Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Santa's Favorite Cookie - Chocolate Week 8

Okay, so maybe Santa has a different favorite cookie but, somehow, chocolate chip cookies evoke all sorts of warm, cozy feelings, especially in the face of biting cold and oncoming winter weather.

Several years ago, this recipe began as Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Whole wheat pastry flour, substitution of vegetable oil for half of the original butter, and extra cinnamon to complement the chocolate chips have gradually crept in to this recipe. And I've recently changed from semi-sweet to bittersweet chips.

Enjoy them now and then freeze some to share with extended family when the holidays arrive.

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 5-6 dozen cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup olive or canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups rolled oats
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter, oil and sugars until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda and combine well. 
Stir in flour and then add walnuts. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1-2 minutes and then remove from pan to wire rack or a countertop covered with foil and parchment paper.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Chile Pepper Truffles - Chocolate Week 7

I have long believed dark chocolate and chile create a flavor sensation that can't be beat. So, as I perused my recipe files in search of the next chocolate offering in the 12 Weeks of Chocolate, I found a previously un-tried truffle recipe. Unfortunately, the recipe source is unknown.

The recipe begins with heavy cream, ancho chile powder, cinnamon, cayenne and a pinch of salt - and ends with spicy decadence in a single bite.

If you love chocolate and want a tasty addition to your Thanksgiving dessert offerings, give these a try.

Chile Pepper Truffles
Makes around 40 truffles

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon ancho chile pepper
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound semi-sweet dark chocolate chips

1 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoons ground ancho chile pepper

Combine the first five ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover and let stand to steep for 1 hour.
Reheat the mixture over medium heat until it just comes to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour mixture over the chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
Pour mixture into a shallow glass pie pan. Chill for 2 hours, until firm. With a 1-inch scoop or tablespoon, scoop out chocolate and roll in the palm of your hand to a rough ball. Shape and place on a sheet pan covered with wax paper. Chill for 5-10 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the coating ingredients. Roll balls in mixture until coated, place the truffles back on the sheet pan with wax paper. Chill until ready to serve. If chilled longer than 2 hours, let stand for 30 minutes, at room temperature, before serving. Place truffles in a tightly covered container for up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kim's Chocolate Zucchini Muffins - Chocolate Week 6

In a sleek, sun-drenched kitchen in Gulf Shores, AL, the cooking class for our small group began, and a breakfast feast ensued. This was one of many creative adventures available at Beach CITE Studios, a nonprofit organization that focused on educational and performance opportunities that ranged from sculpture and dance to private studio space and the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival (since my Dec. 2010 visit, this venue has closed).

Our teacher, Kim, created aromatic granola full of oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, flax, pepitas, and several kinds of nuts. She served it parfait style, with Greek yogurt.

Then Kim made light, airy dark chocolate muffins, with zucchini shreds that our tastebuds would never have distinguished on their own. A dusting of powdered sugar topped each muffin.

Today, I replicated Kim's recipe with two small adjustments. Because she used all-purpose flour and I always use whole wheat pastry flour - which is slightly denser - I reduced the flour in my recipe by 1/4 cup. I also substituted 1/4 cup olive oil for 1/4 cup butter. Enjoy!
Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Makes approximately 3 dozen regular muffins

2 1/2 cups flour (2 1/4 whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teapoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup butter, room temperature (1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup olive oil)
2 cups white sugar

3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons orange zest (VOE: I will add more zest next time)
2 tablespoons juice from orange
2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
1/2 cup milk

1 cup walnuts or pecans, optional
Sift dry ingredients together; set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, stir in vanilla, orange zest and juice, and zucchini. Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the milk. Add chopped nuts, if desired.
Pour into lined muffin pan and bake at 350 degrees, for 25-30 minutes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reduced-Fat Dark Chocolate Cheesecake - Chocolate Week 5

Despite my love of creating new chocolate dishes, sometimes there's no substitute for an existing recipe. Such is the case with this dessert, which a now-forgotten magazine printed from The Healthy Oven Baking Book, by Sarah Phillips.

I think I'd add another word to the title - decadent. Deep, dark chocolate flavor and smooth, creamy texture rule, with minimal guilt. In fact, here are the nutritional stats: 240 calories per serving, 31 carbs, 10 fat grams and 6 grams of protein. ENJOY!

Reduced-Fat Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
Serves 12

Chocolate crust
1 1/4 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
4 large egg whites, room temperature
12 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese (do not use nonfat cream cheese), well-softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder or 2 teaspoons regular instant coffee powder
(VOE: I don't keep espresso/instant coffee powder on hand. So I made ultra-strong brewed coffee and added one teaspoon, instead)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For crust: In a medium bowl, stir the cracker crumbs, sugar and butter until well combined. Press the mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom of a 9-inch, springform pan, lightly coated with canola oil spray. Set crust aside.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
In a grease-free medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Increase the speed and beat until stiff peaks begin to form. In another bowl, beat together the cream cheese and sugar. Beat in the cooled chocolate, cocoa, coffee powder and vanilla, until combined.
Add the egg whites and beat until combined - do not overmix. Turn mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
Bake until the edges of the cake are slightly puffed and very lightly browned, 25 minutes. Cool on a rack. Serve chilled.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nanaimo Bars - Chocolate Week 4

When I was young, Mom loved to create homemade confections during the holiday season. One of my favorites were Nanaimo Bars. Yes, I loved chocolate, but perhaps I loved them all the more because they were a special occasion dessert.

Many years later, while on a girls' getaway at Half Moon Bay, CA, my friend and I encountered these luscious bars in a small bakery and eagerly shared one. That's when I asked Mom for her recipe. I also learned it originated in the early 1950s, in Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, Canada near the town of Nanaimo. A housewive's award-winning recipe quickly became a dessert favorite that also spread to the States.

Today, Nanaimo Bars are a special occasion treat in my home too. I doubt there are many such elegant desserts that also require no baking.

Nanaimo Bars
Makes 36 one-inch bars

Bottom layer:
1/2 cup butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 egg, beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup grated coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts

Middle layer:
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding
2 cups confectioners sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk

Top layer
4 ounces chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
Bottom layer: Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Add egg and stir in. Add remaining ingredients and fold together. Press mixture into buttered 9 x 9 pan. Let cool and harden in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before adding middle layer.
Middle layer: Cream together butter, vanilla and pudding. Slowly add confectioners sugar until well blended. Add milk as needed to achieve thick, smooth consistency. Spread mixture on first layer. Allow to cool and harden in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Top layer: Melt chocolate chips and butter in double boiler. Spread on first two cooled layers. Add more chopped walnuts as garnish, if desired.

Let cool several hours before cutting small because they are very rich. They also freeze well.