Archive | November, 2012

French Silk Pie

29 Nov

I did an absolute ton of baking for Thanksgiving! I even made this French Silk Pie twice. A family recipe, this pie is silky smooth with robust chocolate flavor.

For me, Thanksgiving is typically a week-long affair. And this Thanksgiving did not disappoint. There were multiple family events throughout the week — a surprise birthday party, mini crab-feed, T-Day (with no T, actually) and a post-Thanksgiving-dinner dinner. So it was easy to whip up a few of my favorite desserts!

It’s difficult to photograph food when you have guests salivating behind you. They just don’t appreciate that you need a few minutes alone with the holiday pie! While I appreciate artistry in my food, I don’t think anyone wants to eat a piece of art. Too destructive, too many guilty feelings.

That’s why I love ugly food.

It’s the food we were all raised on. I think of how my Grandma and I enjoyed gooey hot fudge sundaes together.

Ugly food is over-the-top and messy. It tastes like childhood. And that’s what this French Silk Pie tastes like to me.

Random Fact: Incidentally, my first word was “Cookie.” [Thanks, Grandma!]

Making this pie is really easy. This is adapted from my mother-in-law’s amazing recipe. You may know this pie as Chocolate Satin instead of French Silk.

Please be aware, this French Silk Pie does contain raw eggs, which are unsafe for some groups of people. Try a different pie if you are pregnant, have a compromised immune system or feeding young children. Or, if you can find pasteurized whole eggs, that would work!

French Silk Pie
Prep Time: 30 minutes (needs to chill for at least 4 hours)
Makes 1 Pie

1 Pre-made Chocolate Pie Crust (or make your own HERE)
1 cup / 2 sticks Butter (room temperature)
1.5 cups White Sugar
4 oz Bittersweet Chocolate (I used Guittard) OR 2 oz Unsweetened Bakers Chocolate
4 Eggs (fresh and uncracked)
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 tsp Kosher Salt
Whipped Cream for Topping
Oreos or Shaved Chocolate for Topping (optional, have fun with it!)

Begin by preparing your chocolate pie crust. Once prepared, chill the crust in the fridge or freezer.

Next, chop up your chocolate and microwave in 15 second intervals until fully melted, stirring after each interval. Set aside and let cool.

Add your softened butter to the bowl of your stand mixer or large mixing bowl. Cream the butter on medium until lightened, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly add your sugar while beating on medium speed. Beat butter and sugar mixture until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add vanilla extract, salt and cooled chocolate mixture to mixing bowl. Beat the mixture until combined. Make sure to scrape the bowl thoroughly. (Any uncombined ingredients will leave streaks in your finished pie.) Your mixture will look something like this:

Now, the fun part (and the reason a stand mixer makes your life easier). You are going to add your first two (2) eggs, and beat the mixture on medium-high speed for five (5) minutes. Scrape periodically. After 5 minutes, your mixture will look something like this:

Go ahead and add the final two (2) eggs, and beat the mixture on medium-high speed for five (5) more minutes. Continue to scrape the bowl periodically to ensure everything is evenly mixed. You’ll end up with a smooth, mousse-like mixture.

After you’ve finished mixing, pour the mixture into your chilled pie crust. Smooth out the filling with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least four (4) hours. Lick the mixing bowl and spatula thoroughly.

Once the pie is thoroughly chilled, cover with whipped cream and any topping of your choice. Served well chilled.

Where’s the other slice, you ask? The husband got to it!

I know you’ll love this pie, especially if you enjoyed my Grasshopper Pie post. This pie is a down-to-earth dessert, just waiting to become your holiday tradition. I hope you enjoy it!

Do you have an ugly food recipe that you love, too? Tell me about it in the comments!

– Beth

Homemade Food Act a Big Win for Small Bakers in CA

27 Nov

Food entrepreneurs have a reason to celebrate this holiday season!

The California legislature recently passed Assembly Bill 1616, California’s first Cottage Food Law, which legalizes home-based food operations in limited circumstances.

For small time bakers, this is a huge win! Much of the cost of starting a food business comes from obtaining permits and leasing commercial kitchen space for baking your products legally. This bill attempts to lower the barriers to entry and – fingers crossed – may help stimulate small business growth in the state.

Let’s examine this bill in a little more depth together. My analysis comes directly from the text of AB1616.

When is this Law Effective?
The provisions of this bill become effective January 1, 2013. (However, regulators have indicated they may need additional time to comply.)

Defining a “Cottage Food Operation” (CFO)
This bill amends the Health and Safety Code to call out a “Cottage Food Operation” as a distinct entity from “Food Processing Facilities” and their more rigorous safety requirements.

Business Structure
The bill defines two distinct categories of Cottage Food Operations (CFOs):

Class A – a “Class A” CFO may only sell directly to consumer. Eligible sales are limited to farmer’s markets, bake sales, holiday bazaars, in-person transactions.

Class B – a “Class B” CFO may sell both directly and indirectly to consumers. Those with Class B status can have their products sold at third-party retailers (like a grocery store) and to restaurants for immediate consumption. This is in addition to selling products directly to consumers.

Note: It appears counties may have the right to allow / disallow indirect food sales from other counties. We’ll see how that sorts itself out.

Business Income Limitations
Since this bill is geared towards stimulating small business, it puts gross annual sales caps on the Cottage Food Operation.

2013: $35,000
2014: $45,000
2015: $50,000

Businesses which exceed the cap will need to comply with existing regulations for commercial food production.

Business Size
A CFO may have one full-time equivalent employee, in addition to the Cottage Food Operator. Family or household members are not included in this count, so they can be enlisted to help.

Permitting Process
Direct enforcement, will likely come from our local County Health Department. However, the California Department of Public Health is charged with outlining and overseeing this enforcement statewide. We’ll see how it all shakes out.

Class A cottage food operations will need to register with their local enforcement agency and complete a self-certification checklist prior to opening for business. Inspections of Class A operations will only occur if warranted by a consumer complaint.

Class B cottage food operations will need to meet the above requirements and also obtain a permit from their local enforcement agency. This will include passing an initial site inspection by an enforcement officer. Class B inspections will occur annually thereafter.

All Cottage Food Operators and employees will need to pass a food processor course instructed by the California Department of Public Health.

Permitting costs and regulatory fees may not exceed the reasonable costs incurred by local enforcement agencies. There may be additional permits required for operating at specific venues or within your geographic area.

Labeling Requirements
The Cottage Food Operation must comply with FDA labeling requirements. In addition, labels must include the following:

  • Name of the Food Product
  • Name of the Cottage Food Operation
  • Class A: Registration/Permit number of the Cottage Food Operation
  • Class B: Permit number and the name of the county that issued the permit
  • Words “Made in a Home Kitchen” in 12-point font on the primary display panel
  • Ingredients in descending order by weight
  • Products sold without packaging (in a restaurant) must be labeled as ‘Homemade on the men

Operational Requirements
Most of these requirements are no-nonsense, and meant to keep food prepared safe for the consumer.

  • No domestic activities may occur in the kitchen during cottage food preparation
  • No infants, children or pets may be in the kitchen during cottage food preparation
  • Kitchen equipment must be clean and in a good state of repair
  • Anything in contact with food must be cleaned and sanitized prior to use
  • No rodents or insects in the kitchen or food storage areas
  • Smoking is prohibited in the kitchen during cottage food preparation
  • Employees with contagious illnesses must refrain from working
  • Employees must wash their hands properly
  • Water used must be potable

Eligible Foods
Only foods classified as “not potentially hazardous” may be produced by a Cottage Food Operation. This is to limit the risk of contamination to the consumer. A list of these foods is to be maintained by the California Department of Public Health. The initial list includes:

  1. Baked goods without cream, custard, or meat fillings, such as breads, biscuits, churros, cookies, pastries, and tortillas.
  2. Candy, such as brittle and toffee.
  3. Chocolate-covered nonperishable foods, such as nuts and dried fruit.
  4. Dried fruit.
  5. Dried pasta.
  6. Dry baking mixes.
  7. Fruit pies, fruit empanadas, and fruit tamales.
  8. Granola, cereals, and trail mixes.
  9. Herb blends and dried mole paste.
  10. Honey and sweet sorghum syrup.
  11. Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butter that comply with the standard described in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
  12. Nut mixes and nut butters.
  13. Popcorn.
  14. Vinegar and mustard.
  15. Roasted coffee and dried tea.
  16. Waffle cones and pizelles.

Resources
FAQ Provided by CCDEH
Text of Assembly Bill 1616
FDA Food Labeling Requirements
Santa Clara Dept of Environmental Health, Food Safety Program (for my local readers)

My Takeaways
Keep in mind I’m not an expert. The analysis above is just my two cents. Overall, this law is a net positive for talented food entrepreneurs with more limited resources.

This new law may also bring current black-market operations into the fold.  The revenue generated for the state is a no-brainer. And the limitations protect both existing commercial food operations and the consumer through income caps and exempted higher-risk food categories.

One thing’s for sure: the home food industry is about to get busy in California! If you think it may be for you, I recommend contacting your local county health department for additional information. And keeping checking back here for detailed updates!

– Beth

Tacky Christmas Sweater Party Cookies

21 Nov

My new friends at Empire Vintage in Palo Alto are hosting a Tacky Sweater Party this evening, complete with a DIY-photo booth, hot cocoa and lots of mini cookies provided by Decadent Dragon Bakery. Yay – that’s me!

I was thrilled to get Empire Vintage’s call for goodies for their party. Ugly Sweater parties are this new phenomenon embracing the tacky holiday sweater. Or maybe it’s just an excuse to have another party and hit the egg nog? Either way, Empire Vintage has got you covered!

For the party, Empire Vintage was looking for mini holiday-themed goodies. Below are some photos of what we provided.

Peppermint Cupcake Bites

Spicy Gingersnap Bites

Chocolate Chunk Brownie Bites

*Konjakransar* Sugar Cookies

Our *Infamous* Vanilla Bean Chocolate Chunk Cookies

You’ll be seeing a number of these recipes on the blog (once I get to them). For now, you can stop by Empire tonight and enjoy the treats and awesome clothing! If I get my hands on some, I’ll post photos of the event. (I did, see below!) Good luck, Empire Vintage!

Update: Empire Vintage let me know the party went very well! Below are a couple photos from the party.

– Beth

Minty Grasshopper Pie

18 Nov


A homemade spin on this classic freezer pie.  Decadent Dragon’s Grasshopper Pie uses homemade marshmallow cream, creme de menthe and creme de cacao liqueur. Smooth, rich and minty.

Growing up, my sister’s favorite birthday cake was a Grasshopper Pie from Baskin Robbins. This Grasshopper Pie is a little different – it uses freshly whipped marshmallow cream instead of ice cream. But I think you’ll find its silken texture and flavor make for a great grown-up version.

When you find yourself with a bunch of extra egg whites, like I did after making my Holiday Egg Nog Grog, this is a perfect pie to use them up.

On the whole, this pie is straightforward to make but there are some bad recipes floating on the internet, so beware! As I found with my first attempts, freezer pies are extremely sensitive to water content. Ice crystals ruin the texture of this pie. Think ice cream instead of “icee.”

Alright, this recipe involves two parts: first, we need to make our homemade Marshmallow Cream. Then, we need to combine it with our minty pie ingredients.

Part 1: Whip up your Marshmallow Cream. This will be the base to your lovely Grasshopper Pie.

Marshmallow Cream
Recipe from Bon Appetit
Makes 4 cups

3/4 cup + 1/4 cup Sugar (divided)
1/4 cup Water
4 Egg Whites
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt

Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and simmer the syrup without stirring until it reaches 240F. You can occasionally swirl the pan gently but no stirring with a spoon, please! Stirring with a utensil can cause crystallization.

While the sugar syrup is cooking (be sure to monitor it closely), you can prepare the eggs.  Carefully separate the eggs, making sure no yolk gets into your egg whites. Reserve the egg yolks for another use [like my Holiday Egg Nog Grog]. Add the egg whites, vanilla and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on high until the eggs are frothy. Slowly begin adding the 1/4 cup sugar. Whip until medium peaks form. Reduce speed to medium, then carefully pour hot syrup into egg mixture in a slow, steady stream while whipping. Increase mixer speed to high and whip to stiff peaks. Reduce speed to medium and whip until marshmallow cream is cool. Use immediately.

Random Fact: My husband detests peppermint. So much that he uses kid’s strawberry toothpaste. 

Alrighty, on to pie-making!

Part 2: Let’s freeze us some Grasshopper Pie. The key to a silky pie is fully mixed and COLD ingredients.

Grasshopper Pie
Makes 1 Pie

1 Pre-made Chocolate Pie Crust (or make your own HERE)
4 cups Marshmallow Cream
1 cup + 3 tbsp Heavy Whipping Cream (divided)
1-2 tbsp Creme de Menthe
1-2 tbsp Creme de Cacao
2-4 drops Green Food Dye (Optional)
Sweetened Whipped Cream for topping (Optional)
Crushed Andes Mints or Oreos for topping (Optional)

Start by pre-chilling your Chocolate Pie Crust. Next, take your Marshmallow Cream and combine with 3 tbsp of heavy cream. Stir to combine until mixture is smooth (if you need to, you can microwave or heat the mixture gently to help with melting the marshmallow). Stir in 2 drops of the food dye until uniform. Chill the mixture in the fridge or freezer while you beat the cream.

Take the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 more drops of food dye and whip until medium peaks form. You want structure but don’t over-beat and make butter!

Gently fold in the whipped cream to the marshmallow mixture. Add liqueurs to taste [don’t add too much as you don’t want your pie to be icy]. Gently scrape the mixture into your chilled pie crust. Pop immediately into the freezer for 4-6 hours.

While impatiently waiting for your pie to freeze, make yourself a Grasshopper martini like I did. Truly decadent!

Just prior to serving, you can whip some cream to frost the pie. I used a Fat Daddio Pastry Bag and Wilton 4B Open-star tip to pipe my whipping cream.

If you have Andes mints or oreos, you can top the pie with them for artistic effect.

And now…the big reveal.

Ta-daaah!

[Wait, did I already show you that photo? Oh well, here it is again.]Remember, the liqueur in this pie means the melting point is higher and it never fully freezes [you can see how fast it melts in the shot below]. So, keep it cold and eat it quickly!

The Takeaway: You don’t have to use my recipe but be on the lookout for freezer pies with lower fat ingredients or too much liquid (water, liqueur, milk, etc.). My first attempt at this pie included regular milk and a lot more creme de menthe/cacao. All that liquid added up to a slushy pie. By limiting the liquid and upping the fat content you’ll get a much smoother result. Good luck!

Beth

Holiday Egg Nog

15 Nov

The quintessential holiday beverage. Egg Nog has seen many an amateur cook through endless hours spent slaving over a holiday meal. It’s smoothed the edges on those awkward dinners with the extended family that drag on-and-on. It’s perfect for sipping with friends and family in front of a warm, crackly, fire.

I still remember the first time I sampled homemade Egg Nog. My neighbors hosted a holiday cookie swap. I was probably 13 years old. And there was this huge punch bowl of warm Egg Nog. All the adults were doing boring things like talking to each other. So I fixated on the Nog. I must have had at least four cups full. Far more than was polite. But it was just that good, I couldn’t help going back for more.

I’ve decided to unofficially call my recipe “Egg Grog” because it’s made with good quality Jamaican rum. [Egg Grog.  The more you drink, the more you feel like a pirate.] But names aside, I think you’ll enjoy it.

I can’t stand store bought egg nog.  To me, it tastes like bubblegum, which I have no interest in drinking.  But that’s OK because this is one beverage that’s simple to make, and customize to your tastes, at home.

This drink can be served warm or chilled. It’s best the next day, though mine rarely makes it that long. If you haven’t tried homemade Egg Nog before, give this one a try – I promise, you won’t go back!

Holiday Egg Nog
Recipe makes 10-12 cups

8 Egg Yolks
2/3 cup Sugar
4 cups Milk (I used 2%)
2 cups Heavy Cream
8 tbsp Dark Rum (Bourbon or Cognac make good substitutes)
2 tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg (the regular stuff will work, too)
Pinch of Salt

Separate egg yolks from whites. Reserve egg whites for another use. Place yolks in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until egg yolks have lightened in color (about 30 seconds). Slowly add in the sugar, beating until lightened and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).

Combine the milk, cream, nutmeg and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Slowly heat on medium until the mixture is hot but not boiling. Stir frequently to keep the bottom from burning.

Next, you’ll need to temper the eggs, to prevent them from scrambling. Slowly add the hot milk (a few drops at a time) to the beaten egg yolks, whisking vigorously.  Continue adding hot milk, a little at a time, until you’ve added half the milk to the egg mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. [Go slowly, I’ve scrambled my yolks before adding the milk too quickly. You can increase your speed slightly as you add more milk.]

Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. You’ll want the mixture to reach 16oF degrees, to ensure the eggs are fully cooked. You can check this with a thermometer, although it’s not required. Don’t let the Egg Nog boil.

Remove from the heat and add in the rum. Pour into a glass bowl to cool. Once a bit cooler, place into the refrigerator to chill. Enjoy!

On a side note, above is a picture of a beautiful bouquet my husband created for me [just because he loves me!]. It has fresh wheat and amaranth (pictured), sage, lavendar and rosemary. A perfect bouquet for a chef, no? I’m so lucky!

Smitten Kitchen’s Apple Cider Caramels

10 Nov

Deb from Smitten Kitchen recently posted an awesome recipe for Apple Cider Caramels. I couldn’t resist trying them for myself. They came out beautifully and I wanted to share my success with you.

Local apple cider, freshly ground cinnamon and french sea salt [Ok, not so local…but oh, so good!]. These caramels are elegant and make a lovely holiday treat or gift.

Making the caramels is simple. Deb provides great instructions. I loved her tip to oil your knife while cutting the caramels. I’d recommend baking spray. Butter would probably make the caramels taste better though.

A few [minor] suggestions from Decadent Dragon:

  • Use freshly ground cinnamon if you can.
  • Use a thermometer.  It relieves you of temperature uncertainty.
  • Instead of parchment, you can use saran wrap to wrap caramels.
  • My caramels were super-soft outside the fridge. Keep ’em cold to maintain shape.

And lastly, Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook is out.  This would make a great Christmas gift (hint, hint!).

Meadowfoam Baklava

9 Nov

Like the many varieties of good wine, honey comes in a spectrum of flavors and colors. This nutty baklava is made with California Meadowfoam honey, which has caramel-marshmallow tasting notes. Baklava can be made with any variety of honey you have on hand but I highly recommend using a locally-produced varietal you enjoy.

Over the past few years, I’ve sampled my way through the local honey available at our farmer’s markets. Varietal honey is created when honey bees forage primarily from one type of plant, bringing its nectar back to the hive. Thus varietal honey comes in many forms: clover, sage, star thistle, buckwheat, tupelo…the list goes on.

Far and away my favorite honey, Meadowfoam is made from the pretty, white meadowfoam flower.  But the honey is a deep, amber color. I thought the color and rich vanilla-marshmallow flavor would complement Alton Brown’s Baklava recipe. As hoped, my baklava [the second batch, that is] turned out beautifully nutty, crunchy and with the caramel honey sweetness of this lovely varietal.

These cut baklava even resemble honeycomb.

Alton’s recipe is quite good, if a little over-complicated and, ehm…pretentious.  [No, I don’t have a spritz bottle just for rose water!]  Also, his written instructions would have turned the syrup into a hard candy.  So, I made a few changes.

Most importantly, cut the baklava before baking.  It will make your life SO much easier. I also recommend cutting back on the sugar in the syrup slightly to let the honey shine. If you don’t have three kinds of nuts, feel free to substitute. Personally, I do think the rose water is important but if you are in a jam it won’t ruin the dish to leave it out. Here’s his recipe with my modifications.

Meadowfoam Honey Baklava:
Adapted from Alton Brown’s Baklava recipe.
Makes one (1) 9X13 pan OR two 8X8 pans or baklava.

For the filling:
1 (5-inch piece) cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (or 2 teaspoons ground)
15 to 20 whole allspice berries (2 teaspoons ground)
6 ounces blanched almonds
6 ounces raw or roasted walnuts
6 ounces raw or roasted pistachio
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon rose water
1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
8 ounces unsalted butter, melted

For the syrup:
1 1/4 cups Meadowfoam Honey (or your favorite varietal)
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch) piece fresh orange peel

Begin by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your pan(s) with butter.

Place the cinnamon stick and whole allspice into a spice grinder and grind.

Place the almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sugar and freshly ground spices into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not pasty or powdery, approximately 15 quick pulses. Set aside.

Combine the water and rose water in a spray bottle (or a small bowl if you don’t have a spray bottle) and set aside.

Trim the sheets of phyllo to fit your pans.  Take the phyllo out of its wrapper and quickly cover with a damp (but not too wet) paper towel.  This will keep your dough hydated and easy to work with as you build your layers.  Otherwise, it’s a race against the clock, so please use the paper towel!

If you are doing the two 8X8 pans, separate your nut mixture into two bowls equally.  Set one aside for your second pan of baklava.

Place a sheet of phyllo in your pan.  Brush with butter to coat.  Lay another sheet on top and brush with butter.  Repeat until you have ten (10) sheets of buttered phyllo layered in your pan.  (Don’t skimp!  I’m serious, you want every delicious layer.)  Top with 1/3 of the nut mixture (really 1/6 if you are doing two smaller pans instead of the large sheet).  Spray or, using fingers, flick with the rose water mixture.  Repeat phyllo layering with another six (6) sheets of phyllo dough, brushed with butter.  Add the next 1/3 of the nuts and spritz with rose water.  Repeat with another six (6) sheets of phyllo, butter and last 1/3 of the nuts and rose water.  Top with eight (8) sheets of buttered phyllo.  Butter top generously.

If doing a second pan, repeat the steps above.  Cut the baklava into serving-sized pieces using a sharp knife BEFORE placing into the oven .

Put pan(s) in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes.  Remove when the phyllo is a medium brown color and crispy.  The nuts should be toasted throughout.  Let cool for 2 hours.

Make the syrup during the last 30 minutes of cooling. Combine honey, water, sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel in a 4-quart saucepan and set over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Once boiling, boil for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and discard orange peel and cinnamon stick.

After the baklava has cooled for 2 hours, re-cut the entire pan following the same lines as before. Pour the hot syrup evenly over the top of the baklava, allowing it to run into the cuts and around the edges of the pan. Allow the pan to sit, uncovered until completely cool. Cover and store at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to overnight before serving. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days.

What’s your favorite type of honey?

– Beth

Marshmallow Cream Drinking Chocolate

4 Nov

Rich, fragrant, creamy, delectable… 

Drinking chocolate is out of this world. The best chocolate beverage you’ll ever have. This version combines locally produced Guittard Chocolate Company’s Bittersweet chocolate with toasted marshmallow cream and the crunch of  graham cracker crumbs. Best part? It’s simple to make.  Only 10 minutes, I promise. 

I still remember my first experience with drinking chocolate.  In Santa Cruz, there’s a little cafe on Pacific named (quite aptly) Chocolate. They offer a selection of gourmet drinking chocolates made with artisanal chocolate. I fell in love with this decadent beverage one winter evening during college.

However, as I sipped my way through their menu, I thought their dark chocolate a smidge too dark and their milk chocolate too light.  In true Goldilocks style, I wanted something just right.   So I quickly set about recreating this awesome drink for myself. And now you can, too!

The Key…

The chocolate makes (or breaks) this dessert beverage. So, use the best quality chocolate you can find. You get to choose the darkness of the chocolate to suit your taste, however.

I highly recommend any of these brands’ semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, as I’ve tried them all: Callebaut makes a super-smooth and creamy drink, Schaarfen Berger seems more fruity to me, and Guittard is a great all-around crowd pleaser.

Let me give you my recipe!

Marshmallow Hot Chocolate:

2.5 oz High-Quality Bittersweet or Semi-Sweet Chocolate (Guittard Bittersweet shown here)
2 tbsp Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup Marshmallow Cream (Marshmallows are an OK substitute, too)
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt
Graham Cracker Crumbs for rimming the glass
Butter for rimming the glass

Begin by preparing your chosen glass / mug. Lightly coat the rim of the mug with butter, which will help the graham cracker adhere. If you are using whole graham crackers, smash or blend the crackers into very small pieces / powder. Place crumbs onto a plate, turn the mug upside down and gently coat the rim with the crumbs.

Chop up your chocolate into even, small pieces (the smaller the pieces, the more quickly and evenly they will melt). Place the chocolate into a different, microwave-safe mug, add cream and microwave for 15 seconds. Remove and stir mixture with a spoon for 10 seconds. If chocolate is not fully melted, microwave again for 10 seconds, remove and stir. Repeat until chocolate is melted. (Do not overheat or you risk burning the chocolate.)

Add the vanilla, milk and salt to the melted chocolate mixture. Stir and microwave for 45 seconds. Remove and test the mixture.  When done, the drink should be heated to your liking and all chocolate should be fully melted. If not, return and microwave for another 30 seconds.

Pour the prepared drinking chocolate into the mug lined with graham cracker crumbs.

Place the 1/2 cup of marshmallow cream into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 5 seconds, remove and stir. You need the mixture to be pliable enough to spoon over your hot chocolate. Microwave in 5 second increments until the cream is a spoonable consistency. Spoon the marshmallow cream over your drinking chocolate.

If you have a blowtorch, you can toast the top of the marshmallow cream for effect. Beware the marshmallow cream does like to catch on fire! So keep your blowtorch turned on low and very gently toast the surface. Or, you can pop the mug in your microwave for 10-20 seconds to make the marshmallow cream blow up above the top of the glass!

This is not the last time you’ll see drinking chocolate on Decadent Dragon Bakery. It’s just that awesome.

Do you have an experience with amazing drinking chocolate? Please share!

Beth

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

2 Nov

When your husband works as an agricultural Biologist, you get used to “produce surprises” appearing in your kitchen on a semi-regular basis. Sometimes it’s a pound of local, fresh honey, others a little bean sprout begging to be planted.  This week, it was a box of three, extremely ripe pineapples. And one of them became this scrumptious rum-laced cake.

Whenever these culinary surprises show up, I imagine myself a star on Iron Chef, tasked with creating a meal from our new found bounty. Silly? Probably.

With the pineapple, I was looking to highlight the sweet and tart flavors of fresh pineapple – almost like a tribute to the end of summer now we’re firmly in fall. And so the inspiration for this Pineapple Upside Down Cake was born.

This pineapple was a truly beautiful thing.  Incredibly sweet and ripe, with low acidity (well, for a pineapple anyway).

I found a lovely recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s blog. Like her, I chose to omit the ground cardamom from the cake — though I did go back and garnish with cardamom afterward.  Cardamom does a good job of balancing the rather intense sweetness of this cake.

I also added more RUM than she called for in her recipe. Excellent Appleton Estates rum. I swear, this blog should be call the Drunken Dragon sometimes. I put rum in the caramel topping, rum in the batter and garnished with rum once the cake was baked!

Overall, this produced an excellent cake.  I highly recommend it. My one suggestion would be to lessen some of the sugar in the recipe: perhaps a 1/4 cup less in the batter (beware as I haven’t tested this). Particularly if you are using a sweet pineapple, the sugar can likely be cut back a bit.

This cake emerges from your cast iron skillet with the most beautiful caramel and pineapple topping. And on a side note: does anyone else think the picture above looks like a spiral galaxy? Haha, I do!

Have a good one!

Beth