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Chocolate cake got big exposure (along with a funny story) in the recent movie, It’s Complicated when Jane (Meryl Streep), a bakery owner in Santa Barbara, crafted a beautiful one for a dinner that never happened.

If you need a delicious homemade chocolate cake recipe, try this one… it’s worthy of being put on a platter (or an elegant glass cake stand, like Streep did in the movie). 

Chocolate Cake

2 cups (500 mL) sugar
1-3/4 cups (425 mL) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (175 mL) cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking powder
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
2 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) milk
½ cup (125 mL) vegetable oil
2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla
1 cup (250 mL) boiling water

Makes 8-10 servings

Grease and flour two 9” (23 cm) round baking pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. (The batter will be thin.) Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in the centre of both cakes comes out clean, about 30 – 35 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove cakes from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with Chocolate Icing.

Chocolate Icing:
Melt ½ cup (125 mL) butter or margarine. Stir in 2/3 cup (150 mL) cocoa. Alternately add 3 cups (750 mL) icing sugar and 1/3 cup (75 mL) milk, beating with electric mixer on medium speed until spreading consistency. If needed, add more milk. Stir in 1 tsp (6 ml) vanilla.

Recipe Source: Hershey’s

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A house made completely of chocolate. Now we’re talking.

The French Culinary Institute’s all-chocolate house for the Chocolate Show in NY this past weekend drew plenty of chocoholics and a few interior designers (well, at least one),

The place was clearly in need of a little work (…this baby was foreclosed on some time ago). Keep in mind it was Halloween weekend in NYC (that’s its own separate phenomenon, by the way) so the house was suitably Gothic (and morbid!) in style.

The ‘death by chocolate’ headstones over a coffin in the yard were something I could imagine in my own back yard at some point…

Chocolate Show - Oct 09 024

Chocolate Show - Oct 09 027

Chocolate Show - Oct 09 030

  Chocolate hazelnut ice cream                                                                                                                                                  
I think Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream may be the best ice cream I’ve made so far. If you like Nutella and ice cream, I’m quite sure you’ll like this ice cream too! Seriously. Who wouldn’t??

It’s so easy to make, and it just sings with chocolate hazelnut flavour. It’s texture is more creamy than other ice creams I’ve made. I often find that “ripening” homemade ice cream in the freezer tends to make it harden to an extreme and form large crystals that make for a really granular texture in your mouth. I’ve had this Chocolate Hazelnut ice cream in the freezer for almost 3 days now, and although there’s not much left, what there is is firm, but scoop-able.  So here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream
(Makes 8 cups/2 L)

2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream (35%)
2 cups (500 mL) homogenized milk (3.5%)
1 cup (500 mL) chocolate hazelnut spread
1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped dark chocolate* (optional)
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped hazelnuts (optional)

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring cream and milk to a simmer.

In a large bowl, combine hazelnut spread and sugar; stir until smooth. Whisk 1/4 cup (50 mL) of the cream mixture into the sugar mixture; whisk until blended. Whisk in remaining cream mixture until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled or overnight.

Stir cream mixture. Transfer to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding chopped chocolate and hazelnuts a few minutes before the ice cream has finished churning.

Recipe Source: 125 Best Ice Cream Recipes by Marilyn Linton and Tanya Linton, Robert Rose Inc., 2003

Tips:
* If you’re adding chopped chocolate, use a good-quality brand. I used Lindt Madagascar (65%) dark chocolate.
* I have a Cuisinart Flavor Duo (two 1 L/1 quart buckets) ice cream maker. This recipe filled both buckets. The mixture had chilled overnight so only took 15 to 18 minutes to process to a soft creamy consistency.
* The recipe can be halved if you can only make 1 L (1 quart) of ice cream at a time.
* If desired, splash a serving of the finished ice cream with hazelnut liqueur and a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts (instead of adding the hazelnuts to the ice cream).

How much fun is this sandwich cookie cake?? It would be perfect as a dessert for any occasion from a summer tea to a birthday party or backyard barbecue.

Sandwich Cookie Cake pan (image from Williams-Sonoma) Sandwich Cookie Cake (image from Williams-Sonoma’s web site) 

I picked up the pans to make this fun dessert this evening, racing into the Williams-Sonoma at Sherway Gardens at 8:58 p.m. (the store closes at 9 p.m.). Just in time!

img5m Sandwich Cookie Cake pan (image from Williams-Sonoma’s web site) 

The 9″ cast aluminum cake pans are exclusive to Williams-Sonoma and sell for $29.95 (US) for the pair. Bake your favourite brownie or chocolate cake recipe or mix in them, then sandwich the layers together with flavoured whipped cream, ice cream or buttercream icing.

Visit Williams-Sonoma’s website for more information and to read reviews about the pans. According to the online reviews, it’s really important to grease the pan well with cooking spray to remove the cakes easily.

I’ll have to hold off testing out the pans until next week as I’m off to New York City this weekend to take a Four-Star Breakfast cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education and visit with my sister Loreen who lives on Long Island. We’ve got afternoon tea reservations in NYC at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon on Friday.

Following afternoon tea at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon in New York City recently, Loreen and I decided to try to find Strand book store (its inventory includes new, used, out of print and rare books, and you can get some really good deals).

As we passed through Union Square heading down Broadway Avenue, Loreen suddenly uttered those magic words I love to hear – “I’m pretty sure there’s a chocolate shop around here somewhere.”

Sure enough, within a few blocks we had stumbled upon Max Brenner’s Chocolate by the Bald Man.

Chocolate by the Bald Man storefront

We were not in the least bit hungry considering what we’d just eaten at Lady Mendl’s, but as a serious chocoholic, I was compelled to go in and check the place out. Loreen loves chocolate too; she didn’t need any convincing to make this stop.

Stepping into the store was like entering chocolate heaven. These pictures might help to explain but you really have to experience the place in person to get the full effect.

Chocolate by the Bald Man Interior 3

Chocolate by the Bald Man is an eat in/take out restaurant and a gift shop designed to appeal to chocolate lovers and potential chocolate lovers. Brown ceiling pipes run overhead (no doubt carrying chocolate!!),  and light and dark brown, beige, and caramel colours are used throughout. Solid blocks of chocolate and vats of melted chocolate help to decorate the space.

You can sit down for a bite or take away something that looks and sounds delectable. The menu is not all chocolate-based but it does boast quite a few chocolatey desserts as well as a few unique savoury options like Waffle Fries dusted with chili and cocoa powder and Black and Tan Beer Battered Vidalia Rings with Dark Chocolate Ranch Dressing. Crepes, quesadillas, pastas, pizzas, salads and burgers round out the rest of the menu which is creatively divided into categories such as Things to Dip, Food on a Stick, Tossed Around, and For Your Hands.

Chocolate by the Bald Man interior 1

If you don’t want to eat anything, you can buy chocolates or drinking chocolate mix or chocolate gift or spa items. The Hug Mugs (cocoa bean-shaped mugs designed to be cupped) caught my attention and look like a fun way to enjoy hot chocolate.

Chocolate by the Bald Man Interior 2

At the take-out counter, a display case contains chocolate pizza and other baked goods as well as syringes filled with chocolate. That’s one shot I wouldn’t mind taking.

Chocolate by the Bald Man - chocolate syringe

Just exactly who is Max Brenner, the balding chocolate lover? In fact, there actually is no such person. The business was created by two Israeli business men, Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner. Fichtman is no longer involved. Brenner still is, and apparently resembles the caricature of the bald man (or perhaps it’s vice versa). There are Max Brenner stores in a few countries including Israel, Austrialia and Singapore.

Whether the food or the chocolate tastes any good is a mystery we’ll have to solve on our next visit. As hard as it is to believe, we left empty-handed, vowing to return with empty stomachs another time.

Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man
* Union Square
841 Broadway (between 13th and 14th Streets)

* East Village
141 2nd Avenue (at 8th Street)

Ph: 212-388-0030
www.maxbrenner.com

chocolate-pancakes

 Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day with an expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant, consider serving up a decadent breakfast or brunch for your special someone. Starting the day with Triple Chocolate Pancakes is sure to send out love vibes! After all, who doesn’t love chocolate? And chocolate for breakfast? On Valentine’s Day? But of course!

With cocoa powder and chocolate chips in the pancake batter, you may think you’re making a cake or brownies, but don’t be tempted to pour the batter into a cake pan and pop it in the oven. You really are making pancakes. Very chocolatey pancakes, mind you. Enjoy them with a generous drizzle of chocolate syrup.

If you want to take these pancakes over the top, serve them with slightly softened vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Sliced or frozen (thawed) strawberries would make a delicious and appropriately coloured garnish for a Valentine’s Day breakfast.

Now, prepare to taste the love…..

Triple Chocolate Pancakes
(Makes twelve 3-1/2 inch pancakes)

2 large eggs
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Cooking oil, butter or margarine
Chocolate sauce or hot fudge sauce

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until blended. Add milk and oil; whisk to combine.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Add dry ingredients to liquid ingredients; whisk just until combined. There should be some lumps in the batter.

Heat frying pan or griddle over medium heat, adding a small amount of oil or butter. Drop about 1/4 cup pancake batter per pancake onto pan, spreading batter slightly. Leave some room between pancakes; they will expand a little during cooking.

Pancakes are ready to flip when the edges appear set and the top is full of bubbles; this will take about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook second side until lightly browned, about 45 seconds to 1 minute.

As pancakes cook, serve them immediately or keep them warm in a 200F oven. Continue cooking remaining batter, adding additional oil or butter to the pan as necessary.

Serve pancakes with chocolate or hot fudge sauce.

Tips:
* This recipe is easily doubled, or more appropriately tripled, if you want to make a special Valentine’s Day brunch for lots of loved ones!
* Any leftover cooked pancakes will freeze well.

bigstockphoto_valentine_2486875

Whether you’re planning to eat out or stay in on Valentine’s Day, end the day with a private, indulgent treat that will guarantee sweet dreams.

All you need is a few pieces of your favorite chocolate. After that, it’s all in the presentation… and this red, gold and brown combination is about as rich and elegant as it gets.

Use a gold plate. You can usually find inexpensive ones at a discount store, or if you want to be resourceful, buy a small can of spray paint and spray a few old plates you don’t use much.  (Gold plates and chargers are great at Christmas parties too).

Stack a few pieces of your favorite chocolate on top of each other – they look great if they’re in random sizes broken off a large bar of chocolate. Lay a short stem fresh red rose on the plate, serve on a red placement or red satin cloth… and indulge with your favorite someone!