought of paying $16 a pound (check Amazon if you don’t believe me) for something anyone can make at home, without a candy thermometer. And for someone who has candy making issues, that’s a strong statement.

So, on Friday, I made Peanut Butter fudge. I wonder what substituting the peanut butter with Nutella would taste like? Anyone want to give this a try? Maybe just a half recipe.

I know it’s not pretty but I recycled an aluminum foil loaf pan cause it was the only thing I had that was the right size. There’s a block of vanilla fudge in the picture for a colour comparison.

Peanut Butter Fudge – makes about 3 pounds

2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix brown and white sugar with the milk in large pot; bring mixture to a boil. Stir in peanut butter and butter, reduce heat to medium and bring the mixture back to boil (stirring constantly). Remove the pot from the heat once the temperature has reached 115 C/239 F or the soft ball stage. Let cool for 5 min.

Add vanilla to the mixture; stir vigorously until the fudge looses its glossy sheen. Pour fudge into a buttered 8×8″ pan. Let cool and cut into 1 inch pieces.

Trial 2: (10/20/2016) Made a half batch of the original recipe. Melted ingredients at medium-high and once it started boiling, I reduced the heat to medium (5). It only took 6-7 min. of boiling to get to the soft ball stage. Stirred for a few minutes and then put the pan into a sink with an inch or so of cold water and in a few minutes more of stirring, it was thick enough to pour. Pour FAST and scrape out with firm spatula so you get most of the stuff on the sides and bottom into your pan.

And yesterday, I made Chocolate-Mint fudge using the vanilla fudge recipe as a base. This is the best textured batch of fudge I’ve made to date.

Chocolate-Mint Variation: After letting the fudge cool, for 5 minutes, I added 1 oz of finely chopped high cocoa fat chocolate to the mixture and 1 tsp of mint extract and beat it until the chocolate had melted and the fudge had lost its sheen while still being pourable.

You can use the basic vanilla fudge recipe to make many variations by adding different extracts, food colourings to part or all of it, nuts or dried fruits. A Black Forest variation with well drained maraschino cherries and a pink fudge layer comes to mind.

Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding

Some time ago, I made two babkas filled with chocolate chips, Nutella and pecans. I gave away one, but only ate a few slices from the second loaf before freezing away the rest. After spending three days on preparing and cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving, I didn’t want to invest more time and energy on a dessert, so I went scrounging through the freezer and pantry, to find out what I had available already.

I found the frozen babka and decided to make bread pudding. Instead of making a vanilla custard sauce to serve over the pudding, I warmed up some leftover caramel sauce.

I ended up having enough babka to make two small and one medium bread pudding. Each small pudding served two while the medium pudding was enough for four generous servings. A tasty transformation of leftovers out of the freezer with little effort.

Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka Bread Pudding – serves 4

4 cups cubed babka
1 cup 2 % milk
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk ** (or 3 tbsp sugar)
1 tbsp sugar (optional as the babkas weren’t too sweet)
1 tbsp margarine or 1 tbsp melted butter
1-2 tsp vanilla extract.
2 eggs

** Leftover sweetened condensed milk used cause it was available

Divide up the babka cubes among 2 unbuttered mini aluminum foil pans.

Warm up milk, stir in condensed milk, sugar and margarine until the sugar and margarine has dissolved. Let cool in the fridge, then stir in vanilla and eggs and whisk well.

Pour over the bread cubes, cover and let the custard soak into the babka cubes in the fridge overnight.

Next day, preheat the oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Place the pans in a larger container, fill to about half way up the pans with hot water and bake the puddings for 30-40 min or until the custard is no longer wet in the middle.

Slice and serve with ice cream or a vanilla custard sauce.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes

These cupcakes are a tasty cross between a chocolate cake and chocolate chip cheesecake in one convenient and portable form.

I first mentioned these cupcakes EIGHT YEARS ago. I’m pretty sure I’ve made them once or twice in the interim but I wouldn’t bet on it. I have a new stove (which runs cool) and had to bake them longer but the original time should work for most people.

Black Bottom (aka Chocolate Chip Cheesecake) Cupcakes – makes 12 large cupcakes

NOTE: The paper liners end up VERY full once they’ve baked so you can probably make 14-16

Cupcake

1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Cream Cheese Filling

1 x 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 x 6 oz package chocolate chips **(reduce to 4 ounces if you wish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cupcakes

In a large bowl combine cocoa, flour, oil, baking soda, salt, vanilla, water, and sugar until smooth. You can use a whisk or stir gently with a wooden spoon.

Cream Cheese Filling

In a smaller bowl, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, salt until you get a smooth mixture. Stir in the egg and make sure it’s well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Line a 12 cup cupcake pan with large size paper liners. Pour equal amounts of chocolate mixture into each cup. This will be a bit more than half the liner if you use the large size liners.

Top with equal amounts of cream cheese mixture (a heaping tablespoon).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the cakey part (not the cream cheese part) of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cherry Variation

Instead of adding mini-chocolate chips to the cheesecake layer, chop up maraschino cherries and stir them in.

To the cupcake batter, add 1 tsp liquid from jar of maraschino cherries (or vanilla extract if you’re using fresh cherries)

Cream Cheese Filling

1 x 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/2 oz chopped dark chocolate
14-16 maraschino cherries (or fresh if preferred)

Optional garnish

14-16 additional whole cherries for topping the cupcakes

Prepare the filling for the cupcakes by thoroughly mixing the cream cheese, salt, egg, and sugar. When these ingredients are well combined, fold in the chocolate and cherries.

Drop about two tablespoons of the filling into the center of each of the already batter filled cups. It will sink slightly into the batter. Once each of the cups has both batter and filling, add the decorative whole cherries and then bake them for 20-25 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly before serving or storing in an airtight container.

Sourdough Baking … AGAIN

To paraphrase the words of the immortal Sheldon Lee Cooper … “Bread bakers be crazy!

I joined a sourdough baking group on FB … cause I’m a glutton for punishment and not wasting enough time on FB already. As a result I developed a case of baker’s envy and revived my sourdough starter. And, not only did I revive the last of a sample from the freezer, but some of the dried starter from the pantry as well. Which meant I was feeding TWO jars.

Because I had started with a very young starter when I stored it away, it took longer to re-establish than I though it would. As a result, my first bake (a 1-2-3 formula using some ground bulgur flour for texture in place of the spelt, along with all purpose, and found on friend’s blog) was a miserable failure. And I had such high hopes for it too. I ended up tossing the loaf in the garbage in disgust. I weep for that lovely blue cheese and pecans.

Luckily, I had suspected things were NOT going well so I made a batch of hybrid dough (sourdough starter and dry yeast), enriched it with eggs, butter and milk and shaped it into 2 babkas, which I filled with chocolate chips, Nutella (yes, I finally bought a jar) and chopped pecans. I tried two different shaping methods, one of which didn’t turn out as nicely as I had hoped. It was supposed to be a crumb topping but, between using powdered sugar and the warmth of the kitchen, which effectively ended up making a paste of the flour, sugar and butter, the top wasn’t very pretty. So the ugly duckling second method, ended up being the beautiful swan.

Next time, if there IS a next time, I make a babka, I’ll try basting the finished loaf with a honey/sugar syrup as some recipes show. I’ve included a recipe for the syrup in the babka recipe below. I baked my babkas in a large roasting pan which had been buttered generously and separated into two ‘pans’ with a dam of aluminum foil, folded several times for rigidity and buttered.

Hybrid Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka – 2 1/2 lbs dough, makes 2 loaves

Based on a sourdough cinnamon roll recipe I’ve used before but I increased the eggs in this enriched version to two.

Dough

1 cup active starter or discard
1 1/4 tsp dry yeast (1 tsp instant yeast)
3/4 cup warm milk
1/3 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 – 3 3/4 cup AP flour, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

Filling – for each babka

1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips **

Syrup (optional)

1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/2 cup (125m) water
1 tbsp honey

Egg wash – 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp cold water

** Use chopped chocolate next time as it melts better.

In a small bowl, activate the yeast by dissolving 1 tsp of the sugar in the warm milk, sprinkling in the yeast and waiting for about 5-10 min until the yeast gets foamy.

In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups of flour, salt, rest of the sugar and mix well.

Make a well in the center, add the yeast mixture, eggs, starter and butter and with a wooden spoon beat together until you get a smooth batter. Gradually stir in about a cup of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until you get a shaggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface and knead, using only as much flour as needed to get a soft but not sticky dough, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball and cover with your mixing bowl. Let rest covered for 5 minutes. Knead for another 5 minutes, using as little flour as possible.

Sprinkle some flour in a clean area, place the ball of dough on the flour, cover with the mixing bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out, fill and shape.

Let rest in two 9″ x 5″ greased loaf pans, in a warm place, for about 45 min to an hour, until doubled. Brush on egg wash.

Shaping version 1

Shaping version 2

While the dough is rising, make the syrup (if using) by bringing the water, sugar, and honey to a boil in a small saucepan. Let boil for 4 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface with a spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.

After the dough was allowed to rise, the egg wash was brushed on and the crumb topping was applied. The baked result is seen below.

Bake for 55 minutes. After 25 minutes you might want to cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil as the tops will get very dark.

Let cool in loaf pans for about 5-10 minutes then remove from pans and let cool thoroughly on rack. The syrup, if used, may be brushed on after a few minutes of cooling.

Savoury Italian Boule

A couple of days later, I made a hybrid savoury bread based on the babka recipe I used above but with an Italian theme – a mixture of Italian herbs (~1 tsp) , garlic powder (1/2 tsp),  and sun dried tomatoes (1-2 tbsp).

Pictorial Boule Recipe

Boule proofed with the seam side up for 1-2 hrs until doubled then flipped over, with the aid of a baking pan, onto a parchment paper sling for scoring and transfer into the hot dutch oven.

Other changes: Substitute water for the milk used above and 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in place of the butter. No eggs were used in this recipe. I also reduced the amount of sugar to 1 1/2 tsp, just enough to activate/proof the dry yeast. After proofing, the boule was baked in a dutch oven which had been preheated to 450 deg F, 35 minutes with the lid on and 10 minutes with the lid off. I covered the dutch oven lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil because I had concerns about it possibly burning.

It turned out beautifully as well especially the crumb.

PS: I have now tossed the dry sourdough starter cause, really, who kneads the added temptation? (Freudian slip? You judge.) I’ll continue with the current single jar of starter and refrigerate it once it’s well established.

Brownies Version 2 – Katharine Hepburn’s Recipe

Although the brownies I made last time were tasty, they weren’t the shiny crust version that I wanted. It seems you need to use melted chocolate for those. Recently, I ran across a newspaper cutting, from the days when we still subscribed to an actual newspaper and I cut out recipes from the Wednesday food section, and gave it a try. This is the version I remember making years ago.

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies – makes 16 squares

2 oz/60 gm dark, unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 cup chopped or broken-up walnuts or pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch-square pan, preferably lined with parchment paper to make removal easier when thoroughly cooled.

Melt together butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, then take the saucepan off the heat and transfer the butter-chocolate mixture to a large bowl. Let cool a bit so you don’t cook the eggs.

Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the nuts.

Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl and then fold into the cocoa-butter mixture, until just combined and you no longer see white floury areas.

Pour into pan and rap the base against the table to get rid of any bubbles in the batter.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Do not over bake; the brownies should be gooey.

Let cool completely in the pan, then remove and cut into bars.

NOTE: The thin, shiny crust shattered when I tried to cut it, both with a serrated and a smooth knife. I thought it might be the nuts but someone suggested using a plastic knife instead. I have 2 more pieces (they’re small) left in the freezer but I’ll give it a try when they’re gone.

Re-imagining Basic Recipes pt 2

I like recipes that you can modify for different dishes or presentations like the basic pasta dough recipe below. It’s based on the proportions used in the spinach pasta I made a while back.

A 10 oz batch of pasta coloured with 1/8 and 1/3 cup of beet puree, respectively. The colour isn’t dramatically different but I’m hoping the cooked pasta on the more concentrated batch will end up being much darker than in my first posts. And then maybe I can do a tricolour pasta dish.

 

Some adaptations are better than others. I used the last of my sourdough starter to make a batch of chickpea flour (besan) crackers. I added some nanami togarashi (7 spice chili blend) to flavour it. The crackers were tasty enough but I didn’t really taste the chickpea flour. The flavour may have been overcome by the all-purpose flour sourdough starter. Next time, I’ll use all chickpea flour and some baking powder for leavening.

The chocolate cookie cups were filled with various items from vanilla ice cream (topped with sprinkles) to homemade caramel sauce poured over chopped nuts (I used walnuts but pecans would be lovely) and then topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. And finally, mixed citrus curd lightened with whipped cream and topped with some more ice cream. I think a chocolate chip cookie (minus the chocolate chips), or even a gingerbread cookie, dough would give me a more versatile/neutral base for filling, but this was a good first attempt of the technique.

 

 

 

Re-imagining Basic Recipes

So much for my ‘break’. But I’ve been having a lot of fun and couldn’t resist sharing some pictures.

Taking a recipe and re-thinking some elements to come up with something new and exciting is important for the daily cook. And those of us on a budget who can’t run out and buy exotic or expensive ingredients.

So, adding beet puree (only 2 tbsp to a 2 egg pasta recipe) to a basic pasta recipe and coming up with a very pretty pink pasta doesn’t take a lot of money, just some imagination, or google-fu in case your imagination is as limited as mine.

Making the Beet Pasta

Dressing the resulting pasta is another fun pastime.

Shrimp Scampi … a very romantic shrimp supper for two

Browned Butter and Sage … a more modest meatless pasta dish with a generous grating of Grana Padano cheese

No changes in this dish from the basic recipe I posted before, but the pictures are MUCH nicer.

I haven’t made these onigiri (Japanese rice patties) in ages. You can leave them plain or fill them with anything from the classic umeboshi which are a type of pickled ‘plums’, dried bonito flakes moistened with soy sauce or a very Western tuna salad. The onigiri may also be eaten as is or grilled, basted with soy sauce and then grilled again briefly. Wrapping a strip of nori around the rice patty keeps your fingers clean, but you’ll want to wait til the last minute so the seaweed stays nice and crispy.

I learned a fun way to shape/pack sushi rice into a round ball. Simply take 2 small round bottomed bowls, rinse them with water so the rice doesn’t stick, add your rice to the bottom bowl, put the other bowl on top and SHAKE back and forth for a minute or so.

Crack open the ball of rice on a moistened sheet of food wrap over which you’ve sprinkled some salt, and add your filling. Tighten the plastic wrap around the ball and filling and squeeze it tightly, then form into a triangle shape.

Plain Onigiri – wrap a strip of nori around the patty before eating

Yaki Onigiri – I like to add a bit of wasabi to the onigiri before wrapping the nori around it and eating.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies become cookie cups … I used 3-4 tbsp to make balls which were placed into muffin tins sprayed with cooking spray. The cookies and cups were baked together for 15-16 min at 350 deg F and then I used the bottom of a shot glass to press down the cookie in the muffin tins to make a ‘cup’. The cups were allowed to cool for 5 minutes before being removed from the muffin tins and transferred to the cooling rack to cool completely.

I’ll fill the cups and share pictures soon.