Category Archives: chocolate

South African Chocolate Pepper Cookies

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Who doesn’t love chocolate? I know I do and since moving to Belgium my love of it has only increased. After all, there are so many delicious quality chocolates to be had. And quality is the key word here. I would rather have a single bite of a great piece of chocolate than unlimited amounts of a mediocre one. And the same rule applies for cooking with chocolate as it does for eating it straight up. If I wouldn’t eat it plain I certainly won’t use it in my cooking.

And as these cookies from Food 52 demonstrate, chocolate can be paired with surprising ingredients to create delicious treats. In this case freshly ground black pepper, yes black pepper, enhances the chocolate providing these cookies with a surprising pop of spice. The cookies are soft, slightly chewy and filled with flavor in every bite. And to increase the flavor quotient in them I use two types of chocolate, a bittersweet and a semi-sweet. These cookies are so good that you might want to make a double recipe.

SOUTH AFRICAN CHOCOLATE PEPPER COOKIES

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped and divided
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped and divided

12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup brown sugar

large eggs

cups all-purpose flour

2/3 teaspoon baking soda

tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Melt 4 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate and 4 ounces of the semi-sweet chocolate and set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the butter until light and airy.
  • Add the sugar and beat until completely incorporated into butter.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.
  • With the mixer set on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to to butter mixture, beating until just incorporated.
  • Add the melted chocolate into the butter mixture and beat until just incorporated.
  • Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate and the ground pepper.
  • Cover and refrigerate until dough is cool and firm.
  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Drop the batter by the tablespoonful onto the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart on sheet.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until crisp on outside but still chewy inside.

Yields: 40 cookies

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Silky Rich Coconut Milk Chocolate Pudding

 

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Chocolate pudding. It is smooth, creamy and comforting and just one bite brings me back to my childhood. Growing up, however, instant J-ello pudding was all the rage. Simply add milk, stir and dessert was ready. Fortunately my taste buds and preferences have changed a lot over the years and now instant pudding simply won’t cut it. Actually any pudding from a box isn’t up to snuff but when real, cooked from scratch pudding is so easy, why would you even need the box?

This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen and is rich and flavorful and is fast to make. Because there are so few ingredients, be sure to use the best ones you can find. I’m partial to using a combination of chocolates because I think it creates a more complex flavor profile. Or you can use a single type; the choice is yours. I’ve also used coconut milk as the base of my pudding but a whole cow’s milk can be used instead. Either way you will be rewarded with a rich and not too sweet pudding that will bring you back to your childhood as well.

SILKY RICH COCONUT MILK CHOCOLATE PUDDING

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 cups coconut milk

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons vanilla extact

 

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt.
  • Slowly whisk in the coconut milk, in a thin steam at first so that lumps don’t form, then more quickly once the cornstarch mixture is smoothly incorporated.
  • Place the mixture over medium-low heat and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form.
  • After approximately 15 minutes, before it starts to simmer, the mixture should begin to thicken, enough that it will coat the back of a spoon.
  • Stir in the chocolates, and continue stirring for another 2 to 4 minutes, until chocolate is fully incorporated and mixture is quite thick.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • Allow to cool completely before serving.
  • To prevent a film from forming on top of the pudding, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the pudding surface.

 

Serves 8

Lemon Milano Cookies

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I grew up in a home where pretty much everything was homemade. Cereal was granola and shredded wheat was a special store bought treat; cakes were baked from scratch and a cookie was fresh baked from the oven. With one exception. Every once in a while Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies would appear in the house and no matter how well the paper bag was hidden, the cookies disappeared in a matter of minutes. Perhaps it was the novelty of a store bought cookie that enticed me but to this day there is something about those soft and tender cookies sandwiched together with a bit of dark chocolate that simply excites me. So naturally it was just a matter of time before I decided to make my own Milano treats.
My cookies combine zesty lemon with rich dark chocolate. The cookie recipe comes from  Dessertnowdinnerlater.com. The cookies are tender and thanks to the use of lemon in three forms–zest, juice and extract–filled with tangy flavor in every bite. It pairs perfectly with the complexity rich dark chocolate. If you prefer you can substitute milk chocolate but the results will be creamy and slightly sweeter.
LEMON MILANO COOKIES

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1½ teaspoons pure lemon extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup powdered sugar

8 ounces dark chocolate, broken into pieces

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest using an electric mixer set on medium speed.
  • Add the egg, egg yolk, lemon juice and lemon extract mixing thoroughly to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients mixing until just incorporated and scraping the bowl as necessary.
  • Place the powdered sugar in a shallow bowl.
  • Scoop 1½ tablespoon sized cookie dough balls and roll them in the powdered sugar.
  • Place the cookies on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake  for 9 to 10 minutes until the cookies are just golden.
  • Move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Place the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water. Stir gently until the chocolate is melted and liquid.
  • Using a narrow spatula or a knife, spread the melted chocolate over the bottom half of a cookie then top with another cookie. Set aside until the chocolate is firm.

Yields: 20 sandwich cookies

 

 

Mini Chocolate Stout Cakes

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Happy St. Patty’s Day! Whether you are Irish by birth or by spirit, this is the week that  everyone is a wee bit Irish. And what better way to celebrate than with a bit of Guinness Stout? Guinness is great on its own but when combined with chocolate it only gets better. The combination of the rich beer and chocolate produces a dense and complex cake that isn’t overly sweet. You could skip the coffee infused ganache if you wanted but I think it takes these cakes from very good to great. After all, you now have beer, chocolate and coffee!

Like so many recipes, this one is an adaptation of an adaptation which you guessed it, was adapted from the original. I found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen but versions of this recipe are floating all over the web. Some recipes produce three layer cakes and others give you one large bundt shaped cake. I decided to make mini bundt cakes since I recently re-discovered my mini bundt cake pan while unpacking my moving boxes. And because I made this cake for a get together with Glenn’s co-workers, the mini cakes traveled better and were easier to serve a crowd. I had hoped to bring a leftover cake home with me but alas, they all disappeared. I guess the moral is that if I really want to eat the cake I need to leave one at home.

MINI CHOCOLATE STOUT CAKES

For the cake:

1 cup Guinness Stout
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

For the ganache:

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules

To make the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a six-cake mini bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray taking care to get in all of the nooks and crannies. If you don’t have two pans you will need to wash, dry, and re-grease the pan before baking the remaining cakes.
  • In a large, heavy saucepan set over medium heat bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to a simmer.
  • Add the cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  • Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend.
  • Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.
  • Add the stout-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat until just combined.
  • Add the flour mixture and beat briefly on low speed until just combined.
  • Using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean.
  • Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan.

To make the ganache:

  • For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.
  • Drizzle over the top of cooled cakes.

Yields: 12 miniature bundt cakes

Chocolate Stout Pudding

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The countdown is on to St. Patrick’s Day (its a mere one week from today) so what better way to kick off the week with a truly decadent dessert? Whether you are Irish by birth or by association, this is the season when everyone is a wee bit Irish and nothing is more Irish than Guinness Stout. Guinness is great on its own but when combined with chocolate it only gets better.

This rich pudding, adapted from Food 52, takes decadence to a whole new level. Two types of chocolate combine with cream, milk and Guinness Stout to take a classic kid’s treat and make it swoon worthy for adults. (Of course, in my house kids of all ages love it).

The pudding really is rich, so much so that I like to keep the portions small and of course top them with a dollop of whipped cream (to cut the richness??!!??). It is good served cold but I also like it slightly warm–it reminds me of the rich hot chocolates I’ve enjoyed in Eastern Europe. But after just one bite, regardless of the temperature or the season, you’ll never go back to instant pudding again!

GUINNESS STOUT PUDDING

tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2/3 cup sugar

tablespoons cornstarch 

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

teaspoon espresso powder

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

cup milk

1/2 cup Guinness stout

4large egg yolks  

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 ounces good quality smooth dark chocolate, broken into pieces

tablespoon unsalted butter 

  • Combine the cocoa, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and espresso powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan set over low heat, warm the cream on medium-low until just steaming.
  • Stir in the cocoa mixture and continue stirring until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.
  • Add milk and stout to the pan. Increase heat to medium and cook until the mixture is very hot but not simmering.
  • While liquid is heating, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, the brown sugar, and the vanilla extract.
  • When chocolate mixture is hot, use a ladle and gradually drizzle about 1 cup of the milk into the egg mixture while constantly beating the eggs with a whisk. You do not want the eggs to curdle rather you want them to become emulsified into the milk mixture.
  • When the milk and eggs have been thoroughly combined, pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan.
  • With the heat still at medium and stirring constantly, cook until the mixture is thick and slightly bubbly but not simmering; about 10 minutes.
  • Move the saucepan off the heat. Add in the chocolate pieces and butter and stir until completely melted.
  • Let cool slightly then pour into individual serving dishes.
  • Cool completely or serve slightly warm topped with whipped cream if desired.

Serves 6

Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake w/ Bailey’s Buttercream

 

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Dessert anyone?

This cake has been all over the Internet in recent weeks so I’m not really sure whose recipe it really is. I  first found it on Global Table Adventure so that is where I’m going to let the credit lie). But back to the cake….or cupcakes as I made them. Oh my goodness is this cake good–which probably explains why they have been everywhere.

The cake is rich and chocolately without being overly sweet. Best of all it is so easy to make, and unlike so many cakes, it isn’t fussy and cake be made in a matter of minutes. Top it all with rich butter cream frosting and you have an unforgettable treat that is perfect for St. Patty’s Day or any day of the year. Yum!

DARK CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CAKE w/ BAILEY’S BUTTERCREAM

For the cake: 

1 1/2 sticks butter

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 cup Guinness Stout

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

For the buttercream:

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 lb powdered sugar, sifted

2-4 Tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream, as needed

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Line two 24 cup miniature muffin pans with baking papers or lightly grease and flour 2 8″ round cake pans. Set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, melt butter.
  • Whisk in the Guinness, vanilla extract and cocoa and immediately remove from the heat.
  • Whisk together the sugar, flour and baking soda in a large bowl.
  • Add the Guinness mixture and then whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Beat until the batter looks shiny.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans, filling each cup 3/4 of the way full.
  • Bake the cupcakes for 12 to 14 minutes or the cakes for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Meanwhile, make the buttercream by whipping together the softened butter and sugar in a standing mixer fitted with a wire whip.
  • Add the Bailey’s, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat the buttercream for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
  • When the cakes are completely cool, pipe or smooth on the buttercream.
  • Eat!

Yields: 48 miniature cupcakes or 1 8″ 2-layer cake

Black Forest Brownie Trifles

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Another oldie but goodie. Do try to find fresh cherries if you can. If you can’t, frozen ones will suffice.

In planning a recent dinner party I had visions of serving a rich and perfectly smooth creme brulee.  But then I realized that good quality heavy cream is hard, if not impossible, to come by in Tirana.  Switching gears I started pouring over my favorite food websites in search of an alternative recipe.  I stuck gold when I found a recipe for individual black forest brownie trifles on From Away.  (I encourage those of you who aren’t familiar with this Maine based couple’s writing to check it out.  Not only are their recipes and food insight great but reading their postings helps temporarily fulfill my longing for Maine).  Cherries are at the peak of their season now so this was the perfect dessert.

I love the combination of chocolate and cherries tempered with a bit of whipped cream. The cleaver way of serving these trifles, in individual jelly jars, made me realize they would add the perfect amount of whimsy to my dinner.  I’ve added my own twist onto this recipe.  I prefer my own brownie recipewhich is moist and has a touch of almond flavor.  I also adapted my the original cherry recipe by substituting orange liqueur for some of the liquid.

The results?  A simple yet visually pleasing dessert that pleased the entire table.  Try it for yourself.

BLACK FOREST BROWNIE TRIFLES

For the brownies:

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons extract of your choice, I prefer almond

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable spray.
  • Melt the chocolates, butter, and cocoa in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes.  Let the mixture cool slightly.
  • Whisk the sugar, eggs, extract, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined.
  • Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.  Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.

For the cherries:

4 cups fresh cherries, pitted

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur, or other orange flavored liqueur

4 teaspoons corn starch

  • Place the cherries in a large sauce pan.  Add the sugar, juice, and liqueur and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer a cook for 5 minutes or until the cherries start to break down.
  • Stir in the cornstarch and whisk to combine.  Cook an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside.  Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before assembling the trifles.

For the cream:

16 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

2 – 2/3 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

  • Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat until all of the ingredients are combined and the cream forms stiff peaks.

Assembly:

  • Crumble the brownies into small, bite-sized pieces.
  • Alternate layers of brownies, cherries, and cream in each of the 8 serving dishes starting with a layer of brownies and ending with a layer of cream.  Depending upon the depth of your dishes you should have 3 or 4 layers.
  • Top with a fresh cherry if desired.
  • Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

Serves 8

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