Category Archives: Chocolate

Chocolate Almond Madeleines

When I was in culinary school, the baking course was my least favorite class. My instructor was a wonderful teacher and incredibly talented, but the pace was very slow and I wasn’t much of dessert fan then. That quickly changed after I had my first child. I developed an insatiable sweet tooth and was craving pastries all the time. Not just any pastries, mind you, but the expensive kind from French Patisseries: macarons, croissant aux amandes, and financiers. The common ingredient in all these pastries is almond flour. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I love almond-flavored desserts. Today, I share a madeleine recipe with all the flavors of a financier – brown butter almond cakes.

These little mini cakes in madeleine molds are light and airy with crispy edges from the egg whites. They are also nutty from the ground almonds and the brown butter, and the cocoa powder takes it up another notch. Essentially, these are financiers in fancy molds. These little cakes will not have the traditional Madeleine hump so they will be done when the top is no longer shiny. If you don’t have madeleine pans, you can bake these in mini muffin tins. The texture will be a little denser, but still just as delicious. Enjoy!

Chocolate Almond Madeleines

Yield: 36 little cakes​

1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup of ground almonds
2 tablespoons of Dutch processed cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona)
1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of flaky sea salt
2/3 cup of egg whites at room temperature, (about 4 large egg whites)
¾ cup of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting, optional
Baking spray
Madeleine molds or mini muffin tins

1. Add butter to a small sauce pan and cook at medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want to keep a watchful eye until you see small brown specks on the bottom of the pan. It will have a nice nutty aroma. Once you hit this point, you want to remove the pan off the burner and transfer to a bowl to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

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2. Sift the flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder, and baking soda  in a seive over a medium bowl to remove any lumps from the ground almonds and cocoa powder. Whisk and set  aside.

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3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until frothy.

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4. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk until just combined.

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5. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until just combined.

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6. Take the brown butter and pour it in the batter, folding gently until just combined.

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7. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

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8. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the madeleine molds with the baking spray.

9. Taking a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop, measure out each portion. You can also use a piping bag if you prefer.

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10. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until the individual cakes are cooked through.

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11. Cool for 5 minutes. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Serve with coffee or tea. These are best eaten the same day, but you can store any leftovers in a air tight container for up to 3 days.

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Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

During most of my work conferences, the cookie tray rolls around mid-afternoon. Classic cookies like chocolate chip, peanut butter, chocolate, snickerdoodle, and oatmeal raisin are displayed. The chocolate chip cookies are the most popular and first to go, but that never bothered me because I seek out the oatmeal raisin cookies – my all-time favorite cookie. There many reasons I love this cookie: the wholesome texture, chewy raisins and the earthy flavor. Also, I feel better about eating them because of the whole grains and nuts. For me, the perfect oatmeal cookie is chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, so that’s what I go for in my recipe. My cookie also has ingredients that add layers of textures: raisins, toasted walnuts, dark chocolate chunks and coconut flakes. As with all my cookie recipes, there is 1/3 less sugar than most traditional recipes, which makes me feel less guilty about eating them! Finally, for this recipe, I let the cookie dough refrigerate overnight. This helps soften the oats and meld all the flavors. Happy baking!

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

Yield: about 32 cookies

2 cups of quick oats

1 3/4 cup of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of Kosher salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter, cold and cut into 16 pieces

1 cup of dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

2/3 cup of toasted and chopped walnuts*

2/3 cup of raisins

1/2 cup of chopped dark chocolate (60% cacao)

1/2 cup of sweetened coconut flakes

1. In a large bowl add the oats, flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Whisk and set aside.

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2. In a stand mixer, add the butter and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

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3. Add the brown and granulated sugars. Beat for 3 more minutes until light and fluffy. Scrap the sides of the bowl.

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4. Reduce the speed to low. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl in between.

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5. Add the vanilla extract and beat just until incorporated. Stop the mixer.

6. To the flour and oat mixture, add the walnuts, raisins, dark chocolates and coconut flakes. Stir to combine.

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7. Turn the the mixer on low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Once all the ingredients have been incorporated, stop mixer.

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8. Transfer the cookie dough into an airtight container and place in the refrigerator overnight for up to 3 days.

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9. When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the cookie dough out of the refrigerator.

10. Using a 2 tablespoon size scooper, portion out the cookies on the cookie sheets, two inches apart.

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11. Using the palm of your hand, press down each portion to flatten slightly.

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12. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the sides are golden brown and top is no longer shiny.

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13. Cool the baked cookies on rack. Serve with cold milk or coffee.  Place any remaining cookies in a airtight container for up to 3 days.

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*For toasted walnuts, place the chopped walnuts on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 350°. Cool completely before adding them into the recipe.

Toffee with Dark Chocolate and Mixed Nuts

Last year, my husband brought home some delicious toffee. I’m not a huge fan of toffee or candy in general, but this was quite amazing. What I loved about the toffee was the texture – each piece was crunchy but not jaw-breaking, light and not too dense. The toffee also had a nice layer of dark chocolate and some chopped mixed nuts on the top. Overall it was delicious and it inspired me to work on a recipe for it.

Making toffee isn’t difficult, but it does require some attention and timing, as sugar can be a little tricky to work with during the candying process. I find that adding some corn syrup helps prevent crystallization in the sugar. Also, make sure you turn off the heat once you hit soft crack phase, which is at 285°. 300° is hard crack, and some people would argue that it needs to hit this temperature in order to be proper toffee. I my opinion, 300° makes of the toffee a little too hard. Finally, another trick I use is adding a little baking soda to the recipe, which helps lighten up the toffee. With some extra dark chocolate and mixed roasted nuts on top, you won’t be able to have just one piece. Enjoy!

Toffee with Dark Chocolate and Mixed Nuts

Yield: About 1 1/2 lbs.

Non-stick baking spray

1 cup of unsalted organic butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

1 cup of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of organic corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

6 1/2 ounces of finely chopped dark chocolate, preferably 65% cacao

1/2 cup of salted and roasted mixed nuts (peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and cashews), finely chopped

Fleur de sel or flaky sea salt

 

Special Equipment:

1/4 sheet pan (8 1/2″ x 11″ at the base)

Parchment paper

Candy thermometer

Wooden spoon

Pastry brush

Water

Off-set spatula

1. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to 8 1/2″ x 11″ to fit the bottom of the baking sheet. Line the baking sheet and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

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2. Have the vanilla extract and baking soda ready in small mise en place bowls.

3. Add the butter,  sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a medium heavy-bottom copper or an enamel coated cast iron pot. Heat on medium.

4. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until it comes to a boil. Stop stirring. Then attach the candy thermometer.

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5. Get a small bowl of water and a pastry brush ready. Set aside.

6. Stir the toffee mixture occasionally as the temperature reaches 285° on the candy thermometer. You will stir about five different occasions. Do not overstir or the toffee will separate. Also, during this process, you will use the wet brush to mix in any sugar mixture that comes up along the sides of the pan. This helps prevents crystallization.

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7. Once the temperature reaches 285°, immediately remove the pot from the stove and stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. The baking soda will help lighten the toffee.

8. Pour the toffee mixture on the prepared parchment-covered baking sheet. Tap the baking sheet a couple of times. Let the toffee cool for 2 minutes.

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9.Sprinkle the chopped dark chocolate evenly over the toffee. Let it sit for 1 minute.

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10. Using an off-set spatula, gently spread the melted chocolate.

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11. Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the melted chocolate. Sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt. Using another piece of parchment paper to gently press the nuts into the chocolate.

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12. Place the toffee in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.

13. When is the chocolate has hardened, remove the toffee from the refrigerator. Peel off the parchment paper.

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14. Break it up into bite-size pieces.

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15. Store in an airtight container. You can also place them in small cellophane bags for gifts.

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies

There is a reason why Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is the best selling candy bar in the United States. The candy bar is the perfect marriage of chocolate and peanut butter and it’s one of my favorite candy bars. I never buy them, but every Halloween I find myself scavenging through my kids’ trick-or-treat bags, looking for that distinct orange wrapper. I wanted to capture that flavor in a cookie, and I chose to create a chocolate cookie with peanut butter flavor rather than a peanut butter cookie with chocolate flavor. At first glance, you wouldn’t know there was peanut butter in these cookies. They look like chocolate cookies with chocolate chunks, but once you take a bite, both the chocolate and peanut butter flavors are pronounced. It’s rich, soft, and slightly chewy. If you are allergic to peanut butter, you can substitute the peanut butter with an equal amount of almond butter. Either way, the cookies will be delicious. A tall glass of milk is a must for these cookies. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies

Yield: about 18 large cookies

1 1/4 cups of Sonora wheat flour* or unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup Valhrona cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 cup of unsalted butter at room temperature, preferably organic
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of organic creamy peanut butter (w/o sugar or salt)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
6 oz of good quality dark chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

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3. In a stand mixer, add the butter and the sugars. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

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4. Scrape the sides and add the peanut butter. Beat for 1 more minute.

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5. Scrape the sides again and add the egg and the vanilla extract. Beat until just combined.

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6. Set the mixer to the lowest speed. Slowly add the dry ingredients until just combined.

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7. Finally, add the chopped chocolates and mix on low for about 15 seconds.

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8. Using a 3-tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop the cookie dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

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9. Press down with the palm of your hand to flatten.

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10. Bake in the the oven for 8-10 minutes. Don’t overbake because you want the cookie to be slightly chewy and soft.

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11. Transfer to a baking sheet and cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm with a tall glass of milk.

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*I like to use the Sonora wheat flour from Grist and Toll.

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

The chocolate chip cookie is the quintessential American cookie. You can find chocolate chip cookies in most bakeries and every pastry chef has his or her own version. As simple as the chocolate chip cookie may seem, you’ll notice how every cookie is different. Some chocolate chip cookies are soft and cakey, while others are crispy and chewy. They also vary in size as well: thick or thin or big or small. Like many bakers, I have been in the search for what I consider to be the perfect chocolate cookie recipe. I’ve tested several dozen in my lifetime. After tweaking a couple of my favorites, I came up with this one.

This recipe will produce a soft and chewy cookie with a crispy edge. The secret to the chewy texture is the sugar ratio and the addition of cornstarch to the dough. The baking soda gives the cookie a nice crispy edge. Also, I use chocolate chunks instead of chocolate chips, so you get oozy chocolate with every bite. You won’t find any butter in this recipe, but trust me, you won’t notice the difference. And the best part about this recipe — you don’t need a mixer. Make a batch of these cookies and I guarantee you’ll make somebody happy. Enjoy!
Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yield: about 20 cookies

Ingredients

7 ounces of good quality dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 cup of organic cornstarch*
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 cup of sugar
2/3 cup of packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

 

1. Chop the chocolate on parchment paper into 1/4 inch pieces. Place a sieve over a bowl. Using the parchment, transfer the chopped chocolate into the sieve. Set the chopped chocolate aside and save the collected chocolate powder for another use (like hot chocolate).

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2. Place the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and kosher salt into a small bowl. Whisk and set aside.

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3. In a large bowl, add the sugar and brown sugar. Whisk together to break up any lumps. Add the coconut oil and whisk until incorporated.

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4. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk until just combined.

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5. Add the flour mixture and chopped chocolate into the wet mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until dough forms. Don’t over mix. Let it sit for 10 minutes at room temp.

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6. While the dough is resting, set oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

7. Using an ice cream scoop (2 tablespoon size), form cookie dough and place the scoops 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.

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8. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden brown, but don’t over bake them.

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9. Cool on a wired rack for 15 minutes. They are best eaten when slightly warm with a tall glass of milk or a cup of coffee.

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10. Store any leftover cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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* If at all possible, try to use organic corn-based products. Most of the corn syrup and cornstarch sold in the stores are GMO.

 

 

Malted Chocolate Truffles with Sea Salt

The confections known as chocolate truffles are a delicious treat which you can find at most candy shops. The reason these confections are called truffles is, once the small round balls are coated with traditional cocoa powder, they resemble the fungus. Although they seem really fancy, they’re relatively easy to make at home. All you need is some good quality chocolate and heavy cream to make a ganache center. You can add different ingredients, like spices, liquors or extracts to vary the flavor.

Many years ago, I used to frequent a confection shop in Los Angeles where the pastry chef made amazing truffles. One of my favorites was the malted milk chocolate truffle. They were creamy and smooth with just enough malt to perfectly complement the cocoa flavor. Here is my version of the truffles using dark chocolate and Fleur de Sel, which make great gifts for the holidays. Enjoy!

Malted Chocolate Truffles with Sea Salt

Yield: about 3 dozen

1 lb. of dark chocolate (52-54% cacao)
3/4 cup of heavy cream
2/3 cup of barley malt syrup*
1/2 scant teaspoon of sea salt (Fleur de Sel)
1/2 cup of finely chopped roasted hazelnuts or almonds
Pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 cup of cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona)

1. Chop the chocolate into 1/4″ pieces and place in a large glass bowl. Set aside.

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2. Add the cream, milk, and malt syrup in a small sauce pan. Place the pan on the burner over medium-high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, immediately remove from the heat and pour the liquid over the chopped chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.

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3. After five minutes, take a rubber spatula and slowly stir the chocolate and cream mixture (ganache). Once the ganache just comes together, add the Fleur de Sel. Stir just until the salt is incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to cool for at least one hour.

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4. To prepare your truffle station, place the chopped hazelnuts in a small bowl. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and stir. Set aside.

5. Add the cocoa powder in a bowl. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

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6. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. Using a truffle scoop (.5 ounce scoop), scoop the ganache and roll into a smooth ball. Place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat the process until you have enough to star the coating process. (If the balls soften, place the baking sheet in the freezer for five minutes once done.)

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7. Roll 1/2 of the ganache balls in the cocoa powder and the other 1/2 in the chopped hazelnuts. Make sure you coat one ball at a time.

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8. Place each truffle in a mini baking cup. Arrange them then in a confection box. Refrigerate until ready to gift.

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*Sold at most gourmet health food stores.