chocolate

The Birthday Dinner Dilemma

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It's my daughter Gillian's birthday today. A round numbered one. And she asked if, instead of going out to dinner at some fancy shmancy joint to celebrate, whether I would make a special dinner at home.

Of course!

With the fancy shmancy china and silverware and different size wine glasses for different wines for different courses.

Of course!

So, okay, I have the china and silverware and wine glasses. All I have to do there is make sure I have candles for the candlesticks, iron the napkins, fill the salt cellars, set the table and so on. Ed will take care of the wine.

It's all good.

BUT WHAT SHOULD I COOK?

Something new and glamorous? Fancy shmancy?

Or old favorites like Pearly Meatballs? Fried Chicken Wings? Sticky Spicy Chicken Wings? with pre-dinner cocktails.

Should I make a soup? Like Beet Soup with Orange and Mint (even the name sounds fancy doesn't it?).

For the main course I'm thinking maybe lamb. Everyone in the family eats that. But she really does like turkey. Unfortunately turkey is not the universal family favorite, so maybe no? Plus -- Gillian is our family carver, so could I really ask her to do all that slicing and deboning for her birthday dinner?

Another dilemma is that Gillian is not such a big dessert person. Or at least what people consider the usual kinds of dessert. This dessert thing would be easy if the birthday person was my son-in-law Greg. He likes chocolate cake.

Ed would always welcome chef Raymond Oliver's Normandy Ice Cream (coffee with Grand Marnier).

For me, birthday dessert is always apple pie

We are celebrating in a few weeks, so I have some time to finalize the menu plus make sure I buy those candles. 

If anyone has suggestions -- I am all ears.

In the meantime, should I also make some candy? Like chocolate dipped dried fruit?

Chocolate Dipped Dried Fruit

  • 2-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored brandy or rum
  • 50 pieces (approximately) dried fruit such as crystallized ginger, apricot halves, candied orange peel (about 6 ounces)

Melt the semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and butter in the top part of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Let the ingredients melt, remove the top part of the pan from the heat, pour in the brandy and stir to make a smooth, uniform mixture. Dip each piece of fruit in the chocolate mixture, shake off the excess and place on waxed paper or parchment paper to dry.

Makes approximately 50 pieces

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

 

 

Saint Cupcake’s Brownie Cookies

Why bother with any other recipe this Valentine’s Day? That’s what I realized. These cookies, which I baked last weekend, were so good that my husband devoured almost the entire batch. He did leave some for a couple of workmen who happened to be at our house making some repairs on the oven. But I am about to make another batch. Or two. So I know I have some available. 
 I got the recipe from  Sprinklefingers , a tumblr blog I follow. The woman who writes the Sprinklefingers blog is an energetic, interesting person who lives in Portland, Oregon, and has this fabulous bakery called  Saint Cupcake  (actually there are two bakeries now). I say fabulous because the photos and the menu of goodies looks fabulous. I’ve never been there or met the woman,  Jami Curl , who owns it and writes the blog. The place and the woman are clear across the country from me. 
 But I do know that all the posts are interesting and the recipes wonderful. 
 So the other day I tried her recipe for Chocolate Brownie Cookies. All I can say is: these are not to be missed. The cookies are awesome. Perfect for Valentine’s Day. Or any other day actually. 
 I made one batch of the larger cookies, one batch of the smaller. I prefer the smaller (then you don’t feel so guilty eating two). 
  I changed the way Jami’s recipe is written to conform to the way I write recipes, so maybe I should say it is adapted. But the ingredients and instructions are exactly the same. Maybe I should have this blurb like they do on TV when they say a movie has been edited to be formatted for your TV screen.  
     
  Saint Cupcake’s Brownie Cookies   

 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces 
 12 ounces semisweet chocolate 
 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
 1/4 teaspoon salt 
 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
 2 large eggs plus one large egg yolk 
 1/2 cup sugar 
 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 
 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or grease the sheet lightly). Melt the butter and chocolate together in the top part of a double boiler. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to let ingredients cool. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and set aside. Beat the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed until well blended, about 5 minutes. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and blend in thoroughly. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes. Use a 2-ounce scoop to form a rounded mound and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Leave space between the cookies for expansion. Bake for 15-17 minutes. OR, use a smaller (one-ounce scoop) and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Cookies should be cracked, with moist looking ingredients inside the cracks. 

Why bother with any other recipe this Valentine’s Day? That’s what I realized. These cookies, which I baked last weekend, were so good that my husband devoured almost the entire batch. He did leave some for a couple of workmen who happened to be at our house making some repairs on the oven. But I am about to make another batch. Or two. So I know I have some available.

I got the recipe from Sprinklefingers, a tumblr blog I follow. The woman who writes the Sprinklefingers blog is an energetic, interesting person who lives in Portland, Oregon, and has this fabulous bakery called Saint Cupcake (actually there are two bakeries now). I say fabulous because the photos and the menu of goodies looks fabulous. I’ve never been there or met the woman, Jami Curl, who owns it and writes the blog. The place and the woman are clear across the country from me.

But I do know that all the posts are interesting and the recipes wonderful.

So the other day I tried her recipe for Chocolate Brownie Cookies. All I can say is: these are not to be missed. The cookies are awesome. Perfect for Valentine’s Day. Or any other day actually.

I made one batch of the larger cookies, one batch of the smaller. I prefer the smaller (then you don’t feel so guilty eating two).

I changed the way Jami’s recipe is written to conform to the way I write recipes, so maybe I should say it is adapted. But the ingredients and instructions are exactly the same. Maybe I should have this blurb like they do on TV when they say a movie has been edited to be formatted for your TV screen.

 

Saint Cupcake’s Brownie Cookies

4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

12 ounces semisweet chocolate

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 large eggs plus one large egg yolk

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or grease the sheet lightly). Melt the butter and chocolate together in the top part of a double boiler. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to let ingredients cool. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and set aside. Beat the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed until well blended, about 5 minutes. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and blend in thoroughly. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes. Use a 2-ounce scoop to form a rounded mound and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Leave space between the cookies for expansion. Bake for 15-17 minutes. OR, use a smaller (one-ounce scoop) and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Cookies should be cracked, with moist looking ingredients inside the cracks. 

Chocolate Yogurt Pound Cake

"This is just like room service!"

That, from my almost 6-year old grand daughter Lila (who apparently already knows about room service!?!) after I let her have her dinner in the family room and watch TV.

This is something I didn’t allow my own two daughters.

But honestly, after 35 years I was a little out of practice. And, like bike riding, you may not forget how, but you also may not race through the streets or peddle yourself up a steep hill quite as often or as easily either. 

So, when the kids came for a visit, sans parents, from Friday through Sunday, there were occasional, let’s say, concessions. If my daughter Gillian, their Mom, is reading this now, I say, don’t worry. These kids are terrific and 2 meals in front of the TV won’t harm them.

As you can see from the photos we did lots of stuff like draw, have a pedicure, blow bubbles outside, ride bikes, have a fashion show. We also frosted a birthday cake for their cousin Nina’s birthday party on Saturday (although the top decoration, an Ariel rice-paper scene, was store-bought).

The little one, Remy, age 21 months talks a blue streak although sometimes it’s difficult to understand his pronunciations. However, one of the new words he learned this weekend was “chocolate cake,” which he mentioned to his parents as soon as they walked in the door Sunday night.

"Tzockickcake!" he told them, with his tongue literally licking his lips.

When a kid is this young you can’t depend on “what happens at Grandma’s stays at grandma’s.”

I had baked the chocolate cake for a Hadassah Tea and was cutting it into slices. There were a few not-so-lovely pieces that I didn’t include on the platter I sent over for that event. Remy had a small sliver of the leftovers. He liked it, that’s for sure.

Can’t say I blame him. Smart kid!

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Yogurt Pound Cake

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending each one in. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the yogurt, until the flour mixture and yogurt have been used and the batter is well blended and smooth. Gradually add the boiling water, beating slowly, for 2-3 minutes or until the batter is smooth and well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 65-70 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Makes 12+ servings

Dark Chocolate Brownies

Can you eat just one piece of chocolate? My brother Jeff can. He eats one piece every day. He says it satisfies his craving, that he doesn’t need more than his little daily nibble.  This is quite a statement coming from someone who can’t hold back at all when it comes to bread.   But I am sure Jeff will be thrilled to know about this  article , which speaks to the benefits of chocolate, specifically dark, bittersweet chocolate.   It sounds almost too good to be true. But, at least according to what I read here, there’s evidence that dark chocolate fights cancer, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. It has antioxidants and flavanoids that fight free radicals and may protect us from aging too quickly and from Alzheimer’s disease. And it also may help improve your vision.  Holy cow! Get me some of this stuff now!  My mother always said my brother Jeff was smart.  Of course the article does say not to overdo the chocolate thing. Be more like Jeff. Just a small portion each day.  So maybe just one piece of these brownies every day? (Freeze the leftovers)  Btw, these would be nice for Valentine’s Day. Or anytime, really.   Dark Chocolate Brownies   12 ounces bittersweet chocolate  8 ounces unsalted butter  3 large eggs  1/2 cup sugar  1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract  1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour  1 teaspoon baking powder  1/2 teaspoon salt  1/2 cup chopped nuts or semisweet chocolate chips, optional  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish. Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top part of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. Stir, remove the top part of the pan from the heat and let cool. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale. Add the chocolate mixture and vanilla extract and blend them in thoroughly. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, add to the batter and blend thoroughly. Fold in the nuts or chocolate chips, if used. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging. Let cool and cut.  Makes 16-20 pieces

Can you eat just one piece of chocolate? My brother Jeff can. He eats one piece every day. He says it satisfies his craving, that he doesn’t need more than his little daily nibble.

This is quite a statement coming from someone who can’t hold back at all when it comes to bread. 

But I am sure Jeff will be thrilled to know about this article, which speaks to the benefits of chocolate, specifically dark, bittersweet chocolate. 

It sounds almost too good to be true. But, at least according to what I read here, there’s evidence that dark chocolate fights cancer, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. It has antioxidants and flavanoids that fight free radicals and may protect us from aging too quickly and from Alzheimer’s disease. And it also may help improve your vision.

Holy cow! Get me some of this stuff now!

My mother always said my brother Jeff was smart.

Of course the article does say not to overdo the chocolate thing. Be more like Jeff. Just a small portion each day.

So maybe just one piece of these brownies every day? (Freeze the leftovers)

Btw, these would be nice for Valentine’s Day. Or anytime, really.

Dark Chocolate Brownies

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate

8 ounces unsalted butter

3 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts or semisweet chocolate chips, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish. Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top part of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. Stir, remove the top part of the pan from the heat and let cool. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale. Add the chocolate mixture and vanilla extract and blend them in thoroughly. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, add to the batter and blend thoroughly. Fold in the nuts or chocolate chips, if used. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging. Let cool and cut.

Makes 16-20 pieces

Chocolate Truffles

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Chocolate instead of broccoli to stay healthy?

No, not really. But in a recent study the results indicated that eating chocolate might cut a woman’s risk for stroke. Read about it here.

This is not the first time I’ve heard that chocolate is healthy (it has flavanoids, which have anti-oxidant properties, which in turn help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol).

But this is the one of the only times I’ve heard someone caution women not to over-interpret the results. Like, do not substitute chocolate for broccoli. And a cardiologist who was interviewed said that although chocolate may be good for you, maybe the study results would have been similar if they used apple skins or grapes.

I’ve always wondered about some of these studies. I wonder whether you can prove whatever you want depending on how you go about the study.

Well, I am no scientist, so I don’t know.

But I do remember, many years ago, when the information regarding dietary fat was still in its infancy and Nabisco came out with SnackWells, the so-called “healthy” cookies because they were lower fat. And people started eating SnackWells because they thought it was okay. And judging from the number of people I met (and watched at the supermarket) who ate boxes and boxes of those cookies, most didn’t seem to realize that it’s way too many calories and that it might be more harmful than if you ate a butter cookie or two.

So the broccoli warning makes sense.

But if you want to eat something delicious and chocolate-y — for your health — try these truffles. They are amazingly easy to make and you can give them away as gifts so they’re good for the upcoming holiday season.

But don’t eat the whole batch at once.

Chocolate Truffles

  • 1/2 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 teaspoons brandy or rum or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sprinkles, toasted coconut, ground nuts, etc. (approximately)

Chop the chocolate in a food processor into small bits. 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 well blended (you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice). Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes. Add the brandy or rum and the softened butter 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. 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 Birthday Cake

Passover Birthday Cake  My daughter Meredith’s birthday sometimes falls during Passover, which means that in certain years she isn’t able to have a “traditional” birthday cake.  Which didn’t bother her one bit when she was a kid because she absolutely loved the flourless chocolate jelly roll cake I made for her and for years this is what she asked me to bake even when it wasn’t Passover. I always thought it was an interesting and glamorous choice considering her age.  Guess it all comes down to how it tastes. Mer was never one to pick something just because it was “the thing” or because someone else liked or wanted it. She liked how this chocolate roll tasted and I don’t blame her. It’s de-lish. Passover-friendly too. But you can make this any old time.  Here’s the recipe.      Flourless Chocolate Jelly Roll Cake      6 ounces semisweet chocolate  3 tablespoons cooled coffee (or brandy or rum)  5 large eggs   1 cup sugar  1-1/2 cups heavy cream  1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract  1 pint strawberries, sliced  cocoa powder or (Passover) confectioner’s 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. Butter the portion of the paper that fits inside the pan.   Melt the chocolate and coffee together in the top part of a double boiler 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 and all but 2 teaspoons of the sugar together for 3-4 minutes or until 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. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it to make it even. Bake for about 10 minutes or until “set.” 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 and roll it up starting with one of the long sides. Set aside.   Whip the cream and remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and vanilla extract until thick (use an electric mixer or hand mixer). Unroll the cake and spread the whipped cream on top of the cake, leaving about 1-inch at the edges. 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 cocoa or confectioner’s sugar.  Makes 10-12 servings

Passover Birthday Cake

My daughter Meredith’s birthday sometimes falls during Passover, which means that in certain years she isn’t able to have a “traditional” birthday cake.

Which didn’t bother her one bit when she was a kid because she absolutely loved the flourless chocolate jelly roll cake I made for her and for years this is what she asked me to bake even when it wasn’t Passover. I always thought it was an interesting and glamorous choice considering her age.

Guess it all comes down to how it tastes. Mer was never one to pick something just because it was “the thing” or because someone else liked or wanted it. She liked how this chocolate roll tasted and I don’t blame her. It’s de-lish. Passover-friendly too. But you can make this any old time.

Here’s the recipe.

 

Flourless Chocolate Jelly Roll Cake

 

6 ounces semisweet chocolate

3 tablespoons cooled coffee (or brandy or rum)

5 large eggs 

1 cup sugar

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 pint strawberries, sliced

cocoa powder or (Passover) confectioner’s 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. Butter the portion of the paper that fits inside the pan. 

Melt the chocolate and coffee together in the top part of a double boiler 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 and all but 2 teaspoons of the sugar together for 3-4 minutes or until 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. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it to make it even. Bake for about 10 minutes or until “set.” 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 and roll it up starting with one of the long sides. Set aside. 

Whip the cream and remaining 2 teaspoons sugar and vanilla extract until thick (use an electric mixer or hand mixer). Unroll the cake and spread the whipped cream on top of the cake, leaving about 1-inch at the edges. 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 cocoa or confectioner’s sugar.

Makes 10-12 servings

Loft's Butter Crunch

Which was better, Loft’s Butter Crunch or Loft’s Parleys?  For you young ones, those are the two iconic candies once sold by Loft’s, a candy company that went out of business in 1990. I’ve been in mourning ever since.  Their Butter Crunch was always my favorite. My brother insisted that the better choice was the Parley, a giant milk chocolate cigar looking thing with soft nougaty stuff inside.  Parleys were okay but Loft’s Butter Crunch was incomparable. The toffee was thick and brittle. It snapped when you broke it. The chocolate layer wasn’t overly thick so it didn’t detract from the candy part. And the nuts on the outside were tiny and soft, a sensational contrast to the velvety-tender chocolate and the crunchy center.  As well balanced as a dinner straight out of the government’s food pyramid.  I have tried for years to find a Butter Crunch as good as Loft’s, to no avail. There are fancier ones, made with single-estate chocolate or 70% cocoa chocolate. Some really expensive stuff and others from mass producers. Nothing comes close. I will grant you that Loft’s probably didn’t use great chocolate. It wasn’t your most upscale store. It sold modestly priced candies.  It’s just that their Butter Crunch was the best I ever ate.  When I was pregnant with my older daughter I refrained from sweets, to keep my weight at a decent level. But right after she was born I polished off the 2 boxes of Loft’s Butter Crunch that someone brought to me as a gift.  I’ve been experimenting making my own version lately. I made the ones in the photo yesterday to bring as a dinner gift this evening. These are good, so I’m posting the recipe. If you make them with milk chocolate and in a smaller cake pan (8”x8”) they’ll taste like Loft’s. Otherwise use dark chocolate of your choosing and use the larger pan — most people like the crunch part thinner than I do.      Butter Crunch   1 cup butter  3/4 cup sugar  1/4 teaspoon salt  2 tablespoons light corn syrup  2 tablespoons water  9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (1-1/2 cups chocolate chips)  3/4 cup chopped lightly toasted almonds  Lightly butter a 9”x13” sheet cake pan. Place the butter, sugar, salt, corn syrup and water into a deep saucepan. 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. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. 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, about 2 hours. Break into pieces. Makes about 1-1/4 pounds

Which was better, Loft’s Butter Crunch or Loft’s Parleys?

For you young ones, those are the two iconic candies once sold by Loft’s, a candy company that went out of business in 1990. I’ve been in mourning ever since.

Their Butter Crunch was always my favorite. My brother insisted that the better choice was the Parley, a giant milk chocolate cigar looking thing with soft nougaty stuff inside.

Parleys were okay but Loft’s Butter Crunch was incomparable. The toffee was thick and brittle. It snapped when you broke it. The chocolate layer wasn’t overly thick so it didn’t detract from the candy part. And the nuts on the outside were tiny and soft, a sensational contrast to the velvety-tender chocolate and the crunchy center.

As well balanced as a dinner straight out of the government’s food pyramid.

I have tried for years to find a Butter Crunch as good as Loft’s, to no avail. There are fancier ones, made with single-estate chocolate or 70% cocoa chocolate. Some really expensive stuff and others from mass producers. Nothing comes close. I will grant you that Loft’s probably didn’t use great chocolate. It wasn’t your most upscale store. It sold modestly priced candies.

It’s just that their Butter Crunch was the best I ever ate.

When I was pregnant with my older daughter I refrained from sweets, to keep my weight at a decent level. But right after she was born I polished off the 2 boxes of Loft’s Butter Crunch that someone brought to me as a gift.

I’ve been experimenting making my own version lately. I made the ones in the photo yesterday to bring as a dinner gift this evening. These are good, so I’m posting the recipe. If you make them with milk chocolate and in a smaller cake pan (8”x8”) they’ll taste like Loft’s. Otherwise use dark chocolate of your choosing and use the larger pan — most people like the crunch part thinner than I do.

 

Butter Crunch

1 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 tablespoons water

9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (1-1/2 cups chocolate chips)

3/4 cup chopped lightly toasted almonds

Lightly butter a 9”x13” sheet cake pan. Place the butter, sugar, salt, corn syrup and water into a deep saucepan. 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. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. 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, about 2 hours. Break into pieces. Makes about 1-1/4 pounds

One Bowl Chocolate Cake with Fudge Frosting

Today is National Chocolate Cake Day. And also a snow day for a lot of us (we got at least another 14-inch dump of snow over the night and into the morning). I have to say, I resent a nighttime snow fall because I like watching the flakes come down. It’s so soft and quiet and makes me feel cozy and safe inside. When I woke up this morning it was all over, but for the plowing.

But I digress. It is National Chocolate Cake Day. A good day all around to make a dark, luscious, tender cake to enjoy while also maybe taking a snow day. It’s a good dessert for Valentine’s Day too. Or anytime really.

Here’s a cake I’ve been making ever since I was 12 years old, when I baked this for my own Bat Mitzvah celebration. I’ve tried dozens of different chocolate cake recipes over the years and haven’t found one I like better. And it’s easy to make too.

So, until I find a better cake, here’s my recipe for:

One Bowl Chocolate Cake with Fudge Frosting

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 9-inch cake pans. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer (or large bowl for use with a hand mixer). Add the buttermilk and shortening and beat the ingredients at medium speed for about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients for another 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cake rack to cool completely. Frost the layer and outside of the cake with the fudge frosting. Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes one 9-inch cake

Fudge Frosting

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in the top part of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. When the chocolate has melted, remove the top pan from the bottom part of the double boiler. Add the sour cream, salt and vanilla extract to the chocolate and beat the ingredients vigorously with a whisk to blend them completely into a smooth frosting. Let cool for a few minutes, until it has a spreading consistency. Use between layers and for outside of the cake.