Tag Archives: chocolate

Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones

And just like that, Thanksgiving is here. The bad news is that I can’t seem to hold on to the days that slip further and further into early sunsets; the good news is that I am in full nesting mode, which means lots more baking projects and – of course –  Christmas music! Christmas and early Pearl Jam/STP, randomly. I just need to find the right Pandora station that combines both. Purchasing the yearly no-commercials deal was the best thing I’ve done this year.

I’ve posted before about how much I love the combination of pears and dark chocolate. And when you fold this love into a scone, you get the moist chunks of pear with the crunchy richness of chocolate all in a buttery cakey thing.

Scones are fun because they require little work as far as breakfast pastries go. Just mix everything, pat it into a disk and cut out the pieces. Bake, nibble, smile.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen…I sometimes find problems with her recipes, just like in my own, so I changed a few things here and there. The big thing was making smaller scones so the recipe went further (than just 6 scones).

Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones


  • 3 firm pears (about 1 pound – I used Bartlett)
  • 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated or coarse for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt plus additional for egg wash
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or chips)
  • 2 large eggs, 1 for dough, 1 for glaze

Heat oven to 375°F. Peel and core pears. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pear chunks on parchment and roast until they feel dry to the touch and look a little browned in spots, 20-30 minutes. Slide parchment paper with pear chunks onto a cooling rack (or into fridge) and cool to lukewarm. Leave oven on. Line baking sheet with another piece of parchment.

Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Toss in cooled pear chunks, bits of butter, heavy cream and 1 egg (Note: Next time I will cut in the butter first, after the dry ingredients, as the chunks don’t incorporate evenly when added with the pear. Once you work in the butter, add the pear and everything else). With the paddle attachment, mix the dough on low speed until it just comes together. Don’t overmix. Add the chocolate chunks and mix for 5 seconds more. It will look lumpy and messy.

On a very well floured counter, pat out dough into a 6-inch round. Cut into wedges (6-8) and transfer to baking sheet at least two inches apart. Whisk remaining egg in a small dish with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush each scone with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Bake scones until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Perfect with your morning coffee. Store in air-tight container at room temperature. They’ll taste good for 3 days or so.

Enjoy, friends!

Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato

This really should be called Nutella gelato, because Nutella is the main flavoring, adding that nutty-chocolate taste so popular in Italian treats.

I can’t tell you what the real difference is between gelato and ice cream, because I just don’t care. (Mom says gelato has less cream than ice cream) I just love the stuff, in almost any flavoring (Caffe Prada has pink lemonade flavored gelato, p.s.).

I have mixed feelings about Nutella. I don’t love it on toast, really. But mixed with cream and then frozen in my handy ice-cream machine, I fell for it.

The resulting treat tasted more like chocolate than hazelnut, which is good for the Nutella naysayers in the crowd. It is a simple and smooth chocolatey iced treat that we all crave these hot summer days.

From the beautiful Italian goddess herself, Giada de Laurentiis:

Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Nutella

In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir. Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla and Nutella until it dissolves. Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions to freeze.


Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Tapas Night – Quail Eggs and Chorizo

I’m happy to report that I finally found a use for my quail eggs! Of course the Spanish would have a delicious way to prepare them – simply fried and served atop a piece of toast, along with chorizo. I served the little appetizers as part of a tapas party with some foodie friends of ours (whose dishes blew ours out of the water, p.s.).

But back to the quail eggs.

Small as your thumb, they are beautifully speckled, with a shell and membrane so thick, you might have to gently pierce it with your knife. It’s true – the little buggers were hard to get out. And then some of them wouldn’t come out at all (faulty eggs). I was stressing at that point because company would arrive at any moment and my chorizo was getting too browned. All that stress led me to feel bitter about the tiny eggs with their very large yolks, which tasted like a more-eggy chicken egg. Does that make sense? They taste stronger, but the same.

Anyhow, here’s what I did:

Toast sliced baguette with drizzle of olive oil, S&P. Rub still-hot bread slices with peeled garlic clove.

Heat a small drizzle of olive oil in a skillet. Brown 1 package of Spanish chorizo, removed from casings and sliced into half-moons. Drain on paper towels.

Crack quail eggs into little bowl, then pour one-by-one onto the still hot and oily chorizo pan. Fry until the edges begin to brown, then remove with spatula and place on top of toast. Top with chorizo and parsley to garnish.

To accompany our meal, we served Spanish Marcona almonds, which are so salty and oily that you may have trouble stopping.

My friend made these cheese-and-almond stuffed dates that are wrapped and fried with bacon. They were to-die-for.

She also made this decadent chocolate ganache and caramelized banana tart with fresh banana slices on top. It was just lovely.

And of course I had to make a quick sangria. One bottle of a fruity red wine plus some sugar, sliced oranges, blackberries, lemonade and good club soda. Let it chill for 1 hour. Done!

Enjoy your next fiesta, friends! xoxo

Insane Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Ganache Cake

The actual name of this cake is sour-cream chocolate cake with peanut-butter cream cheese frosting and chocolate peanut butter glaze. It is a cake so sinfully decadent that it would make Nigella Lawson’s head explode. To give the cake its “just desserts,” I enrolled it in a chocolate-cake challenge against my gourmet chef-friend Tonya.

I found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen a few years ago, and was encouraged when my friend Ellie made it and said it nearly killed a party she took it to. It took a bit of work, as most layer cakes are wont to do, but it’s worth it. Here’s why: three layers of dark and moist sour-cream chocolate cake covered in a cream-cheese and peanut butter frosting, then slathered with the most ridiculous amount of thick peanut butter chocolate ganache. I just drooled writing that.

The cake has an interesting addition of vinegar – I still haven’t figured out what that does, but I think I like it. All together, it tastes like a wonderful Reece’s candy – but way better. The ganache is like a truffle layer over the creamy frosting. As Tonya pointed out, the cake isn’t TOO chocolatey, so it doesn’t compete with the peanut butter frosting and ganache. Here’s the recipe, if you dare:

Insane Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache Cake

Ingredients for cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans (I used 9-inch and it was fine). Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Whisk in salt to combine. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans. I did this all by hand, but feel free to use an electric mixer.

3. Bake for 30 min., or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. When cool, cover in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 min, which will make them much easier to frost. (Make the frosting recipe below while you wait)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate (I put squares of parchment paper under it, to keep my new cake plate clean – remove before serving). Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

Once frosted, chill the cake for another 30 minutes, which will help the ganache drip all over it (and make the ganache recipe below while you wait!).

5. To decorate with the ganache, pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

Ingredients for Frosting:

  • 10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter – I used Skippy’s

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Ingredients for ganache:

  • 8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half (admission: I didn’t have this, so used milk. My bad!)

1. In a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm. Because I didn’t have the half-and-half, mine was too viscous, but it still tastes wonderful and set up nicely.

Isn’t that pretty? Tonya brought what she called a chocolate “Black-Out Cake” because during the war, people would make it whenever there was a blackout. It is a rich and moist cake with chocolate pudding between the layers, and a crumbled layer of cake all over the top. Brilliant!

Our judges declared a draw because the cakes were so different. Mine was called “most unique” and “most American,” while Tonya’s was “best classic cake” and “most European.” And then they all fell into sugar comas.

Seriously, this much sugar and chocolate gave me a headache like I’d been drinking a 20-oz quadruple espresso drink.

And here are the chefs!

Until the next foodie fight, enjoy, friends! xoxo

Sweet and salty Halloween candy

Happy Halloween, everyone! This recipe is a fun way to eat all my favorite Halloween candies. It’s also a great one for kids, but all the adults I know ate way more of it. A simple “bark” made with dark chocolate covered with peanut M&Ms, Reece’s Pieces, honey-roasted peanuts, Heath bars, Butterfingers, Reece’s cups and finally white chocolate.

It’s addictive and delicious. I love that combination of peanut, chocolate and white chocolate. Of course, you can make this with any candy, so get creative!

Bon Appetit’s Halloween Peanut Butter and Toffee Bark


  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3 2.1-ounce Butterfinger candy bars, cut into irregular 1-inch pieces
  • 3 1.4-ounce Skor or Heath toffee candy bars, cut into irregular 3/4-inch pieces
  • 8 0.55-ounce peanut butter cups, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts
  • 3 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • Reese’s Pieces and yellow and orange peanut M&M’s
Line baking sheet with foil. Stir chocolate chips in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Pour chocolate onto foil; spread to 1/4-inch thickness (about 12×10-inch rectangle). Sprinkle with Butterfinger candy, toffee, peanut butter cups, and nuts, making sure all pieces touch melted chocolate to adhere.
Put white chocolate in heavy small saucepan. Stir constantly over very low heat until chocolate is melted and warm (not hot) to touch. Remove from heat. Dip spoon into chocolate; wave from side to side over bark, creating zigzag lines. Scatter Reese’s Pieces and M&M’s over, making sure candy touches melted chocolate.
Chill bark until firm, 30 minutes. Slide foil with candy onto work surface; peel off foil. Cut bark into irregular pieces.

This will keep for days, maybe weeks, in your fridge. But we both know it won’t last that long. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Salty and sweet

Sometimes you find a song that is just right. It hits all the right chords, pulls all the right heartstrings. You feel sentimental and optimistic when you hear it, like it reminds you of something lost, but promises something found. Isn’t food the same way, too?

The smells, sights, sounds and tastes of food bring us to a moment in time. You could be creating that moment for the first time, or reliving it each time you take a bite.

Fran‘s caramels are the most perfect candy in the world. I normally don’t care for caramel (not wrapped around apples, not inside a Snickers, not packaged in a plastic square), but this is not a normal caramel. Buttery and just chewy enough without sticking to your teeth, it is covered in thick chocolate and then sprinkled with smoked salt or their award-winning gray salt. Just divine. Made in Seattle, it reminds me of that salty city with sweet memories.

No matter whom I share my life with, they will always know that Fran’s must be a part of every holiday, birthday and in between. A girl can’t compromise – it’s my special moment in time.

Chocolate icebox cake with strawberries

What I know about making icebox cakes: layer crisp cookies with whipped cream, chill and you have a delicious, soft cake in a matter of hours. The cookies soak up the cream and become soft, cakelike and easy to cut into. I added strawberries because that’s how I originally saw this recipe made by my friend Colleen. It tastes just like cookies and cream…but better with your favorite berry!

Yummy, friends, and don’t be surprised if people ask to have a private moment with their piece. 😉

You can do this with prepared cookies, or you can be extra pretentious and make your own. Which is exactly what I did! This recipe is originally from Smitten Kitchen (love her).

Chocolate-Strawberry Icebox Cake

For the cookies:

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 c. plus 2 T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 14 T unsalted butter, chilled
  • 3 T whole milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a food processor, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda. Cube butter and add, pulsing several times. In a small cup, combine milk and vanilla, pouring into food processor while running. Process until mixture forms a ball. Transfer dough to a cutting board, knead to make sure it’s blended, then shape into a 14-inch log. Roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices and place 1 inch apart on pan. I helped reform them into prettier circles at this point (they can be lopsided). Bake, rotating halfway through, 12-15 min., until cookies are dark brown. Cool on rack, repeat with remaining dough. The cookies should be nice and crisp!

When all the cookies are done, get started on the whipped cream and toppings!

  • 1 box of strawberries, cleaned and sliced (the more, the better!)
  • 3 c. heavy cream
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 T vanilla extract

In a large, cold bowl, beat cream, sugar and vanilla on high, until soft peaks form. Done. Time to assemble!

On a flat serving dish, create a circle of 7 cookies with one in the center. Scoop out 1/2-1 c. whipped cream, smooshing all over. Be careful, the cookies can slide. Use a rubber spatula, pushing the cream from the center to the edges. You want to create a solid base, and for it to look nice. Scatter strawberries around the edge, then place more cookies on top. Repeat until you end with whipped cream and beautiful strawberries on top. You might not use all the whipping cream.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least eight hours, or overnight.

You will not believe how soft those cookies get, just wonderful and fresh tasting. Ain’t it pretty? And unlike many cakes, it only gets better the longer it sits in your fridge. Next time, I think I’ll try it with raspberries or blueberries or maybe even peaches!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Peppermint heart marshmallows

Sweet hearts

Awwww, shucks. It’s Valentine’s Day again! I know a lot of people hate this holiday, but let me tell you that I Love You. Whoever you are, I hope you tell at least one person today, “I Choo Choo Choose You,” with a picture of a train attached.

From my Funny Valentine

Now on to why I bought a candy thermometer: marshmallows!

I don’t really like marshmallows, but I’ve been obsessed with making them ever since I watched Martha Stewart do it. Using a powerful KitchenAid, you whip gelatin with sugar and water until it becomes a glossy, creamy, ooey gooey cloud that eventually hardens enough to slice into smaller clouds of happiness.

For Christmas, I received both a KitchenAid and a candy thermometer, so I was able to make these peppermint-scented marshmallows that I cut into heart shapes. Say it with me, “Awwww!” I wanted to dye them pink, too, but “someone” used all the red food coloring making fake blood for Halloween and then tried to tell me that yellow and blue mixed together makes red…

And here’s what I think about making your own marshmallows: it’s really pretty easy. You boil the sugar until it gets to a certain temp, then whip it in with the gelatin. Add flavorings, whip some more, pour it out, cool, slice and you’re done.

They taste so much smoother and softer than the kind at the store. For these, the peppermint was pretty strong, so leave it out if you’re not a fan.  Vanilla alone is a great flavor.

I found this recipe here:

Peppermint Heart Marshmallows


  • Shortening for greasing
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • 2 1/2 tbsp Knox plain gelatin (a little less than 4 packets)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp red food coloring
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract


1. Grease a 9X13 dish with shortening and dust with powdered sugar the same way you would flour cake pans. Set aside.

2. Whisk attachment in place, combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the mixing bowl. This needs to sit for 15 minutes. So, while you wait…

3. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup of water over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. (about a 1 minute)

4. Turn the heat up to high and stick your candy thermometer in. Heat on high until the temperature is between 242 and 248 degrees F. NO STIRRING. 10-14 minutes. When between 242 and 248, remove from heat.

5. Back to the mixer, turn speed on to low and slowly pour the sugar mixture into the gelatin mixture. Increasing the speed one setting at a time for about 10 seconds each, eventually get to the highest setting on your mixer. The mixture will triple in size and be shiny and smooth; 10-15 minutes. When it’s done, keep the speed on high and add in the vanilla and peppermint extract.

6. With a spatula, spread evenly into your prepared pan. Dust with more powdered sugar and use your fingers to spread it around, if needed. Leave uncovered for about 8-10 hours, or overnight.

7. Cover a cutting board with powdered sugar and plop out the giant marshmallow onto it. You can loosen the sides with a knife. With a small heart-shaped cookie cutter, dipped into powdered sugar every time if necessary, cut out the heart shapes. Roll the sides in the powdered sugar so there are no sticky parts left. If you just want to make square marshmallows, dip the knife in powdered sugar and cut to desirable size, again rolling the sides in powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container.

These are perfection in a mug of hot chocolate, or even in coffee!

Happy V-day, friends! xoxo

Bacon salted fudge

Never thought I’d see those three words together on this blog. I am, however, the new owner of bacon salt, which my dear Oregonian friend gave me for Christmas. I’ve been hunting for ways to use it, which brings me to Giada.

She makes a cinnamon-chocolate fudge in which she sprinkles a little kosher salt on top. I watched her do this and needed to make it immediately. Went online and the recipe had quite the rave reader reviews, so I printed it out.

It was simple and easy, as all fudge really is, and I love the addition of cinnamon. Adds a warmth to the dark chocolate. Oh, and then I sprinkled bacon-flavored sea salt all over the top.

This would be a wonderful treat to make for your Valentine this weekend. Or, let’s be honest, for the most important person in the world: me. Just kidding — you. I cut mine into squares and keep them in the freezer for longevity’s sake.

Bacon-salted fudge:


  • Butter, for greasing the pan
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) bittersweet (60 percent cacao) chocolate chips or chopped coarse
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • Bacon salt, or kosher salt or any other kind of gourmet salt you can find


Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper, about 14-inches long and 7-inches wide, allowing the excess to overhang the sides. Set aside

In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the condensed milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate chips and butter. Put the bowl on a saucepan of barely simmering water and mix until the chocolate chips have melted and the mixture is smooth, about 6 to 8 minutes (mixture will be thick). Using a spatula, scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with salt, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until firm.

Run a warm knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the fudge. Remove the fudge to a cutting board. Peel off the parchment paper and cut the fudge into 1-inch pieces. Store refrigerated in an airtight container or freeze.


Enjoy, chocoholics! xoxo

Pear-almond cake with chocolate chunks

Almond Joy

At first I didn’t think I would like pear and chocolate together. It just sounded weird, somehow. But this cake is really tasty, especially when served cold. My only problem with the recipe is that the batter is thick and there isn’t much of it. I found it difficult to spread in two layers in my spring-form pan. Next time, I will put it all perhaps in one layer, with the pears on top. We’ll see. Also, you do not need a standing mixer for this.

You can find the recipe at RachaelRayMag.com. It is a basic cake batter layered with sliced pears, dark chocolate chunks and then drizzled with an almond glaze. Those almonds on top really pull it all together. I need to bake more with almonds. The pear is really moist and the chocolate adds a nice contrast. Plus, extra powdered sugar on top is always good.

The “rustic” cake is supposedly Roman in origin, so take that as you will. The result: a lovely cake for any occasion, with pears and chocolate and almonds. I’m a chocolate-pear convert!


Enjoy, friends! xoxo