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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chocolate Truffles

My in-laws from NYC came for a visit and we had some great food and even better dessert! One of the desserts I made were these chocolate truffles. They honestly have to be one of the easiest and quickest desserts to make. Not only that, they look fancy when you serve them and they're small enough where people will eat one or two (or three like me!). This recipe makes about 20 truffles and I dusted them with cocoa powder, confectioners sugar, toasted hazelnuts, and different colored jimmies (sprinkles for all of you not from New England). I didn't add the alcohol because I don't like it in my desserts. These are a must make for your next dinner party and if there are any left, which I doubt, you can freeze them for months!


Ingredients:

8 ounces semisweet chocolate cut into small pieces
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate cut into small pieces
4 ounces milk chocolate cut into small pieces
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon of instant coffee 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons alcohol - Optional (Cognac, brandy, Grand Marnier, rum, bourbon, or Kaluha)

Different Coatings for Truffles:
Cocoa Powder
Confectioners Sugar (Icing or Powdered)
Toasted and Chopped Nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts)
Toasted Coconut
Shaved Chocolate

Directions:


Chop the chocolates finely with a sharp knife. Place them in a heat-proof mixing bowl with the cream. With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in the orange flavored liqueur, if using, coffee, and vanilla. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
With a melon baller or 2 tsp ice cream scoop, spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll each ball of chocolate in your hands to roughly make it round. Roll in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, or other dustings listed above. Put them back in the refrigerator before serving. When you take them out, mold them back into a ball if they flatten. These will keep refrigerated for weeks, but serve them at room temperature.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chocolate Bark


I just posted a granola recipe and had a bunch of dried fruit and almonds left over so I thought I would use them up in a Chocolate Bark recipe.  It's really easy and it's a nice treat to nibble on - chocolate always tastes good but when it has fruit and nut mixed in, it almost feels guilt free! You can also buy cellophane gift bags and wrap these up as favors at a party or give them as a gift.

Ingredients

8 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole almonds or cashews
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries


Directions
Melt the 2 chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Pour the melted chocolate over wax  or parchment (or on a silpat) paper and spread to form a rectangle, using the outline. Sprinkle the almonds, apricots and cranberries over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in 1 by 3-inch pieces and serve at room temperature.

Homemade Granola Bars



After giving birth to my second son, I've joined the gym and even working out with a trainer to get back into shape. These granola bars are a healthy snack to give you that extra boost of energy before or after a long workout.  You could even have one for breakfast along with your cup of coffee. I've added a bunch of dried fruit so they have a lot of fiber but you can add anything you like - chocolate chips, peanut butter, sesame seeds, banana chips or any other type of dried fruit. The recipe makes about 12-16 bars depending on how you cut them. Wrap them in wax paper to take them on the go. You can store them in a zip lock or air tight container for about a week.

Ingredients

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries


Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper. Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.


Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies


Ahhh - childhood memories of coming home from school and seeing Mom bake a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. The smell of chocolate filling up the house as I walk through the front door and what better vision than seeing a plate on the counter with cookies piled high for my sister and I to eat!  "Save room for dinner," Mom would say. You know my motto - save room for dessert!  I love baking these cookies for my family and seeing the smiles of my husband and son as they come out of the oven. Ed will snatch one right off the baking sheet as I'm pulling it out of the oven. Then my son, seeing Daddy eat a cookie, wants one too but teaching a two year-old patience and that the cookies are "hot, hot, hot" is nearly impossible!

You can always use the good old Toll House recipe and the cookies will come out just as good, but I like using the one I posted below. If you like your cookies crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside - this recipe is perfection! If you like your cookies a little more cakey, just add 1 more cup of flour.  If you want them more crispier, subsitute the butter for Crisco. I use an entire bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips but you can use milk chocolate, M&M's, reese's pieces, toffee, etc - the list and combinations are endless!

This recipe is great and easy to make! Just think of how happy your spouse, kids, friends or roomie would be coming home to smell these delectable goodies! It makes 20-24 cookies.

Ingredients:
1 3/4 C. (8 3/4 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
14 Tbs. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 C. (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
3/4 C. (5 1/4 oz) packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 bag of Semisweet choc. chips/chunks
3/4 C. Chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets w/parchment paper or silpat baking mat. Whisk flour and baking soda together in bowl. Heat 10 Tbsp. butter in a skillet over med/hi heat until melted. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and, transfer to heat proof bowl. Stir in remaining 4 tbsp. until completely melted. Add both sugars, salt, vanilla to bowl w/butter and wisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and wisk until mixture is smooth w/no sugar lumps remaining and until shiny.

Stir in flour mix until just combined. Stir in choc. chips and nuts (optional). Use a 2 Tbsp ice cream scoop and place them on the baking trays. Bake for 9-12 minutes until edges are brown but centers are still soft.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tiramisu Cupcakes




Three of my favorite Italian desserts are Italian cookies (from Arthur Avenue), cannoli's (dipped in chocolate of course), and Tiramisu.  After a delicious dinner of homemade spaghetti and meatballs, Italian bread and salad there's nothing I'd rather have than a slice of Tiramisu. Remember, as filling as spaghetti is, I always save room for dessert!!  But what if you're having several people over for dinner?  Most Tiramisu recipes are made in loaf pans and only serve 5-6 people, depending on how big you slice the cake - and I slice them big! So making Tiramisu cupcakes are the perfect solution to feeding your many guests after dinner.  Even if you do only have 2 people over, this recipe is a must and the espresso makes the cupcakes so moist, you can definitely freeze the rest for later. The secret in this recipe is the extra egg yokes used to keep the cupcake sturdy to hold the espresso syrup. Note of caution - don't use a vanilla cake box mix. I don't like them and think they're flavorless but the cake will fall apart once you brush on the espresso syrup. Also, I didn't use alcohol in the recipe but I'll add it as optional. Makes about 14-18 cupcakes if you use an ice cream scoop.


Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups cake flour sifted (you can substitute with All-Purpose flour but minus 2 Tbsps, don't use self-rising flour. It has salt and leavening.)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 cup milk
1 vanilla bean halved with seeds (you can substitute with 3 tsps vanilla extract)
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 eggs plus 3 egg yolks (room temperature)
1 cup sugar


Espresso Syrup:
1/2 cup fresh brewed espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsps Marsala or Rum (optional)


Mascarpone Frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz tub of mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar sifted


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325. Line muffin tins. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Heat milk and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once you see bubbles appear around the edge, take it off the heat and whisk in the butter. Drain with a sieve and leave to the side to cool.


Whisk together the eggs and sugar until blended. Put mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Remove bowl from heat. With an electric mixer, whisk the mix on high until it's a fluffy, pale yellow. Fold flour mixture and milk mixture into the egg mixture in 3 batches until combined. Use an ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly or use a pyrex measuring cup and fill 3/4 way. Bake for 20-25 minutes and let the cupcakes cool before you brush with the coffee syrup. Brush the coffee syrup on the cooled cupcakes and let set for 30 minutes before you frost them. Be sure to use all of the coffee syrup. Pipe a dollop of frosting on the cupcakes and serve with shaved chocolate or dust with cocoa powder before serving.


Coffee Syrup:
Stir together everything until it's dissolved. Let the coffee cool before you brush onto the cupcakes.  Using marsala or rum is optional.


Frosting:
Whisk heavy cream with a mixer until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mascarpone and sugar until smooth. Gently fold in the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Don't mix or stir this because it'll take the air out of the cream and deflate. Place in a large zip lock, cut a 1/2 inch hole and pipe.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Peanut Butter Brownies


When it comes to desserts, there are two things I can't live without - chocolate and peanut butter! Whether it's eating a Reese's Peanut Butter cup, an ice cream sundae with hot fudge and peanut butter or these delicious brownies, you can't go wrong with the pairing!  Not only do I love this recipe because it has my all-time favorite ingredients, but it makes 24 large brownies so you'll always have some left over after your guests leave! Just place the rest of the brownies in an air-tight container or throw them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. They are super easy to make and the secret ingredient in all chocolate recipes is to make sure you use coffee to enhance the flavor. Enjoy!



Ingredients

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Jar of your favorite peanut butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the prepared sheet pan. Spoon the peanut butter over the top of the chocolate mixture and using a knife, swirl it through the chocolate mixture.
Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool before you cut them in large pieces.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Getting the most use out of your Vanilla Bean



We all know how expensive Vanilla Beans are unless you live in Tahiti with unlimited vanilla pods in your backyard!  After you use the bean, don't throw it away!  You can use the pods to enhance flavors when you're baking by making Vanilla Sugar.

Place scraped vanilla pods in an airtight container filled with sugar. Let stand until pod is dry (this may take a week or more). Transfer sugar and vanilla pod to the bowl of a food processor; process until pods are finely ground. Use for added flavor when baking, in your favorite drinks, on the rim of the glass of your favorite drink, or sprinkled over fruit.