Chocolate Bark

This is easy baking (if you can call it that) at it’s best!  I love a dessert/cookie that looks like I’ve labored over it for hours, but in reality, there are so many shortcuts, I’m almost embarrassed to admit them.  Nonetheless, I’m a terrible liar, so when I’m asked for this recipe over and over again, I have to fess-up.  So here goes……

You will need (in any quantity you desire, but if this is your first trial, I’d suggest about 1 1/2 cups of plain unsalted almonds.  Pecans can also be used.

About 1 1/2 – 2 cups of candy making chocolate disks. These come in an assortment of colors from traditional ‘brown’ to red, green and white (great for the holidays).  In my pictures I used red and white.

Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in a 350F oven for about 20 minutes.  Turn off oven, open door slightly and leave the baking sheet with the nuts on it in the oven.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate pieces.  This is the only tricky part.  Melting or tempering chocolate must be done slowly and with very low heat otherwise the chocolate “breaks”, and becomes chunky, unspreadable and essentially unusable.  Tempering can be done with a double boiler (or one smaller pot placed in a slightly larger pot with water in it), or in the microwave on the lowest power setting.  Melt the chocolate pieces slowly, checking every 2 minutes or so to stir.  When the chocolate is smooth and stirs easily, pour it randomly over the nuts on the still slightly warm baking sheet.  Do the same with the other colors of chocolate (if using).  To get the marbelized effect, spread the chocolate lightly with a knife in a random pattern.  Next lift the baking sheet slightly and drop on the counter to get the chocolate to cover evenly.  Place in a cool area to set or in the refrigerator.  When completely cool, remove the chocolate, it should come off the baking sheet very easily.  Break into desired size pieces. Store in an airtight container.

 

Buche de Noel

 

I’ve been making this recipe for years.  My recipe comes from one of my old Family Circle cookbooks, so old the pages are yellowing from use. Such a classic dessert to present at the holiday table.  It truly looks much harder to make than it really is.  However, there are alot of steps.  The adorable meringue mushrooms add to the ‘wow’ factor.

I’ve added some of my product recommendations below as well.  I can’t say enough about using a good jelly roll pan and silpat baking mats!

Cake

1 cup flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1 tsp vanilla

confectioners sugar

chopped pistachio nuts

Coffee cream filling (recipe follows)

Chocolate butter frosting (recipe follows)

Mushroom merigues (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 15x10x1″ jelly roll pan, line with wax paper, grease.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Beat eggs at high speed until thick and creamy.  Beat in granulated sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, beating all the time until mixture is very thick.  Stir in the water and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture. Spread batter evenly onto pan. Bake 12 minutes, or until center springs back when lightly touched. Loosen around the edges and invert onto a clean towel dusted with powdered sugar. Peel off the wax paper. Starting at a long side, roll up cake, jelly roll fashion. Wrap in towel and cool completely.

Make the coffee cream filling: Combine 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp instant coffee powder and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, beat until stiff with mixer at medium.

Unroll cake carefully, spread with coffee cream filling, reroll. Place on serving platter. Cut a 1/2″ thick slice from one end of cake roll, reroll tightly to form a “knot” on a log. Position in place with toothpicks if needed.  Frost cake with chocolate butter frosting, leaving the ends open and unfrosted.  Run the tines of a fork the length of the cake and around the knot to resemble bark (see picture). Sprinkle ends of roll with pistachio nuts.  Chill until ready to serve. Decorate with mushroom meringues just before serving

Chocolate butter frosting. Melt 1/2 stick butter and 2 squares unsweetened chocolate in small saucepan. Cool slightly. Add 2 cups confectioner sugar, 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Beat until frosting is smooth.

Mushroom Meringues

2 egg whites

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp almond extract

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsals

Preheat oven to 250F. Grease two large cookie sheets and flour lightly. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and almond extract until foamy and double in volume, with mixer at high speed. Sprinkle in sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, beating until sugar dissolves completely and meringue stands in firm peaks when beaters are lifted. Attach a #10 plain tip to a pastry bag. Fill with meringue. To make mushroom caps, press out meringue in 1 1/2″ rounds. Smooth with a knife if needed but do not press down.  To make stems, hold pastry bag upright, press our meringue while gently pulling straight up on bag for about 1 1/2 “.  Bake 30 minutes or until firm, but not brown. Let stand several minutes on cookie sheets. Loosen carefully with a small knife and transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Melt chocolate in cup placed in a small skillet of hot water. Working carefully, make a small hollow in underside of each cap with the tip of a wooden spoon handle.  Fill hollow with small amount of melted chocolate, then gently press a stem into the hollow. Let stand until chocolate is firm.  Store in a tightly covered container in a dry place.

 

My all-time favorite Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

A good freind of mine brought me these for Christmas one year.  I insisted on having the recipe!  They are so delicate in flavor and the dried cranberries add just the perfect slightly chewy texture.  Warning:  They are addictive!!

3/4 cup confectioners sugar

1 cup unsalted butter softened

1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup dried cranberries (chopped)*

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

Cream sugar, butter and salt.  Blend in cranberries and vanilla.  Mix in the flour.  Roll our and cut into squares (or shapes).  Bake 13-18 minutes in preheated 325 degree oven on parchment paper lined cookie sheet until pale brown.

*A coffee bean grinder works well to chop the cranberries.

Easy One Bowl Chocolate Cake

I like to make this cake as a great after school treat.  I bake it in a decorative bundt type pan and dust with powder sugar.  So simple and satisfying with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

2 Cups sugar

1 3/4 Cup flour

3/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 Cup milk

1/2 Cup vegetable oil

2 tsp. vanilla

1 Cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour bundt type pan or 2, 9″ rounds.  In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt.  Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed.  Stir in the boiling water last.  Batter will be thin.  Pour into prepared pan and bake 30-35 min. or until cake tests done with toothpick.  Cool approx. 10 minutes then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Spiced Nuts

This is a terrific recipe from Marcus Samuelsson.  These nuts have just the right amount of spice and sugar. Warning, you may not be able to control yourself.  These also make great hostess gifts presented in a pointy shaped plastic goody bag, available at most craft stores, tied with decorative ribbon.

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews

1/2 cup peeled and blanched whole almonds

1/2 cup walnut halves

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 tbsp. light brown sugar

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add nuts, cinnamon, salt, paprika and cayenne and cook, stirring often, until nuts are fragrant and golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Crumble sugar over nuts and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is melted and coats nuts, about 3 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and serve warm, or cool and store in an airtight container at room temp. For up to 1 week.

Baked Apples

 

 

Here’s a recipe that is not only delicious and fresh tasting, but easy enough to have the kids assemble, or at least help out with!  The ingredients are not measured as I make them per apple according to desired taste. I bake my apples in specially designed apple bakers – a ceramic dish with a spike in the middle that holds the apple upright*, however, they can just as easily be baked in a small casserole or other oven safe dish.

You will need:

apples (however many desired – one per person) cored and peeled leaving one strip of peel around the middle.  Preferably cortlands or macintosh.

brown sugar

cinnamon and nutmeg

butter

oatmeal

maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350F. If using ‘apple bakers’, place each apple in an apple baking dish, otherwise place the apples side by side in a small casserole or other baking dish.  Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg over the tops.  Fill each apple core with brown sugar and pack down, then top with a pat of butter.  Combine oatmeal and more butter to create a loose crumble. Place about a tablespoon of this mixture on top of each apple. Pour a small amount, about 1 tablespoon of maple syrup over each apple (it will roll off as well as soak into the brown sugar). Place the apples into the oven and bake for approx 45 min.  Keep an eye on them, depending on the type of apple you use, they could over-bake and fall apart.  Take out, allow to cool slightly.  Drizzle with some more maple syrup. Serve warm with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

* You can find apple bakers on my shop The Hive Shop. See the link on this page.

Apple Dumplings

This is a recipe that perhaps conjures up images of the traditional farmhouse kitchen, aprons, and the faint residue of flour on the countertops.  Try this as a great weekend dessert using fresh from the orchard apples.

Four to five small to medium sized apples (cortland or empire work nicely) cored and peeled

1 package pre-made pie crusts

Brown sugar

Cinnamon

Cider for basting on top and course sugar

Preheat oven to 400F.

Roll out the pie crusts one at a time on a lightly floured counter per package directions.

Cut the dough into approx. 5-5 1/2″ squares, use scraps to roll out the next square and so on.

Working with one apple at a time, place in the center of a square of dough. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and fill the core with brown sugar.  Fold up the dough one corner at a time, using a little water to get the dough to stick to itself at the top.  I usually take the apple at this point in my hand and squeeze it gently like a softball to be sure it is evenly coated.  Repeat with the remaining apples.

Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Brush with apple cider and sprinkle with the course sugar.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove and allow to cool slightly, serve warm with maple ice cream……Heaven!

Raspberry Granola bars

Due to many likes on twitter I feel I need to share this recipe…

2 sticks of unsalted butter – softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

12 oz. raspberry jam

2/3 cup granola

1/4 cup sliced almonds

preheat oven to 350F. With electric mixer cream the butter and sugar just until combined.  Add vanilla. Combine the flour and salt and slowly add to the butter mixture.  Mix until dough almost forms a ball.  Lightly pat about 2/3 of the dough evenly on the bottom of a 9″ square baking pan and about 1/2″ up the sides.  Spread with jam.  Mix the granola into the remaining dough by hand.  Break into small bits and spread on top of jam, covering most of the surface.  Sprinkle the almonds on top.  Bake at 350 for approx. 45 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool completely and cut into bars.