Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Death by Chocolate Cookies

I just couldn’t resist! What better dessert for this past Mother’s Day than something chocolate. Of course Bob agreed because he could take some in his lunch everyday.

To make it special, I just served some cookies with vanilla bean ice cream and made a luscious chocolate sauce to drizzle over the top. Enjoy.

Death by Chocolate Cookies

2 packages (16 ounces) semi sweet baking chocolate
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup (half a stick) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Chop 1 package (8 ounces) of the chocolate, set aside. Melt remaining 8 ounces of chocolate. Stir-in brown sugar, softened butter, 2 eggs and vanilla.

Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to chocolate mixture. Fold in chopped chocolate and nuts.

Using a cookie scoop, drop cookie dough scoops onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches in between each cookie.

Bake for 12 minutes until cookies are puffed and feel set to the touch.

Cool on wire rack for one minute then transfer cookies to rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 ½ to 3 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Sauce:

1 cup half and half
1 stick cinnamon
½ disk Mexican Chocolate, chopped

Combine half and half and cinnamon stick in medium sauce pan and heat to scalding. Lower heat and add chocolate. Whisk until chocolate melts and remove from heat. Remove cinnamon stick before using.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chocolate Challah Bread

Chocolate Challah Bread

I wanted to experiment further with my new bread baking exploits. So, without a doubt, I made it chocolate, Mexican chocolate to be precise. My brother Jose is Jewish so I decided to make something in his honor since I couldn’t make it to his 70th birthday celebration.

Using my life-saving (and hand-saving) Kitchen Aid mixer and dough hook, I made this beautiful Challah bread that didn’t last long. The bread isn’t necessarily sweet although it does incorporate some brown sugar and bits of Mexican chocolate, but it was just sweet enough to have with a cup of coffee in the morning. It helped to do a coffee flavored glaze on top for good measure.

I also used a digital scale to measure out the dough to make the three ropes. Last time I tried making a braided bread loaf the various ropes measured differently and gave it a lumpy look.

Next time I intend to try that wonderful Apple Honey Challah that Martha Stewart had in her magazine a few months back. BUT, I think I’ll try it with some dried mango chips and a honey lime mixture instead. Who knows? It might come out pretty tasty.

Chocolate Challah Bread

3 ½ cups bread flour
1 packet (2 ½ teaspoons) of active dry yeast
¼ cup warm (110 degrees) water
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup warm water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
4 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg at room temperature
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chopped Mexican chocolate, chopped into small bits

Coffee Glaze

1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
4 teaspoons of softened butter
Enough warm water (about 1 or 2 tablespoons) to make the glaze of drizzling consistency
¼ teaspoons instant coffee granules
Dissolve coffee in warm water. Combine all ingredients to smooth consistency.

Combine the yeast, ¼ cup warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar in mixer bowl. Allow to proof for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together flour, cocoa and salt in a separate bowl. In a small saucepan, warm ½ cup water, butter, and brown sugar. Heat until butter is almost melted and temperature reaches 110 degrees. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 egg.

Add water mixture to yeast mixture in mixer bowl. Mix (using dough hook) on low just until combined. Add 3 cups of flour. Starting on low speed, incorporate the flour into the wet ingredients. Increase speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes. Add a little more flour (from the remaining ½ cup) if dough seems too sticky and is not forming into a ball. Add pecans and chocolate bits.

After the mixing (kneading) time, turn dough out onto a floured surface for final kneading. Knead dough by hand a few times until dough feels smooth and elastic.

Oil or butter a large mixing bowl. Place dough into bowl and turn over once to butter the top. Cover and let rise for 1 ½ hours or until double in size.

Punch dough down and turn out onto floured surface. Divide dough into three equal pieces. This is where my new digital scale comes in. The total dough weighed 33 ounces. I divided into three 11-ounce pieces.

Roll out each piece into a long rope. Make sure each piece is of equal length.

Lay out ropes on a lightly greased baking sheet. Braid the ropes and tuck in the end pieces. Cover and allow braid to rise a second time for about an hour.

Make an egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon of water) and brush over the braid.

Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and then drizzle over the top with Coffee glaze.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Truffles and Lollipops for Valentine's Day

I was caught without a car to go to the store and with weather that was windy, rainy and blustery. So to make something special for Bob as a Valentine’s Day surprise, I had to make do with whatever I had on hand.

I’d come across this recipe from the Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade site some time ago and thought I’d put it to good use. Normally truffles are made with good quality chocolate. But there’s nothing wrong with using a chocolate, like Hershey’s, to improvise.

Bob gave it a thumb’s up so they must be good. I can’t always tell with just my own opinion.

The lollipops are also another improvisation. I tried making these at Christmas but found that working with sugar is certainly a difficult thing to do unless you’ve been doing it for a while. In other words, I was just too slow and the candy mixture set too quickly for me to anything with.

This time I had everything ready and actually timed myself to make it happen. Lollipops are so easy and yet so difficult unless you have quick hands and prepare everything in advance, mise en place.

The great thing about this recipe is that you don’t need any flavoring oils or coloring gels to make the pops. You use regular old Jell-O. Can you imagine the possibilities? I think I’ll make green (lime) shamrock lollipops for Saint Patty’s Day.

Hershey’s Kiss Truffles

(Inspired by Sandra Lee)

28 dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Kahlua
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons whipping cream
10 pieces of chocolate candy (I used Rollos, caramel filled Kisses and M & M’s)
Red and white sprinkles
Cocoa powder

1. Remove wrappers from dark chocolates. Place the chocolates, cinnamon, Kahlua and whipping cream in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium (50% power) 1 minute; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chocolates are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Cover; refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or until firm.

2. Remove wrappers from other chocolates. Using about 1 tablespoon of dark chocolate mixture for each truffle, shape chocolate around each separate chocolate piece; roll in hand to make ball. (Be sure to cover each chocolate piece completely.) Roll in sprinkles or cocoa powder; refrigerate until ready to serve. For best chocolate flavor, allow truffles to soften at room temperature about 5 minutes before eating.

Red Cherry Lollipops

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
1 (3-ounce) box cherry gelatin dessert mix
Nonstick cooking spray

Special Equipment:

20 (4-inch) lollipop sticks
Metal tablespoon-size measuring spoon
Candy thermometer


Butter 2 large baking sheets. Arrange 10 lollipop sticks on each baking sheet, spacing them evenly apart. Stir sugar, corn syrup, and butter in small saucepan over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue cooking for 7 minutes, or until candy thermometer registers 275 degrees F. Stir in gelatin until smooth. Using a metal tablespoon and working quickly, spoon syrup over 1 end of each lollipop stick. (I used heart shaped lollipop molds) Cool completely. Wrap each lollipop in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container.


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