Tag Archives: chocolate

Alicia Silverstone’s Raw Balls

21 May

These things – omg omg omg – are the tastiest little morsels ever. Friends who’ve tried them have said

“That’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted”

and

“Those cannot possibly be sugar-free”

and other things that were unintelligible.

Lately I’ve been making them to control my sugar cravings in the post-lunch lull at work. Dates and pure maple syrup provide benefits such as fiber, potassium, manganese, zinc, and other nutrients, and the fat and protein in the almond butter, walnuts, and almonds counteract their natural sugars, meaning I don’t have the spike (and crash) that I would with something like a cupcake. These are also very rich, so I’m satisfied with one or two. Win!

My only critique of this recipe is that it needs a better name. I had to put Alicia’s name in front of it to give it some credibility. As it is, whenever I say it out loud, I have to say it in a silly voice – because inside, I am a prepubescent. Raw balls. I digress.

I have made these two different ways. Originally, I used carob chips and processed them into a powder, because my closest health food store didn’t sell carob powder. These are sweetened with malted corn and barley. I also used toasted almond butter, which is sweetened with organic unrefined cane sugar. And, I suppose, not technically raw.

Then I wanted to make a truly refined-sugar-free version, so I processed a bar of unsweetened chocolate (100% pure cacao) and used raw almond butter, which is truly made from nothing but almonds.

Because of the fat and/or moisture content (?) in the chocolate, I wasn’t able to get a true powder consistency – it looked more like instant coffee that’s been hanging around too long – but it did the job.

The chocolate lent a bit more richness to this recipe than the carob, but I enjoy both. Of course, you could also sub unsweetened cocoa powder here. And you could use peanut butter or hazelnut butter instead of the almond… feel free to experiment!

Once all the ingredients are processed into a dough, roll it into 1″-2″ balls, then roll in a topping of your choice. I did half in unsweetened shredded coconut and half in a mixture of cocoa powder, cinnamon, and walnuts.

These get pretty mushy at room temperature, so I’d recommend eating them straight out of the fridge. And if transporting, be sure to do so in a hard, sealed container and not a Ziploc bag… not that you or I would ever make such a mushy mistake…

To your health!

RECIPE – Alicia Silverstone’s Raw Balls

Adapted from The Kind Diet, by Alicia Silverstone
Makes 10 to 12 balls.

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup raw carob powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup almond butter
Optional: shredded unsweetened coconut, cocoa powder, instant coffee powder, spices, nuts – for rolling

Place the walnuts in a food processor and process until coarsely ground. Add the dates, and pulse until well combined with the nuts. Add the carob powder, syrup, vanilla extract, and salt. Process until mixture is thick and smooth. Add the almonds, and pulse a few times until combined; you want them to remain in crunchy chunks. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in almond butter with a sturdy spoon.

Form the mixture into golf-ball-size balls with your hands. Roll the balls in the topping of your choice. Place in a sealed container in the freezer until hardened.

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Chocolate Raspberry Tart

9 Feb

Self-discipline implies some unpleasant things to me, including staying away from chocolate and keeping my hands out of women’s pants.
~Oleg Kiselev

When a dear friend asked me to make “something chocolatey” for his birthday, I immediately thought of my Rich Chocolate-Blackberry Torte with Raspberry Sauce. But since going flexi-vegan-vege-pescatarian, I’m reluctant to have animal products in the house. Luckily, my recent Christmas gift to myself – a vegan pie cookbook – provided a good solution.

I decided to make Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s chocolate raspberry tart with the almond crust variation. Since I had a cocoa-cinnamon-nutmeg mixture leftover from her chai spice cupcakes recipe, I decided to mix that into the crust as well.

food processor doughCrumbly, delicious almond crust is so easy to whip up in the food processor!

In her book, Ms. Moskowitz garnishes the tart with raspberries. But it’s not raspberry season, and I’ve already had a three-layer cake ruined by raspberries that molded the next day – in the summer! Since I was using frozen raspberries, I took the sauce from my former recipe and drizzled it over the top instead.

half-eaten tartThis is how the tart looks, half-decimated.

The coconut milk and coconut oil lent this ganache such an amazing creaminess, you’d never know it was non-dairy. And fear not, coconut-haters, there was no coconut flavor co-mingling with the chocolate. This tart was quickly devoured by the dozen guests at the party, super easy to make, and cruelty-free – I couldn’t be happier with it!

cafe & tartPairs well with Bailey’s coffee!

RECIPE – Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Adapted from Vegan Pie in the Sky.
Makes one 10-inch tart.

PRESS-IN ALMOND CRUST
2/3 cup sliced almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons canola oil
3 or more tablespoons cold almond milk

CHOCOLATE GANACHE FILLING
3/4 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons water
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
extra fresh raspberries, for garnish (optional)

RASPBERRY SAUCE
4 oz raspberries, fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Chambord
2 teaspoons sugar

Prepare the crust.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Pour the almonds into a food processor and pulse into a fine meal, then add the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and salt, and pulse to combine. Continue to pulse and stream in canola oil, then pulse in 3 tablespoons of the almond milk. The mixture should hold together when pressed between your fingertips; if it still feels too crumbly, mix in one additional tablespoon of almond milk at a time.

Lightly spray a tart pan with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle in the crust mixture. Press it into the bottom and sides of the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned, then set aside to cool.

Prepare the ganache.
In a small (2-quart) saucepot, bring the coconut milk, coconut oil, and water to a rolling boil.

Place the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, mash the raspberries into small pieces with a fork.

When the coconut milk mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Cover the bowl with a place or lid and let sit for five minutes. Then, whisk the mixture together to create a thick ganache. Fold in the raspberries.

Pour the ganach into the baked tart shell. Smooth with a knife of spatula, if needed. Let chill for at least two hours before cutting. If you like, add fresh raspberries to the circumference of the crust to decorate. Or, combine all recipes for raspberry sauce into a food processor until liquid, then drizzle over the tart.

Slice the tart into 16 thin slices, dipping a knife into warm water and wiping it clean after each cut.

VegWeek Day 3, Chocolate Chip Cherry Brownies

27 Sep

“The greatness of a nation… can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome to Day 3 of VegWeek!

Yesterday, I defined the different types of vegetarians, and some of the reasons people choose to limit or eliminate animal products from their diet. Today I want to address the first reason, animal cruelty. All reasons for the vegetarian lifestyle are legitimate, but to me, learning about the horrors our animals endure has been the most powerful.

Racism, Sexism – and now Carnism.

Before I get to the nitty-gritty, though, I want to share a thought-provoking article. Actually, it’s a review of a thought-provoking book that I haven’t read, but sounds interesting. The book is titled Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. It addresses our social norms about animals, and a “belief system that supports the idea that it is normal, natural, and necessary for human beings to consume the flesh of other animals.” Dietary habits, of course, are cultural and relative. As an individual living in a connected world, with a life that impacts others, and the ability to consciously evaluate our choices, I think it’s important to look closely at those choices – especially one as profound as eating, which we do daily. Although I don’t typically get political on this blog, eating is absolutely political, and these ideas are timely. You can read the full review, “Why carnism matters,” here.

my-balogna-had-a-first-nameImage courtesy of I Can Has Cheez Burger

According to Global Patriot, “today, 54% of US food animals are concentrated on only 5% of farms. As of 2000, four companies in the United States produced 81% of our cows, 73% of our sheep, 57% of our pigs and 50% of our chickens. Globally, 43% percent of the world’s beef is raised on factory feedlots, and over half of the world’s pork and poultry is raised on factory farms.” Here’s a look into those factory farms.

Pork.

Shortly after birth, pigs born on factory farms have their ears, teeth, and tails mutilated, and are castrated without painkillers. Some bleed excessively and are left to die, just hours or days old, from these botched procedures. As they grow, they are fed a high-protein diet including growth hormone and antibiotics, that causes them to become larger than their legs and bones can support. They often cannot walk. Pigs who do not grow fast enough are brutally killed by having their heads smashed against the floor.

During transport to the slaughterhouse, pigs are so overcrowded in trucks that their limbs break from the weight of each other, and some die by heat exhaustion or freezing before they arrive. If they do survive the journey, improper stunning can mean they are conscious while having their throats slit or being boiled alive.

Source: Alec Baldwin for Peta

Beef.

Cows raised for beef do not have it any better. They endure castration and hot-iron branding without painkillers, and are beaten and abused by factory workers. In states with severe weather conditions, cows are allowed to freeze to death or die from heat stroke. On feedlots, they are crammed together in mud and feces, overfed and pumped full of antibiotics, and forced to breathe toxic fumes from their own excrement and gas. At slaughter, their throats and limbs are cut open while they are fully awake and conscious. In an interview with The Washington Post, one slaughterhouse worker said, “They die piece by piece.”

Sources: Peta and meatvideo.com

Dairy.

Like virtually all mammals, cows produce milk to feed their young. But the exclusively human habit of drinking another animal’s milk – and doing so into adulthood – has disrupted this natural life cycle. To satisfy the demand for dairy products, cows are impregnated by artificial insemination 2-3 months after giving birth, which makes them nearly constantly lactating and/or pregnant. And the normal amount of milk produced to feed a calf – roughly 16 lbs a day – has been increased to around 54 lbs a day through the use of genetic manipulation, antibiotics, and growth hormones, as well as a high-protein diet that includes other dead animals. Although a cow’s natural lifespan is 20 to 25 years, the stress and burden of this overproduction renders them useless to the industry after about 5 years, and they are slaughtered.

And what happens to the calves produced as a byproduct of this milk-manufacturing operation? They are killed or separated from their mothers at birth to be raised as beef, veal, or dairy producers. Those that keep their lives are raised on a diet that includes blood from other cows, a practice that has contributed to the spread of Mad Cow Disease.

cows milk is for baby cowsImage courtesy of Natural News

For those who are concerned about cow’s milk being unnatural for humans, never fear – science has created a solution. Genetically modified cows can now produce ‘human milk.’ Although this product hasn’t hit store shelves yet, I won’t be surprised if it does one day.

Source: Peta

Eggs.

Over 200,000,000 male chicks are killed each year in the United States. They are sorted from valuable, egg-laying female chicks within hours of hatching, and either thrown alive into a large grinding machine, or smothered/suffocated together in a large trash bin. Female chicks are routinely de-beaked to reduce pecking each other in the overcrowded cages where they are about to spend the rest of their lives. Lack of sunlight, fresh air, and room to move creates stress in the birds, who become ill and diseased, often experiencing open sores and feather loss. Like all factory farmed animals, egg-laying chickens are abused by workers.

Source: meatvideo.com

Poultry.

Chicken and turkeys raised for meat are selectively bred to increase the size of their breasts, well beyond what their bodies are designed to handle. As a result, they often become crippled and unable to walk under their own weight, or suffer heart attacks. When they become ill or are ready for transport, they are handled violently, often sustaining bruises and broken bones. At slaughter, they are strung up by their feet and paralyzed in an electrified vat of water, fully conscious. They they have their throats cut or are drowned and scalded.

Sources: Food Inc., meatvideo.com

peepsIronically, not even Peeps are vegetarian. Marshmallows contain gelatin, which is “derived from collagen, an insoluble fibrous protein that occurs in vertebrates and is the principal constituent of connective tissues and bones.” Yummy!

Foie Gras.

The term foie gras literally means “fatty liver,” and refers to a disease that causes the liver to enlarge 10 times its normal size. Ducks and geese raised for foie gras spend their lives confined to small cages where they are unable to move, and are “fed” multiple times a day by having long, metal pipes forced down their throats, depositing the food directly into their stomachs. The pipes scrape and sometimes puncture their throats. The birds’ disease and inability to move results in open sores that are fed upon by rats. Finally, the birds are slaughtered at 3 months old by having their throats cut while they are hung upside-down and conscious. Foie gras has been banned in the UK, Israel, and Switzerland. Many restaurant owners have removed it from their menus, although unfortunately, it is still considered a delicacy to many people.

Source: Roger Moore for Peta

Fish.

Over 6 billion fish are slaughtered annually in the United States. Approximately 4/5 of these are caught by trolley nets in the wild, while the other 1/5 are raised on fish farms. During ocean fishing, nets indiscriminately catch all kinds of fish and animals, including several unintended species such as dolphins, sharks, and seals. The quick ascent from deep waters causes fish to undergo painful decompression that can burst their organs and pop out their eyes. On the surface, they suffocate or are crushed under the weight of each other. Some fish are skinned or hacked to pieces on boat decks while they’re still alive. Fish farms, like factory farms, are crowded with animals and full of disease and excrement.

Sources: Peta and meatvideo.com

People.

In addition to being cruel to animals, factory farming is cruel to the people who work in them. Conditions on these farms are dirty and extremely dangerous, despite known and feasible measures that could be taken to improve them. The volume of meat, eggs and dairy these farms produce demands fast and physically demanding labor, and risk of injury is high. Factory workers are hurt, mutilated, and sometimes killed on the job, with very little protection or recourse. The bottom-line is the bottom-dollar in these establishments, and workers are commodities as much as the animals are. Many workers are poor and desperate to keep their jobs. Many are undocumented and afraid of deportation if they speak up and organize themselves. They are threatened and intimidated.

When it comes to factory farming footage, I’ve often been the most disturbed by seeing what people are capable of doing – the senseless acts, punching cows, breaking the wings of birds, hanging pigs to slowly strangle to death – and yet, the psychological toll of this cruel job is impossible to imagine. It makes the animals crazy, it makes the people crazy.

Source: Human Rights Watch. Also check out the film Fast Food Nation.

Seeing is believing.

I will warn you: This video is emotionally painful to watch. It contains graphic footage of abuse endured by pigs, cows, chickens, and fish in factory farms. I debated for a long time on posting it, but ultimately decided to include it here because it’s important. It is easy to disassociate the hamburger at a summer BBQ and the neatly wrapped chicken breast in a bright grocery store from living, breathing animals – intelligent beings that experience pain and fear, just as we do. But our disconnect from the food we eat is the single biggest factor in keeping these practices alive.

Today’s post was extremely difficult for me to write, and I thank you for reading it. I know it was heavy. It was as heavy as it’s going to get this week – and it’s out of the way now. I hope some of this information was thought-provoking for you.

To lighten the mood, I thought I’d share this article I came across a few weeks ago, about a cow that escaped a slaughterhouse in Germany. Since reading this one, I’ve seen a few others like it from years past. It’s touching to see people respond personally and emotionally to these animals – we all want our independence.
Slate: Not even the “George Clooney of cattle” could convince Yvonne to turn herself in.

Chocolate Chip Cherry Brownies

Recipe Source: Manifest Vegan

Further reward for all that heavy reading – chocolate! This is a cool recipe, yet another take on gluten-free baking that I hadn’t tried: the primary ingredient is dates. Allyson over at Manifest Vegan was not messing around when she described the batter as thick – the brownies come out a bit dense, so you’ll want to enjoy them with a tall glass of cold milk. Er, almond milk 😉

brownie batter

The really nice thing about them is the lack of added sugar. Most of the sweetness in these brownies comes from dates, with just a little extra coming from semi-sweet chocolate chips. Sadly, I found this recipe right after cherry season ended, so I used frozen cherries. I’m not sure it made a huge difference in the flavor, though.

brownie batter

I also discovered, once I started mixing the batter, that my 8×8 baking dish had been loaned out. As a result, I ended up making “brownie pie.” Of course, my friends still gobbled them up without complaint! I found the texture of these brownies we even better after about two days. Because they are so rich and filling, I actually had the self-control to let them last that long.

brownies

12 medjool dates
1/2 cup almond milk
2 1/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 cup superfine brown rice flour
1/3 cup potato starch (I subbed corn starch)
1 cup finely chopped cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a glass  8 x 8 inch baking pan.

Combine pitted dates and non-dairy milk into food processor and puree until very smooth.

Over double boiler, melt 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Pour the melted chocolate into the date mixture and blend again until super smooth. Transfer to large mixing bowl and stir in vanilla extract and salt.

Add in brown rice flour and potato starch and mix until well combined. The batter will be very very very thick. Fold in cherries and remaining chocolate chips. I used clean hands to more or less knead the mix-ins into the batter.

Press batter into pan and spread as best you can to make a uniform surface on top. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Cool completely and cut into small squares.

Eat!

Happy World Nutella Day!

5 Feb

Seize the moment.
Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.

~Erma Bombeck

Have you ever heard of National Hugging Day? What about No Housework Day? Rubber Duckie Day? Who makes  up these crazy holidays, anyway?

…Happy Mew Year for Cats Day?

And we thought Valentine’s Day was created by Hallmark! Well, here’s a new one for you – World Nutella Day.  It was new to me, at least, until I came across this blog.  [Note: check out these fun hand-printed silkscreen calendars of silly holidays for 2011!]

World Nutella Day

Now, for those of you who know me personally, you can attest that I have a cynical side. I may be a little sarcastic  at times. A wee bit skeptical. Not about this. Friends, this is serious. This is NUTELLA we’re talking  about!

Of course my choice was clear. I had to celebrate this newfound Nutella holiday. As I did a little more digging, I  discovered a whole world of food bloggers paying their respects to the addicting chocolate-and-hazelnut spread.  Some take pictures, some post their own unique  recipe creations, some  discuss Nutella as a cultural phenomenon, and  some write touching odes to  their favorite pantry item.

Nutella

So now, without further adieu, here are some recipes I tried out this week!

Nutella and Fresh Ginger Mousse
Recipe Source: Ms. Adventures in Italy

It sounded like a strange combination, Nutella and ginger. It could be a match made in heaven, or a disaster. So I  had to find out which.

When I realized how much of my precious, brand-new 26-oz. Nutella jar would be used by this recipe, I decided to  halve it. Even with doing that, I would still say this pudding serves four, because it’s very rich and a little will go a  long way.

The first step for this mousse is melting Nutella with a bit of water over a double-boiler. Unfortunately, I missed the  double-boiler part of this instruction and overheated my Nutella right from the start. FAIL. (Not pictured due to  panic. But it looks oily when overheated. My advice, use a low heat. See my overly thorough tips on melting chocolate  here.) Once the Nutella and water are  melted and well incorporated, stir in about 1 tablespoon of soft butter and remove from heat. The butter can help if  you, too, have a chocolate-melting nightmare, so take heart!

Off the heat, stir in two eggs yolks, one at a time, then stir in finely minced ginger. I used a microplane grater to  get my ginger soft and paste-like.

The next step is to beat eggwhites and sugar into stiff peaks. This was accomplished beautifully with the help of  an immersion blender (with whisk attachment) and a pinch of cream of tartar. Unfortunately, again, it was done too  early, and the whites began to collapse a bit by the time I folded them into the Nutella mixture. My advice, follow  the recipe steps in order. Mousse is a tricky thing!

Nutella mousse

Lastly, pour the mousse into serving cups and freeze for two hours or more. If I were to make this a second time, I  think I could perfect the texture. But while I love Nutella and I love ginger, the combination didn’t really do it for me.

Nutella mousse

(Click here to jump to this recipe.)

Nutella-Banana Crepes
Recipe Source: French chef and boyfriend extraordinaire, David

This crepe is a classic, and for a lot of people, their first introduction to both Nutella and crepes. The exciting thing  is, once you’ve mastered the art of making a crepe, the possibilities for filling it are endless!

Much like the pie crust recipe I featured on my pot pie post, this batter has a magical 2:1:1  proportion:

2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

This batter is much like pancake batter, in that you’ll want to whisk it gently to prevent it going flat. Ultimately, it  needs to be smooth, but in this initial mixing, a few lumps are just fine. It’s best to let the batter sit overnight in the  refrigerator, or at least for several hours. The next day, you can gently whisk out any remaining lumps, and add  about 1/4 cup milk to thin it down. Runny is what we’re going for.

crepe batter

An ideal pan for crepes is round and flat, about 12 inches in diameter, like this one:

crepe pan

Spray the pan with a light coating on nonstick spray or run a light coating of butter over it, and warm over a  medium heat. Your crepe will cover the entire surface of the pan. To pour it on, ladle the batter onto the top edge of  the pan, tip the pan and let the batter run down the surface. Rotate the pan and repeat this step until you have a  thin coating with no holes. It will take about one or two ladles, depending on the size of your ladle and pan.

pouring crepe batter

Let the crepe lightly brown on medium heat, about 2-3 minutes…

checking crepe

…then carefully flip it over to lightly brown the other side. While it’s browning, run a stick of butter over the surface  to give it a thin coating, and – this is the really yummy part – sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over that. The sugar  gives the crepe a wonderful, slightly crunchy texture. If you like a simple crepe, you can stop here – butter-sugar  crepe is one classic variety.

But we’re not going to stop there, are we? No… not on World Nutella Day!

SO. Once both sides are nicely browned, slide the crepe onto a serving dish, and fold it in half (butter and sugar  inside). Quickly, while the crepe is still warm, spread the Nutella over one side – as much as you like! A large,  flexible device is best for this, so you don’t tear the crepe; think pie server or frosting spreader. Place bananas over  the surface and fold in half again. (Strawberries are also a lovely fruit to add to a Nutella crepe.)

Nutella-banana crepe

If you’re eating these with someone you love, or someone you’ve just started dating, I must warn you – the point of  the crepe is the best part. It’s where all the Nutella, sugar and butter are concentrated, and it can make or break  your relationship. It’s best if both parties understand from the get-go: this point is not for sharing. It’s for savoring,  last, after you’ve gotten past the outer flaky edges of crepe and diplomatic, evenly spread middle parts. Whatever  you do, when you make crepes, make two.

Nutella-banana crepe

(Click here to jump to this recipe.)

Chocolate and Chickpea Cupcakes with Nutella-Sour Cream Frosting (gluten-free!)
Recipe Source: Lucullian Delights

If you’ve been cruising this blog for a while, you might have already seen my gluten-free brownie recipe, which is also based on  chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). Unlike that recipe, this one uses chickpea flour. If you can’t find chickpea flour at  the store, you can make your own by grinding dried chickpeas in a food processor. (I wrote a how-to on the  subject, as I found it to be an interesting experience…)

On her blog, Ilva made one plain and one orange version of cupcakes. I wasn’t sure about the orange-Nutella  combo, but I do love cooking with booze, so I opted to use Amaretto. If I’d had Frangelico, that would be even  better.

amaretto

Trader Joe’s carries this brand of Amaretto, and I think it’s great for baking because 1) it’s cheap, and 2) it’s  sweeter than DiSaronno and slightly caramel, so the flavor comes through well in baking. I save the expensive stuff  for after-dinner cordial 😉

I also lightened up this recipe a bit by substituting applesauce for half of the oil, and gave you U.S. measurements  below.

gluten-free chocolate cupcakes

The nice thing I discovered about using chickpea flour, as opposed to canned chickpeas, is that the cupcakes  resemble the more crumbly, cake-like texture achieved with all-purpose flour, than a dense, brownie-like texture.  The method for making this frosting was unique to me, and hands-down the easiest frosting I’ve ever made from scratch! The Nutella really comes through, and it’s just heavenly.

Bottom line: I loved this recipe and will be back for more of Ilva’s chickpea flour creations!

gluten-free chocolate cupcakes w/ nutella frosting

(Click here to jump to this recipe.)

Other quick and easy ways to enjoy Nutella

Nutella is delicious on a graham cracker…

Nutella graham

Or, you can try making a how-wide-can-you-open-your-mouth Nutella-graham sandwich:

Nutella graham

If you’re feeling a bit fancier, try topping a butter or shortbread cookie with Nutella, sliced banana and hazelnuts:

Nutella butter cookie

For health-conscious types, Nutella is delicious on sliced apple or pear. So I hear. Note lack of picture.

You can read more about World Nutella Day and find hundreds of recipes on the official site,  www.nutelladay.com
Also check out the haps on Twitter @nutelladay

RECIPE– Nutella and Fresh Ginger Mousse

125g Nutella
2 eggs, separated
Pinch salt
15g sugar
15g butter, softened
2t. water
1T. fresh ginger, finely chopped or pureed

In a double boiler, melt the Nutella and water until thoroughly melted. Add softened butter and mix thoroughly.  Take off heat.

Separate the eggs while the mixture cools down. After it has cooled down, add one egg yolk at a time to the mix,  incorporating it fully. Add the fresh ginger and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg whites with 30g of sugar until you have stiff white peaks. Fold the egg whites  slowly into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into glass cups or bowls to set up in the fridge or freezer.

Serves 4.

Ms. Adventures in Italy, adapted from “La classica Mousse” of Sale e Pepe

RECIPE – Nutella-Banana Crepes

2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, plus more to thin
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Nutella
1 banana

In a medium bowl, beat two whole eggs, then gently stir in 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of milk until well-mixed. Don’t  worry about lumps at this point; you don’t want to overmix. Place the batter in the refrigerator for several hours or  overnight.

Spray a flat, round pan with nonstick spray and warm over medium heat. Thin the crepe batter by slowly adding  milk, until the consistency is runny (around 1/4 cup usually does the trick). Be careful to remove all lumps at this  point.

Hold the pan at an angle and pour on ladle-fulls of batter, letting it run down the pan and become thin. Rotate the  pan and keep ladling and running the batter until the pan is covered. Warm the crepe about 2-3 minutes, checking  the bottom for a medium-brown color. Once the bottom is lightly browned, flip the crepe and brown the other side.

Run a stick of butter along the surface of the crepe to add a thin coating on one side. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar  over the surface, and slide the crepe onto a serving plate.

Immediately fold the crepe in half, so the butter and sugar are inside. Spread Nutella over the folded surface, cover  with bananas, and fold in half again. Serve warm.

Serves 2, with extra batter leftover

RECIPE – Chocolate and Chickpea Cupcakes with Nutella-Sour Cream Frosting

cupcakes:
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup of vegetable, sunflower seed, or canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup chickpea flour
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
2-3 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel, optional
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other liqueur

frosting:
3/4 cups Nutella
1/2 cup sour cream

Whisk eggs and sugar until fluffy in a bowl. Add the oil and applesauce, and mix well.

Sift chickpea flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the batter and stir until well incorporated. If you choose  to make the orange version, this is when you add the candied orange peel and the liqueur.

Spoon the batter into cupcake forms and bake in a pre-heated oven (175°C/350°F) for about 10 minutes. but do  check with a toothpick to see if they are ready – they don’t need to be completely dry as they are even nicer if  they are a little on the moist side.

While the cupcakes cool down, whisk sour cream and Nutella until smooth and shiny, then pipe the cream on top  of the cupcakes.

Cake Truffles aka “Cake Balls”

11 Sep

There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles.
-Anonymous

Recipe source: Bakerella / Pioneer Woman

Go ahead. Snicker. It’s what I would have done if I had thought of it. I told my friend I was making cake balls, and she said, “you’re making cake WHAT?!” I was only embarrassed I hadn’t thought of it first.

So, cake balls, cake truffles, it’s up to you. Think of your audience. Classy? Not?

I first came across these little pups on Pioneer Woman’s blog, and was intrigued to try them for a long time. Then I hosted a birthday party, and I had a bride-to-be friend contemplating what to serve as favors for her reception. Both occasions seemed worthy of trying this out.

It looks easier than it is.

cake truffles
I made three batches of these, each getting slightly better than the last, though none turned out as good looking as they are on the blogs. The valuable lesson I learned with this was how to melt chocolate like a pro. (Dipping cake into it is another story.)

MAKE THE CAKE

To start out, you make a box mix cake in a 9×13 sheet pan. Just follow the directions on the box, nothing special here. You can use any flavor you like; Bakerella uses red velvet, and I also tried it with spice cake.

Once the cake has cooled completely, turn it out of the pan and crumble it finely in a large bowl. You can use your hands for this, a dough cutter, a potato masher, a fork, whatever. Not your teeth, or you won’t be able to proceed to the next steps…

Next step, mix in some storebought canned frosting. The original recipe calls for a whole can, but I think that’s way too much. I used 1/2 – 3/4 of cream cheese frosting for both flavors of cake. I liked the cream cheese because it’s not as sweet as white frosting would be. You’ll want to keep in mind how all these flavors are going to work together.

cake and frosting
Cover a cookie sheet or cutting board with wax paper. Once the cake and frosting are well incorporated, roll the cake into balls about 1 or 1 1/2″ diameter, then drop on wax paper and freeze at least 1 hour. Freeze, do not refrigerate.

MELTING CHOCOLATE

Next, melt chocolate over a double boiler. Here is what I learned about melting chocolate: you don’t want to get it too hot too fast, or horrible things will happen. The method that’s working for me now is to fill a small saucepan about half-way with water and bring it to a boil. Then I turn the heat down to medium-low and place a metal mixing bowl filled with chocolate on top, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Then I hold the bowl with a ridiculously large oven mitt and stir the chocolate slowly-and-patiently with a spatula until it has all melted.

This is the perfect consistency (you will know it when you see it yourself):

melted chocolate
CHOOSING A CHOCOLATE

As for the type of chocolate you use, there are a few options out there. Chocolate bark is usually recommended for making candy, but in May, I couldn’t find it anywhere. A man at Trader Joe’s told me they carry it seasonally. When I finally did find it at WalMart, I had moved on to other things. If you try it, report back to me.

I was worried about my chocolate melting well, so I first used “expert” candy-making chocolate from Wilton.

Wilton candy melts
I have very bad memories of this stuff from my mother’s candy-making days. I’ve tasted many colored varieties, and none of them taste anything like chocolate. But since this claimed to be dark cocoa and I hadn’t seen it before, I thought I’d give it a try. It melted fine and tasted fine, but while melting it made my kitchen smell like a boy’s sweaty socks after a soccer game. Not appetizing.

So then I tried Trader Joe’s Pound Plus dark chocolate.

TJ's pount plus dark chocolate
This also melted beautifully and tasted great. In the end, it was a toss-up as to which was better – with the Wilton chocolate, I could taste the cake more. With TJ’s, I tasted the chocolate more.

Moving on…

DIPPING THE CAKE BALLS

Prepare a plate or large board with wax paper. Then take your cake balls out of the freezer, one at a time, to dip. My method eventually became dropping a ball into the chocolate and rolling it with a spoon in my left hand to coat both sides while simultaneously pushing it onto a large slotted spoon in my right hand. Then I’d tap the slotted spoon several times against the edge of the bowl to shake off any extra chocolate. (Pioneer Woman recommends using a fork, but the cake ball rolls off a fork for me. Maybe she has magical cake-ball-balancing powers.)

dipping truffles
Then I gently push the coated truffle with the first spoon onto wax paper.

truffles
You want to be very careful with the spoons, as they will easily remove the chocolate and expose cake. Perhaps ironically, the cake part of these cake truffles is what gave me the most grief. For example, let me show you why you want to dip these one at a time out of the freezer:

melted chocolate
See that? Cake bits in the chocolate. This is what happens when the cake gets too warm, and it’s not good. It can result in dipping disasters, like this:


Clumpy chocolate will also occur if the chocolate is heated too high:


I got slightly better with some of the truffles on the right here, dipped in dark chocolate. I think this was about as good as I got, sadly.


So good luck with all of that. If you’re scared, this is another cute option.

CAKE TRUFFLE CUPCAKES

Pick up some peanut butter cup molds and colored melting chocolate. You can find both in a candy supply store and I think Micheal’s carries them as well.

candymaking supplies
Melt the dark chocolate in the same way as described above, and fill each mold half-way with it. Then dip in a cake ball about half-way, to bring the chocolate to the top of the mold.

cake ball cupcakes
Let these sit to firm up, about 20 minutes, or place them in the freezer. Then melt colored chocolate. You can use any color you like; I just used white this time.


Pop the truffles out of their molds and invert, dipping the exposed cake in the colored chocolate. The color should meet the bottom. It’s best to have a deep puddle of chocolate to dip in, so I recommend using a small bowl. Lastly, you can decorate your mini cupcakes with sprinkles, nuts, M&Ms, etc.

cake ball cupcakes
These didn’t turn out as cute as Bakerella’s, either. And frankly, I don’t like them as much as the regular truffles. The solid chocolate bottom makes them a bit awkward to eat, as it breaks when you bite into it. Hard chocolate, soft cake. But if you’re throwing a party, these do make a nice presentation.

While you still have some colored chocolate melted, you can put it in a pastry bag with a fine tip to decorate your earlier, disastrous cake truffle attempts. These are terribly ugly. I was terribly tired and apathetic by this point. But… ehhh… you get the idea?


The good thing I have to say about these truffles is they are fun, different, and people really love them. I served them at David’s birthday party, and unadorned and sweating as they were, my guests practically inhaled them, then gushed at how good they were while licking melty chocolate off their fingers. So if you’re not a perfectionist, or if you are, and if you have some free time on your hands, try these out. And good luck to you.

Rich Chocolate-Blackberry Torte with Raspberry Sauce

5 May

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.
-James Beard

Recipe source: unknown

In the spirit of calories and tarts, check out the fabulous dessert I’m making for the second anniversary with my man! I’ve had this recipe for so long, I don’t even know now where it came from. My apologies for plagiarizing. The one and only other time I’ve made this dessert was for Bosses Day circa 2002. I was working in an office and our boss had taken us out for a beautiful Italian lunch at a very authentic restaurant where he knew the chefs and they made us custom dishes. We didn’t order anything from the menu, except for dessert. There were eight desserts to choose from, and the three of us could not decide. So he said “get them all.”

It was such a great gesture that we decided to do something equally great for him in return. We brought in linens, fancy dishes and silverware from home, and spent most of the morning cooking rather than working. I made a goat cheese bruschetta (hmmm, I should find that recipe again) and this dessert. My mom helped me and at the time… well, let’s just say I didn’t have the confidence then that I have now. We even had to borrow a food processor for the crust! How our kitchens have evolved… So I’m hoping the recipe will be less terrifying this time around, because it’s so, so worth it. (Jump to recipe.)

To start, you’ll make the crust in a food processor by blending unsalted butter, superfine sugar, salt and vanilla extract until creamy, then adding in unsweetened cocoa powder, then flour until you have a crumbly dough.

crust prep

Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a flat, round disk with your hands, and wrap. Refrigerate for one hour. Then remove from fridge and allow dough to warm on counter for 10 minutes. Unwrap, place another piece of plastic wrap on top, and roll with a rolling pin into a 13-inch circle. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap and flip into an 11-inch tart pan with removable base. Then peel off the remaining wrap and piece together the oops pieces with your fingers. Prick crust with a fork and refrigerate for another hour.

crust

Around the 50-minute mark, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. When crust has been chillin’ for an hour, remove it from the fridge. Make a piece of wax or parchment paper to cover the bottom by tracing around the tart pan and cutting just inside the line. Place the paper into the crust, then top with pie weights or raw, dry beans. And when I say beans, I mean beans. Not popcorn, which I almost did… for an inevitable, yet comedic popcorn-throughout-the-oven disaster – and not lentils, which I did… and ruined, as they don’t require the pre-boiling that beans do.

Bake crust for 10 minutes, remove beans and parchment paper, and bake for another 5 minutes. Then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. And when I say use a cooling rack, I mean… not a small, round trivet which will press the removable base up and out of the pan and crack your crust. Like I did. Thank you.

Now you can make the ganache filling and berry sauce. For filling, boil heavy cream and seedless preserves. I decided to use blackberry this time, but you can use any berry of your choice. Then remove from heat and add in semisweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli, yum) and unsalted butter, to melt. Pour into cooled crust. (You will likely have a little extra, so be careful… like I wasn’t.)

torte

For the berry sauce, you will process fresh or frozen berries of your choice (I used raspberries), lemon juice and superfine sugar.

Then place a strainer over a bowl, pour the sauce into the strainer, and add berry-flavored liqueur (I used Chambord). Doing it this way will add a little more liquid to help in straining through the seeds. If necessary, you can also add a little water.

berry sauce

And lastly…. (drumroll please)… serve up that puppy! Remove torte from pan by lifting up removable base and holding on to the edges. Arrange fresh berries on torte and serve with sauce on the side, or in an artistic drizzle over the top.

Whew…

finished torte w/ berries & sauce

RECIPE – Rich Chocolate-Blackberry Torte with Raspberry Sauce

Raspberries, blackberries, wild strawberries, boysenberries, loganberries, or any combination can be used to top this torte. Likewise, the sauce can be made with the same berry or from a berry with a complementary flavor.

Serves 10

DOUGH
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup superfine sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ cups flour

CHOCOLATE GANACHE FILLING
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup seedless blackberry/raspberry preserve
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

BLACKBERRY/RASPBERRY SAUCE
8 oz fresh or frozen blackberries/raspberries, plus extra for topping
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp superfine sugar
2 tbsp blackberry/raspberry-flavor liqueur, such as Chambord

Prepare pastry. In a food processor fitted with metal blade, process butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla until creamy. Add cocoa and process for one minute, until well blended; scrape side of bowl. Add flour all at once and using the pulse action, process for 10-15 seconds, until just blended. Place a piece of plastic wrap on work surface. Remove metal blade and turn out dough onto plastic wrap. Use wrap to help shape dough into flat disc and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for one hour.

Lightly grease a 11-inch tart pan with removable base. Soften dough for 5-10 minutes at room temperature. Roll out dough between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap to a 13-inch round, about ¼-inch thick. Peel off top sheet of plastic and invert dough into prepared pan. Ease dough into pan. Remove plastic wrap.

With floured fingers, press dough onto base and side of pan, then roll rolling pin of edge of pan to cut off any excess dough. Prick base of dough with fork. Refrigerate for one hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line tart shell with foil or parchment paper; fill with dry beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes; lift out foil with beans and bake for 5 minutes more, until just set (pastry may look underdone on the bottom, but will dry out). Remove to wire rack and cool completely.

Prepare filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring cream and blackberry/raspberry preserve to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate all at once, stirring until melted and smooth. Stir in butter and strain into cooled tart shell, smoothing top. Cool torte completely and refrigerate to set.

Prepare sauce. In a food processor combine blackberries, lemon juice, and sugar and process until smooth. Strain into a small bowl and add blackberry/raspberry-flavor liqueur. If sauce is too thick, thin with a little water.

To serve, remove torte from pan. Place on serving plate and arrange with the berries on top of the torte. With a pastry brush, brush berries with a little of the blackberry/raspberry sauce to glaze lightly. Serve remaining sauce separately.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

24 Mar

There’s nothing better than a good friend,
except a good friend with chocolate.
-Linda Grayson, The Pickwick Papers

OKAY, so as someone who regularly enjoys gluteny baked goods, I was nervous about trying this. And I never would have, if it hadn’t been my dear friend’s birthday, a dear friend who also happens to have Celiac’s disease. I reiterate – I am not one of those health nuts who feels compelled to adopt a gluten-free diet for some martyristic reason. If a doctor doesn’t recommend it, I’m not doing it. But I digress. I started poking around on allrecipes.com, and I found this. It had 90+ shining reviews, so I figured it was worth the risk. Plus I was intrigued by the main ingredient – garbanzo beans.

The reviewers had some consistent suggestions, such as adding vanilla extract to the mix. And I think the applesauce might have come from them, too. I made the recipe using those suggestions, and let me say, I am now a believer. Does it taste exactly like a glutenous chocolate cake? No. But does it taste delicious? YES!

The texture of these puppies is something amazing. It’s dense and rich and super moist. I have served this at parties without telling people what they were really eating until after the fact. Nobody could ever guess they were eating a garbanzo cake. Now the reason this excites me is that garbanzo beans are very high in fiber and protein. High fiber also means low glycemic index. So… these are HEALTHY brownies! DOUBLE YES!!

Topped with raspberries, blueberries and powdered sugar for July 4th

When I’ve made these before, I made them into cupcakes and served with fresh whipped cream with a dash of cinnamon. Foil cupcake liners are recommended, since the cake will stick to normal paper. Cupcakes are nice because they’re tidy, and they freeze well, so easy to store. If you do this, note: the batter won’t rise like you think it will. The cupcakes won’t get much bigger than what you pour in. But since they are so dense, half-way is probably ok. If you’re really anal, you can trim the paper down to size once the cupcakes have cooled.

Today I’m going to try making brownies. Here goes…

Garbanzo beans, vanilla extract and eggs going into the food processor, to be followed by sugar and baking powder. I’m also going to change it up a little this time by adding 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Next time, I will try adding some instant coffee. (Actually, cinnamon + cayenne would also be a rockin’ combo, but I’m making these for a ladies’ group, and since I’ve never met any of the ladies, I don’t think I should be too devilish…)

I don’t have a proper double boiler, so I have to put a mixing bowl over a saucepan. It’s a little precarious, but it works.

To make these truly gluten-free, you don’t want to flour the pan. Instead, you can spray or butter and then sprinkle it with cocoa powder. This is good for any chocolate cake really, because it eliminates the white powder on the outside.

And after baking, ta-da!

RECIPE – Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups semisweet or dark chocolate chips
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup plain applesauce
4 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
cocoa powder, for pan
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and dust a 9-inch round cake pan with cocoa powder. Combine beans, vanilla and eggs in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the sugar and baking powder, and pulse to blend. Melt chocolate chips in a double-boiler, then add chocolate and applesauce to food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer the batter to prepared cake pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (For cupcakes, bake in foil cup-lined muffin pan for 23-25 minutes.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.