Monday, March 12, 2012

Newest Chocolate Lover

So, now that I'm back on top of my life (ha, ha, ha) I'm gonna see if I can start blogging again - hopefully with a new and improved blog! For now, I'll keep posting here til it's ready.

Anyway, to the newest chocolate lover:

Here's to following in her family's footsteps.

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Starting at Bottom Tier: White Chocolate Raspberry, Lemon, Cinnamon Swirl, Red Velvet

Almost look too good to eat!
Thanks sisters for an awesome baby shower for our little Violet!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Molten Lava Cakes

So, I've been a little MIA. Mostly, because I am expecting my first little one in a couple of weeks (super exciting) and I felt like I had (and still have) a million things to do to get ready! However, I realized that since my list will never even be close to getting done, I might as well just still find a little time to dedicate to the things that I truly love in life. And of course, chocolate must make the list!

By the way, my new little girl, I'm sure, will be a chocolate lover. I read some article talking about a study that says baby in the womb will develop their tastes according to what you eat during pregnancy. (Take it for what it is - I just read it on the internet so not much backing to it, really). There was a brief stint in my first trimester where I didn't crave chocolate (it was weird and I didn't like it) but then things fixed themselves quickly and the natural me came back out! So, I have still been enjoying my fair share.

Anyway, I have a few treats that I've stored away to share with you, and a new camera to take much better pictures than the previous pitiful shots. So, we'll get this party started again!

The first recipe to share from my new bunch of favs: 

Molten Lava Cakes courtesy of The Neelys (Food Network)  - thanks to Cami Smith for introducing me to this recipe!

The thing that makes this recipe so good - the hint of almond, cayenne, and nutmeg in these little delights! It takes you by surprise at first bite, and you will just simply fall in love with it!

Also the first time I made these, it was fun to see the tops crack open. See, the way a molten cake works is it sets up around the edges and top but the middle is still gooey deliciousness. Right in the last minute of cook time, there's kind of a like a mini "volcanic eruption" in your oven where the goo is located. FUN TO WATCH I TELL YOU!

Here's the recipe. This is for eight 6-oz ramekins - way too many for me and hubby (although if necessary, I'm sure we could eat them all). I have four 4-oz ramekins, so I actually cut this recipe in thirds to make 2 nice servings for each of us.

  • 2 sticks butter, unsalted, plus more for ramekins
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter 8 (6-ounce) ramekins and sprinkle each with about 1/2 teaspoon sugar.
In a saucepan combine butter, cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, and chocolate over low heat until melted and smooth; stir frequently. Cool slightly.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, confectioners' sugar, eggs and yolks, vanilla extract and almond extract until creamy. Add melted chocolate to the batter and whisk together. Pour into prepared ramekins.

Bake cakes until the top is stiff and cracked and the edges are dark, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges of the cake with a small paring knife then invert onto plates while warm.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Tart (w/Raspberries and Cream)

Well, Ben and I really wanted to try something out with our new cocoa bean purchase, so he found this recipe on It looked pretty good, and it is pretty good! However, we didn't have raspberries or cream last night when we taste tested it, and in my opinion, it actually really needed it to help tone down the sweetness factor. Or maybe the caramel needs to be adjusted (that's where most of the sweetness was stemming from). I think I'll buy some fresh cream to whip up and fresh raspberries to give it a second chance today. Don't get me wrong - it was still very good - but there is such a thing as too sweet and it definitely caps my threshold. But maybe that's a good thing for me to not be able to eat as much? Eh.

Chocolate-Caramel Tart with Drunken Raspberries and Vanilla Crème Fraîche
Bon Appétit | June 2006
Jeanne Thiel Kelley

Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cocoa nibs*

Ben's notes: Seemed a little salty and eggy. Will add a little vanilla next time to round out.

Caramel filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon finely ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt

Christina' notes: Watch closely! Did not take full cooking time noted for me, and b/c I did not have the cream ready to add immediately it kept cooking even after I took it off of the heat and ended up getting burned. Round two worked out much better!

Chocolate ganache
1 cup heavy whipping cream
5 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Edible gold dust (optional; for garnish) -  I was fresh out of this :) You'll be fine without it
Drunken Raspberries - I plan on just using fresh raspberries
Vanilla Crème Fraîche - and diddo on just using fresh whipped cream

For crust:
Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 375°F. Butter 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add 1/2 cup butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolks; process until moist clumps form. Add cocoa nibs; blend in using on/off turns. Press dough onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan on rack while preparing caramel filling.

For caramel filling:
Combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring until mixture is deep amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat; add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Add butter and stir over low heat until caramel is completely smooth. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; stir in salt. Cool 10 minutes. Pour warm caramel into crust. Let stand at room temperature until completely cool, about 45 minutes.

Christina's notes: Because we were in a rush (I had a meeting to get to) we tried to cut corners on cooling the caramel (putting in fridge/freezer to speed cooling). DO NOT DO THIS! It compromised the texture, making it a little grainy. Still tasted good, but not as good as it should have been.

For ganache:
Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Let stand until slightly cooled but still pourable, about 10 minutes. Pour ganache evenly over caramel filling. Refrigerate tart uncovered until chocolate is firm, about 2 hours. do ahead Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Brush top of tart with gold dust, if desired. Cut tart into thin slices. Arrange 1 slice on each plate. Spoon berries and crème fraîche alongside.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cocoa Nibs Baby!

So, here's the scoop. I got tipped off on an awesome deal for Amano gift certificates on CityDeals: $25 gift certificate for $12. Since this chocolate is great, but expensiveish, I snatched a couple of these up really quick. Who doesn't want 52% off? Anyway, last time I  checked the deal's still up, so go get you some certificates if you haven't had a chance to try this chocolate.

I've been craving cocoa nib brittle from their store, and I also wanted to get some cocoa nibs to do a little bit of my own baking (think brownies, cheesecake, etc.). So, I went yesterday and picked these up:

(Sorry picture is kinda crappy - camera is just not doing it anymore since half of the buttons died on it.) These nibs are from the Barlovento region of Venezuela. They were highly recommended for baking. Amano has 3 other kids of nibs they sell, too. Anyway, now for some experimenting! I have to figure out how to make this brittle! I've never really cared for brittle in the past, but this stuff is something else. It's so light and flaky.....just good! I'm not much of a candy maker, but I guess I have something new to start learning. If you do have a good recipe for brittle, pass it along!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cocoa Powder: To Dutch or Not To Dutch? (SCHARFFENBERGER & VALRHONA REVIEW)

So my awesome sis-in-law, Tammy, brought me a treat a couple of months ago when we got together on family vacations: cocoa powder! What more could I have asked for? Anyway, I've been wanting to do a little more baking with cocoa powders because like everything else, not all cocoa powders are created equally. From the origin of the beans to the way that it is all makes a difference. And if you want that end product to turn out absolutely divine, well, it definitely helps to start out with good quality raw ingredients.

How is cocoa powder made in the first place? I thought you'd never ask. To quote, from the Hershey's website (

"Cocoa Powder is the end product from a pressing or extraction process that removes a significant portion of the fat or cocoa butter from the cocoa bean.  The starting cocoa bean material that is pressed is usually in the form of chocolate liquor.  This liquor contains no alcohol but is simply the roasted cocoa bean material (either whole beans or ground beans referred to as nibs) that is finely ground and refined into a paste that becomes fluid at temperatures above 40°C.  This fluid paste or chocolate liquor is then subjected to a pressing process at 6000-12,000 psi., removing most of the fat or cocoa butter from the liquor.  The resulting material is called “cocoa press cake” and typically contains from 10-12% residual cocoa butter, reduced from approximately 54% cocoa butter.  This press cake is then mechanically broken into smaller pieces and subsequently ground into a fine powder which is commonly known as “cocoa powder”."

So, of course when you go to the common grocery store, this is what you're going to see on the shelf: Hershey's, Ghirardelli, and one common one around here is Saco (dutch-processed). I've used 'em all, but I wanted to try some new ones. So Tam brought me a sampling of Sharffen Berger and Valrhona (dutch-processed).

First, what is the difference between natural cocoa powder and dutch processed? There is a significant difference in flavor so it's worth understanding. And to quote again from Hershey's (same webpage):

"Natural Cocoa Powder comes from pressing cocoa beans with no additional modifications.  The resulting natural cocoa powder is usually a light brown color.

Alkalized Cocoa Powders, sometimes referred to as Dutched, come from cocoa nibs and/or chocolate liquor that have been treated with mild alkali solutions in order to raise the pH.  This alkalizing or dutching process is a safe and approved process for cocoa that is used to modify the color, taste, and functionality of cocoa powder in food products.  Alkalization can be used to create a range of dark brown and red-brown colors that add desirable appearances to some food products that contain cocoa powders.  Alkalization can improve taste by reducing some of the sourness and bitterness associated with natural cocoa powders.  The alkalization of cocoa powder can also improve the solubility of cocoa powder in certain beverage applications."

I didn't want to over-complicate things when testing out these new powders, so I kept it simple and tried them out in a chocolate frosting on top of my favorite boston cream cupcakes. They were both really great, but surprisingly I found that my taste liked the Valrhona dutch-processed a bit better for the frosting. The flavor was a little darker and richer. I also read that a taste test on Cook's Illustrated found that most people prefer dutch-processed in baking over natural, although too much dutch was no good. I think I'll just have to keep testing things out to see if this holds true for other recipes :)

In the meanwhile, I've read some opinions that natural cocoa powder is tastier for stuff like homemade hot chocolate. Well, I know I grew up on Hershey's cocoa powder in my household, and I loved the hot chocolate my dad used to make, so I can buy into that....

Anyway, have fun testing out different cocoa powders! Next time you go buy cocoa powder, try a different kind. Just do it! It will be a baking adventure.

On a side note, I'm really craving cocoa nibs right now. I tried some cocoa nib brittle a few weeks ago, and I think I am now addicted.....

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

What to do when 3/4 of the bananas I purchased last week are already past their prime? Well..... banana bread of course! Since I was in a rush the other day, my man, Benny, made some in the mini loaf pan.  We prefer to cook them in there because they seem to brown better. Also I always say I should take a loaf to a neighbor or something and that seems like a good size. That usually never happens though because we eat it so fast...... :) In fact, we ate this last batch so fast that I didn't even have a chance to take a picture of it! Also b/c half of the buttons on my ghetto camera just stopped working so now I really can't get a decent picture....Time for a new camera? I think so.

Of course, what's even better than banana bread? Well, that would be chocolate chip banana bread, of course! That's maybe the "not so healthy" variation, but it tastes so good! For an inexpensive but delicious addition, throw in some Guittard Milk Chocolate Chips. They are probably the better of the "low-end" brands that I have used. Another cool variation Ben made this time was to sprinkle toasted coconut on top of some of the loaves before baking. Both highly recommended!

This recipe is a mix between a recipe we found on and a recipe from my mom with some alterations from us. Hope you enjoy!

C&L's Banana Bread

1/4 cup butter, room temp
1 cup granulated sugar/brown sugar (we like brown, or you can do a comb. of the two)
2 eggs, beaten
3 ripe bananas (or semi-overripe), mashed very well
1/3 cup sour cream
2 cups bread flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
chocolate chips - as many as you want!
toasted coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Creme butter and sugar. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Add mashed bananas and sour cream. Add all remaining dry ingredients. Bake in a greased and floured loaf pan until a toothpick stuck into the bread comes out clean, about 60 minutes. For 4-mini loaves, bake 45 minutes. 

Notes: I'm pretty sure the reason I like this recipe the best is the bread comes out really moist. I credit that to the sour cream which does wonders in baking in general! Also, one other tip is to mash the bananas up really well for a consistent texture. I will never forget my dear roommate (who shall not be named) in college who made banana bread once (or twice). I don't remember much about it except that it seemed like I could've thrown it at a wall and it would have bounced right back to me. Mash those bananas or weird things may happen!