cherry chocolate granola


cherry and chocolate granola
Summer is the one time of the year that I get super excited and obsessed with every fresh and colorful ingredient that I can get my hands on. It goes without saying that cherries are never spared, they get devoured in this house and sometimes they don't make it home from the market. 


sweet red cherries

Granola is one of those things, I refuse to waste money on. For one, it is really easy to make and the ingredients are cheap, and secondly, I find the pre-made versions to be a bit too sweet and/or expensive. This granola recipe has a fresh cherry puree that's cooked into the oats with a heaving dosing of chocolate flavors. This granola is just like a black forest cake but with a tasty dose of toasted sliced almonds. There's a whole lotta crunch with every chocolatey bite you take combined with a hint of sweet and tart cherry flavor. Maybe I should have called this the "black forest granola" ?


cherry baked granola

I used a fresh cherry puree to flavor the granola versus actual cherry fruit bits because I wanted the cherry flavors to be absorbed by the oatmeal and coat every bit. I've used ghee here but you can also substitute coconut oil in the same amount. I've made it both ways and it works great, ghee gives it a much more aromatic and nutty flavor.




fresh chocolate cherry granola
cherry chocolate granola

cherry + chocolate granola

yields: about 3 cups

ingredients

2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil)  + 1 tablespoon to grease the baking pan
1 cup (2 3/4 ounces) raw sliced almonds
1/4 cup (1 1/8 ounces) cacao nibs
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1 cup pureed sweet red cherries, fresh (simply puree 2 cups of sweet red cherries and use as needed)

1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250F. In the mean time, toast the oats in medium saucepan with a thick bottom on a medium-high flame. Cook with constant stirring until the oats begin to brown. This will take about 4-5 minutes.  Reduce the flame  to low and stir in the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, cook for 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the stove.
2. Add the almonds, cacao nibs, chocolate chips, cocoa powder, sea salt and cherry puree to the toasted oats. 
3. Pour the oat mixture onto a baking pan that's been lightly greased with the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil. Spread the mixture in a flat layer with a silicone spatula and bake for about 45-50 minutes. Check occasionally during baking to make sure the granola does not burn. Once the granola is cooked, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container (I store mine in the refrigerator, it stays fresh for a longer time). 

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cakes

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cakes

This is probably the craziest yet happiest batch of little things I've baked in a while. My not-so-secret obsession with all things chocolate and Sriracha hit it's peak this week when I decided to travel down the path of mixing them together. Maybe they might get married someday and make a happy couple, one could only hope! 

chocolate and whisk

Until now, I had never baked a lava cake, so I scrounged around for several recipes in my stack of baking cookbooks (that are unpacked yet literally piled against the wall of the living room like the entrance to a some ancient monument.....I'll eventually deal with this soon, hopefully), unfortunately I didn't have a recipe in any of my books (could also be an excuse to get more cookbooks)! I went online and found one that looked pretty easy to prepare and decided to take the plunge down the hole that looked dark and messy yet held a promise of sweet peppery goodness.  

lava cake prep

Buckwheat is by far one of my favorite whole grain flours to work with because it has such a lovely color and flavor. Indian cooking uses a lot of whole grain flours but buckwheat is a flour that I came across after I moved to the US and I love, love it! I've adapted the original lava cake recipe from one of my trusted cooking magazines, 

Saveur

 and substituted the flour with buckwheat among a few other ingredients. 

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cake
sriracha molten lava cakes

Here are a few notes that I made during baking and I wanted to share with you; 

  • I had no heavy cream at home but I did have full fat coconut milk and that worked just fine in preparing the truffles.You can make the truffles ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator, just stick them into the cake batter they day you are ready to bake the cakes. 
  • The cakes will rise during baking and you should remove them while they are still hot after the initial 2 minute cooling process. I removed them from the ramekins even though we didn't eat all of them the same day. The cakes might sink slightly once they are too cool which is why I really like serving them as soon as they are baked straight out of the oven.
  • To store, I ended up wrapping the rest of the cakes (after removing them from the ramekins) with cling film and freezing them for long term storage in an an airtight ziploc bag. Before eating the cakes, instead of thawing, I unwrapped the cling film and microwaved them covered with a microwave-safe lid. It worked great and now I have Sriracha lava cakes on demand. 

Also, if you don't like Sriracha you can leave it out from the cakes and make yourself a whole grain buckwheat lava cake. 

buckwheat sriracha molten lava cakes

sriracha buckwheat molten lava cakes

(

adapted from Saveur

)

yields:

6 cakes

ingredients

2 oz semisweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk or heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce 

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped + additional butter for greasing

1 1/4 ounces buckwheat flour + additional for dusting

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup (2 ounces) raw brown sugar

1 teaspoon madgascar bourbon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

3 large eggs

confectioners sugar for dusting (optional, I did not do this)

1. Heat the coconut milk (or heavy cream) in a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the stove and pour it into a heat proof bowl containing the chocolate chips. Whisk until the chocolate melts into a smooth paste. If the chocolate doesn't melt completely, microwave carefully for 10 seconds, just be careful not to burn the chocolate.  Once the chocolate forms a smooth silky sauce, whisk in the sriracha. Over the bowl with cling film and allow it to chill completely for at least 30 minutes. 

2. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator once the chocolate is chilled. Divide into 6 equal parts and mold into small truffles/balls. Place each truffle onto a sheet of parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450F. Take 6, six ounce ramekin bowls and grease them with butter and then dust them generously with flour. Place the bowls on a baking sheet/tray and refrigerate until ready to use.

4. Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium sized saucepan, stir until combined. The mixture will resemble a smooth silky sauce. Remove from stove, once completely combined and then cool for about 10 minutes. While the chocolate is cooling, whisk the sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the batter turns pale yellow and fluffy. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Finally, beat in the melted chocolate mixture followed by the flour. Divide half of the batter between the ramekin bowls, then place a truffle in each bowl and cover each bowl with the rest of the remainder batter. Even out the surfaces of each bowl with an offset spatula and bake them for 15 minutes until the cakes are just set (they will rise a little). Remove from oven and allow to cool for 2 minutes.

5. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the ramekin bowl and immediately invert onto an individual serving plate. Tap gently to release the cake. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Repeat with the rest of the cakes. Serve immediately.

dark chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

hazelnut dark chocolate chip cookies

I have a not-so-secret love for the delicious fragrance of hazelnuts. My obsession with hazelnuts starts early in the morning when I need to have a cup of freshly ground hazelnut scented coffee beans brewing away, otherwise my coffee just doesn't taste or smell as good. I once tried searching for hazelnut wood furniture in the hope that purchasing such furniture would make my house smell perfect, needless to say that didn't work out. So clearly, why wouldn't I make a hazelnut cookie to go with my hazelnut flavored coffee, it just made perfect sense (in my world).

dry ingredients

Everything about these cookies says dark, dark, dark! I used a very dark cocoa (if you want to go lighter in color then use the same amount of a regular unsweetened cocoa) with dark chocolate chips and a hint of browned butter all come together with the hazelnut flour to form a delicious crispy cookie. These cookies are also gluten-free so those of you with related allergies will enjoy them. I added a little hint of browned butter to bring out the nutty flavors of the hazelnuts, it gives them that extra little edge of flavor. 

cookie prep

Baking with nut flours is very different from using recipes that use grain flours as nuts are rich in fats, so you need to adjust the amounts of fats depending on the type of cookie you want. Since, I wanted a crispy cookie, I refrigerated the dough overnight. Here's another tip, when it comes to storing nut flours and keep it fresh, keep them in an airtight bag refrigerated or frozen, bring it to room temperature before use so it won't be clumpy. 

The wonderful folks at

Bob's Red Mill

were extremely kind to send me some of their hazelnut meal to use in this recipe and they are also sponsoring a giveaway. I'm a huge fan of their products and use a lot of their grain and nut flours in my baking, their quality is fantastic and this hazelnut flour is no exception to their product line. You can smell the delicious fragrance of hazelnuts as soon as you open the bag, needless to say,  I fell in love with it immediately! Now you can try it out too, 

Bob's Red Mill

is giving away a bag of their delicious Hazelnut Meal and a $20 gift card to their store. To enter the contest, all you need to do is follow the instructions on the widget at the end of this post. This contest will run from March 5th through March 12, 2014. Good luck! 

Disclaimer:

I did not receive any financial compensation from Bob's Red Mill for this post and all opinions are my own unless stated otherwise.

dark chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

dark chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

yields:

12 cookies

ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (4 3/4 ounces) hazelnut meal(Bob's Red Mill), at room temperature

1 cup (7 5/8 ounces) brown sugar 

1/4 cup (3 ounces) unsweetened dark cocoa (I used the extra dark cocoa from Hershey's)

1/2 teaspoon dark roast instant coffee (optional)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon madagascar vanilla bourbon extract

1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet dark chocolate chips

1. Place the unsalted butter in a small saucepan and heat on a medium-high flame for about 2-3 minutes or until the milk solids begin to turn reddish brown. Remove from stove and keep aside.

2. Whisk the hazelnut flour, sugar, cocoa, coffee, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt together in a large mixing bowl and keep aside.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla extract and browned butter. Make a well in the center of the  dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl and stir the whisked liquid into the whisked dry ingredients with a silicone spatula. Bring the ingredients together to form a ball of dough, wrap with cling film and refrigerate overnight. 

4. Preheat the oven to 350F and place a wire rack in the center of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts and roll each of them into balls. Flatten each ball with the palms of your hands into approximately 2 inch discs. Space 6 cookies on each sheet about 1-2 inches apart from each other. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Bake one sheet at a time in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until the edges of the cookies start to get crisp, the center will be slightly soft to touch. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Do not over bake the cookies as the chocolate will burn. Repeat with second sheet of cookies. Allow the baked cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve the cookies warm. 

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triple chocolate raspberry oat bran muffins

triple chocolate raspberry oat bran muffins

I can't believe that January is over and we've been told that spring is "only" six weeks away. As excited as I am about getting closer to spring, I am also a little worried about the little buds that are beginning to stick their heads out in my garden. And while I write this, I see snowflakes falling outside (another snow day). I'm hoping these guys make it through to summer or my garden is going to be flowerless! 

white and dark chocolate chips

I have so many kitchen goals for this warm season, that I've made a spreadsheet of what I need to do and when based on our local seasonal produce availability. Over the past few months, we've eaten up several jars of stuff that I canned last year and my empty jars are now looking very sad and lonely. It's time to fill them up!

raspberries

I baked a lot over the weekend and I made these triple chocolate muffins. Yes, triple chocolate! Dark cocoa, with a double dosing of dark and white chocolate chips, it's a decadent enough option for breakfast. They are not overly sweet or too moist or heavy to start your morning off, which is why these are my new favorites. Raspberries and chocolate are a fantastic combination and they taste delicious in these muffins. Since, I'm sticking with the theme of breakfast, I dosed these muffins with a little bit of oat bran. I modified and adapted this recipe from The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book.

triple chocolate and raspberry oat bran muffins

triple chocolate raspberry oat bran muffins

yields: 12-16 muffins

ingredients

1/2 cup (1 5/8 ounces) unsweetened dark cocoa
1/2 cup (2  7/8 ounces) oat bran
2 cups ( 8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used a madagascar bourbon extract)
1 teaspoon raspberry extract (optional)
1 1/2 cups plain low-fat greek yogurt
1/2 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet white chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh raspberries 

1. Preheat the oven to 375F and place a wire rack in the center of the oven. Place and line the paper muffin cups in a muffin pan. If you don't have paper muffins cups spray the cups in the pan with a neutral vegetable cooking oil.
2. Sift the cocoa, oat bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt twice in a large mixing bowl and keep aside.
3. Place the butter and sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment cream for 4 minutes on medium high speed until light and fluffy.
4. Add one egg at a time to creamed butter and sugar mixture and beat each egg into the mixture at medium high speed for one minute. Mix in the vanilla and raspberry extracts for 30 seconds.
5. At medium-high speed, mix in the sifted dry ingredients in three installments, adding half of the yogurt between each installment. You may need to occasionally scrape down the bowl from the sides with a silicone spatula to ensure even mixing. Once the batter is completely mixed, remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips and the raspberries. 
6. Using an ice cream scooper, scoop out the dough into the lined muffin pan and bake them for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted through the center of the muffin. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool for another 5 minutes. Serve warm. 
Note: Muffins are best when eaten the day they are prepared but if you want to store them, I recommend freezing the muffins in an airtight ziploc bag. 

chocolate chili frozen yogurt

frozen chocolate chili yogurt

I did a bunch of crazy things last weekend that included attending a "Winter Tops and Summer Shorts" theme party. That's right sweaters and shorts during the season of the polar vortex, it was an absolutely insane idea by my friend Alex but also one of the funnest parties, I've been to in a while.

frozen chocolate with chili yogurt

I figured if that can happen, frozen sweet foods can happen too and should. So here I am with a delicious rich and creamy chocolate yogurt recipe that has chili in it to keep you warm. I used a dried ancho chili powder which is basically a dried up poblano pepper. The dash of chili adds a hint of smoky sweetness to the dark chocolate which really enhanced the flavors. 

serving frozen chocolate chili yogurt

I adapted and modified the basic frozen yogurt recipe from my all time favorite frozen dessert cookbook, 

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

frozen chili chocolate yogurt

chocolate and chili frozen yogurt

yields:

1 generous quart

ingredients 

1 quart (32 ounces) plain low-fat greek yogurt

2 tablespoons + 1 1/2 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour)

2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup heavy cream

6 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa 

1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1/4 cup light corn syrup (I use fructose free light corn syrup which is a glucose solution and does not contain fructose but you could use glucose as well)

2/3 cup (5 1/4 ounces) raw brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place the yogurt in a sieve lined with two layers of clean cheese cloth or muslin. Allow the yogurt to drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator. You will get about 3/4 cup of liquid. Discard the liquid and  keep the yogurt aside (or you can add to baked goods for a little extra nutrition).

2. Whisk the two tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch to form a slurry and keep aside.

3. Place the cream cheese in a large glass mixing bowl.

4. In a thick bottomed saucepan, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of milk, heavy cream, cocoa, chili, corn syrup and sugar. Bring the contents to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in the cornstarch-milk slurry.

5. Place the saucepan on the stove and bring it back to a boil on medium-high heat and cook for 1 minute until slightly thickened. 

6. Gradually add a little bit of the hot liquid from the saucepan into the glass mixing bowl containing the cream cheese. Whisk until completely smooth. Add the rest of the hot liquid and vanilla and whisk until the contents are completely blended. Mix in the strained yogurt from step 1. (You can also pass this liquid through a sieve to make sure any clumps or lumps are removed). 

7. Transfer the yogurt mixture to a gallon ziploc freezer bag. Seal the bag and place in an ice water bath and cool for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 40F. 

8. Pour the liquid into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and churn until the liquid becomes thick and creamy. (Alternatively, follow the instructions written in the manual of your ice cream maker for brand specific instructions). 

9. Pack the frozen yogurt into a freezer-safe storage container with an airtight lid. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and press gently to remove any trapped air. Seal the container with the lid and freeze the yogurt for 4 hours or until firm before serving.

coffee chocolate hazelnut pound cake

chocolate coffee hazelnut pound cake #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #cake #dessert #chocolate

Polar vortex and snow, that is what we came back to from warm and sunny, Charleston! In my opinion, snow has two sides to it a good side and a dark side, just like THE FORCE in Star Wars, seriously! Here, let me explain,

Positives

  • The landscape becomes one big white gigantic frosted cake. 
  • You get a day off from work, if the snowfall is crazy heavy. At least a "delayed arrival" if traveling is bad.
  • You can make flavored ices with fresh snow, though I don't recommend picking up snow from the side walk due to hygienic reasons. 
  • Most dogs love snow! Snoopy for one, loves to run and play in it and eat it. 

Negatives

  • I learned that suede/leather etc. get destroyed by the salt.
  • You tend to feel like your enacting a scene from Swan Lake due to a lack of form and balance and you fall on your back more often than necessary when things are slippery or if your dog is pulling you across the street to catch a squirrel. 
  • The day after a heavy snow day is like a hangover, everything on the roads is messy. 
  • Cleaning the salt out of the dog's paws and off the floor of your house.
chocolate coffee hazelnut pound cake #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #cake #dessert #chocolate
chocolate coffee hazelnut pound cake #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #cake #dessert #chocolate
Snoopy snow collage Jan 2014

To balance all the snow related events that happened this week, I baked a pound cake that was full of warm flavors. This simple cake has everything I've been craving for, especially on on a cold and wintry snow day. There's dark roast coffee that's interspersed with swirls of a sweet dark chocolate and hazelnut paste. This pound cake goes great with tea or coffee and at any time of the day. I adapted and modified the basic pound cake recipe from

The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book

. By the way, this is a fantastic cookbook and a big thank you to Sarah of

The Vanilla Bean Blog

for the great recommendation. (I do need to work on my swirling technique here in this cake).

Note: I prefer to use raw hazelnuts with their skins for a fresher taste. However, if you have skinned pre-toasted hazelnuts, by all means use them, just skip the toasting part in Step 1 below and proceed directly to the food processor stage to prepare the chocolate-hazelnut paste.

chocolate coffee hazelnut pound cake #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #cake #dessert #chocolate

pound cake with coffee, chocolate and hazelnuts

yields:

8 servings

ingredients

1/2 cup (2 3/4 ounces) raw hazelnuts with skin 

1 cup (6 3/4 ounces) semi sweet dark chocolate chips

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

3 large eggs + 3 large yolks, whisked lightly

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) raw brown sugar

2 tablespoons instant coffee (the dark roast variety is good here)

1 3/4 cups (7 ounces) cake flour

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in an oven for 15 minutes or until the nuts begin to brown. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and immediately transfer the hot nuts into a clean kitchen towel. Massage the nuts while they are still in the cloth to peel the skin off the hazelnuts. You can remove the skin off the hazelnuts that did not fall off. Place the warm nuts and chocolate chips in a food processor and pulse till you get a smooth paste. The heat of the hazelnuts will melt the chocolate. Keep this aside. 

2. Grease and flour a 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. 

3. In the mixing bowl of a food processor, add the butter and salt. Using the paddle attachment at medium high speed beat the butter and salt until soft and creamy. Reduce this speed to medium low and add the sugar in two additions. Once all the sugar is added, increase the speed to medium high and beat the ingredients for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. You might need to scrape the bowl down occasionally with a silicone/rubber spatula. Reduce the speed to medium and add the vanilla and the whisked eggs and yolks. Beat the ingredients for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer. 

4. Sift the coffee and flour twice and then sift half of the dry ingredients over the butter-egg mixture. in the mixing bowl. Fold gently using a silicone/rubber spatula until combined. Sift the rest of the flour mix over the batter,  repeat the folding process and scrape along the bottom of the container. There should be no visible flecks of flour at this point. 

5. Pour half of the batter into the greased loaf pan. Add half of the chocolate-hazelnut paste prepared earlier. Then layer with the rest of the cake batter, followed by the rest of the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Take a skewer or knife and swirl it throughout the cake batter in the pan a couple of times to create a swirl/marble pattern. Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake it on the middle rack for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted through the center of the cake. Note, the skewer will be gooey from the chocolate-hazelnut mixture but it should have cake crumbs if the cake is done. Rotate the cake half way through the baking process. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the loaf pan and then run a knife through the edges of the cake. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool for about 1- 1 1/2 hours before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

hot chocolate with cinnamon and whisky

cinnamon spiced hot chocolate with whisky

What would the winter holiday season be without a cup of rich hot chocolate! There's something comforting when you sip into a cup of steaming hot and sinfully indulgent rich chocolate merged into creamy milk. This hot chocolate is decadent and every bit indulgent with the goodness of dark chocolate, the warmth of freshly ground cinnamon and a dash of whisky.

Christmas tree

Whisky is another flavor that I love to use as an ingredient during the holidays. It infuses an extra level of warmth and richness to foods and I find it excellent when added to barbecues, desserts and sweet cocktails. So yes, I added some whisky in here! Chocolate and whisky with cinnamon, it's the perfect combination of rich, earthy rustic flavors. The whisky here is just the right amount to give it flavor without being boozy. If whisky isn't your thing, you can leave it out. 

hot chocolate with marshmallows

Have fun with the garnishes, it's the holidays treat yourself a little! 

peppermint hot chocolate with cinnamon and whisky

hot chocolate with cinnamon and whisky

yields : 4 servings

ingredients

4 cups whole milk
1 cup (5 3/4 ounces) dark chocolate chips, unsweetened
1 cup (6 1/8 ounces) milk chocolate chips, sweetened
1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground + a little extra for dusting
1/4 cup whisky
a  few marshmallows for garnishing (optional)
4 peppermint sticks (optional)

1. Place the milk in a thick bottomed saucepan. Heat the mixture on medium-low flame until the milk begins to steam with constant stirring. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer.
2. Add the chocolate and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the hot milk and whisk constantly by hand until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from the milk from the stove and mix in the whisky.
3. Pour the hot chocolate into serving mugs and top them off with a few marshmallows and dust with the extra ground cinnamon. Serve with the hot chocolate with the peppermint sticks and extra marshmallows on the side.

chocolate layer cake with swiss buttercream frosting

chocolate genoise layer cake with raspberry swiss buttercream frosting

Genoise cakes are one of my all time favorites when it comes to baking a fancy dessert cake especially those that get iced. They don't crack and rise evenly without any crazy issues and there is something magical about the sponge texture of these cakes. More than anything, it has taught me patience, something I always need help with. 

genoise cakes

This weekend we celebrated our friends' upcoming marriage with a stock-the-bar party. They both love chocolate, so I figured it might be fun to make them a chocolate cake with a hint of raspberry. The cake itself is light and the Swiss buttercream frosting is not too sweet making it a good choice for a brunch dessert. this way the possibility of food-induced coma is reduced.

frosting the cake

I prefer to make two separate cakes here rather than do it all in one sitting. It is easier to fold less flour into the egg mixture and the risk of deflating the eggs gets reduced. I topped the frosting with a few shavings of sweet dark chocolate to balance the flavor of the frosting and give it a little richer look. You can leave the food color out or adjust the amount you need to get the desired level of color you like.

chocolate genoise layer cake

Both the cake and buttercream frosting recipes have been modified and adapted from "Great Cakes" by Carole Walter. 

layer cake

Note: Prepare two genoise cakes separately. Instead of doubling the amount of ingredients required for the cakes, I find it easier to prepare two separate cakes especially when it comes to the folding of the dry ingredients into the batter.

chocolate genoise cake 

yields: 10 1/2" X 15 1/2' X 1" thick cake 

ingredients

3/4 cup ( 3 3/4 ounces) cake flour
1/3 cup (7/8 ounce) dutch-process cocoa
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
5 large whole eggs + 2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup+2 tablespoons (6 1/4 ounces) sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1 7/8 ounces) butter, melted and warm

1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper. 
2. Sift the cake flour, cocoa and baking soda together 4 times and place aside.
3. Place the bowl of an electric mixer over a saucepan containing simmering water. The water must not touch the base of the bowl. Add the eggs and yolks with the sugar and whisk to blend completely. This will take about 4 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved and the color of the mixture becomes a dark gold. 
4. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and using the whisk attachment, whip the eggs for 5-6 minutes until tripled in volume and the mix becomes light and foamy. At this point, you should able to draw a ribbon that will hold its shape on the foam. 
5. Add the vanilla from the side of the bowl and whip for another 2 minutes. 
6. Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift 2-3 tablespoons of the pre-sifted flour mix over the whipped eggs and fold it in with a silicone spatula using a circular motion taking care to reach the bottom of the bowl. The foam will deflate a little and there is no need to try and incorporate all the flour at this stage,  it will be mixed in completely at the end.
7.  Just before the addition of the last bit of flour, drizzle the warm, melted butter over the batter and quickly sift the rest of the flour mix over the batter. Fold into the batter completely within 30 seconds. 
8. Using the rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared baking pan. Leave behind any residual flour or butter that might be stuck at the bottom of the bowl or this will prevent the cake from rising evenly. 
9. Gently tap the pan to remove any trapped air bubbles and bake it in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. The cake is completely baked when the center of the cake when pressed springs back. Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Spray a cooling wire rack with nonstick cooking spray oil, run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it and flip the cake over the wire rack. Allow to cool completely before icing.

swiss buttercream frosting

yields: about 3 1/2 cups

ingredients

4 large egg whites
3/4 cup (4 1/4 ounces) confectioner's sugar
3 sticks(1 1/2 cups  or 12 1/8ounces) unsalted butter, soft but slightly firm to touch
2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 drops red food coloring (optional, you can adjust the amount to get the desired level of pink color you desire)

1. Whisk the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until the eggs get foamy. 
2. Place the bowl over a saucepan with simmering water. The water should not touch the base of the bowl. Add the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time to the eggs and continue to whisk for about 30 seconds for each addition. Continue whisking the egg whites for 3 minutes, the whites will begin to warm up and the entire mixture will become white and thick. 
3. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and place it under the electric mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, whisk the mixture for 8 minutes at medium-high speed to form a thick white meringue-like mixture. Set aside.
4. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the butter for 1 minute with an electric mixer. (I used a handheld mixer for this but if you have another mixing bowl for your stand mixer, you can use the paddle attachment at medium-low speed). The butter should be soft but not warm. Keep aside.
5. Using the whisk attachment of you stand mixer, beat in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time into the egg mixture, about one minute for each addition.
6. Add the raspberry liqueur, the vanilla, and the food coloring and beat for 1 minute until thick and creamy. Cover the frosting with cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes before use. 

raspberry syrup

yields: about 3/4 cup

ingredients

1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup raspberry liqueur

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture reduces to half its volume. 
2. Cool and refrigerate completely before use.

Assembling the cake

ingredients

1 cup dark chocolate shavings

1. Place the two cooled cakes over each other with the top side of each cake facing downwards on flat plate or cake board. This top crust creates a good support for the cake structure. With a sharp serrated knife trim the edges of the cakes. With the knife, make a small notch on one side of both cakes, this will help with aligning the cakes later.
2. Carefully remove the top cake layer and place aside.  
3. Start working with the lower cake layer. With a brush, spread half of the raspberry syrup over the cake. 
4. Layer the surface with a thin crumb coat of the frosting. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to harden the crumb coat.
5. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and spread 1 cup of frosting in an even layer using an offset spatula. Return the cake to the refrigerator and let it chill for 20 minutes. 
6. Place and align the second cake layer on top of the chilled frosted layer of the bottom cake layer, using the notches created earlier to correctly align the cakes. The bottom of the second cake layer should face the frosting of the first cake layer.
7. Brush the rest of the raspberry syrup over the upper layer. Refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes. Spread a thin crumb coat of frosting on top of the cake and refrigerate for another 15 minutes. Carefully spread out the rest of the frosting in an even layer on the top surface of the chilled cake with the offset spatula. 
8. Generously sprinkle the chocolate shavings over the cake and refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving. To get clean even cake slices, place a sharp serrated knife under running hot tap water, wipe the blade with a clean towel and cut the slice. Repeat this for each cake slice, this will prevent any crumbs from sticking to the frosting and it will ensure a clean cut.

sea salt chocolate muffins

Sea salt chocolate muffin

On some mornings, all I want is a muffin, a deep and dark chocolate muffin with my coffee. Okay, perhaps more than one would be ideal and even perfect but either way I really like a good dose of cocoa in them. It's really the best way for me to double my daily am dose of caffeine with a whole lot of joy! Coffee with chocolate it can't get any better than that.

Brown sugar

I never ate a lot of muffins because most of the time they were either too sweet or too greasy and they also never had any interesting flavors that I would have wanted to try. Personally, I like my breakfast muffins to be multigrain or wholegrain based and I am a big fan of oat and oat bran in the mornings. So with the desire to keep things wholesome, I added a couple of different flours into the batter; oat bran, brown rice and whole-wheat give a delicious soft and grainy texture. 

Sea salt chocolate muffins

This is a very deep dark chocolatey muffin with a little bit of sea salt on the crust. When you take a bite into the muffin, the combination of the sea salt with the dark chocolate is simply amazing. The flavors intensify and every subsequent bite is even more exciting than the first, exactly the way I'd like to start my mornings. 

Muffin cocoa and salt

You only need to sprinkle a few salt crystals on top of each muffin, halfway through baking. If you put them on before they will start to sink which is why I recommend placing them once the muffins are slightly firm on the surface but not completely baked. I used a standard 12 cup muffin pan to bake these guys and you could use a smaller sized 24 cup pan as well, just make sure you divide the batter equally between the cups in the pan. You can eat these muffins warm or even at room temperature. Store them in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 

Whole grain sea salt chocolate muffin


sea salt chocolate muffins

yields: 12 muffins

ingredients 

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon dark roast instant coffee powder
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled
1 2/3 cups brown sugar
5 large eggs, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used the madagascar bourbon variety)
1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sea salt crystals

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and place the wire rack in the middle position. Line a standard muffin cake pan with baking cup liners. 
Mix and sift all the dry ingredients from the cocoa to the baking powder.  Transfer any grain bits back to the dry mix. Keep aside.
2. Cube the butter and transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and fix the paddle attachment to the mixer. Cream the butter and sugar on medium low speed for 5 minutes. Add one egg at a time and beat until completely smooth.  Add the vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds on medium low speed. 
3. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients from step 1 to the creamed eggs. Mix on medium low speed until smooth and completely blended, approximately 3 minutes. Add the yogurt to the batter and beat for 1 minute. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat for another 3 minutes until completely mixed.
4. Divide the batter equally among the muffin pan cups. Bake the muffins for 12 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the salt crystals over the muffins. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes until the centers are firm to touch or skewer comes out clean from the center of the muffin. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.

chocolate almond and buckwheat tart

Chocolate almond buckwheat tart

If there is one ingredient you'd love to bake with, what would it be? I have several but I think if given a choice, it would be chocolate and cocoa. In my books, I don't think anything can beat that warm sweet scent in the kitchen that I find so addictively comforting. Granted, I invariably end up making a mess every time I work with cocoa or chocolate, my white kitchen table ends up looking like a war zone with dark brown splattered streaks and spots all over the place. I mentally prepare myself going in armed with the knowledge that I will end up making a huge mess. In the end it never really matters. Because of that final moment, when nothing else matters and my eyes eagerly wait for that hot dark brown dessert to pop out of the oven. I'll admit I've burned my mouth a few times when I've been impatient enough to try and taste it hot. This is not recommended one bit, speaking from personal experience!

Baking with eggs

Last weekend, I spent my time baking. I missed using my tart pan, I haven't used it in a long time and I felt it beckon me from the corner where it has stayed hidden for the past few months. A few minutes later, I had the pan in one hand and the other was busy shuffling through the pantry shelf, which is what we also refer to as my "Museum Collection and Assortment of Flours" (it's a whole shelf with several types of flours) which for some reason lacked any regular all-purpose flour. Thankfully, I still had a bit of buckwheat flour left to make my crust. I love buckwheat a lot for its characteristic nutty taste and gorgeous gray color. I made a very simple crust, buckwheat and ground almond meal with a little bit of butter to hold everything together. The resultant pastry reminded me of a graham cracker crust with a buttery and delicious nutty flavor. 

Sugar measuring

When it comes to preparing tarts and pies, I love my faithful trustworthy porcelain pie beads. But if you don't own any and can't find a store that sells them near you, use dried beans. I've had my beads for a few years now and they making blind baking a cinch. Adding the parchment sheet on top of the pastry surface helps to easily lift the beads off as soon as the tart comes out of the oven and there's a less chance of getting burned! 

Blind baking

Now for the fun part, the chocolate filling! Since it is autumn, I snuck in a little of bit cinnamon, not too much, just a little dab for a little bit of added warmth to the chocolate flavors. When this tart came out, it was every bit delicious, a thin fine crust outside with a moist gooey chocolatey inside. That against the buckwheat and almond crust made it simply enjoyable. And yes, I did my burn my mouth again while trying to taste this way too soon!

Chocolate tart slice

chocolate buckwheat almond tart

yields: 6-8 servings

buckwheat almond tart crust

ingredients

yields: enough to cover one 9 inch ruffled tart pan

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup ground almond meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line the bottom of a 9 inch ruffled tart pan with parchment paper and spray the sides lightly with a neutral oil.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients to mix uniformly. Add the melted butter and mix with your hands to form a dough. If the mixture is too sticky allow it too cool a little, this will help it firm. Transfer the dough to the pan and with your fingers/ or using the bottom flat surface of a measuring cup press the dough up the bottom and sides of the pan to form a layer of even thickness. Cover the crust with clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 mins. 
3. Remove the cling film and prick the surface of the crust a few times with the prongs of a fork. Cover the top surface of the pastry with parchment paper and place some pie beads or dried beans. This will prevent uneven rising during the baking process. Bake the pastry for 20 minutes in the center rack of the oven (this is also called blind baking). The edges will be slightly golden brown at this point. Carefully remove the pie beads along with the parchment sheet paper on the top surface.
4. Pour the warm chocolate tart filling (recipe below) into the tart shell, even the surface with a flat offset spatula or a flat butter knife and bake the tart for another 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the center of the tart filling. Transfer the tart from the oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan on a wire rack before removing and transferring it to a clean serving plate. The tart will have a delicate crust on top but a moist gooey texture inside. Slice the tart with a sharp serrated bread knife and serve warm or cold.

chocolate tart filling

yields: enough for filling for one 9 inch tart

ingredients

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips 
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

1. Melt the chocolate, cream, and butter together in a thick bottomed saucepan over a boiling water bath. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Mix constantly till smooth to get a shiny silky smooth sauce. Keep warm. 
2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla at high speed for 5 minutes until you get a pale yellow lemony color and a ribbon can be formed with the eggs, the eggs will have tripled in volume. 
3. Fold the chocolate mix into the whisked eggs carefully with a circular motion. There will be some deflation but avoid losing too much of the trapped air.  
4. Please refer to step 4 above, listed under the tart crust instructions to finish off the tart.