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Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’

I attended my first holiday cookie exchange last week and the stakes were high considering our group was made up of Charlotte-area food and healthy living bloggers. I knew that I was going to bring my tried and true Orange Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti but I also wanted to bring something a little more Christmas-esque. After a bit of research, I decided that these Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies would be perfect.

These cookies feature melted high-quality chocolate topped with crushed peppermints and a drizzle of white chocolate over a shortbread base. Although these cookies require multiple steps, they were fairly simple. I struggled most with the shortbread cookie dough. It stuck to my fingers as I tried to press it into the pan. The key to avoiding this was keeping my fingers wet with water. I was concerned that the shortbread wouldn’t cook properly but it turned out just right.

The cookies were a big hit at the party and the presentation was beautiful for the holidays. This recipe will definitely be a repeat for many holiday seasons to come. I thinke these cookies would be perfect in holiday gift bags too!

One Year Ago: Chili Lime Tilapia
Two Years Ago: Open-Faced Steak Sandwiches with Horseradish Sauce

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies
(Recipe source Bon Appetit)

Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
6 ounces high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) finely chopped red-and-white striped hard peppermint candies or candy canes
2 ounces high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with a long strip of 9-inch-wide parchment paper, leaving an overhang on both short sides of pan.
Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar and continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then egg yolk. Gradually add flour mixture, beating on low speed just to blend.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls into prepared baking pan, spacing evenly. Using moistened fingertips, press dough to form even layer over bottom of pan. Pierce dough all over with fork.

Bake cookie base until light golden brown, slightly puffed and edges begin to come away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes. Place pan on wire rack and immediately sprinkle bittersweet chocolate over. Let stand until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes. Using a small offset spatula, spread chocolate over top of cookie in a thin even layer. Immediately sprinkle chopped peppermint candies over.

Stir white chocolate in a medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from water and use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate all over cookies. Chill until white chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

Grab the paper overhang and lift from pan. Transfer to work surface and using a large knife, cut cookie into irregular pieces.

Yield: about 36 pieces

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The peanut butter/chocolate combo and I go way back. I totally blame my dad for introducing me to Reese’s Cups at a young age. He later shared with me the magical creation that is a Dairy Queen Reese’s Blizzard (extra Reese’s, of course) and it all went downhill from there. If you were to look at my starred items in Google Reader you would see a downright embarrassing number of peanut butter and chocolate desserts. I just can’t help myself.

And let’s get real here. Yes, I am posting this recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispy Bars just three days after writing about abdominal exercises on my healthy living blog. So after you eat these bars, head on over to Peanut Butter Runner (so appropriately named) and try some new ab challenges. ;)

Just a reminder that I preach balance, balance, balance. Amen.

I was looking for a treat to bring to a beach weekend with friends. These bars seemed like something that would be easy for people to pick up when they were in the mood for something sweet. Everyone seemed to really enjoy them. I mean, how could you not!?

Despite having three layers, they were surprisingly easy to assemble. I loved that there was no baking involved and I did all of my chocolate melting in the microwave rather than on the stove top. The only downside was that they turned out not to be ideal for traveling in a hot car. They really needed to stay refrigerated and got a little melty on the trip down. Thankfully, they firmed back up in the fridge and no taste was compromised!

The crispy part of these bars is a little different. Instead of making your traditional Rice Krispies treat with marshmallows, you use corn syrup, water and sugar to make a sticky mixture to bind the Rice Krispies cereal together. I think that next time I will try the traditional method with marshmallows just for comparison. If I do, I will report back! (Don’t get me wrong, they are great as is!) And one last note, I doubled this recipe and made it in an 11 x 9 instead of an 8 x 8 pan.

I think these would be perfect to take to Fall football get-togethers. I promise they will disappear quickly and you will be the hit of the party for serving them!

One Year Ago: Sauteed Snapper with Cherry Tomatoes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispy Bars
(Recipe source Cate’s World Kitchen, originally from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)

Ingredients:

FOR THE CRISPY CRUST
1 3/4 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter, melted

FOR THE PEANUT BUTTER LAYER
5 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter

FOR THE CHOCOLATE TOPPING
3 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

FOR THE CRUST
Spray an 8″ square pan with nonstick spray and set aside. Place cereal in a large bowl and set aside.

Mix together the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high. Insert a candy thermometer into the mixture and boil until it reaches 235 degrees F. Remove from heat, stir in melted butter, pour over the cereal and mix together. Press into prepared pan and let cool while you make the peanut butter layer.

FOR THE PEANUT BUTTER LAYER
Melt the milk chocolate and peanut butter together in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water. Stir until smooth, then pour over the crust and chill for an hour in fridge or until set. Alternatively, melt chocolate and peanut butter together in the microwave on 50 percent power. Cook in 30 second intervals, stirring between until melted and continue with directions above.

FOR THE CHOCOLATE TOPPING:
Clean out the double boiler and place dark chocolate, corn syrup and butter in pot. Stir until smooth, over medium low heat. Alternatively, use the same microwave method as above. Cool for about 30 seconds (stirring constantly), then pour over the peanut butter layer, gently spreading. Chill in the fridge for another hour, or until topping has hardened. Cut into squares and serve.

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Confession – I just finished a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a chopped Reese’s cup, chocolate syrup and caramel sauce. I’ve been thinking about blogging these Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars all day and my craving for peanut butter and chocolate was out of control. Craving satisfied. I can now blog about these delicious bars without wanting to eat the screen.

Do I even need to state that peanut butter and chocolate is one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations after the above commentary? I’m a bitembarrassed by the number of starred items in my Google Reader involving peanut butter and chocolate. This recipe was one of those items.

We went to a family reunion in the Western North Carolina mountains over the July Fourth weekend (read about it here and here). There were about 60 people in attendance and our family was in charge of dinner one night. I contributed these bars, brownies and oatmeal raisin cookies to the dessert spread.

These bars were incredible and definitely lived up to my high expectations. Of course, the first night I made them Brandon had to sample them warm with ice cream on top (a recurring theme if you read this blog!). I thought they were great plain. Don’t shy away from adding the salt to the recipe even if you’re using salted peanut butter. The salty/sweet flavor is part of what makes these so good. I will actually probably add a little extra salt next time.

I doubled the recipe to accommodate a 13 x 9 pan. They took quite a bit longer to cook than the original recipe stated so I would recommend checking them every five minutes after the suggested baking time until you reach your desired doneness.

This is definitely the best blondie-type recipe I’ve tried for peanut butter chocolate chip bars and I will be making them again in the future and plan on playing around with mix-ins next time (chopped Reese’s anyone!?).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
(Recipe source Bake at 350)

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter, salted or unsalted (I used Trader Joe’s chunky salted)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt (might want to add a bit more if using unsalted peanut butter)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease an 8 x 8 pan. (Note that I doubled the recipe and used a 13 x 9.)

Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream butter and peanut butter together on medium speed until smooth. Beat in the sugars until mixture is lightened in color and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition and then add vanilla. Reduce mixer to low speed and slowly add in the flour mixture. Add the chocolate chips, stirring until combined.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Remember, you might need additional baking time so just keep checking. Cool completely before cutting.

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Let’s get straight to the point. These are without a doubt the best homemade brownies I’ve ever had. Ever. They are chocolaty, fudgy, rich and indulgent. The best part about these brownies is that I didn’t have to make them! We visited my parents in Atlanta several months ago and my dad had these ready for us when we arrived. We actually had dinner reservations that night at Top Chef contestant Kevin’s restaurant, Woodfire Grill, but I couldn’t resist sampling them. Totally worth slightly spoiling my appetite over! :)

Over the course of the visit I ate my fair share of these brownies. We took the leftovers home with us and made them even more ridiculously indulgent by serving them sundae style with ice cream and chocolate syrup. There was no brownie left behind.

All brownie lovers must try this recipe – even if you usually rely on boxed mixes. They are truly outstanding and will put any boxed brownie mix to shame. I will admit that I used to use boxed brownie mixes until I realized several years ago how easy homemade brownies are and produce far tastier results. They are so worth the little bit of extra effort required!

Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies
(Recipe source Cooks Illustrated, May 2000)

Ingredients :

5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (either Dutch-processed or natural cocoa works well in this recipe)
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions:

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fold two 12-inch pieces of foil lengthwise so that they measure 7 inches wide. Fit one sheet in bottom of greased pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan. Fit the second sheet in pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. The foil overhangs will help you lift the brownies out of the pan.

Place a medium heatproof bowl over a pan of almost-simmering water. Melt chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Alternatively, you can melt chocolates and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Cook on 50 percent power, stopping to stir ever 30 seconds, until mixture is smooth.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture; then stir in flour with wooden spoon until just combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spread into corners and level surface with rubber spatula. Bake until slightly puffed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 40 minutes.

Completely cool brownies on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. (This is a very crucial step – I know it’s hard but you have to let them completely cool!) Remove brownies from pan using foil handles. Cut into 1-inch squares and serve. (Do not cut brownies until ready to serve; brownies can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated up to 5 days.)

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 67

Apologies for my disappearance the last week but I’m back with the final two recipes to wrap up 68 Days of Gourmet. And promises of lots more deliciousness to follow after the project is complete. I also want to point out the newly created 68 Days of Gourmet page (found above) that categorizes all of the recipes from the project.

Now that the housekeeping details are out of the way, let’s talk about the Warm Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake. I saw this cake while browsing The Gourmet Cookbook and loved that it was elegant but relatively easy. This is the type of cake that would be perfect for a dinner party or date night dinner. Another plus is that it can be made ahead of time and reheated.

The frosting is poured into the bottom of the cake pan and the batter is poured on top. When you invert the cake from the pan your frosting is all melted and gooey on top of the cake. This cake is very moist and the raspberry jam in the frosting and cake adds a nice flavor dimension. The only change I would make next time I bake this is using a higher quality jam to really step up the raspberry flavor.

This is an impressive cake that requires minimal effort and is sure to be a crowd pleaser – especially with the chocolate lovers!

One year ago: Crash Hot Potatoes, Chocolate Biscotti

Warm Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake
(Recipe source Gourmet, January 1999)

Ingredients:

FOR THE FROSTING
3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), roughly chopped
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam (about 5 ounces)
1/2 cup heavy cream

FOR THE CAKE BATTER
1/2 cup boiling water
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam (about 3 ounces)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.

FOR THE FROSTING
In a small heavy saucepan over low heat bring jam, cream and chocolate to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Pour frosting into cake pan.

FOR THE CAKE BATTER
In a bowl whisk together boiling water and cocoa powder until smooth and whisk in milk, vanilla, and jam. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time,  beating well after each addition. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt and add to egg mixture in batches alternately with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating well after each addition.

Pour batter evenly over frosting mixture and bake in middle of oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean (frosting on bottom will still be liquid). Cool cake slightly in pan on a rack, 10 to 20 minutes.

Run a thin knife around edge of pan and twist pan gently back and forth on a flat surface to loosen cake. Invert a cake plate with a slight lip over cake pan and, holding pan and plate together with both hands, invert cake onto plate. Frosting will cover cake and run onto plate.

* Cake may be made 1 day ahead, cooled completely in pan and left in pan, covered, at room temperature. Reheat cake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 42

Sometimes having a food blog has its perks. Like when I have a perfectly valid excuse to make chocolate cream pie on a weeknight. What kind of food blogger would I be if I didn’t give you guys some chocolate dessert ideas for Valentine’s Day? I am so glad that I selected this recipe to feature. It is simply just amazing. And this is coming from the girl who is firmly in the fruit dessert camp and not the biggest fan of super chocolatey desserts. The homemade pudding is definitely the “pièce de résistance” in this pie. And when paired with the chocolate wafer crust and freshly whipped cream – home run! Make this for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day – I promise you won’t be disappointed :)

And on to news on the fitness and nutrition front (so appropriate in the same post as chocolate cream pie). Last weekend was definitely an over-the-top indulgent weekend for me. Lots of dining out, dessert and Super Bowl snacking. But I also attended a hot vinyasa yoga class Friday night, taught BodyPump Saturday morning and ran five miles Sunday afternoon. About the running…I am so frustrated with it right now. It’s been almost two months since my last last race and I took the biggest running break that I’ve taken in years. I’m one week into my new training program and having terrible pain in my left leg in the achilles tendon/lower calf area. It feels like there’s a big knot there and it hurts when I run and stays sore for days after I run. I’m really bummed and hoping if I keep icing it and try to rest it that it will get better. Fingers crossed.

Stocked up on lots of healthy foods, fruits and vegetables at the grocery for the week. Putting last weekend behind me and moving on! It’s all I can do. We all have to splurge sometimes!

Chocolate Cream Pie
(Recipe source Gourmet, February 2004)
Printable Recipe: Chocolate Cream Pie

Ingredients:

FOR THE CRUST
1 1/3 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (from about 26 cookies such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers or Oreos with cream scraped off)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

FOR THE FILLING
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
5 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

FOR THE TOPPING
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

FOR THE CRUST
Preaheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together crumbs, butter and sugar and press on bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until crisp, about 15 minutes, and cool on a rack.

FOR THE FILLING
In a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt and yolks until combined well.  Add milk in a slow stream, whisking and bring mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking constantly, 1 minute (filling will be thick).

Pour filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolates, butter and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with a buttered round of wax paper and cool completely, about 2 hours.

Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least six hours or overnight.

FOR THE TOPPING
Just before serving, beat cream and sugar in a bowl using an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Spoon on top of pie and serve with a dusting of cocoa powder or with fresh berries.

Yield: 8-10 servings

*Note: give yourself plenty of time to make this pie. You’ll want to make it the day before Valentine’s since you have to build in chilling time.

Other Valentine’s Day Treats
Lady Strawberry Cake
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Jamwich Cookies

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 35

Hot fudge sauce is the perfect desperation dessert. I always have the ingredients in my pantry and it just really takes ice cream to the next level. Brandon was wanting dessert and we really didn’t have anything but ice cream. I whipped this up in about 10 minutes and it totally hit the spot! So chocolately and delicious!

This has been a pretty solid week on the health and fitness front. Here’s a quick fitness overview:
Monday: taught BodyPump AM, 60 minute power mixed yoga class PM
Tuesday: 75 minute hot vinyasa yoga (this class was SERIOUSLY hard!)
Wednesday: 75 minute power mixed yoga class
Thursday: taught BodyPump (launched the new release!!!)
Tomorrow (Friday): 60 minute hot vinyasa

Now…I know you’re wondering where the cardio is. I totally admit that I’ve been on hiatus. And the funny thing is that I feel really good. The yoga has been exactly what I need. I’m looking forward to starting a new half marathon training program on February 1 rested and restored. I’m running the Charlotte RaceFest Half Marathon on April 10. I’m following a 10 week training program from Runners World that will hopefully help me improve my time. The training plan is pretty aggressive but I’m excited about it and looking forward to some hard work. Can’t wait to run on some beautiful spring days and for the days to get a little longer!

It’s been a good nutrition week too. For whatever reason, I just haven’t had my normal appetite. This is bad considering the amount of exercise I’ve been doing. I don’t know if it’s the lack of running or something about the yoga but my eating habits are definitely a little off. Also, I’ve been craving healthy food (which I’m not complaining about). I’ve just been all about the fruits, whole grains and veggies this week.

We have a pretty indulgent weekend coming up. It all starts with a pizza party at work tomorrow for lunch. I’m planning on having one slice of veggie and bringing other healthy snacks. Then tomorrow night my in law’s are taking us to BLT Steak for Charlotte Restaurant Week. So excited to try it. It’s the new hot spot in Charlotte. And then Saturday we have reservations as another steak house. I’m planning on hitting up the fish selections and steering clear of the beef!

So go get your workout in and then have a hot fudge sundae! :)

Hot Fudge Sauce
(Recipe source Gourmet, February 2004)

Ingredients:

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Bring cream, corn syrup, sugar, cocoa, salt and half of chocolate to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until chocolate is melted. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla and remaining chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth.

Sauce can be made and stored for one week. Just scoop out what you need and heat!

Yield: 2 cups

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