Tag Archives: chocolate

Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Dark Chocolate (and Orange Mascarpone Frosting, if you like)

There are a lot of ways that you can try to dichotomize people- Right-Brained vs. Left-Brained.  Introverts vs. Extroverts.  Cat-People vs. Dog-People.  (For a while I thought maybe I was an all-around “Animal-Person”, but after much consideration I have come to the conclusion that I am truly a Cat-Person who happens to like some dogs.)

One category that has always baffled me are the people who claim that they are “not a dessert person”.  As someone who, in an ideal world, would conclude every meal with at least a little something sweet, I have a hard time relating to people who claim to never be tempted by ice cream, chocolate, or baked goods.

As I have gotten older, though, my sweet-tooth has developed a more refined palate.  Although there are still a few super-sugary treats I have a hard time resisting (i.e., Dunkin Donuts or Cadbury Creme Eggs), the desserts I really appreciate are the ones that have a lighter touch with the sugar.  Strawberries with balsamic and basil, for instance.

Or this Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Dark Chocolate.  I think this is a cake that even the self-proclaimed non-dessert people would like.  It’s not too rich or too sweet, has a nice graininess from the spelt flour, and the rosemary is fragrant and earthy.

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I followed the recipe exactly, so just follow the link above over to The Vanilla Bean Blog.  While you’re over there, spend some time perusing all the delicious-looking recipes.

A technical note: The recipe calls for using a 9 1/2 inch fluted tart pan.  If you are wondering if you can get away with using a 9-inch tart pan, the answer is yes, but the cake will rise above the edge and bake over the side a little bit.  Absolutely no effect on the taste, just not quite as neat, if you’re concerned with such things.  You can also use a springform cake pan with higher sides; you won’t get the pretty fluted edge, but you don’t have to worry about overflow.

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If you are wanting something fancier, you can top the cake with an orange-scented mascarpone frosting, which makes it a little more decadent but still not over-the-top.   I did this for Mother’s Day, and no one complained.  If you should choose to do so…

  • While the cake is cooling, combine 1 pound mascarpone cheese, 1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream, 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (or a little more, if preferred) in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Use the paddle attachment to beat at high speed, until soft peaks form- about 60-90 seconds.
  • Spread frosting on the top (and sides, if you like) of the cooled cake.  This recipe will yield way more frosting than you will need for the cake, but I’m sure you can find a way to use it up.  I’m thinking it would be lovely with ginger snaps or graham crackers….
  • Keep frosted cake chilled and serve within a few hours.

With or without frosting, leftovers of this cake (if there are any) are wonderful for breakfast.

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Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

I suppose it doesn’t need to be stated that we’ve had a lot of snow this winter.  Every time it has snowed, my Facebook feed has been taken over by posts about people cooking hearty stews and baking dozens of cookies, cinnamon rolls, and donuts.  And every time there has been a forecast for snow, and I’ve joined the crazed masses at the grocery store to stock up for the next Snowpocalypse, I have deliberately avoided buying supplies to bake.  As lazy and inactive as I have felt this winter, I’ve been trying – with varying success week-to-week – to been eating less, especially less sweets.

But a girl can only go through so many snowstorms in one winter before she has to give in to the urge to bake.  And I apparently reached my limit this weekend when word spread about the next storm to hit Maryland today.  I figured (perhaps wishful thinking) that this will be the last snowy excuse I have to bake this year.  And ever since I made these Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies at Christmas, I’ve been wanting to experiment a bit more with chocolate chip cookies.  Don’t get me wrong- those were great.  But I received Joy the Baker‘s cookbook for Christmas, and saw her recipe for Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and thought, “What if I made those and just sprinkled a little Maldon sea salt on top?”

So while I watched the snowflakes fall outside today, I spent some time sprinkling flakes of sea salt on top of balls of cookie dough.  Nick and I are pretty sure the end product is the finest cookie I have baked to date.


I was going to type up the recipe from the cookbook, but I just discovered that Joy has the recipe on her blog right here.  It’s a little different than the version in the book, but since she posted it after the book came out, I’m going to assume this version is new and improved.  She even added a step of topping them with sea salt.  Great minds think alike.  chocchipcookies2


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Christmas Recap, Part 1: The Cookies

And suddenly… it’s almost a week after Christmas. Everyone I know seems to share the same sentiments- there’s about a month of anticipation and preparation for the holidays, and then, it’s all over. I’ve been in some weird holiday-real world limbo for the last few days, where I’ve been making bargains and compromises with myself. Things like, “Let’s try to wait until after lunch to dig into the sugar cookies today” and “Put the new Kindle away for a couple hours and knock out the editing work you need to do.”

Speaking of the Kindle… Yes, I got one for Christmas. I told myself that even though I was mainly interested in it as a reading device, I should just ask for the fancy Kindle Fire so I’d have more flexibility and be able to read the colorful, glossy, digital version of Bon Appetit. However… so far, about 95% of my time with my Kindle has been playing games like Endless Escape (this involves puzzles and cleverness, so I’m not ashamed about this) and something ridiculous called Sky Burger (more ashamed about this).

Back to the cookies. As usual, I had lofty cookie aspirations this year. I bought ingredients for four types of cookies, but after making just two batches of dough, I found my cookie energy waning. After all, there were gifts to wrap and a tree that, as of December 22, was still not decorated. And I had to make these customized magnets for our friends (because they love their kitties as much as we love ours):

cat magnets

Hey, check out that Christmas card!

Thus, my Christmas to-do list required some prioritizing, and I had the freeing realization that I didn’t have to bake all the cookies before Christmas. And really, other than a tube of almond paste, all of the other ingredients could be used elsewhere if I decided I didn’t want to make the cookies at all.


Ultimately I ended up making the following:

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies.  These are the same cookies I made for our wedding. That time, I tripled the recipe and spent three days baking them. All the wedding excitement must have blocked out one key thing from my memory: I hate making sugar cookies. Don’t get me wrong- these are delicious and if you are a more patient person than I am, they are worth the effort. But what I discovered last weekend is that the process of rolling out dough, cutting out cookies only to have half of them get messed up because the dough is too soft, balling up the dough and re-chilling it, and then going through the process again was more than I felt like doing. So, sorry folks, it will probably be a while before you get more of these from me!*

Thumbprint Cookies. Made especially for my husband, who has a weakness for pretty much any sort of fruit filling when it is enclosed in a buttery, sugary womb, regardless of whether it is a homemade pie or a Pillsbury Toaster Strudel. These are not very different from the Trios I made last year, except they’re just single cookies rather than clusters of three with different fillings. In other words, these are way less tedious, which was apparently the major criterion in my cookie selection this year.

Gingery Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Are these ginger cookies masquerading as chocolate chip cookies or chocolate chip cookies disguised as ginger cookies? I think they are just the best of both worlds. I added a dash of ground ginger in addition to the candied ginger. And Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips are wonderful in these. I don’t think I can go back to Nestle.

*To be honest, not many people got cookies from me this year, and I feel guilty about that… There was some poor planning in terms of organization/storage containers/running late to family events and not having time to assemble containers to take with us. It was not my intent to bake five dozen cookies only to keep most of them for ourselves. In fact, that is exactly what I didn’t want to do. Which is why there will be another cleanse in January. More on that soon.

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Cherry, Chocolate, and Almond Ricotta Parfait and Some Disappointing Instagrams

I think I need to start eating dinner (and dessert) earlier in the evening.  Sure, the mysterious collective “they” say it’s healthier to not eat large meals past the early evening hours.  But my rationale has nothing to do with my waistline.  If I follow through with eating earlier, the only reason I’ll be doing it is for the lighting.

You see, I am not a professional blogger, nor am I a professional photographer.  It’s not like I have special lights for food photography, or even a particularly fancy camera.  And when I’m feeling really lazy, or have a last moment realization that what I’m about to eat might be blog-worthy, I’ve been documenting it via camera phone.

The problem with this is that it means there are times that I hesitate to post recipes because I don’t have photographs that do them justice.  And a lot of the time this happens because we’re eating dinner at 9pm and there’s no beautiful natural sunlight to cast a halo around the heavenly dessert I’m about to eat or to bring out an heirloom tomato’s brilliant colors that seem to disappear the second I turn a ceiling light on.

And what I end up with is a blurry photograph of a parfait topped with what look more like kalamata olives than fresh cherries.  Even the coolest Instagram filter can only do so much.


So yeah… this isn’t the prettiest or most photogenic dessert.  But it was really, really tasty.  Especially considering how easy it is.

I’m a fan of cherries and almonds together, especially when they are joined with chocolate, as evidenced by the Chocolate, Cherry, & Almond Oatmeal Cookies I made last summer.  But here’s a way to enjoy a similar combination without having to turn on the oven.

This is inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe for Sweet Ricotta with Chocolate which I made for a book club gathering last month.  It was served with berries and cinnamon-sugar pita chips.  And it only takes as much time as it takes to chop up some chocolate and stir the ingredients together.  Great thing to throw together for a gathering- easy to make ahead, transport, and since you can serve it with fruit, it’s a good option if you have gluten-free friends.

But when I finally got around to making a belated Mother’s Day dinner the other night for my mom, I wanted to do something a little fancier.  And thus, this ricotta parfait was born.

I’ve tried this once with frozen cherry and once with fresh, and I have to say, I liked the consistency of the frozen cherries better.  But maybe if you halved fresh cherries and tossed them with just a little sugar to draw out some of the juices, that would work too.

In terms of portions/servings, this recipe definitely makes enough for two parfaits plus a healthy amount of leftover ricotta to be enjoyed on its own. But you could probably get 3 or 4 parfaits out of this if you wanted to.

Cherry, Chocolate, and Almond Ricotta Parfait

One 15-16 ounce container of part skim ricotta cheese

1/8 cup sugar

1/2 tsp almond extract (or more, to taste)

1 to 1 1/2 ounce coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (I use two or three squares of a 4-ounce Ghirardelli bittersweet 60% cacao baking bar)

About 20 to 30 pitted cherries, fresh or frozen, defrosted (I think I had about 10-15 cherries per parfait)

Slivered almonds (I’d say I split about a 1/4 cup between two parfaits but this could be adjusted based on personal preference)

Drain the ricotta in a fine-mesh sieve for about 10-20 minutes, to let some of the liquid drain out.  Transfer ricotta to a bowl and stir in sugar, almond extract, and chopped chocolate until well blended.

In bowls, cups, or glasses of your choice, alternate layers of the ricotta mixture, cherries, and almonds.  My mom had wine glasses with straight sides, which worked well and looked way prettier than our clunky recycled glass tumblers.  But it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?  And when the insides are basically almond-spiked cannoli filling with cherries and taste like a lighter version of cherry cheesecake, how can you go wrong?  Oh, and I’m sorry, there are no precise measures for this part of assembly.  Embrace this opportunity to create your very own, personal ideal ratio of cherries to ricotta to almonds.


Filed under Cooking

Cocoa-Date Truffles with Pistachios and Orange

I don’t think I’ve ever compiled a list of my favorite foods (although now I am considering it) but if I did have a list, I know there would be at least one chocolate item in the top ten.  Like a sea salt brownie, or one of those fancy-schmancy chocolate bars that mixes in orange peel or cracked black pepper or bacon. Yes, bacon.

I’ve learned that keeping some high-quality chocolate items stocked around the house is a good idea.  If it’s 8:30 at night and I realize there is no chocolate around, the most convenient solution is running to 7-11 for a pint of ice cream.  But having just a couple squares of a really good chocolate is (usually) just as satisfying and (mostly) curbs the late-night ice cream runs.

Still, I’m always open to even healthier chocolatey items, so the recipe for Cocoa-Date Truffles in the June issue of Bon Appetit was interesting to me.  While typical chocolate truffles usually rely on whipping cream and chocolate with some amount of refined sugar, these truffles rely on dates to provide sweetness and something for the raw cacao to bind to. Yes, raw cacao… apparently there are some people who believe that raw cacao has more health benefits than roasted cocoa (I guess the roasting process also changes “a’s” into “o’s” and vice versa).  I have not done enough research to be an advocate of raw cacao, but since I needed to purchase cocoa/cacao anyway, and the recipe called for raw, I decided to go with it.

A couple disclaimers/warnings: 

First, just a heads up- these aren’t going to taste like those typical truffles with chocolate ganache centers.  “Well, of course they’re not!” you might reply.  To which I would respond, “Hey, there might be some people out there- intelligent people seeking graduate degrees who usually aren’t fooled by health foods masquerading as indulgent treats- who see the words ‘cocoa’ and ‘truffle’ and envision something rich, creamy, and decadent.  And said people might be shocked to discover that pureeing dates doesn’t magically transform them into something resembling ganache.  But after the initial shock wears off, said people can appreciate these date-based truffles for what they are.  Chocolatey and chewy with the perfect amount of sweetness. So… let’s not judge, okay?”

Second, if you don’t like getting your hands sticky, you’re probably not going to enjoy this.

Third, when working with a powdery substance like cocoa- ahem, cacao- powder, you might want to make sure the ceiling fan isn’t on.

Have you ever noticed that, at least in America, we seem to like things that are individualized, personalized, and customized?  If it wasn’t for this need, I don’t think we’d see vanity license plates, monogrammed L.L. Bean backpacks, or personal checks with dolphins on them.  And so these truffles are perfect, because there are a number of mix-and-match flavoring (coconut, orange zest, or espresso) and coating (more coconut, sesame seeds, pistachios, or hazelnuts) options.  So you can make these truffles your very own.

Cocoa-Date Truffles (from Bon Appetit, June 2012)

Makes about 20 (according to their website, a serving size is 2 truffles)

3 tbsp raw cacao powder

1 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted

3 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut (you can substitute 3 tbsp quick-cooking oats)

Pinch of sea salt

Flavoring: 1 tsp finely grated orange zest (you can also use 1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut or 1 tsp instant espresso powder)

Coating: 1/2 cup crushed lightly toasted pistachios (you can also use 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, 1/4 cup lightly toasted sesame seeds, or 1/2 cup crushed lightly toasted hazelnuts)

Confession: I didn’t toast my pistachios… I know toasting nuts is supposed to deepen the flavor, blah, blah, blah… but I’m too lazy for that. And I think the raw pistachios taste just fine.

Puree cacao powder, dates, 3 tbsp coconut, and salt in food processor until almost smooth, adding water by the teaspoonfuls if too dry and crumbly, and coconut by teaspoonfuls if too wet and sticky.  Add orange zest (or coconut or espresso powder) and pulse to combine.

Scoop date puree by the tablespoonful and roll into 1-inch balls. Roll truffles in pistachios (or coconut, sesame seeds, or hazelnuts) to cover.

Can be stored, covered and chilled, for up to a week.


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Good Things Come in Threes: Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies, Triple Ginger Cookies, and Trios

So, as I mentioned previously, I was striving to make five different types of Christmas cookies this year.  The other night I revised this goal.

“I think four types of cookies might be my limit,” I told Nick as I was carefully spooning (approximately) 1/88 teaspoon of apricot preserves into the indentation of a teaspoon-sized ball of dough.

“Gee, so you were only able to make four super-fancy cookie recipes while you’re also studying for final exams in graduate school?”

They are fancy cookies. They also just happen to comprise a theme of number-oriented cookies.  Two recipes that are returning from last year’s cookie repertoire have to do with the number three: Trios and Triple Ginger Cookies. (Conveniently going along with the Seven Layer Cookies… I guess I really am a math person.) So it seemed appropriate to have the newcomer be Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies. I even branched out from my comfort zone- I usually refuse to acknowledge the existence of white chocolate (I mean, it’s not really chocolate, now is it??).  But I figure if Ghirardelli makes white chocolate chips, they must not be all evil.

I’m maintaining my December laziness, and I’m just going to refer you to the links to the recipes rather than reprinting them here. Because the cookie baking might finally be done (until Nick eats all of the Trios and wants more), but I still have more gift bows to make and presents to wrap.

Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies (from Bon Appetit, December 2004 via Epicurious)

These are yummy. A little sweeter than I usually like, but hey, it’s Christmas.

Drizzling chocolate is going on my list of things that do not come naturally to me. Rather than painstakingly drizzling each individual cookie in a zig-zag pattern, I adopted a Pollack-like approach.  There were a few casualties, but mostly, they turned out well.

Also, these cookies were thinner and more delicate than I expected. This may be the less-than-amazing cookie sheets I have- I think they cause things to spread too much. But they still tasted great… just be aware that they might be a little crumbly and are probably better stored in a tin or hard container, rather than ziplock bags. And worst-case scenario, you end up with some broken cookies to sprinkle on top of ice cream.

Triple Ginger Cookies (from Bon Appetit, December 2009 via Epicurious)

These are delicious and, according to the dietary considerations guide on Epicurous, low-calorie.  (At least as far as cookies go, I guess.) A few notes- don’t freak out if you can’t find light molasses.  I could only find blackstrap molasses, and they’re fine- just a shade darker.  Also, rolling them in raw sugar (aka turbinado sugar) instead of regular sugar gives them a sparkly, festive look.

Trios (from Gourmet, December 2007 via Epicurious)

Every time I make these I am surprised by how good they are.  The dough isn’t much beyond sugar, flour, and butter, but they’re wonderfully buttery and the fruit adds a bit of tang and chewiness. It’s a shame they’re so tedious to make, because they are Nick’s favorite and go quickly. If your kitchen is like mine, and your wooden (ahem, bamboo) spoons don’t have rounded handles, and you don’t happen to have a 1/2-inch wide wooden dowel hanging around, a round lipstick tube covered in plastic wrap works perfectly.


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Not-So-Guilty Pleasures: Parks & Recreation and Fancy Hot Chocolate

Do you ever find yourself internalizing the voice of a character from a movie or television show so that when you’re thinking to yourself it’s in a voice completely distinct from your own?  (Please say yes, because otherwise I am concerned that I might have just confessed to hearing voices.)  For example, after I was watching Coupling regularly on Netflix Instant Viewing my thoughts were voiced in a British accent for days.  (This also occurred after any of the 20 times I’ve seen Love Actually.)  Even weirder?  Thinking in the voice of Riley after Nick and I had a marathon screening of The Boondocks.   The funny thing is that I am terrible when it comes to speaking out loud in different voices.  In my head I can hear them perfectly but when they come out of my mouth, it’s no good.  Imagine Joey Tribbiani’s Southern drawl that sounded more like a Jamaican accent.   It’s kind of like how I can picture myself doing a handstand, and I can even feel it, but when I attempt it, it doesn’t work out so well.  (So far, at least….)

Anyway, the reason I bring that up is that I seem to be thinking in Chris Traeger’s voice right now.  For those of you who don’t watch Parks & Rec (although you should), Chris Traeger is Rob Lowe’s excessively optimistic character who speaks very precisely and loves to use the word “literally.”

And the reason I bring that up is so you understand where I’m coming from when I say that Dagoba Xocolatl Drinking Chocolate is “literally THE best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.”  Seriously.  And it should be, since a 12-ounce can costs about $10.  (But that is 17 servings, so it’s still way cheaper than anything you’d get at Starbucks.)  It has cinnamon and chili in it, so it’s wonderfully rich and spicy.  Almost sexy, really.  If you rated hot chocolates in terms of sexiness, this would be the Johnny Depp of hot chocolate.*  With the weather finally getting chilly and hearing “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” on the radio for the first time this season, it felt like hot chocolate weather yesterday afternoon.

Do not even think of putting marshmallows in here.  If I find out that you bastardized this with marshmallows I will steal the rest of your can of drinking chocolate to protect it from further insult.  Kahlua or Bailey’s would be perfectly acceptable, however.  If it hadn’t been 2pm, and I wasn’t trying to work on a paper, I totally would have spiked it.

Back to Parks & Rec for a moment….  I cannot tell you how excited I am about Leslie and Ben getting back together.   I can tell you that it is way more excited than I should be about fictional characters.  One of the best lines from last week’s The Trial of Leslie Knope: when asked if she received benefits from dating her supervisor, Leslie’s response was that she received “adorable nicknames and amazing backrubs.”

*Feel free to insert whoever you want here.  The obvious universal ones that jumped out were Johnny Depp and George Clooney.  My personal favorites like Colin Firth and Alan Rickman just didn’t seem to fit….  Maybe if I was discussing tea….


Filed under Entertainment and Pop Culture, Food I Didn't Cook, My Crazy Mind