Tag Archives: chocolate

Mrs. P.L. Travers

The Oscars are on tonight, and that means the last of the 12 Days of Oscar over here.  Today’s film is only nominated for one Oscar, and many agree that it should have been nominated for more.  Saving Mr. Banks is nominated for Best Original Score.  If you haven’t seen it- and you really should- Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney’s pursuit of the film rights to Mary Poppins.  Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) is reluctant to let Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) turn her book into a film and in the course of her negotiations with Disney, we learn about her childhood as well.

During what becomes a series of meetings, Walt Disney’s secretary routinely wheels carts of food into the meeting rooms.  Travers objects nearly every time that this is too much food, and at one point tells Dolly (Melanie Paxson) to turn the cart full of food right back around and to not leave it in the room.  More than once we see plates full of doughnuts and other sweets:

Yes, those are Hostess Sno-Balls on that tray.  Chocolate cupcakes with a cream filling covered in marshmallow and rolled in pink coconut- it doesn’t get much more “spoonful of sugar” than this.  Sitting in the theater watching this movie, I knew this was the perfect excuse to make my own Sno Balls at home.  They are more time consuming that I previously thought, definitely more of a kitchen marathon than a sprint, but they are well worth it.

sno balls

Sno Balls

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes:

  • 2 oz. unsalted butter
  • 5 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3 oz. all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 oz. cocoa powder, sifted
  • 5 oz. buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

for the marshmallow coating:

  • 1/2 oz. gelatin
  • 10 oz. water, divided
  • 7 oz. corn syrup
  • 18 oz. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

for cream filling:

  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream

for coconut topping:

  • 8 oz. unsweetened coconut flakes
  • red food coloring

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a cupcake pan and set it aside.

Cream together the butter, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder for 3 minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Add the egg and mix for 1 minute until fully incorporated.

With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour all at once, then add the cocoa powder.

Drizzle in the buttermilk and vanilla.

Continue mixing just until combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cavities of the prepared pan.

Bake for 12 minutes.

Cool for at least 2 hours before filling and frosting.

Make the marshmallow coating and filling by combining the gelatin with 5 oz. of the water in a small bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Stir with a fork to ensure there are no lumps of gelatin, then set aside.

In a medium pot, combine the remaining water, corn syrup, and sugar over medium heat.

Stir gently with a spatula to make sure the sugar dissolves.

Cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, then shut off the heat and let the mixture cool to 210 degrees.

Once the mixture has cooled to 210 degrees add the sugar syrup to the gelatin mixture and whip on low speed until the gelatin has fully dissolved.

Increase the speed to medium high and whip until light, fluffy, and tripled in bulk.

With the mixer running, add in the salt and vanilla.

Using a spatula, transfer all but 4 oz. of the mixture to a pastry bag and set aside.

Return the remaining 4 oz. of fluff to the mixer and set to low speed.

Add the cream all at once and continue mixing for another minute. The fluff and cream will have a broken appearance.

Increase the speed to medium and continue whipping until they gradually become homogeneous, then increase the speed to medium high and beat the mixture until stiff.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and refrigerate until needed.

Release the cupcakes from the pan and place them upside-down on a parchment paper lined baking pan.

Use a paring knife to poke a small hole in the bottom of each cupcake.

Using the piping bag filled with the whipped cream mixture, insert the star tip about 1″ into the cupcake and pipe one good squeeze (about 3/4 oz.) of filling into each cupcake.

Take the bag of marshmallow fluff and hold it directly above a cupcake.

Pipe a generous amount of marshmallow onto the top of the cupcake so that it flows down the sides of the cupcake and encases it.

Repeat until all cupcakes are covered in marshmallow.

Tint the coconut by putting the coconut into the work bowl of a food processor.

Add a few drops of red food coloring and process the mixture for 30 seconds, check for color and add more food coloring if necessary, then process for another 30 seconds.

Coat each cupcake generously with coconut and let sit for 1 hour.

Use a paring knife or round cookie cutter to trim away any excess marshmallow from around the bottom of the sno ball.

Roll the newly exposed edge of the sno ball in the pink coconut.

Source: Serious Eats

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Night Into Day

Now that the Winter Olympics are over, we’re at the halfway point in the 12 Days of Oscar series.  Today’s film is the 2001 film Monster’s Ball.  Halle Berry won the award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Leticia, who falls for a widowed prison guard (Hank, played by Billy Bob Thornton) following the execution of her husband.  The film is so much deeper and more complicated than I can explain here without giving too much away.  Monster’s Ball was also nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen but lost to Gosford Park.

Early in the film, Leticia works as a waitress in a diner that Hank frequents.  He orders chocolate ice cream, and it is served to him in a white bowl with a white plastic spoon.  This is just one of the many encounters he will have with Leticia, and one of the many ways color is used in the film.

This chocolate ice cream recipe is my new favorite thing.  It blows away any other ice cream I’ve ever had or ever made.  Use a good cocoa powder, because that’s the star of this show.  Chop the chocolate fairly finely so that it melts a little more quickly and save yourself a little elbow grease.  Also, be sure to have enough ice on hand to make an ice bath for the mixture, to cool it before it goes in to churn.

chocolate ice cream

Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 C. whole milk
  • 4 tsp. corn starch
  • 1 C. heavy cream
  • 1 C. evaporated milk
  • 2/3 C. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/3 C. unsweetened cocoa powder, natural or Dutch-process
  • 3 oz.  bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Mix a few Tbsp. of the milk in a small bowl with the corn starch until smooth.

Heat the remaining milk, cream, evaporated milk, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4 quart saucepan.

When the mixture comes to a moderate boil, whisk in the cocoa powder, then let the mixture cook at a modest boil for 4 minutes.

After 4 minutes, whisk in the cornstarch mixture then continue to cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate and salt, stirring until completely melted and smooth.

Stir in the vanilla extract.

Transfer the ice cream mixture into a resealable plastic bag, then submerge the bag in a bowl full of ice.

Let it sit until completely cool, about 30 minutes, adding more ice during the cooling period if necessary.

Remove the bag from the bowl of ice and wipe off any excess water.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions.

Source: David Lebovitz, originally from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

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Bang the Drum

In Olympics news yesterday, U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin won gold in the ladies’ Alpine skiing slalom event, making her the youngest person ever to win a medal in a slalom event.  U.S. men’s speed skating team won silver in the 5000 meter short track relay competition.

Our second-to-last installment of the 2014 Winter Olympics feature brings us to the last Winter Games, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.  In Vancouver, freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau won Canada’s first gold medal on home soil.  The Canadian men’s hockey team also won gold.  U.S. snowboarder Shaun White debuted his move, the “Double McTwist 1260″ and won gold.

I remember two things about the Vancouver Winter Olympics very distinctly- the famous red maple leaf mittens, and Nanaimo bars were on food blogs everywhere.  While the exact origins of the Nanaimo bar seem to be unknown Nanaimo, British Columbia has claimed these bars as its own.  I made a peanut butter variation for this entry, but you can find recipes for bars with plain vanilla custard, or mint, or chocolate . . . .

nanaimo bars

Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:

for the base:

  • 3/4 C. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 C. graham cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 C. shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/3 C. cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted

for the filling:

  • 1 1/4 C. creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 C. unsalted butter
  • 3 C. powdered sugar
  • 1/3 C. milk

for the topping:

  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. butter

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, and eggs.

Use a wooden spoon to stir in the graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder, and coconut until combined.

Pour the mixture into the baking pan and press evenly into the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until firm and no longer shiny.

Place the pan on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before preparing the filling.

To make the filling, microwave the peanut butter and butter in a large bowl until completely melted and smooth.

Whisk in the powdered sugar 1 C. at a time, alternating with the milk and whisk until smooth.

Spread the filling evenly over the base and refrigerate for 1 hour until firm.

To make the topping melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (or in a microwave on 50% power).

Spread the chocolate mixture over the peanut butter filling and leave at room temperature or refrigerate until set before cutting and serving.

Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Source: Brown-Eyed Baker

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Ballad of the Rainbow and the Snow

Yesterday in Olympics news women competed in ski jumping for the first time, with Germany’s Carina Vogt taking home the gold.  U.S. snowboarder Shaun White placed fourth in the men’s halfpipe competition, where he had hoped to win his third straight gold medal.  Russian snowboarder Iouri Podladtchikov (called the I-Pod) won gold in that event, and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka won silver and bronze, shutting the U.S. out for the first time since the 1998 debut of snowboarding as an Olympic event.

Day six of the Winter Olympics feature celebrates the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.  This was the first time a Spanish athlete won a medal at the Winter Olympics, when skier Francisco Fernandez won the slalom event by a full second, winning a gold medal.  These were also the first Winter Olympics to take place in Asia.  The Sapporo Winter Games were the last Winter Olympics where a skier won a medal on all-wooden skis.

Sapporo is home to an interesting confection called Shiroi Koibito.  Essentially, these are a pair of thin buttery cookies that nearly melt in your mouth sandwiching a white chocolate ganache filling.  The cookies start as more of a batter than a dough, and that batter is piped onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  I tried a few methods to pipe these so that they baked up as nice squares like the ones in photos I found of the real deal.  Well, this batter spreads rampantly the second it is exposed to heat due to the butter content.  Ultimately, I had success piping the batter in very small blobs, baking the cookies, using a paring knife to cut them into squares, then putting them back into the oven for a minute or two so that all four edges were nicely browned.  If you think this sounds like excess work, you’re right.  If presentation really isn’t critical, go ahead and pipe the batter into little blobs, bake the cookies, let them cool and then try not to eat them all before you put some ganache between them.

shiroi koibiti cookies

Shiroi Koibito Cookies

Ingredients:

for the cookies:

  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2/3 C. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

for the white chocolate filling:

  • 4 oz. good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 C. heavy cream

Directions:

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), ream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg whites and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Add the flour and mix until well-combined.

Use a piping bag or resealable bag with the corner snipped off to pipe the batter onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, making mounds a little smaller than a Hershey kiss (this will give you round cookies- if you want squares, see above).

Bake for 10 minutes until the edges just start to brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

To prepare the ganache filling, place the chocolate in a mixing bowl.

Bring the heavy cream just to a boil, then pour over the chocolate.

Whisk until chocolate is smooth, then place the bowl of chocolate over an ice water bath and continue to stir until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Spread the chocolate onto the bottom of 1 cookie, and top with another cookie.

Source: cookies adapted from  From My Kitchen; filling adapted from Martha Stewart

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Snow Waltz

Day four of the Sochi Winter Olympics saw the U.S. take its second gold medal when snowboarder Jamie Anderson won gold for the first-ever women’s slopestyle event.  Bode Miller finished eighth in the men’s downhill ski competition while Austrian Matthias Mayer took gold in the event.  Russia took the first-ever gold medal in the team figure skating competition while Canada took silver and the U.S. took bronze.

Today, we look back to the 1964 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria.  Faced with an unseasonable lack of snow, the Austrian Army transported ice and snow from the mountain down to the luge and bobsled tracks and Alpine ski slopes.  After it then poured rain ten days before the Opening Ceremonies, the troops packed down the snow by stomping on it.  Timing in Alpine ski events was calculated to hundredths of a second for the first time.

sachertorte cut

You’d be hard pressed to find many desserts that come bearing a certificate of authenticity, unless that dessert is a Sachertorte.  Sachertorte is an Austrian dessert consisting of chocolate cake layered with apricot jam and covered in chocolate ganache.  Invented in Vienna at the Hotel Sacher, Sachertorte is available in Innsbruck at the Cafe Sacher where you can either enjoy it by the slice or take home a whole cake in a wooden crate accompanied by the previously mentioned certificate of authenticity.  There has been a long legal battle over use of the term “The Original” where Sachertorte is concerned.  If you make this, I promise you will be way too distracted by its awesomeness to concern yourself with a lawsuit of any kind.

sachertorte

Sachertorte

Ingredients:

for the cake:

  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 3 oz. butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 oz. sugar, divided
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 C. flour, sifted

for the apricot filling:

  • 1 1/2 C. apricot preserves
  • 1 Tbsp. brandy

for the chocolate ganache:

  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 2 oz. heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a 9″ round cake pan that is at least 2″ deep (I used a springform pan).

In a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and melt over a double boiler.

Set the mixture aside to cool.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks and 1 oz. of the sugar until light.

Beat in the chocolate mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat the salt and egg whites until soft peaks form.

Slowly add the remaining 3 oz. of sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks.

Carefully fold the flour into the beaten egg whites.

Fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture.

Fold the remaining egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, combining thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until a paring knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.

To make the apricot filling, puree the apricot preserves in a blender and then stir in the brandy.

When the cake is completely cool, slice the cake horizontally into 3 even layers.

Spread 1/2 of the apricot filling onto the bottom layer and top with the middle layer.

Spread the remaining half of the apricot filling onto the middle layer, then top with the last layer of cake.

Put into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

To make the chocolate ganache, combine the chocolate and butter in a bowl and melt over a double boiler.

In a small saucepan bring the cream to a boil.

Stir the cream into the melted chocolate and whisk until the mixture is smooth and combined.

Cool the chocolate mixture until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Spread the chocolate ganache over the top and down the sides of the cake.

Chill the cake for another 30 minutes before serving.

Serve sliced with whipped cream.

Makes 8-10 servings depending on slice size.

Source: Wolfgang Puck

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Do Overs

Back in the earlier days of this blog, I made some s’more cupcakes.  They tasted great, but to be honest you’d never really know that from the photo I posted, so today I’m sharing a s’more cupcake do-over.  While I still have plenty to learn about food photography, I think it’s become better and I’ve done a better job of making the things I cook and bake more appealing.  We do eat with our eyes, after all.  I have also learned a lot about food both for personal reasons and because of this site.  When the oven quits and it’s 100 degrees out and I need to trudge to a second location to make a dessert for a cookout and all that’s hanging around is a random box of cake mix, some cake mix whoopie pies aren’t the worst idea a girl’s ever entertained, but I don’t reach for cake mix to make actual cakes.  It’s a trade-off, and it’s about balance.  My personal stance (and I’m not saying this is what everyone should do, it’s simply food for thought) is that convenience foods are for just that- convenience, and they happen once in a while.  Everyday foods get more care and attention.  I don’t send the kiddos to school with marshmallow fluff sandwiches, but to make some cupcake frosting I can live with marshmallow fluff as a starting point.  Sandwiches are a daily lunch box staple, a box of cupcakes to share at a class birthday party aren’t a daily thing.

Having made marshmallow fluff at home before, I opted to reach for a tub of marshmallow fluff instead.  The first factor was convenience, obviously.  The second was that this is a “sometimes food,” and the third was that even homemade fluff isn’t something I’d consider to be a health food.  Sure, it eliminates the high fructose corn syrup (depending on the brand of corn syrup you use), but you do still need corn syrup and plenty of sugar to make it.  It also involves tempering egg whites, and if you’re not familiar with/ comfortable with that process, I’ll tell you firsthand that nothing ruin’s a day’s baking schedule faster than accidentally scrambling your egg whites instead of tempering them.  They must be properly tempered or you risk feeding people undercooked eggs.

Besides, I would be lying if I said that marshmallow fluff frosting for these updated s’mores cupcakes didn’t make me happy.  It’s easy to make, and it offers the taste and texture of a gooey marshmallow that we all love on a s’more.  I volunteered to make cupcakes for M’s class celebration of the summer birthdays, and s’mores seemed like a fun and summery idea.  Last time I made these, I put a marshmallow on top and semi-toasted it in lieu of actual frosting.  I was happy with that result, but I knew these could be better.  I kept the graham cracker crust, updated the chocolate cake portion, and topped these with marshmallow fluff frosting instead of a plain marshmallow and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

chocolate s'more cupcakes

Chocolate S’more Cupcakes with Marshmallow Fluff Frosting

Ingredients:

for the graham cracker crust:

  • 1 1/2 C. graham cracker crumbs
  • 7 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar

for the chocolate cake:

  • 1 C. water
  • 1/2 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 C. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 C. granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

for the marshmallow fluff frosting:

  • 7-8 oz. jar marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff)
  • 1-2 C. confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 C. softened butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a 12 cavity muffin pan with cupcake liners.

To make the graham cracker crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a small bowl.

Pour the butter over the mixture and stir to combine until the mixture resembles coarse, wet sand.

Place about 1 Tbsp. of the graham cracker mixture into each cupcake liner and press down using your fingers or the bottom of a drinking glass into an even layer on the bottom of the cupcake liner.

To make the cake batter, boil the water in a small saucepan.

Place the cocoa powder into a mixing bowl, then pour the boiling water over it and stir until smooth.

Cool the mixture to room temperature by placing it in the refrigerator while you complete the remaining cupcake steps.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time to the butter mixture, beating until smooth after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Beat the vanilla extract into the butter mixture until just combined.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating the mixture just until the ingredients are combined.

Pour the cooled cocoa mixture into the bowl in a slow steady stream while stirring.  Stir until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the cupcake batter into the cupcake liners on top of the graham cracker mixture so that each cavity is 3/4 full.

Bake for 16-19 minutes, and start checking them at 15 minutes to ensure they don’t burn or over-bake.  I’ve had mine fully baked at the 15 minute mark, and other times at the 20 minute mark.

Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, put the marshmallow fluff into a large mixing bowl or the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Beat the butter and fluff together until smooth.

Beat in the vanilla extract.

Beat in the powdered sugar about 1/2 C. at a time, beating until the sugar is completely incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Use as much or as little powdered sugar as needed to reach your desired consistency (depending on humidity and how I want to frost the cupcakes, I’ve used up to 3 C. of powdered sugar.  For these, I used a little over 2 C. and it piped really well).

Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes using a resealable bag with a corner cut off or a pastry bag not fitted with a decorating tip, or as desired.

To garnish, if desired, top with a square of chocolate (I used fun-size Hershey bars and cut them into 4 squares where they are scored).

Makes 12 cupcakes (you make get more but I consistently get 12 out of the graham cracker crust, with extra cake batter).

Source: graham cracker crust adapted from Cookies & Cups; chocolate cupcakes from Sally’s Baking Addiction; frosting from Please Pass the Pie

chocolate s'more cupcake tray

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