Chocolate Gelato

July 20, 2011

I didn’t buy Will a present this year, but I did make him one. No, it was not a coupon for free hugs. I told him I’d make create a chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings. Everything would be a surprise. Thinking of a menu was a fun challenge! While I wanted to do something elaborate, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t too overwhelming and that most of it was make ahead so a) I didn’t cry, causing Will to spend part of his birthday consoling me and b) I could actually enjoy the meal without worry about the next course. I had a great time pouring over cookbooks and websites, and eventually decided on a menu. To start, I made a salad of warm figs, goat cheese, arugula, and a balsamic reduction. The main was Cacio e Pepe (homemade spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and black pepper). For dessert, I knew Will would most prefer something very chocolate-y, but I also didn’t want it to be too heavy, and I wanted it to be seasonally appropriate. So I busted out my brand spanking new ice cream maker (thanks for the wedding present, Kyle!) and made the richest, chocolate-iest frozen dessert I have ever tasted. Thank you David Lebovitz!

We did something else that was very fun last week as well. Several months ago, I found a Groupon for 70% off a whitewater rafting trip (wetsuit and complimentary disc of photos included). We decided to cash it in and spend it last week.

The Groupon was from Buffalo Joe’s Rafting. Before I’d bought the Groupon, I looked up reviews of the company to make sure they weren’t advertising tickets due to a sketchy safety record or anything. All the reviews were great, and I’d like to add one more glowing comment to the bunch. We had an amazing time rafting with them and would definitely like to return for another trip (hopefully with another Groupon, but maybe without one too). We did the Browns Canyon Full Day package. The guides were very knowledgeable and fun and we felt like we were in really good hands. And they had a pretty killer lunch too. We pulled the raft over to a little beach where they grilled steaks and corn on the cob. It was an awesome day, and it brought us closer to the unfortunate realization that some of the most fun things are expensive. Sigh. Back to work, I suppose.

CHOCOLATE GELATO (from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert)

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

5 oz (140 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process

1 cup (250 ml) plus 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup (150 g) sugar

4 large egg yolks

Recipe

Place chocolate in a big bowl.

Whisk cocoa, 1 cup of the milk, and salt together in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then pour it over the chocolate and make sure to get any remaining liquid out with a spatula. Stir the chocolate mixture until it is smooth and all chocolate has melted. Place a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

Use the same saucepan to warm the other 1 cup of milk and the sugar, and stir until sugar dissolves.

In a different bowl, whisk egg yolk together. Then whisk constantly as you slowly add a bit of the warm milk/sugar mixture. Pour warm yolks into the saucepan with the rest of the milk.sugar mixture. Turn the heat to low, stir constantly, and occasionally scrape the contents off the bottom of the pan using heatproof spatula. Stir until the mixture thickens up enough that it coats the spatula. Then, pour the custard you’ve made through the strainer placed atop the chocolate mixture, then stir them until they are smooth.

Place bowl with chocolate custard into an even bigger bowl filled with ice. Stir, stir, stir the custard until its cool (this will take a while, like 10 minutes for me, so you may want to bring a magazine). Once cool, cover the mixture with Saran or foil and refrigerate until its very cold.

Freeze in your ice cream machine using the manager’s instructions.

Did you wake up this morning and say, Gee, ice cream is great but I really wish it could make me drunk. Well today must be your lucky day!

I love love love ice cream, and got very excited to find that I could make my very own ice cream at home despite not having a machine. How does this work? you ask? Simple. ALCOHOL. Which does not freeze. (I forgot who of my friends told me their mom makes “wine slushies” by putting wine in the freezer and then eating it with a spoon. Please identify yourself, source, so I can give you credit for the story I can’t stop telling people).

I don’t remember the last time I screwed up a recipe as epically as I screwed up this one. I misread the recipe in a serious way. I thought the recipe contained 1 cup and 2 tablespoons rum AND 1 cup and 2 tablespoons Bailey’s. That’s almost 15 shots for a recipe that serves 6. It turns out the original recipe contains 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Baileys and a mere 3 tablespoons rum. Oops.

I have to tell you that I didn’t like this ice cream very much. But it’s not the recipe. It’s me. I messed it up. A lot. First like this.

That’s what happens when the food processor isn’t screwed on tight enough. After this happened, I rationalized adding extra banana and milk to make up for the lost chocolate (I am too deep in this recipe to run to the store, I thought. It made sense at the time). Despite my incompetence, this actually tasted like chocolate and bananas, but all that rum really made it taste like ALCOHOL too.

This basically tasted like a chocolate-y, banana-y frozen drink. I didn’t care for it but a lot of my friends really liked it. I’m going to write the recipe the way I made it to remain true to form, but I strongly recommend that you try David Lebovitz’s original version, which I am sure is much more delicious. To make the recipe the way he intended it, substitute 3 tablespoons dark rum for the 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (zoops!) that I used.

And of course, no post on a Chocolate and Banana treat would be complete without a reference to Arrested Development.

CHOCOLATE BANANA ICE CREAM (adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert)

Seriously, don’t make this the way I made it unless you want to make ice cream solely for the purpose of getting faded. Use 3 tablespoons dark rum, not the 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons I used.

Serves 6

Ingredients

6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole or low fat milk

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur, such as Bailey’s Irish Cream

3 very ripe medium bananas

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark rum

Recipe

Create a double boiler.* Place chocolate and milk in your small, heatproof bowl. Stir every now and then until chocolate is melted and has no lumps. Take bowl off heat.

Pour Bailey’s into a blender or food processor. Add bananas, rum, and the melted chocolate+milk and blend until smooth.

Pour this into a shallow plastic container, cover with lid, and freeze until if solidifies enough to be scooped (at least 8 hours, ideally overnight).

*Place a small, heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove.

Chocolate Guinness Cake

March 12, 2011

The sad news: I will miss St. Patty’s day this year. The awesome news: BECAUSE WE ARE GOING TO VEGAS! The sad news is not sad after all, now is it??

I am so excited. Will and I went to Vegas last year and had a blast, but this year will be even more fun because 8 of our good friends will be joining us! Sequined shirts have been purchased. Gold lame skirts have been purchased. Friends from near and far are coming. I have been practicing walking long distances in my high heels and I have stocked up on sunscreen. I am ready.

But the only thing I might have missed would have been baking a cake I have been dying to make for the last 6 months. Namely, Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Guinness Cake. Pretty cool idea, huh? Fortunately, my friend Bryce, who is a serious lover of beer, had a birthday on Friday. Chocolate Guinness Cake seemed a fitting tribute to a day in his honor.

It was delicious. The cake itself is just slightly sweet, and tangy and rich from the Guinness. I highly recommend accompanying a slice with a glass of stout. The two bring out each other’s flavors in ways I’ve only experienced in a carefully selected wine pairing.

In other news, Will and I went on our first hike since the fall. It was a cloudy day, and only about 40 degrees but it was still nice.

We’ll be going on them often now that it’s almost to be spring. But not for a little while. Because Vegas is on the horizon!

To read more about last year’s Vegas Vacation, click here for Part I and Part II.

CHOCOLATE GUINNESS CAKE (adapted only slightly from Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Guinness Cake)

Cake Ingredients

1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into slices (for easy melting)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Recipe

Preheat over to 350 F. Butter and line a 9 inch springform pan.

Heat a large and wide saucepan over medium low heat. Add the Guinness and and the butter to the pan. After the butter melts, add the cocoa and sugar and blend with a whisk. Whisk sour cream, eggs, and vanilla together, then add to the pan with the beer mixture. Whisk in the flour and baking soda and turn off the heat.

Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour (my cake took 47 minutes). Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack (it is a wet cake, and will fall apart if removed from the pan when still hot).

After the cake cools, place onto a serving platter. Whip the cream cheese until just smooth and fluffy (about one minute). Sift confectioner’s sugar over the cream cheese, then beat them together. Add the cream and beat it again until you’ve achieved the desired consistency, (spreadable, but still can stand on its own).

Ice just the top of the cake so it will look like the froth on top of a nice pint of Guinness.


Candy making and baking are my happy places. I love cooking, too, but I am rarely as content in the kitchen as I am carefully measuring ingredients on my food scale, brushing pastry lightly with egg, or spreading icing oh-so-precisely. On stressful days at work, I fantasize about leaving nursing to work in a pastry shop. I imagine myself waking up early to pipe frosting onto striking layer cakes, to whip eggs into towering peaks, to bask in the sheen of my perfect chocolate ganache.

I can see the toddlers storming in, begging their mother for just one more cookies. Ladies who lunch gawk at my beautiful fruit tarts and are stunned to find they taste even better than they look. People ask…no… BEG the cashier to allow them to meet the culinary genius who created these marvelous treats! But time cannot permit such mingling. All the while I chuckle quietly in my corner, my face and hair streaked with pastry flour, wondering why anyone would ever want to be Santa Claus when you could be a pastry chef! The pastry chef brings the true meaning of joy to all who enter her store. The toddlers! The ladies! The plucky old woman who loves my perfect caramel–

Aaaand the fantasy stops here. Caramel is one of my favorite all time desserts. It is also my Everest. I have never made a good batch of caramel. My caramel always tastes great but it always comes out too hard, too chewy. Make that jaw-achingly chewy. Which some diplomatic friends point out, “That means it lasts longer!” Aw, I have such nice friends.

I adjust for altitude. I make sure my pan and spatula are spotless. I watch the stove like a hawk. Still too chewy. But when I looked in my fridge to find some heavy cream and salted butter, I thought I’d try a nice salted caramel sauce to indulge my caramel craving.

In the 6 previous times I’ve made caramel, it has never, ever crystallized. When I made this sauce, it crystallized. Like crazy. And the part that wasn’t crystallized was way too thin. I tried to let it set in the fridge, but that only resulted in a half-soupy, half-crystallized (but great tasting!) mix. I really wanted to use it, but I couldn’t figure out how to mask the imperfect texture. But then I remembered some toasted coconut left over from brigadeiros I made last week. A few pretzels in the cabinet. And some almonds. And I recalled David Lebovitz’s recipe for Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Caramel Cups. And lo and behold, a delicious use for my imperfect, crystallized caramel was born.

I filled some cups with toasted coconut caramel, some with toasted almond caramel, and others with crushed pretzel caramel.

Maybe someday I’ll conquer my caramel disability. But until then, these will do just fine.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED SALTED CARAMEL CUPS (adapted from David Lebovitz’s Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Caramel Cups)

Ingredients

12 ounces (340g) chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1/2 cup (125g) Caramel Sauce (recipe to follow of the one I used)

3/4 cup fillings for cups (I used crushed pretzels, toasted coconut, and toasted almonds)

Recipe

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Drop a little of the chocolate (about the size of a hazelnut) in a small paper baking cup. Use a pastry brush or a little spoon to evenly coat the bottom and sides of the cup. Chill at least 45 minutes in the fridge (this will get the chocolate firm).

While the chocolate firms, mix your caramel with your fillings. Save a little of each filling to decorate the top of the cup (this will also signify which filling is in which cup).

When the chocolate is firmed up, fill each cup about 2/3rds full of caramel filling. Smooth out the top using a spoon.

Put another dab of chocolate on top of the filling and spread it evenly across the top of the cup.

Refrigerate until the chocolate firms back up again (about 30 or 45 minutes), and take out of the fridge no more than 30 minutes before serving.

RICH CARAMEL SAUCE (from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert)

Ingredients

1/2 cup (4 oz/115 g) unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup (200 g) sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

Recipe

Place a dutch oven or large and heavy saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter. Add sugar. Stir every now and then, and cook until the sugar begins to caramelize and turns dark amber in color (David Lebovitz mentions that it should smell as though it’s just about to burn).

Remove the pan from the heat and quickly add heavy cream (be careful, the sauce will boil up quite a bit). Stir sauce until it’s smooth, then stir in vanilla and salt.

Allow the sauce to cool, and taste to see if you’d like to add more salt. Serve warm.

Sauce will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.

Peanut Butter Cup Tart

January 31, 2011

First thing’s first. I am borderline on whether I should blog on this Peanut Butter Cup Tart or not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s deliciousness is definitely not the problem. The problem is that the copyright on the book this recipe is from prohibits me from reproducing this recipe electronically. So I have to wonder if there is a point to blogging about something I can’t share with you all (at least over the internet. I’m happy to share a slice in person). It seems an awful lot like shameless bragging to me. However, I would like to use my blog to publicize the wonderful cookbook and chef this recipe came from. So I’m a little stuck, here, and I’d really appreciate feedback. Do you want me to blog about things I have made if I can’t share the recipe? Please comment on this post.

I don’t understand people who don’t have a sweet tooth. I have a MASSIVE sweet tooth. In particular, I have a chocolate tooth in the winter.

Spring, Summer, and Fall are perfect for crisps and pies. If the bounty of fresh fruit we get at my farmer’s market doesn’t make its way unadultered into my mouth, it practically stumbles into a baking dish and lathers itself in butter, oatmeal, and flour all on its own.

But winter… winter is time for chocolate. Winter is cold, and winter makes me want to spend my days indoors, baking. Winter is time not just for chocolate desserts, but for CHOCOLATE desserts. This Peanut Butter Cup Tart is a CHOCOLATE dessert.

The crust is a soft chocolate cookie. The middle is a mixture of peanut butter and white chocolate. The top is a rich, chocolate ganache. And the whole thing is topped off with a flurry of salt. Now that’s what I call dessert.

And this picture is what I call putting the foil too close to the top of the pie, so it makes an imprint on my otherwise perfect ganache. Gah, life is so hard.

There is only one possible accompaniment to a dessert like this.

Not only do I chill wine glasses, I chill MILK glasses. That is how very serious I am about chocolate desserts.

I LOVE YOU PEANUT BUTTER CUP TART.

The book is Food & Wine’s Best of the Best: the best recipes from the 25 best cookbooks of the year chosen by the editors of Food & Wine Magazine (2004-2005). This recipe from from Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow.

So much of what I make is based on my dislike of wasting food. I had leftover coconut milk from the Adobo Chicken I made and wondered what would happen if I used it in place of the butter in a cookie. I also had bananas that were on their last legs. And so Banana Coconut Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies were born

These cookies taste a lot like banana bread, and have a soft consistency. Coconut milk gives the cookies a puffiness and softness similar to cookies made with shortening. Except they taste waaaay better than shortening cookies. I would love to make these again the next time I’ve got two over-ripe bananas on hand.

BANANA COCONUT CHOCOLATE CHUNK OATMEAL COOKIES (invented by me)

Ingredients

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1.5 cups rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 ripe bananas

6 oz (a teeny bit more than half a regular sized bag) semi-sweet chocolate chunks

1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

Recipe

Preheat oven to 375

In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat coconut milk, and sugar until well-combined. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat again until well combined. Next, beat in the bananas. Once incorporated, stir in the oats and coconut.

Refrigerate the mixture for at least 45 minutes. Then scoop tablespoon-sized spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet spaced about 2 inches apart as they will spread.

Bake 10-14 minutes until light brown on top, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through baking.

Chocolate Puddle Cookies

January 13, 2011

OH MY GOD

Crispy and crackly on the outside, gooey brownie-like on the inside.

When has chocolate and hazelnut every led me astray?

NEVER.

New favorite cookie of all time. HANDS DOWN.

CHOCOLATE PUDDLE COOKIES (lightly adapted from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks)

I adapted these only by subbing hazlenuts for walnuts and decreasing the total amount of nuts by just a bit. My life is nutty enough as it is (ba-dum-cha!) Actually I just don’t like nut overload.

Toast hazelnuts at 350 for 10-15 minutes until gently browned.

Ingredients

2.5 cups hazelnuts, toasted

4 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

4 large egg white, room temperature

1 tablespoon real vanilla extract

Recipe

Preheat oven to 320F degrees and position racks in the top and bottom third. Line three rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Let your hazelnuts cool, then chop coarsely and set aside. Sift together the confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, and sea salt. Stir the hazelnuts into the cocoa mixture, then add egg whites and vanilla. Stir until thoroughly combined.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons full of batter onto the baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 3-4 inches apart. They will expand a lot.

Rotate the pan about halfway through baking (6-8 mins). Bake until they get puffy and crack a little bit about 12 -15 minutes.

Let the cookies cool for one minute, then place them on a cooling rack. They’ll stay fresh in an airtight container for several days (like they even last that long in this household).