chocolate

Chocolate-Banana-Applesauce Cake

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When I was a kid my mother sometimes made macaroni-and-cheese using somewhat older, hard-around-the-edges American cheese that didn’t look fit to eat. I thought it was appalling.

But she told me that these cheese wasn’t spoiled, just hard because maybe it wasn’t wrapped quite so well, and that in any event she would never make any dish for us using an ingredient that could be harmful.

Of course.

And also, why waste perfectly good cheese that’s going to melt anyway. So if it isn’t perfect to eat cold, as is, it is perfectly fine for macaroni and cheese.

And it was. She made delicious macaroni and cheese.

My children are appalled if I use an ingredient that’s past its sell-by/expiration date. I feel the same way my mother did. I would never use an ingredient that is spoiled or harmful. But some of those expiration dates are meant more as a “use them soon because the flavor or texture won’t be perfect” than “do not eat this EVER!”

So recently, I noticed that in addition to some fresh bananas turned black-spotty, my snack packages of applesauce were a month beyond their expiration date. Rather than give the applesauce to my grandkids and have my daughters feel appalled, I used it in chocolate cake, in the place of eggs.

Not only was I able to use up a perfectly good ingredient, the cake was delicious and also a good vegan choice.

So there.

Chocolate-Banana-Applesauce Cake

  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 medium ripe bananas

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/3 cup apple juice (or orange juice)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8”x8” cake pan. Melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set the flour mixture aside. Mash the bananas and place them in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer and bowl). Add the sugar and mix at medium speed for a minute, or until well blended. Add the applesauce, juice, vanilla extract and melted chocolate and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until throughly blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 9 servings

Valentine's Day Chocolate Fudge Brownies

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I have told my husband not to buy me chocolate candy for Valentine's Day.

Sure, I love the thought, not to mention the taste (he knows how much I love buttercrunch!!!!!!).

But really, I need to NOT EAT candy for a variety of reasons including the number I see on the scale when I weigh myself each morning.

For Valentine's Day I am going to make brownies, which will be sufficient for the two of us to celebrate with a piece or two, then give the rest away to a friend of mine who loves sweets.

Then it will all be gone, we will have had a delicious, but calorie-limited Valentine's Day and that will be that until the next occasion.

 

Valentine's Day Chocolate Fudge BROWNIES

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square baking pan.  Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top part of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. When the ingredients have melted, blend them thoroughly and remove the pan from the heat. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat them 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the vanilla extract and nuts, if used. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool the brownies in the pan. Cut them into 16 squares.

Makes 16

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

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I know it's latke season and doughnut season. But in the larger world out there it's also cookie season.

Well, actually, for me it is always cookie season. When I was a kid my Mom baked cookies all the time and when we got home from school we had milk and cookies every day. That was the snack -- before the days of chips (potato, kale or otherwise in little bags) and frozen pizza.

My brothers taught me how to dunk.

So when cookie season comes around I feel nostalgic. Sure, I make the old family favorites. Fannies. Peanut butter cookies. Chocolate Chunk Grand Finale cookies

But occasionally I try something new. I'm not always happy with the results and most often I discard the recipe.

But these were wonderful. And also perfect for dunking.

 

Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups finely ground almonds (8 ounces)
  • 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons sugar for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract)

In a food processor, pulse the chocolate until almost ground. Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and cloves and process on pulse to incorporate the ingredients until finely ground and well mixed. Place the mixture into a bowl, add the ground almonds and mix to blend the ingredients thoroughly.

In the bowl of an electric beater, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in the extract and the chocolate-almond mixture.

Sprinkle a sheet of parchment paper with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the dough on top of the sugar. Place another piece of parchment paper on top. Roll or press the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 to 3/8 inch. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Let the unbaked cookies air dry for at least 1-1/2 hours. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut out circles or shapes with a cookie cutter. Place the cut out cookies on the parchment paper, leaving room between each cookie for them to spread. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cookies cool on the sheet for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 36 cookies

 

 

My Bat Mitzvah Chocolate Cake

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Today is the anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah. It took place a LONG time ago! In the 1950s to tell you the truth.

Back in the day Bat Mitzvahs were not such a thing. In fact, I was the first girl from our newly established synagogue to reach this momentous occasion.

I have to confess, our rabbi mentioned the notion when we first joined the synagogue and I told my parents I wanted to learn some Hebrew and prayers and do whatever I had to, not so much because I had any particular religious feelings, nor was it because I wanted a big party -- the big themed events we see today didn't exist back then -- but because my two older brothers had Bar Mitzvahs and I couldn't understand why a girl wouldn't be treated equally.

My mother always said that when I was born I came out a feminist.

Still am. (So was she.)

Girls are equal to boys, women to men. Let's not even contest that one.

Still, my brothers did have a Saturday Shabbat service Bar Mitzvah and I was only allowed to have one on Friday night. I was content with that, it was a start.

We had a small party at home. I was allowed to invite one friend, and of course my family was there -- aunts, uncles, cousins, including my cousin Leslie, who, to this day, is like a sister.

I remember my dress: white with red and black lines. 

I don't remember what my Mother made for food.

But I do remember dessert. Because I made it: a dark chocolate cake with fudge frosting.

I didn't keep the recipe. I don't actually know whose recipe I used. I just remember what it looked like and that it tasted fabulous and that I made the cake for my own Bat Mitzvah.

So today I celebrate with Chocolate Cake. This one is a riff on the famous Hershey Black Cake with a few changes to make it dairy-free, less sweet and more to my tastes (you can change the frosting to dairy using 12 tablespoons of butter in place of the coconut milk and coconut oil). 

This is a good cake for a festive occasion, even one's own Bat Mitzvah.

Black Chocolate Cake

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • water
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup strong, cooled coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 3 9-inch cake pans. Pour the lemon juice into a liquid (pitcher) measuring cup and add enough water to measure one cup. Set aside. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix at low speed to combine the ingredients. Add the eggs, the lemon-water, coffee, vegetable oil and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, or until well combined and smooth. Pour equal amounts of the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes. Invert the layers onto a cake rack to cool completely. Frost and serve.

Makes 8-10 servings

Frosting

  • 1-1/2 cups dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • pinch of salt

Place the chocolate chips, coconut milk and coconut oil in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the chips have melted and the mixture is smooth and uniform. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Let cool, whisking the ingredients occasionally. Refrigerate until firm enough to be spreadable.

 

Corn Syrup Free Butter Crunch

I once wrote that if doomsday was coming and there might not be a tomorrow, I would want some butter crunch before it all ended so I could at least die happy.

That's still my choice. I don't think there's a better candy, that gives that same salty-sweet combo better than butter crunch.

I love my original recipe, but recently someone asked me if I had a recipe that didn't include corn syrup. 

I didn't at the time, but do now.

Here it is: crunchy, salty-sweet and tender chocolate on top.

Don't stint on the good stuff. This recipe is too good for cheap chocolate.

Valentine's Day, mishloach manot for Purim, doomsday, whatever. This is a good choice in (or for) any event.

 

Corn Syrup Free Butter Crunch

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped

Lightly butter a small sheet cake pan (about 10”x7” or a portion of a larger pan). Place the butter, sugar and salt into a deep saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to bubble. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is golden brown (about 7-8 minutes) (or until a candy thermometer reads 280 degrees). Quickly stir in the vanilla and nuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly to make a layer about 1/8”-1/4” thick. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate on top. Let it melt briefly, then use a spatula or the back of a large spoon to spread the chocolate evenly over the candy. Keep spreading until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Sprinkle the nuts on top and press them in lightly. Let cool until the chocolate is firm and set, at least 3 hours. Break into pieces.

Makes about 1 pound, enough for one person, or two if you want to share

 

 

Banana Chocolate Cake

My grandson wanted to bake a cake with me. I think he actually liked the licking-out-the-bowl part the best and I actually was most thrilled that he came up with the idea about combining banana bread and chocolate cake.

I looked through my recipes for endless variations of banana bread. And chocolate cake. I fooled around with them, combining this and that from several of the recipes and came up with the one here. It's dairy-free, so his sister, my 3-1/2 year-old grand daughter, could eat some too. And we added some chocolate chips, just for good measure.

He did like the licking-out-the-bowl thing.

He also told me the cake was too dry. But I think that was because the temperature indicator on my oven has been cleaned so often for so many years that the numbers have disappeared and I can only estimate the proper cooking temperature. I do have an oven thermometer but that also needs "updating." so I don't know if the cake baked at exactly the right temperature.

Also, I forgot to set the timer.

Anyway, everyone else declared the cake delicious. Even my grandson said it was and would want it again when I finally decide what oven I want to get to replace the old one.

So here it is, the creation.

Banana Cocoa Chocolate Chip Cake

  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch (8-cup) bundt pan. Mix the flour, cocoa, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the shortening and sugar at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until well blended. Add the bananas and blend them in thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and blend them in thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and beat until batter is well blended. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes 16-18 servings

 

 

Rich Tangerine-Chili Chocolate Truffles

I love the tradition of mishloach manot -- giving away food to family, friends and even strangers during Purim. Besides the actual mitzvah of giving, it is an opportunity to do what I love: cook a lot and give the food away. It's like having the thrill of eating -- without the calories.

If you make edible gifts for Purim or as a host/hostess gift when you are invited to someone's house or for any other occasion, you might want to try truffles. They take some time but are actually quite easy to make and I guarantee they're rich and tasty and anyone would be thrilled to get them.

Check out the photo and you'll notice that I don't make my truffles perfectly rounded. Candy truffles get their name because they look like the the underground fungi, the ones that are highly fragrant and are dark, small and irregularly shaped. So the sloppy look is actually more authentic.

I made this recipe using tangerine juice and cayenne pepper. I had once tasted tangerine-chili chocolates and thought they were amazingly wonderful. The extra bit of heat pops the citrus and chocolate into one harmonious whole.

Yes, orange juice and peel are fine, though not as flavorful. And you can leave out the cayenne pepper, though I think the truffles are better with the heat.

Pack these in small cardboard or wooden boxes or small cellophane bags (you can get them at most craft stores) and you have a beautiful homemade gift for any occasion.

Or treat yourself and your family. They'll be happy.

Tangerine-Chili Chocolate Truffles

  • 12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons tangerine juice
  • 6 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh tangerine peel
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, approximately
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sprinkles, toasted coconut, ground nuts, etc. (approximately)

Chop the chocolate in a food processor. Heat the cream over medium heat until it is hot and bubbles form around the edges of the pan. With the processor on, pour in the cream through the feed tube and process until smooth and well blended with the chocolate (you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice). Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes (in the processor bowl). Add the juice, butter, tangerine peel and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour or until the mixture has firmed enough to form a soft “dough.” Take small pieces of the dough and shape into small balls (they don’t have to be perfectly rounded) (I do this wearing disposable gloves). Place the balls on waxed paper or aluminum foil on cookie sheets. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. Roll the balls in cocoa, sprinkles, etc.

 Makes about 3 dozen. 

 

Passover Chocolate Clusters

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Matzo Farfel Clusters

I have been experimenting with new recipes using matzo farfel. That's because I always buy too much of it and then it gets stale and I throw it out.

It can be difficult to find fresh matzo farfel in my neck of the woods (when it isn't Passover). But matzo farfel doesn't last, it gets stale quickly, so I have to use it up while it's fresh.

Here's a good way: candy!

Don't let the cayenne pepper put you off. That tiny bit of heat brings out the best in the chocolate.

Matzo Farfel Clusters

  • 2 cups matzo farfel
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the matzo farfel on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, tossing the farfel around once. Remove the pan from the oven and let the farfel cool. Melt the chocolate. Add the farfel, almonds, cranberries, coconut, orange peel and cayenne pepper to the chocolate and mix to distribute the ingredients evenly. Spoon heaping tablespoons of the mixture into clusters on parchment paper or aluminum foil. Let set.

 

Makes about 3 dozen clusters

 

 

Chocolate Bark with Tangerine and Cayenne

I’m not a would-be confectioner and have absolutely no patience for tempering chocolate or simmering sugar syrup to the exact right temperature for it to become caramel. I did both of those things at least once and moved on to cooking stuff I’m better at. 
 BUT 
 I tasted some chocolates filled with cayenne-infused tangerine syrup and loved them. The store I bought them in is too far from where I live. Besides, I prefer bark to syrupy-filled candies. So I decided to make my own homemade bark with tangerine-cayenne flavor. Plus chopped nuts. 
 I didn’t temper the chocolate so it doesn’t have the gloss of professionally created candies. And it took hours for the melted chocolate mixture to try. 
 On the other hand it was about four times cheaper than the store-bought candies (I used good quality chocolate too!). And this candy was so good that it disappeared in a flash. That tiny hint of chili pepper even appealed to my 12 year old grandson. 

  Chocolate Bark with Tangerine and Cayenne  
     
  1 pound dark chocolate  
  1 tablespoon melted butter or coconut oil  
  2 teaspoons grated fresh tangerine peel  
  1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom  
  2 pinches cayenne pepper  
 1 cup coarsely chopped roasted marcona almonds 
  sea salt  
     

  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate and butter together in double boiler. Stir in the tangerine peel, cinnamon or cardamom and cayenne pepper. Add the almonds and stir. Spread the mixture over the parchment. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Let cool and set (this will take at least 5 hours). Break into pieces. Makes one pound +

I’m not a would-be confectioner and have absolutely no patience for tempering chocolate or simmering sugar syrup to the exact right temperature for it to become caramel. I did both of those things at least once and moved on to cooking stuff I’m better at.

BUT

I tasted some chocolates filled with cayenne-infused tangerine syrup and loved them. The store I bought them in is too far from where I live. Besides, I prefer bark to syrupy-filled candies. So I decided to make my own homemade bark with tangerine-cayenne flavor. Plus chopped nuts.

I didn’t temper the chocolate so it doesn’t have the gloss of professionally created candies. And it took hours for the melted chocolate mixture to try.

On the other hand it was about four times cheaper than the store-bought candies (I used good quality chocolate too!). And this candy was so good that it disappeared in a flash. That tiny hint of chili pepper even appealed to my 12 year old grandson.

Chocolate Bark with Tangerine and Cayenne

 

1 pound dark chocolate

1 tablespoon melted butter or coconut oil

2 teaspoons grated fresh tangerine peel

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom

2 pinches cayenne pepper

1 cup coarsely chopped roasted marcona almonds

sea salt

 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate and butter together in double boiler. Stir in the tangerine peel, cinnamon or cardamom and cayenne pepper. Add the almonds and stir. Spread the mixture over the parchment. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Let cool and set (this will take at least 5 hours). Break into pieces. Makes one pound +

Chocolate Roll with Jam and Strawberries

So you think chocolate is delicious?

Okay, I grant you: chocolate is delicious.

But in my opinion, the most delicious thing in these photos isn’t the dessert, it’s the kid. My grandson, age 2-3/4.

Here he is putting the final touches on a chocolate roll cake. I prepared the batter. He licked the bowl.

These photos are proof of how easy it is to cook with children, even one who is 2-3/4. Remy was able to spread the strawberry jam on the baked cake. I sliced the strawberries. He placed them over the jam. 

He did a pretty good job don’t you think?

We rolled the cake together and plopped it onto a big serving dish.

Okay, the cake has some cracks in the surface. That sometimes happens to rolled cakes. So we covered it up somewhat: I held the strainer filled with confectioner’s sugar and he tapped it with a spoon, causing the white sprinkles to come down like snow and give a nice finish to our work.

No one cared that the cake didn’t look perfect. The time we had together was perfect.

Delicious.

You can do it with a kid in your life using my recipe. It would be a good Mother’s Day project. 

 

Chocolate Roll with Jam and Strawberries

 

6 ounces semisweet chocolate

3 tablespoons cold, strong coffee or orange juice

5 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup strawberry jam

1 pint strawberries, sliced 

confectioners' sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 15-1/2”x10-1/2” jelly roll pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving several inches hanging over each of the short edges. Lightly grease the portion of the paper that fits inside the pan. Melt the chocolate and coffee together in the top part of a double boiler (or a bowl that fits into a saucepan) set over barely simmering water. Mix the ingredients well and remove the top part of the pan from the heat. Let cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed (or use a hand mixer), beat the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla extract together for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and blend it in thoroughly. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they stand in stiff peaks. Mix about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold the remaining whites into the chocolate mixture until the mixture has an even color. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it to make it even. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven. Cover it with a slightly dampened kitchen towel. Let cool. Loosen the cake by pulling the overlapping ends of parchment paper. Invert the cake onto a clean sheet of parchment paper or kitchen towel (use the towel if you will be filling the roll later; keep the cake rolled inside the towel and set it aside, then unroll the cake to proceed).

Spread the jam evenly over the top of the cake. Top with the strawberries. Roll the cake starting on the long side. Place on a serving platter, seam side down. Dust (using a strainer) with confectioner’s sugar. Makes 8-10 servings