Archive for the ‘Chocolate’ Category
A peanut butter cup is nothing more than chocolate enrobing a salty-sweet peanut butter center in a small paper cup. This version of a peanut butter cup is still in “cup” format, albeit a larger cupcake size! These Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Cupcakes should appeal to anyone whose mouth waters at the thought of a peanut butter cup and doesn’t mind a supersized package.
These are chocolate cupcakes topped with salty-sweet peanut butter and chocolate frostings. The cupcake recipe is a great basic chocolate cupcake that has a very strong chocolate flavor and a wonderful dark, decadent-looking color to it. They’re moist and tender, and good enough to go with any type of frosting you could want to put on top, even though they do go especially well with peanut butter. For the frosting, I used a national peanut butter brand (JIF) and got great results. Make sure to taste-test your frosting while you’re making it, since the frosting should have a hint of salt and you might need to add in a pinch if your peanut butter is a low salt variety.
When I was putting these together, I considered putting the peanut butter filling in the center of the cupcakes and topping them only with chocolate frosting to make them look like a regular peanut butter cup. When I did that, I found that I wanted more peanut butter than I could fit in the cupcake, so I switched to a thick layer of peanut butter frosting on top of the cake. This way, you get peanut butter cup flavors that are in better balance – and that means that you will have peanut butter and chocolate in every single bite of cake that you take.
One way to breathe some new life into a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe is to start by adding some new mix-ins to the cookie dough. Nuts will add crunch and a little extra flavor, but adding dried fruit can really change the overall taste of the cookie. Dried cranberries, for instance, can add a sweet-tart flavor and a lot of color to cookies, while raisins add a more subtle sweetness. These Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts and Apricots are one of my current favorite chocolate chip cookie variations. They are packed with crunchy toasted walnuts, super-sweet dried apricots and, of course, plenty of chocolate chips.
The first thing you need to do for these cookies is to coarsely chop your walnuts and dried apricots. Both untoasted and toasted walnuts will work, but if you have toasted and lightly salted walnuts you will get the best contrast in your finished cookies. Dried apricots come in both sulphured and unsulphured versions. The sulphured apricots are always much brighter in color and they tend to be much more moist and tender. Both types of apricots will work in this recipe, though I tend to prefer using sulphured apricots personally and that is what I used in the cookies pictured here.
I included a lot of walnuts, apricots and chocolate chips in these cookies, so you will get a lot of goodies in each bite. The cookies are crisp on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside, although a few extra minutes in the oven will make the cookies much crispier overall if you want to add some extra crunch to your batch. The walnuts and apricots go very well together, and both contrast nicely with the chocolate chips. If you want to mix up the ratios for the mix-ins used in the cookies, feel free to adjust them to suit your own tastes. This recipe makes a medium sized batch of cookies and can be doubled if you want to serve a bigger group (or just want to eat more cookies).
These Conversation Hearts Mendiants just might be the easiest and cutest treat you can make for Valentine’s Day. They’re simply rounds of dark chocolate that are topped off with conversation hearts, so they are not only sweet, but they deliver a sweet message to your Valentine!
I used Sweethearts – the original conversation hearts - in these treats and found that they actually pair very well with chocolate! They’re sugary, but they have distinct flavors to them (orange, strawberry, green apple, etc.) and those flavors were actually highlighted by the chocolate – which meant that these candies were much more delicious with a little dark chocolate than they were without it.
Before I started, I sorted through a big bag of Sweethearts to identify the hearts that had the cutest messages on them and that were the most clearly printed. I set these aside to be featured messages. When I encountered hearts with illegible messages, I simply put the message side down when I placed that heart. You can use regular hearts or jumbo sized conversation hearts for these – or mix it up between the two. You’ll definitely want to spend some time sorting the candies in advance, however, since it can be difficult to have to sort through them once you’re already working with the chocolate.
I used tempered chocolate to make these. Tempered chocolate is very glossy, has a firm finish and melts smoothly. It also sets up quickly when you’re working with it, which means that the process of making mendiants can be done very quickly. Untempered chocolate takes a very long time to set up (and often must be set in the fridge) and, because of that, it is likely to develop a whitish “bloom” on the surface instead of having a clean, shiny finish. You can find my instructions on how to temper chocolate here to walk you through the process, which is easier than you might think and well worth practicing if you, like me, love to work with chocolate!
When I think of combining sweet and savory flavors in a dessert, I usually think about increasing the salt so that there is more of a contrast with sweet ingredients like sugar, caramel or chocolate in a recipe. I don’t usually think about adding pepper to make things even more savory, but I recently tried some Organic Stone Ground Salt and Pepper Dark Chocolate from Trader Joe’s and was very pleased (and surprised) at how well all of the flavors came together. I liked it so much that I was inspired to use it as the base for a little baking, and I featured it in these Salt and Pepper Brownie Bites.
The bite sized brownies are baked in a mini muffin pan, making them a perfect one bite snack. They’re slightly fudgy (small brownies are rarely as fudgy as full sized ones) and very tender, so they quickly start to melt in your mouth as you bite into them. They have a good dark chocolate flavor – and they also have a hint of salt and spice to them. Don’t worry: the salt and black pepper notes in these are mild and they don’t overwhelm the chocolate. Instead, the salt adds a nice contrast to the sweet brownie batter and the pepper adds a little kick that makes the dark chocolate seem more complex. I added a few grains of coarse kosher salt to the tops of my brownies to highlight that sweet-savory contrast a bit more, as well.
The chocolate I used to make my brownies already had a distinct salt and pepper flavor, since I used salt and pepper chocolate from Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have this particular chocolate on hand, you can easily the effect by using regular dark chocolate and doubling the amount of salt and pepper given in the recipe below (increasing each to 1/2 tsp). I wouldn’t skip the sprinkle of salt on the top of these brownie bites, even if you’re hesitant about the pepper, since those few grains of salt will make your mouth start to water right away and will make the brownies that much more addictive.
If you want to bake a full batch of these, the batter can also be poured into an 8×8-inch baking pan and baked for 30-35 minutes, following the directions for my Fudgy One Bowl Brownies.
Chocolate truffles are one of the easiest chocolate candies to make at home. They are incredibly decadent and are the perfect way to satisfy a chocolate craving – so it comes as a surprise to many truffle lovers that they only have a few ingredients. A very basic chocolate truffle recipe is made with just chocolate and cream or butter, or a combination of the two. The cream and butter contribute to the silky texture of the chocolate ganache that makes up the center of the truffle, while the chocolate gives the truffle its flavor.
These Dark Chocolate Truffles are a must-try for a dark chocolate fan. My favorite recipe is incredibly easy, with just two ingredients. They’re rich and creamy, with a tremendous amount of dark chocolate flavor. The chocolate is the most important part of the recipe, since that is where all of the flavor comes from, so it is crucial that you use high quality chocolate. High quality dark chocolate isn’t necessarily chocolate with the highest cacao percentage that you can find, but it should be a high quality brand that has a flavor that you really like. This might mean that the chocolate you start out with is a little on the expensive side, but you will really be able to taste the results, so it is well worth it. I also recommend choosing a dark chocolate that is from 60-65% cacao. I used a single-origin chocolate from Peru (this is a great recipe to try using single origin chocolates, by the way) from Callebaut that was 65% cacao.
Once the ganache is made and set, I divide the chocolate up into even pieces and roll them between my palms to shape them. This process can be a bit messy, because the heat of your hands is what helps to melt the ganache a bit, making the truffles easier to shape. I recommend portioning the ganache first and then starting the rolling process, so you don’t make too much of a mess in the kitchen!
Traditionally, chocolate truffles are finished by rolling them in cocoa powder to give them a rustic look that is similar to that of an actual truffle (mushroom) that was freshly plucked from the earth. If you prefer, you can roll your truffles in finely chopped nuts or even confectioners’ sugar to give them a nice finish. Truffles can be stored at room temperature, but should be stored in the fridge if you live in a warm climate to keep them from melting.