Tag Archives: Black Onyx Cocoa

High Fire Danger & Chocolate To Calm My Nerves

My mind is distracted and I feel paralyzed to do anything productive.  It is only the end of March and we are already in high fire danger, which is incredible considering we’ve had over 8 feet of snow in our area since October (remember we were sledding through the snow on our property in January?).  I find myself checking the weather and news reports frequently and I gaze out our front windows to see if the fire plumes have flared up again.  On Monday a fire developed in the Lower North Fork area of Conifer, a neighboring community.  We had powerful wind gusts up to 40 mph that fueled the fire in this beautiful area of Colorado.  It started as a few acres, grew to 100 acres, and by the end of the day the fire had engulfed an astonishing 3,800 acres.

This was the view from our front deck on Monday afternoon; the white on the ground at the bottom right is snow!  As of this afternoon, the fire is 15% contained and over 20 homes have been lost, as well as 2 people.  My stomach is in knots and I feel the devastation in my soul.  I can’t help but think of my neighbor’s loss, the animals and wildlife that have been displaced – or lost – and the stunning mountainsides that have been forever altered. My worry is all-consuming yet I cannot control Mother Nature.  My mind is reeling from the what if questions: what if the winds pick up (they are supposed to this evening) and the embers start a new fire, what if WE have to evacuate – aside from the financial documents, computers, pictures and limited personal effects, how do we choose what to save, what if we experience more fires later in the season…..WHAT IF?!!  So to calm my nerves, I turned to chocolate hoping to provide my troubled mind with some respite.  Chocolate makes everything better, right?

For something chocolate, I decided to modify my whoopie pie recipe for an easy, sweet treat.  They are moist and cake-like, and the perfect companion for some pistachios and chocolate chips.  There is no filling as with the whoopie pies and they are pure comfort for the mind and soul, if only for a bit.  I cut the recipe in half, used coconut oil instead of shortening and made smaller cookies.  The chocolate chips add a gooey goodness and the pistachios offer a nutty crunch with some bright color on top.  Delicious and just what I needed!

Thanks to everyone who has called to check in on our safety, we appreciate it!  For now, life goes on and we hope that the heroic fire fighters can protect our neighborhoods and quickly get this fire under control.  We are in for a long fire season, which forces us to face reality and prepare ourselves and our home with an evacuation plan.  Our thoughts are with the families who have been affected by this tragic fire. 

On a much lighter note: I’ve been nominated!
Saveur magazine is currently accepting nominations for the best food blog awards.  Nominate your favorite blog today (click here) – Hurry, the deadline for entries is March 29 and the winners will be announced April 5!
If you need it, my blog URL is: https://foodiefortwo.wordpress.com/

Eat well and share the love! 

Chocolate Pistachio Cookies (print recipe)
Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies: makes about 12 cookies

Ingredients:
Dry Ingredients
½ cup flour
1 tablespoon Dutch cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons black onyx cocoa
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Batter
1 egg yolk
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil (naturally refined, organic)
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup milk
3 tablespoons chopped pistachios, reserve 1 tablespoon for topping
1 tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon 60% cacao chocolate chips

Directions:
Dry Ingredients:  Sift the flour, cocoa powders, baking soda and baking powder into a medium bowl or glass measuring cup and add the salt. If you don’t have a sifter, just use a wire whisk and whisk all ingredients together until well incorporated and no lumps remain. Set aside.

Batter:  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Add the egg yolk to a large glass bowl and mix with a hand-mixer on low setting until yolk is fluffy and light yellow, about 30 seconds.  Add in sugar, coconut oil and vanilla and mix on low until well blended.  Turn mixer off and add in the flour mixture and milk.  Blend on low until just mixed; if needed at the end, scrape down sides with a rubber spatula and gently fold batter together.  Add 2 tablespoons pistachios and the chocolate chips and fold in with the spatula. 

Heat the oven to 375º and let the batter sit for 10 minutes – this helps the cookies have a fluffier interior and hold their lift.

Using a small cookie scoop (OXO #60, 2 teaspoons) or a tablespoon, add 6 scoops of batter to the sheet pan, at least 2 inches apart, and sprinkle some chopped pistachios on top; cook for 9 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a rack to cool and repeat with remaining batter.

  • If you don’t have black onyx cocoa (rich and intense flavor, lower fat) substitute Dutch cocoa

Another good distraction for me, watching my bulbs and tulips grow!  I forgot to save the bulb bags and don’t remember which varieties I planted.  I look forward to the surprise.

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Mom’s Whoopie Pies are the Best!

I don’t think I have ever told you that I have an incredible sweet tooth and chocolate is my favorite.  I’ve talked about how olives and fried foods make my world go around but I don’t recall ever saying out loud with a smile that I LOVE SWEETS.  Interestingly, many of my blog posts have featured desserts; so far, 21% have covered this lovely topic.  We grew up with desserts after dinner and I always looked forward to whatever was waiting on the counter, especially a whoopie pie – it wasn’t that often, which made them even more special.  These little delights are an old (from when I was growing up old) recipe from our Mom. They’re made from two moist and rich dark chocolate cake-like cookies that are layered between a sweet and fluffy buttercream filling.  It’s all homemade and tastes like pure comfort, individual cakes that you can’t help but savor. 

The cookie dough worked perfectly at my altitude and cooked in 10 minutes.  The cookies are full of deep chocolate flavor thanks to black onyx cocoa.  Also, using a good Dutch cocoa along with it really pays off in taste factor.  The recipe makes a few more cookies than what is needed for the pies, but who doesn’t love chocolate cake cookies with their morning coffee or tea?   I found that the cookies had fluffier interiors and held their lift if the batter sat for 15 to 20 minutes before scooping.  And my 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop (OXO #40) was perfect for consistent size cookies, plus made it easy to release the batter onto the sheet pan.

When I got this recipe from my sister she included a note that read in part…as written by a teen copied from Mom’s recipe cards.  I worked my magic, reconfigured the format and cut the recipe in half.  The recipe test was a huge success and the cookies were just like I remembered. Nice.  The whoopie pies are simple to assemble – two cookies are turned over, one cookie gets a dollop of dreamy filling and it’s topped with the other cookie.  Wow, these whoopie pies are special treats that will warm anyone’s heart.  Just to make sure, I ate (inhaled) several of them and can confirm that statement!  Long live dessert, and chocolate.

Eat well and share the love!

Whoopie Pies
Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two      
Serves two foodies: makes about 6 to 7 pies, 16 chocolate cookies

Ingredients:
Cookies
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa
1 tablespoon black onyx cocoa
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup shortening
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup milk

Icing (enough for 6 to 7 pies)
1 egg white
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly melted and cooled

Directions:
Dry Ingredients:
Sift the flour, cocoa powders, baking soda and baking powder into a medium bowl or glass measuring cup and add the salt.  Mix together with a fork.  If you don’t have a sifter, just use a wire whisk and whisk all ingredients together until well incorporated and no lumps remain.  Set aside.

Batter:
Heat oven to 375 degrees F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or silpat. 
Add egg yolks to a large glass bowl and mix with a hand-mixer on low setting until yolks are fluffy and light yellow, about 2 minutes.  Add in sugar, shortening and vanilla and mix on low until well blended.  Turn mixer off and add in the flour mixture and milk.  Blend on low until just mixed; if needed at the end, scrape down sides with a rubber spatula and gently fold batter together.  Let batter sit for 15 to 20 minutes (helps cookies have fluffier interior and hold their lift).

Using a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop (OXO #40), add 8 scoops of batter to the sheet pan (evenly spaced, at least 2 inches apart) and cook for 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool and repeat with remaining batter. Save the lined sheet pan to assemble the cookies later.

Icing:
Add egg white to a medium glass bowl and whisk vigorously with a wire whisk until it doubles in volume and becomes white, about 1 minute or so (your arm gets a work out here but it helps make the frosting fluffy).  Add the sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, salt and butter and lightly whisk together until smooth and silky.

Assembly:
Gather 12 to 14 cookies on the sheet pan.  Turn over 2 cookies and add 1 ½ tablespoons filling to 1 cookie. Top with the other cookie, bottom side down.  Place on a platter and repeat with the remaining cookies.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat, as well as any leftovers.  Whoopie Pies will keep refrigerated for up to two days.

Double Chocolate Walnut Brownies

This brownie recipe has been a favorite in my kitchen for over ten years and is the best one I have tasted that’s made from scratch.  There are lots of great recipes for brownies, don’t get me wrong.  But with the altitude up here, it is hard to find baking recipes that come out consistently every time.  These brownies are full-on chocolate with a cake-like texture, but still moist and rich like a brownie should be.  I decided they needed a little extra szoosh so chocolate chips are added to the warm brownies; the chips melt and then get spread over the top to make an instant frosting.  The brownies rank up there with my chocolate chip cookie recipe (click here to read blog post) and make me just as happy. 

For me, the kind of cocoa (and chocolate) I use makes a flavor difference.  I recently discovered black onyx cocoa (left side of picture) at my favorite local spice store, Savory Spice, and love the richness and intense flavor it adds.  The flavor is strong so I still use regular cocoa to balance it out.  It’s also great in my chocolate layer cake and chocolate mousse.  To learn more about the cocoa making process, I went to Cook’s Illustrated website: “Chocolate and cocoa come from chocolate liquor, a paste made from beans scooped from the pods of the tropical cacao tree. The beans are fermented, roasted, shelled, and ground into a paste. Half fat (cocoa butter) and half cocoa solids, the paste is hardened in molds. Some is sold as unsweetened baking chocolate. The rest is fed into hydraulic presses to remove up to three-quarters of its fat, then pulverized and called cocoa powder.  
Beans destined for life as Dutched cocoa have one extra stop between shelling and grinding. The shelled beans (or nibs) are soaked in an alkaline (low-acid) solution, usually potassium carbonate. They’re pressed, pulverized, and dried–and Dutch-processed cocoa powder is born.  Check out the links below for more reading on cocoa nibs and the cocoa manufacturing process. 

Baking a whole pan of brownies is tempting and would be easy for me to do a number on, but in favor of my waistline I reduced the recipe to an 8” x 8” baking dish.  The original recipe makes a 9” x 13” pan and is perfect for parties; just double the recipe below (except the eggs, use 3 large).   I also like to get a visual of what my taste buds can expect so half of the walnuts are added to the batter and the rest are sprinkled on top.  With the added melted chocolate chips for a frosting, they are absolutely divine. 

Eat well and share the love!

More reading on the cocoa making process:
Cooks Illustrated – Cocoa basics and natural versus Dutch cocoa
Ghiradelli – Cocoa Bean
Ghiradelli – Cocoa Manufacturing

Double Chocolate Walnut Brownies
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two 
(Adapted from recipe “Best All American Brownies”)
Serves two foodies – makes 16 to 18 small brownies
325 degree F oven   Prep Time: 15 minutes    Cooking Time: 25-30 mins

Ingredients:
¼ pound unsalted butter (1/2 stick, or 4 tablespoons)
½ cup plus 6 teaspoons flour, sifted
¼ cup Dutch cocoa, sifted
6 teaspoons black onyx cocoa, sifted
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 small eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
Topping
1/3 cup chocolate chips (mixture of semi-sweet & 60% cacao)
¼ cup walnuts, chopped

Directions:
Batter
Heat oven to 325 degrees F and butter an 8” x 8” baking pan.  Combine the sifted flour and cocoa, baking powder and salt. 

To a large bowl, add the eggs and vanilla and beat with a hand-mixer on low until foamy – about 2 minutes.  While beaters are still on, slowly pour in the sugar and beat until blended; pour in the melted butter and continue beating until well blended.  Add the flour mixture and beat on low until well mixed.  Stir in the walnuts with a rubber spatula.  Pour into prepared pan and scrape the sides with rubber spatula to remove all the batter. 

Bake & Enjoy
Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until brownies just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Let cool for 5 minutes and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top; let sit for 5 minutes to allow the chips to melt.  Spread the chocolate around the top, sprinkle with the reserved walnuts and let brownies cool completely.

Cut into small squares or diamonds (make two cuts vertically and two cuts horizontally; starting in the middle of one corner, make a cut through the middle of the brownie and continue down – repeat for remaining brownie squares).

  • Doubling the recipe: Double all ingredients except eggs; use 3 large eggs.  Cook in greased 9” x 13” baking dish as listed above.