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I have some savory, healthy things to post about, but right now, all we’re thinking about lately is Christmas cookies, right? I am, it seems. I visited my parents a little bit ago and baked Christmas cookies with them, then when I got home my husband and I baked several different kinds to give to our neighbors. And I’m already looking forward to baking even more cookies while we’re visiting my in-laws in California for Christmas (old fashioned sugar cookies, I’m looking at you).

These cookies are called magic in the middles because, while they have a fairly unassuming exterior, they have a layer of peanut buttery deliciousness tucked inside that really takes them to the next level. They’re rich, chewy cookie perfection. There’s nothing fancy to getting the magic in the middle, either – you make a ball of the filling, then a ball of the chocolate dough, flatten out the chocolate bit and wrap it around the peanut butter filling. Easy peasy. Then you flatten the ball with a glass before baking. You definitely don’t want to skip that last step. Here’s why:

Yup. That’s what I get for not reading the recipe thoroughly before tossing the first cookie sheet in the oven. We ended up with twelve of those lumpy chocolate-peanut butter mountains before I saw the bit in the recipe about flattening the dough balls before baking. Oh well, they still taste great!

If you’re a fan of the chocolate-peanut butter combination, these cookies will be pretty irresistible to you. I know they are for me! (Do you know how hard it was to break that one cookie in half for the photo shoot and not snarf down one – or both – halves when I was done?!)

Magic in the Middles

Adapted slightly from Recipe Girl

DOUGH:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1/2 cup packed  brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature

FILLING:
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

2. Prepare dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In another medium bowl, beat together sugars, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beating to combine, then stir in dry ingredients, blending well. Dough will be thick and slightly crumbly.

3. Prepare filling: In a small bowl, stir together peanut butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Roll the filling into one-inch balls.

4. Shape cookies: Scoop out 1 tablespoon of dough and flatten it into a disk. Wrap the dough around one of the balls of filling, then roll between your palms to make smooth. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

5. Roll each cookie in granulated sugar and place on prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to flatten each ball to about 1/2-inch thick.

6. Bake cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, until they’re set. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack.

There are some recipes that, when you find them, you have to make them immediately. This was one of those recipes for me. Rich chocolate cookies rolled in a decadent coating of crushed candy canes? Count me in!

I love this time of year. I love decorating the house for Christmas, I adore putting up the Christmas tree, I love the excitement of buying presents for the ones I love, and I get such a kick out of being able to bake cookies to my heart’s content. These delicious little numbers kicked off the Christmas cookie season for me, and they were perfect for the job. Chocolate and peppermint together are the flavor of Christmas, in my mind.  These cookies definitely rock the chocolate-peppermint thing, and they’ve got a great, almost brownie-like texture to boot. I’ll definitely be adding these to my Christmas repertoire. (The list of cookies I must bake each Christmas keeps growing longer, but that’s not a bad thing, right?)

One note about these cookies: I had a terrible time getting them off my Silpats while they were warm – they just shredded and crumpled up. There was a problem with the candy canes melting onto the Silpat and sticking, even though Silpats are supposed to be stick-resistant. You might have better luck with parchment paper. My solution was to let the cookies cool completely on the cookie sheets before attempting to move them.

Candy Cane Crunch Chocolate Cookies

From Two Peas and Their Pod

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
4 ounces 99% unsweetened chocolate, melted (I used 2 oz unsweeted and 2 oz bittersweet)
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 candy canes-crushed up (I ended up needing a lot more than 5!)

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the oil, chocolate and granulated sugar and blend on medium speed. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. There may be some small clumps of sugar in the batter at this point. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed, stopping once to scrape down the sides. Mix until just incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

3. Gather the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

4. Position the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

5. Pour the crushed candy canes onto a plate or into a shallow bowl. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll each ball into the candy cane pieces, so that all sides are covered. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets.

6. Bake for 10 minutes for soft, chewy cookies, or 12 minutes for crisp cookies, rotating the pans halfway through baking. The cookies do set up, so if you want them soft, take them out at 10 minutes. Let cool completely on cooling racks. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.

 

These brownies are pretty darn awesome. These are luscious, chocolatey, rich brownies with peanut butter swirled in the top for added goodness. But that’s not all.

They’re sent completely over the top by the pile of chopped up candy bars mixed into the batter. The original recipe calls for Snickers, but we didn’t have any. We had a whole mess of other candy leftover from Halloween, so I used a combination of Milky Way, Reese’s cups, Rolos, and Heath bars.

Most everything except for the Reese’s kind of melted and disappeared into the brownies, just making them more decadent. Some of the candy sank to the bottom and turned into nuggets of concentrated chocolatey awesomeness… I don’t really know how to describe it, but I can tell you that they’re James’ favorite part.



These brownies would be great without the candy, too. They’re fudgy and rich and fantastic.

 

 

 

 

Candy Bar Brownies

Slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Yield: 24 brownies   Cook Time: 35-40 minutes

1 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped candy bars, such as Milky Way, Rolo, Reese’s Cups, Heath Bars, and/or Snickers
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition. Add cocoa; stir until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt; stir until combined. Stir in candy bar chunks. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Drop dollops of peanut butter over the batter. Using a knife, swirl peanut butter into brownies. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool brownies completely in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, cut into squares and serve.

 

I first heard about the ice cream genius that is David Lebovitz from  Michelle of the Brown Eyed Baker, who posted about this recipe for chocolate ice cream almost two years ago. When she said that this was the best chocolate ice cream that she’d ever had, I knew I had to make it. Unfortunately I had to wait a while because I couldn’t find Dutch process cocoa powder in my grocery store, and while it is available on Amazon, I was hesitant to double the price of the cocoa with the cost of shipping. Luckily, my local Whole Foods carries it, and when I discovered that, I bought a box and hustled home to make this ice cream.

It has since become my go-to ice cream recipe. I now own David Lebovitz’s book, The Perfect Scoop, which is a beautiful book full of glorious recipes for all sorts of decadent ice creams and sorbets but also mix-ins and vessels to serve ice cream upon, like brownies and cookies and other delights. But before I get to any of those (and believe me, I will!) I had to make chocolate again. I’ve made it a few times before, and I’m always amazed at how rich and chocolatey and dreamy it is. This time, I decided to spice things up with the addition of peanut butter patties, a recipe from the mix-ins section of the book, which couldn’t be simpler: peanut butter + confectioner’s sugar, drop lumps of it on a plate and freeze, then fold into the ice cream before freezing it. It was a stellar addition!! But, you can always leave it out if wish.

And Michelle is right: this is, without a doubt, the very best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had.


Chocolate Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Patties

Makes about 1 quart

2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt (Lebovitz recommends kosher or coarse sea salt, table salt will work however)
5 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 recipe peanut butter patties, if desired (recipe follows)

  1. In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 cup of the cream and the cocoa powder, whisking thoroughly. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth, then stir in the remaining 1 cup cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan as thoroughly as possible, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl. This is a good time to set up an ice bath in a vessel that is large enough to hold  the bowl of chocolate. Set it aside – you’ll need that later.
  2. Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. (The idea here is to bring the eggs up to temperature slowly so they don’t curdle.) Scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  3. Stir the mixture constantly over the medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (170°F on an instant-read thermometer). Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the chocolate mixture until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Move the bowl into the ice bath and stir until cool.
  4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (If the cold mixture is too thick to pour into your machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.) Stir in the peanut butter patties.

Peanut butter patties 

Makes 40 1/2 inch patties

Lebovitz recommends not using a natural peanut butter here, but I used Skippy Natural without a problem. But then, I’m not sure how “natural” Skippy Natural actually is – an truly natural peanut butter that has to be stirred would be too runny here.

6 tablespoons peanut butter

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Stir together peanut butter and sugar in a small bowl. Line a dinner plate with plastic wrap (I neglected to do this and it was fine.) Scoop out half teaspoons of the peanut butter mixture and drop them onto the dinner plate. Once you’ve used all of the mixture, freeze the patties.

From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz