Celebrating Chocolate

October 28, 2008

Here is a little riddle for you. What could be better than celebrating a birthday, whether you like birthdays or not, with a yummy cake? Celebrating National Chocolate Day! With any form of chocolate … Especially considering it comes just before the day most children get to gorge themselves on candy 🙂

 

I’ve always thought some of these little holidays were silly. I mean, who would want to celebrate National Rattlesnake Round Up Day? (Though National Kazoo Day is the same day…and that would be a lot more fun) But the fun of a blog is to have a great reason to celebrate this chocolatey day.

This October 28 (aka National Chocolate Day) I chose a recipe for Fudge that I have been using for many…many years thanks to my mother. It is the easiest Fudge recipe you have ever tried, and well worth it.

Chocolate Fudge

1 bag chocolate chips
1 can of sweetened-condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (or 1/2 tsp vanilla 1/2 tsp chocolate liqueur)

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in the milk and vanilla until perfectly creamy.

Line a pan with parchment or waxed paper and pour in the fudge. Let sit for several hours to set.

Once set, run a knife along the edge of the pan, turn upside down and cut into squares. Try not to eat all of it at once. Enjoy.

The hardest thing about this recipe is waiting for it to set. You can put it in the fridge if you want to munch sooner, but it really does set better if you can wait long enough for it to set on its own.

You can use any kind of chips for this recipe (milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch….) and sprinkle the top with your favorite nuts or more chocolate. Just have fun with it.  🙂


Creamy Comfort

April 5, 2008

It’s unfortunate that as adults, we can’t just shrug off stress and life-stuff like we could when we were kids. A good night’s sleep, a bowl of ice cream, simple things like that can always make everything better.

Thankfully as a woman, chocolate can still help, even if it can’t completely erase life’s troubles, and since the last few weeks have been particularly stressful, I thought it would be a good time to make something very chocolatey.

I’ve tried a recipe for chocolate mousse before, the typical egg whites recipe, but this one sounded delectable, I just had to go for it. Honestly, throughout the whole recipe I was questioning whether I was actually doing it right but I kept going. I must have read it four times while making it and didn’t see anything but it just didn’t seem right. Reading it again to post now, I realize I forgot to whip the cream! Thankfully the chocolate gods had mercy on me cause it came out very tasty. 

Chocolate Mousse
from Joy of Baking.com

white chocolate, chopped
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water

In a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water melt the white chocolate. An ounce or two of chocolate should be more than enough, depending on how you plan to use it. 

Remove bowl from heat and stir continuously until cool to the touch but still soft and melted. Pour ito a ziplock bag, cut the tip and use it to carefully decorate glasses or bowls that you plan to serve the mousse in. With whatever chocolate is leftover, draw swirls, zigzags and squiggles on parchment paper. Carefully move everything to the fridge to chill until needed.

In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the remaining chocolate.  Set aside but keep the bowl over the warm water so the chocolate will stay slightly warm.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Refrigerate, covered, until needed.

Place the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil.  Boil until the sugar dissolves, a minute or two.  This produces a sugar syrup. Then, whisking constantly, pour the boiling syrup over the egg yolks.  Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly (can use a hand mixer on low speed) until the mixture is thick and light in color.  This mixture should be hot to the touch.  (About 10 minutes)

Remove the bowl from the heat and, working quickly, scrape the egg mixture into a clean large bowl of your electric mixer.  On medium speed (or with a hand mixer) beat until the volume has doubled and the bottom of the bowl is completely cool to the touch.  Turn speed to low, and beat in the warm melted chocolate until well combined.  Fold in half the reserved whipped cream and then fold in the remaining cream.  The mixture should resemble softly whipped cream.  Without the cream being whipped it is still pretty light and airy.

This can be used immediately or refrigerated, covered, until needed.  If the mixture seems a little runny, the chocolate may have been too warm, but after refrigerating for an hour or so, it will firm up.  Can be made and refrigerate a day ahead of time.

Carefully pour the mousse into the serving glasses (or scoop into a ziplock bag to transfer to the glasses), decorate with white chocolate swirls as desired and refrigerate until needed. When ready to serve, place each glass on a plate and shave extra chocolate to dust the bases.

Even with the missed step the mousse came out creamy, very chocolatey and dissolves in your mouth almost instantly. It’s very satisfying for any cravings, as a comfort, or just for. If you try it yourself and actually whip the cream let me know how it comes out. Either way, enjoy 🙂

 


An Old Favorite

March 19, 2008

I found out early last week that after the convention on saturday I was going to be joining my friends for their weekly/semi-weekly gaming night. This is a first for me, joining anyone for this kind of thing, but they’re really a great group of people, so I knew it would be fun and of course, I wanted to bake something special for them (I did not expect my tart to last long enough) 🙂

Now, I could have gone the easy route and just baked two tarts, but I wanted to try something else so out came my cookbooks and cache of recipes.

I actually considered making the same chocolate chip cookies I made last month, especially considering it would be nice to get some more input on them, but my dear friend Dean is not a big fan of chocolate (he doesn’t hate it, but it’s just “alright”) so I wanted to make something he might actually like and decided to go with one of the next best things…cinnamon!

I do not know anyone that doesn’t like snickerdoodles. They’re sweet, they lack chocolate so that covers those poor people with allergies and those that just don’t care for chocolate (yes, it’s shocking but there are people like that out there), and they’re fun to say! This is a classic cookie and one of my favorites.

The recipe came from my Magnolia cookbook. They are the ones that make the cupcakes everyone raves about. I have been a little intimidated about trying the cupcake recipes yet (I promise to try one later this year) but the cookies are all great. btw, some @#$@# in the bookstore ripped out a few pages of the book and I didn’t notice until I tried to look them up! If anyone has the book and is willing to mail/fax/email me the missing pages I would love you forever 🙂

Okay, enough already, on with the fun stuff.

Snickerdoodles
Source: Magnolia Cookbook

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 tbl milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

6 tbl sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and beat well. Add the dry ingrediets and mix thoroughly. Wrap the dough in saran wrap and chill in the refridgerator for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Crop the dough by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets, leaving several inches between them. Keep in mind these spread more than most. Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.

Let the cookies cool on a wire rack for as long as you can wait. Enjoy.

This is really the kind of cookie that can please anyone, and they always seem to go so fast! It’s amazing that something lacking chocolate can still be so wonderful.


One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato…

March 10, 2008

Yes, more potato bread 🙂

My friends and I are going to a big convention this weekend, and since we’re all pretty much broke we decided that bringing food instead of buying was the best idea. And of course, I offered to make bread for sandwiches! I have been torturing my dear friend Dean with pictures of all of my bread for a while now, so he was pretty excited with the idea.

Last month I made a recipe for potato bread. I considered using this one for my friends, since it was something I had been playing with for quite a while. A tried and true recipe, but while tasty, it felt like cheating. Even though I was doing it by hand, it used just potato flakes instead of real potatoes since it came from a bread machine cookbook. I don’t mind cheating once in a while. Shortcuts can be very good. But I wanted to make REAL potato bread and give them something great.

I have two new recipes to try this year and this is one. The other one had reviews from people who had actually tried it (since it was one of those Daring Bakers things I am sure you have seen around) but the reviews seemed rather mixed so I decided to be a little safe and go with this one first.

 

This is a real hearty bread. Wheat flour would make it even more so, but I honestly don’t think it needs it. This is nothing like the potato bread you’ll find in stores, but it’s great and super soft. Perfect for sandwiches or just munching on. I personally think it might need a little sugar, but other than that it’s great. I’ll let you know what my friends think when they try it. In the meantime…

Hearty Potato Bread
Source: A Year in Bread

2 cups water*
5 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
8 ounces mashed potatoes**
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt

*You’ll use the water from boiling the potatoes for this. You can use regular water but this will be better
**Peel and cut a little more than 8 ounces so you can make sure you have enough

1. Peel and cut potatoes and boil for approximately 30 minutes, or until soft enough to mash. Measure out 8 ounces of potatoes, and two cups of water, plus a little more on the side in case you need it. Mash the potatoes in the potato water and allow to cool until approximately 100F.

2. Add the bread flour and yeast to the potato/water mixture. Add the butter and mix until well combined. Mix in the salt.

3. Spread the all-purpose flour onto your work surface and begin to knead the dough, adding more flour/water as needed. This will be a very slack dough but keep working it until it’s soft and supple.

4. Grease a large (very large, this is a huge loaf) bowl and put the dough in, greasing the top of the dough. Cover the bowl and let rest for approximately an hour, or until doubled in size. Punch down, cut the dough in half and let rest for a few minutes. Form two loafs and put them in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise another hour, or until doubled in size.*** Preheat oven to 375F.

5. Cut two or three slits in the top, lighlty flour the tops and bake bread approximately 20 minutes. Turn and bake for another 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a thermometer inserted inside reads 200F.

6. Turn out loaves onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Cut and enjoy 🙂

Like any bread, you don’t have to bake these in loaf pans. You can free-form these loaves easily, and I will probably do so next time I try it. I might also add a tablespoon or so of sugar, but it is still great without it.

*** This made HUGE loaves. I put about 8 ounces of dough aside so I could try it, make sure it was good before sharing a new recipe with people and it STILL overflowed my loaf pans. You might want to make three small loaves, or two loaves and a small baguette or something like that.


Yes I Put Cheese On My Cheese

February 25, 2008

You might think I was exaggerating on my love of cheeeeeeese when I made the ravioli, but I really don’t. My favorite…okay, the only sauce I really ever put on those tasty treats is alfredo. Yes, more cheese. Other sauces just seem to take away from them. So of course I considered making my typical tried and true alfredo sauce with the ravioli this weekend, but in my little (or not-so-little) cache of recipes I knew I had a recipe for an almost but not quite alfredo sauce I wanted to try and this seemed like a great opportunity.

I love having a good creamy sauce so when I see those words connected to any recipe I will of course perk up and look at the ingredients and everything to see if it sounds like something I might like. More often than not I’ll just make notes on a post-it with the quantities and make up the rest as I go, because a good creamy sauce really doesn’t take that much effort.

Surprisingly this recipe in it’s original incarnation didn’t have any garlic in the sauce itself so working in the comments from other people, and of course garlic, this is what I came up with. A wonderfully sinful Garlic Asiago Creme Sauce. If you like this kind of thing I hope you’ll try this artery clogging recipe at some point cause it really is worth the problems it could cause you in the future 🙂

Garlic Asiago Cheese Sauce
adapted from recipe on allrecipies.com

1 tbl. garlic
1 chicken bouillon cubs
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup grated asiago

Dissolve the chicken bouillon cube in the 1/4 cup milk. Pour into a sauce pan, add the garlic and allow to simmer for a few minutes.

Dissolve the corn starch in a tbl. of the heavy cream. Put aside. Add the remaining heavy cream and simmer for a few more minutes. Add the cheese and simmer, stirring frequently until cheese has melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cornstarch/cream mixture and stir well. Simmer for a few more minutes then remove from heat.

Allow it to sit for a few minutes to thicken slightly then spoon over dish of choice. Enjoy 🙂

garlic asiago cheese sauce on cheese ravioli

This is a very creamy, buttery sauce. You can substitute any cheese you want with this recipe but definitely try the asiago. It’s very mild and rich and works beautifully with the cream.


Fresh Bread Any Day

February 13, 2008

Anyone who knows me knows that I love bread in most of its wonderful forms. French bread, soft sandwich bread, rolls, biscuits, bagels. Those crusty rolls that are pillowy soft on the inside and crispy enough on the outside to cut your mouth. mmmmmm

Whether it’s something fancy, or just a slice of buttered bread when I get home from work, I have to have some bread of some sort every day. Unfortunately with work, I can’t make a loaf of fresh bread every day, so naturally it was important that I get a recipe for something bread-like that I could make any day of the week.

What I love most about this recipe is that in its original form, it makes only four biscuits, making it even easier to handle during the week. I played with it, adjusted the numbers and adapted till I had what I consider the perfect biscuits. Beautifully browned, buttery with a hint of sweetness, and of course soft and delicious. Once I achieved the results I wanted I figured out the math and now I can make these in any multiple of four I need. So now I can come home from a long day at work and have hot, fresh biscuits that don’t come from a tube. And they go well with just about anything.

homemade biscuits

Buttery Biscuits

adapted from recipe found on: CookingClub.com

makes 16 biscuits

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
fresh pepper (you be the judge of what’s enough. I never measure it and it’s always great)
12 teaspoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups milk

1. Preheat oven to 375. Cover a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.

2. Sift flour into a medium sized bowl and whisk in the sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper.

3. Add the butter and with a pastry blender or two knives, cut it in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs with some pea sized pieces.

4. Pour in the milk a little at a time, mixing as you go until you have a very moist dough. You probably won’t need about a tablespoon of the milk. Put that aside.

5. Cut up the dough and form 16 rough balls. Pat down and place on a cookie sheet then brush the tops with the remaining milk.

6. Place in oven and bake approximately 10-15 minutes until tops are nicely browned.

Serve and enjoy 🙂

biscuits

It’s pretty easy to figure out, but let me know if you want the measurements for making just four of these.