Tag Archives: chocolate

Game Day Eats – Harvest Blondies

I’ve said it before  and I’ll say it again…I really feel no get-together is complete without something sweet to eat.  Game watching or tail-gating is no different.

But, these gatherings are not really the place to bring out a tiered cake or serve complicated desserts.  Something simple is better.  Something that is easy to make and transports well and folks can serve themselves.

Bring on the bar cookie…

Harvest Blondies
Makes 16 bars

1 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp coarse salt
about 3/4 cup M&Ms or other candy coated chocolates

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with butter; line pan with parchment paper with about a 2-inch overhang, and butter paper.

Melt butter then, combine with sugars until smooth.

Whisk in eggs and vanilla.

Add flour and salt; stir until just moistened.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top.  Arrange candies in rows on top of dough.

I used only autumn colors of yellow, orange, red, and brown, but you should do as you prefer.  You can use team colors, or mix them all randomly.

Bake about 45 minutes or until top is golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Set pan on wire rack to let cool completely.  Then, using edges of parchment, lift from pan and transfer to a cutting board.

Cut into 16 squares.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  If the cookies make it past the first night, they will last about 2 days in an airtight container.

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Thyme for Chocolate

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I recently received a windfall of herbs from my friend Karen’s garden.  It was a lovely mixture and I’ve had a fun time experimenting with flavors and using the herbs in new ways.

Her generous food gift included a hefty portion of thyme.  This herb just smells and tastes green to me.  I also find it quite strong tasting.  I find that too many cooks overuse it and in some dishes it is all I taste.  That is not what I want.

Thyme is a little bittersweet and as I mulled over what to do with it I decided to make a dessert.  Sweet paired with bitter just seemed right.  And, as many of you know, I have trouble imagining dessert without chocolate.  And, thus it was decided.  Thyme and chocolate together at last.

Thyme Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Sauce
Makes about 1 quart of ice cream

Inspired by Thomas Keller

For Ice Cream:
1 1/4 cups whole milk
small handful of thyme sprigs
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

For Chocolate Sauce:
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
4 Tbsp light corn syrup

To make ice cream:
In a small saucepan, combine milk and thyme sprigs and turn on burner.  Heat the milk until it starts to form bubbles around the edges.  Turn off the heat and leave to cool.

Cover and put in refrigerator to steep overnight.

The following day, heat again until bubbles form.  Then strain to remove thyme sprigs and leaves.  You will really start to smell the grassy thyme now.

In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar.

Slowly add the warm, thyme-infused milk to the beaten eggs in a thin stream, stirring constantly.  When you add something hot to eggs, you risk curdling or cooking the eggs.  If you add it slowly while stirring, you temper the two ingredients so they combine instead of cook.  Don’t panic if you do see a few little lumps, you can strain them out later.

Transfer to a clean saucepan and stir over low heat, without letting it boil, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.

Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve.

Stir in the heavy cream.  Cover and cool in refrigerator for several hours.

Follow manufacturers’ directions for your ice cream maker.

To make chocolate sauce:
Put cream, chocolate, and syrup in a saucepan and melt over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

The sauce should be ready in about 2 minutes.

Serve right away or you can keep in refrigerator for a few days and reheat in microwave.  Just heat for 30 seconds or less, stir and repeat once or twice.

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Chocolate on a Stick

I’ve been creating recipes since I was a kid.  Of course, some turned out better than others…Let’s just say I came up with some flavor combinations that I’ve chosen not to repeat.  But others…well, there are others that I’ve turned to again and again.

It will come as no surprise to folks who know me that I’ve spent my life thinking about what to pair with chocolate.  It is one of my favorite flavors and I think it makes so many things taste utterly delicious.

I especially enjoy chocolate ice cream.  As a kid growing up in Texas, I ate a lot of Blue Bell brand chocolate ice cream.  During strawberry season, my grandmother would make strawberry ice cream, but I didn’t want any.  I just wanted chocolate.  She couldn’t understand why I would refuse to eat homemade ice cream, in her favorite flavor of strawberry.  To humor her, I put strawberries on my chocolate ice cream, and a new love was born.  I enjoyed it so much I wrote to the Blue Bell Ice Cream company with a request to start producing chocolate strawberry chunk.

Blue Bell didn’t use my flavor suggestion, but I’ve used it many times.

Chocolate Strawberry Popsicles
Makes 6 popsicles (depending on molds used)

1/2 pint strawberries, washed and cored
1 – 2 Tbsp agave syrup, optional
2 cups milk (low-fat okay)
6 oz chocolate (semi-sweet or dark)

Finely dice strawberries.

You can also puree a portion of the berries, like I did.

If the berries are not sweet enough, you can mix in a little agave syrup.

In a small saucepan, combine milk and chocolate.

Warm over medium low heat, stirring until chocolate is melted.

Once the milk and chocolate have been blended, remove from heat and let cool.  When the mixture is no longer hot, stir in the strawberries.

Pour the liquid into popsicle molds and put in the freezer.

Mine took about 4 hours to firm  up.  They took much less time to eat.

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Helping Out the Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny is really slammed this time of year.  His to-do list goes on for pages, his calendar is jam-packed, the battery on his smartphone won’t stay charged, he’s bitten his nails down to nubs, and the poor little fellow has circles under his eyes from lack of sleep.

I figured he could use a hand…or is it paw?  Anyway…I knew I could help, at least when it came to supplying the Easter baskets of some of my friends and family.  I was also pretty sure I could do better than the bagged candy I see in the store.

Now, my husband loves peanut butter and chocolate and really scarfs up the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, so I know the Easter Bunny was planning to give him some again this year.  But, what if I made them instead…And, what if I made them more suitable for adult palates and used dark chocolate? And how could I forgot the bourbon?  Hmmm…what if?

Peanut Butter Cups for Grown-Ups
Makes about 2 dozen miniature cups

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp bourbon
3 – 4 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (premium is best)

I used a miniature muffin tin lined with paper cups as my molds.  Prepare this in advance so it is ready to go when your ingredients are.

In a bowl, combine peanut butter and powdered sugar.  When you have a smooth, uniform mixture, add the vanilla extract and bourbon.  Stir to blend well – it should be a pretty thick mixture that is firm enough to form into balls.  You may need to add just a tiny bit more powdered sugar, if it is too soft.

Take about 2 to 3 teaspoons worth of peanut butter and using your hands roll into a ball.  Then, lightly press into a patty/saucer shape.  Place the formed balls onto a wax paper surface, and repeat until you have about 24 balls.  You may need to adjust the patties so they are all about the same size.

Now to melt the chocolate.  If you don’t have a double boiler, then set a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water.  Turn down the heat to low and add the chocolate to the bowl.

Stir gently as it melts.  It should only take a few minutes to completely melt.  Turn off the heat and now the chocolate is ready to turn into candy.

Take a muffin liner paper, and add a spoonful of chocolate.  Then, using back of your spoon, spread the chocolate around so that it completely coats the inside of the paper cup.  Once it is coated, set it back into the muffin tin.  Repeat until all the cups are completely lined with chocolate.  You need to move very quickly before the chocolate firms up again.

Now, drop in the peanut butter patties, and press down very gently.  You don’t want them to push through the chocolate, but just be flattened a little bit.

Still working briskly, add another spoonful or more of chocolate to each cup in order to cover the peanut butter filling.  Use the spoon again to spread the chocolate around the top and completely cover the peanut butter.

Set the finished cups back into the muffin tin and let firm up at room temperature for about four hours.

Store up to two weeks (as if they will last that long) in an airtight container.  Don’t refrigerate.

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Its Matzo Time

Tonight marks the start of Passover, a celebration of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt.  A basic principle of Passover observance is no consumption of leavened products or chometz as a reminder of the haste in which the Jews left Egypt.

Chometz is the leavened product that results when any wheat, rye, barley, oats, and/or spelt comes in contact with water for more than 18 minutes, the rabbinic calculation of the time it takes for flour to rise once it is in contact with a liquid.  All foods made from these grains are considered chometz.  Matzo is permitted because it is carefully watched to make sure that the maximum of eighteen minutes is not exceeded.

Because of the strict prohibition against chometz, those observing the holiday change their eating habits and Passover can be a time for creative bakers to really shine.  Creating a dessert with no flour, cornstarch, baking soda, or baking powder can be a real challenge.

After the Seder, if you don’t want macaroons and fruit salad, give this quick and easy candy a try…

Matzo Toffee

about 4 Matzos
1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
6 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a baking sheet pan with parchment paper.  Then, cover the bottom of the sheet with matzos.  I used about 4, but had to break them to fit so they would completely and evenly cover the bottom of the baking  sheet pan.  If you have a bigger sheet, you may want to use more.

In a medium pan on the stove top, melt butter with brown sugar.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

Pour over matzo-lined baking sheet, and lightly spread with spoon to evenly cover matzos.

Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes.  Start checking on it at 8 minutes because you don’t want it to burn, just be lightly browned and bubbly.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes and then spread/smear softened chocolate chips across the caramel matzos evenly.

Cool in refrigerator.  Break into smaller pieces before serving.

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Can’t Believe They’re Whole Grain Cookies

Our friend Shawn just had a birthday.  Unfortunately, it coincided with a major breakdown in his bracket, his NCAA basketball tournament bracket, that is.  This breakdown also meant that he owed several people steak dinners.  I thought it was a shame to lose a bet on your birthday, so I wanted to cheer him up.

Hmmm…what to do.  Cookies!  That always works for me, especially if they have chocolate.  Wait, I know he and his girlfriend try to watch what they eat…I’ll use whole wheat flour!  That should relieve some the guilt.  Don’t worry…I didn’t skimp on the butter.  Or the chocolate chips.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

Modified from Good to the Grain

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz chocolate chips

Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  You can add any bits of grain that remain in the sifter.

Add the butters and sugars into the bowl of your mixer and on low speed, mix just until blended.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined.  Mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until just combined.  Scrape the sides of the bowl, if necessary.

Add the chocolate chips and mix on low speed until combined.  The dough will be very thick.  You may need to use your hands to finish incorporating all the ingredients.

I used my hands to scoop out the dough, 3 to 4 Tbsp worth, placing them 6 to a baking sheet.

Bake the cookies for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets for each shelf halfway, until the cookies are evenly browned.  Cool the cookies on a cooling rack and repeat with the remaining dough.

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And The Bourbon Trail Goes On…

We’ve continued to savor the flavors of Kentucky since returning home.  I especially enjoy the combination of booze and dessert.  Here are a couple of my favorites…

Since a barrel may be used only once to age bourbon, Kentucky has a flood of used bourbon barrels.  Many are used to age scotch, but recent years have them holding beer, as well.  We picked up two varieties of bourbon barrel beer – a stout from Bluegrass Brewing Company and an ale from Alltech.

Both are delicious and our a wonderful companion to vanilla ice cream in a beer float.

Bourbon Barrel Beer Float
Makes 2 floats

4 – 6 scoops premium vanilla ice cream
12 oz bottle bourbon barrel beer (ale or stout)

This is a super easy dessert.  Put two to three scoops each of vanilla ice cream in two pint glasses.

Slowly pour 6 ounces of beer in each glass.

Sip through a straw and try not to pour yourself another…

A popular dessert in Kentucky is a pie made with bourbon, chocolate, and nuts.  A version is sold in most restaurants, but only Kern’s Kitchen can call it “Derby Pie” after having it trademarked both in Kentucky and the Federal Government.  The family rigorously defends this trademark, so in restaurants or recipe books you will see the pie referred to as “First Saturday in May Pie,” “Pegasus Pie,” “Thoroughbred Pie,” or other such winks to the reference.

The Dessert That Cannot Be Called Derby Pie for Fear of Trademark Violation
Makes 1 9-inch deep dish pie

9-inch deep dish pie crust
1 1/4 cup pecans
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup light Karo syrup
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup bourbon
1 cup chocolate chips

I won’t provide pie crust instructions here, but you can follow mine, or create your own.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread pecans onto a baking sheet and place in oven for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and slightly toasted.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Line pie pan with pie crust, flute edges, and place in refrigerator while you prepare filling.

Blend melted butter, sugars, and Karo syrup in a medium bowl.  Stir in beaten eggs, vanilla, and bourbon.  Set aside.

Take out pie crust and sprinkle chocolate chips and pecans in bottom of pan.

Add egg and sugar mixture.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until filling is set, and crust is lightly browned.

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A Cookie for Those Cravings

Sometimes nothing will do but a homemade cookie.  I was having one of those cravings and decided to whip up a batch of chocolate cookies.  Normally I would add chocolate chips or peanut butter chips (or both) to the batter, but this time I added butterscotch chips.  Delicious, and I even made enough to share.

Chocolate Butterscotch Chip Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup butter (or margarine, if you’re off the dairy)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp chocolate extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Beat butter, sugars, and chocolate extract on medium speed until creamy.  Add eggs, beat well.

Gradually add flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, beating well until blended.

Stir in butterscotch chips

Drop by rounded spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until set.  The cookies puff up while baking, and then deflate slightly when removed from oven.
Let the cookies cool for a few minutes before removing from baking sheet, then cool completely on wire rack.

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Peanut Butter, Banana, and Chocolate Chip Muffins

These easy and tasty muffins are a great way to start any day.  You can’t beat combining the flavors of banana, peanut butter, and chocolate.

My mom sent me a recipe for peanut butter banana bread which served as my inspiration.  I modified it to add a few more ingredients and turned it into muffins.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter, Banana, and Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup plain yogurt (fat-free is okay)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter (natural is okay)
3 Tbsp butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp flaxseed
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add first five ingredients to mixing bowl and beat at medium speed.

Add sugars and beat until blended.

Combine flour, flaxseed, baking soda, and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Add flour mixture to banana mixture and beat until just blended.

Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.

Pour batter into greased muffin tin, filling each cup about 3/4 full.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool about 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.

Remove from pan and finish cooling on rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature.  They will keep for about three days in an airtight container, and the muffins also freeze well.

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Eating Dr Pepper at the State Fair of Texas

Moving East has made it difficult, but I’ve gone to the State Fair of Texas almost every year I’ve been alive.  I love it.  To deepen my fair experience, I decided to enter one of the baking contests.  The contest offering the largest cash reward was sponsored by Dr Pepper.  In honor of the company’s 125th birthday celebration, they asked contestants to bake a birthday cake using Dr Pepper.

How could I miss this opportunity?  Bake a Dr Pepper cake, one of my favorite drinks, for the State Fair of Texas, one of my favorite events?   I decided to modify the recipe for my favorite birthday cake to use both Dr Pepper and Dr Pepper syrup.

Well, I didn’t win, but it was a fun experience.  I got to see a part of the Fair that I’ve never seen and learn a bit about the culture of cooking contests.  I’m not sure if I like them, but I plan to enter more.

The winner of this contest was awarded $1250, and had her cake deep-fried by the Fry King of Texas, Abel Gonzales.  Crazy, huh?

Gonzales took the winning cake and cut it into cake balls.  In order to provide some stability in the fryer, the cake balls were frozen solid using liquid nitrogen.  Before frying they are dipped in flour and a pancake-like batter with Dr Pepper.  After a few minutes in the deep fryer, the fried Dr Pepper cake balls were served with whipped cream and strawberry Dr Pepper sauce.

Here is Abel Gonzales reviewing the cakes.  He was planning his strategy for how to dismantle the biggest one.

This is another winner.  It is a cooler made of cake!  She spent almost two hundred dollars on molds alone!

Well, my cake wasn’t a winner, but it still tasted good.

Dr Pepper Chocolate Birthday Cake
Makes one 9×13-inch sheet cake, or two 9-inch round cakes
For Cake:
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup butter
1 cup Dr Pepper
½ cup vegetable oil
5 Tbsp cocoa
½ cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp Dublin Dr Pepper syrup
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Blend flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl. 
In a medium saucepan, boil together butter, Dr Pepper, vegetable oil, and cocoa.  Stir to blend.  Pour over flour mixture and stir.
Add buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, vanilla, and Dr Pepper syrup.  Mix well.
Pour into greased and floured pans.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.  Let cool completely before frosting.
For Frosting:
½ cup butter
6 Tbsp milk
4 Tbsp cocoa
1 ½ tsp Dublin Dr Pepper syrup
¾ to 1 lb powdered sugar
In a medium saucepan, melt butter, milk, and cocoa.  
Stir to blend.  Once butter is melted and ingredients are well blended, remove from heat.  Quickly stir in Dr Pepper syrup.  
Then, gradually add powdered sugar, stirring to remove lumps, until reach desired consistency. 
For Dr Pepper Glazed Pecans:
2 cups whole pecans
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup Dublin Dr Pepper
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 cup white sugar
Combine ingredients in medium skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring until liquid evaporates.  
Spread out on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  
Roast in preheated oven at 300 degree F for about 20 minutes.
I used the nuts to garnish the cake, along with maraschino cherries.

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