Tag Archives: Chocolate

Check Mark for Life List #2 & Chocolate Melting Cake

(Life List #2: Zip line through a forest canopy)

Last week we got away and took a cruise to the Caribbean to celebrate my niece’s graduation, and my birthday happened to fall during the trip – not too shabby!  The week was just what we needed – no thinking required, fun and relaxing.  And it was exciting because I was able to check something off my life list: zip line through a forest canopy.  It’s otherwise known as a bucket list, which sounds so depressing to me. These are things that I want to do during my life to enhance and enrich it, not just when I am older.  There are over 30 things scribbled in my little book so far and new things will be added along the way.

We signed up for a zip line in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and a hike up Dunn’s River Falls with our niece, Sara (we are so proud that she just graduated from Brandeis University, summa cum laude with highest honors!). 

It was a thrill to experience it and rewarding to check off my list (pictures right, and below: the walk back after the zip line).  Something else exciting was diving in Grand Cayman where I conquered my lingering fear/hesitation with the sport.  After all, with about 30 dives logged so far I have a lot to be proud of, and have gazed upon some beautiful sights underwater. Next goal: log 50 dives.  As you can see, there is a lot to celebrate and chocolate is just the thing.  On board the cruise ship, we had the Chocolate Melting Cake every night after dinner – sometimes one to ourselves, and on other nights one for the table to share.  And we always ordered it with a scoop of ice cream, usually vanilla.

We were lucky enough to get the recipe for the Chocolate Melting Cake during a “behind the scenes” ship tour for the guys, which was an unexpected treat! The cake is pure chocolate, with a warm and gooey center that coats your spoon as you dig in the middle. Scoops of your favorite ice cream create a sublime finish – any flavor will do, really. I used Häagen Daz Caramel Cone and Mint Chip. For two people (3 servings) I cut the recipe in half, which is perfect for us. It’s easy to make and cooks in about 10 minutes. Any leftover cake is great the next day after a 20 second warm up in the microwave.

Do you have a list? Have you checked anything off recently? I would love to hear about it. Cheers to having adventures in life, and lots of chocolate to celebrate!  And a huge thanks to Beth, Steve and Sara for inviting us along for the ride, we had a blast!
Eat well and share the love!

Chocolate Melting Cake (print recipe)
Recipe: Adapted from Carnival Cruise Lines, June 2012
Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Prep Time: 7 minutes; Cooking time: 12 minutes / Total cooking time: about 19 minutes

Ingredients:
3 ounces unsalted butter (5 tablespoons), plus ½
tablespoon, softened, for greasing ramekins
3 ounces chocolate: 2 ounces 60% cacao chips and 1 ounce
semi-sweet chocolate chips (about ½ cup total)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 ounces sugar (about 1/3 cup)
1 ounce flour (about 6 tablespoons)

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 390º and grease 3 ramekins with soft butter, set aside.

Add 5 tablespoons butter to a small saucepan and turn heat to medium-low. When the butter is half melted, stir in the chocolate chips and continue stirring until the chocolate has just melted. Turn off heat and remove pan from heat; let cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, add the eggs and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and mix well for 1 minute. Add the flour and whisk well until all the flour is completely mixed in. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and mix until it is smooth and incorporated.

Pour the batter evenly into the three greased ramekins, about ¼ inch from the top. Cook for 12 to 12½ minutes until the top of the cake is just firm and the cake still has a slight jiggle.

Remove ramekins from oven and let cool slightly. Serve with small scoops of your favorite ice cream or gelato.

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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.

Mom’s Chocolate Pudding and Sci-Fi

Most of my life memories have to do with food, usually a flavor, an aroma, a favorite recipe, or gatherings around a meal.  My first food memory is from when I was about five years old.  Our Mom has always liked to cook and bake; her desserts were something I always looked forward to.  When we were kids she would make chocolate pudding for us and serve it in Tupperware parfait cups, the kind where the bottom stand snapped on.  After dinner I remember sitting on the living room floor in front of the television (surely a safe distance away) with my siblings Cheryl and Robert, savoring every spoonful of pudding while watching Lost in Space.  Wow!  I was in kid heaven, eating homemade chocolate pudding and watching a fantasy television show.  The family was lost and traveling in a spaceship to different planets with a walking robot (Danger, Will Robinson!) to protect them, and an annoying man named Dr. Smith who was always causing trouble.  Back then, there weren’t many shows like that on the airwaves.  I am still a huge fan of science fiction, chocolate pudding, and any meal Mom cooks for me. 

I do more cooking than baking so I didn’t have a pudding recipe on hand.  My Mom was always using her Betty Crocker Cookbook when we were kids; in fact she told me she still uses the same book today even though it is falling apart.  The pudding she made was either a Jell-O mix or from scratch using the Betty Crocker recipe.  For the official pudding description, I consulted one of my reference books, “The Professional Chef” by Wayne Gisslen.  The two most popular types of pudding are starch-thickened (cream pudding, pastry cream) where flour or cornstarch is used as a thickener and eggs are tempered into a hot cream mixture, and baked (custards, pots de crème, crème brulee) where egg yolks are used as the thickener and the mixture is baked in the oven without stirring, usually in a water bath.  Chocolate pudding is just vanilla pudding with chocolate added.  Spoon, please!

These are the only ingredients you’ll need for this yummy goodness!  I modified the Betty Crocker recipe, which only takes about 15 minutes to make on the stove top (at least an hour in the refrigerator to cool) and most of the work is just stirring the mixture.  This one is super simple in my book.  Instead of using unsweetened cocoa and more sugar as most recipes call for, I used my favorite bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate chips for a rich and deep chocolate flavor.   Another thanks to Mom for introducing me to Tahitian Vanilla extract a few years ago, which I used in this recipe.  This brand, in my opinion, has the best tasting Tahitian Vanilla around. The flavor is deep but not muddy, with a wonderful floral scent.  It’s also divine in fresh whipped cream, which would be a great garnish for this pudding.

Some like the thick coating or “skin” that develops on the top when the pudding cools.  I prefer it without; to prevent it from forming just lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the warm pudding before putting in the refrigerator to cool. 

To stir the pudding, I like using a silicone-coated wire whisk rather than a spoon or wire whisk.  While working at the catering company, I learned on the third consecutive try that the type of pan, whisk and whisking action can react with the egg yolks and turn your crème anglaise an ugly grey color.  So to be safe and keep my pans scratch-free, I always use the coated whisk.

Pudding is definitely a comfort food for me and reminds me of the simple pleasures in life.  And thank goodness for sci-fi to inspire our imagination and take us to faraway lands.  Enjoy!

Click on link for recipe: Chocolate Pudding

 
 

Hooray for Chocolate Chip Cookies (and Ruth Graves Wakefield)!

There is nothing like taking a bite out of the perfect chocolate chip cookie, savoring every chew and then washing it down with ice-cold milk.  My whole outlook on life can be transformed in one bite. The last few years I have been on a quest to perfect the recipe for these soul-satisfying morsels, one that tasted and cooked consistently each time.  As Americans we can be proud to know the chocolate chip cookie originated in Massachusetts and is credited to Ruth Graves Wakefield from the Tollhouse Inn.  In the 1930’s she developed the recipe while making Butter Drop cookies; it is unclear whether the cookies were the product of a kitchen mishap where pieces of a Nestle chocolate bar ended up in the batter, or an intentional creation by a chef who understood the science of chocolate and how it retained its texture when cooked.   The cookies became a local sensation which led to an agreement with Nestle to use her recipe on their candy bars.  The candy bar was later turned into chocolate bits that we know today as chocolate chips and it still has Ruth’s Tollhouse recipe on each bag. 

When I worked at the catering company I always sighed when chocolate chip cookies were on my daily food prep list because the recipe yielded over 250 cookies!  After the dough was made it all had to be scooped out into balls (boy, was my arm sore!).  If not, it was impossible to scoop out the cold, hard dough each time we needed to make a batch of cookies for an event. I thought this was a brilliant technique to use at home.  This recipe makes over 40 cookies and I can’t have that many staring at me because I know I’ll gobble them up.  

So instead of baking them all at once, I place all the scoops of dough on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, cover them completely with enough plastic wrap so it qualifies for the catering death wrap –  encased top and bottom with a few sheets of plastic wrap to ensure freshness – and freeze them.  The next day I transfer them to a large Ziploc bag and store them in the freezer.  The frozen dough will last about a month (they all usually get eaten way before then) and I can satisfy my sweet tooth with something homemade in a few minutes.

 

I use a medium OXO scoop which holds about 1 ½ tablespoons of batter. 

 

Sometimes I will toast the walnuts to add another layer of flavor in the dough.  Here’s how: either chop them or break them up with your fingers into bite-size pieces.  Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the walnuts; toast for about 5 minutes until they start to turn a dark golden color and become fragrant.  Stir often, every 30 seconds or so, and put them on a timer because they burn very quickly and it’s easy to get distracted.  Let cool before adding to the dough.

I like my cookies to have some density to them with a slightly crispy outside and a chewy inside.  I found that you can put the frozen cookie balls directly into the oven (I use my convection setting) and they come out perfect every time – they have just enough rise and don’t flatten out.  I also recommend using parchment paper to line your sheet pan; the cookies don’t stick, they cook evenly all the way through and the cleanup is easy.  You can find parchment paper in your grocery store, usually next to the tin foil.  Here is the recipe for this irresistible American Classic.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Recipe makes about 40 cookies; reduce by half for 20 cookies
375 degree oven


2 ½ cups flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 teaspoons water
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Sift the flour into a bowl, add the baking soda and salt and mix together with a fork.

In a large bowl add the butter and mix on low speed with a hand mixer for 30 seconds to break it up.  Add the sugars and vanilla and mix on low for about a minute until well incorporated.  Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each one is added.   

Add the flour mixture along with 2 teaspoons water and mix well on low speed.  Add the chocolate chips and walnuts and mix together using a strong spoon until well incorporated.  Scoop out all the cookie dough into balls and freeze the extras for later use (see directions above). 

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place 8 cookie scoops on it, evenly spaced.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.  Rotate the sheet pan at 8 minutes for even browning.  Let cool for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.