A Passion for Chocolate

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Chocolate Filled Macarons

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by Heather Harris Brady

This is my second macaron post! While the French method recipe is fine for a climate-controlled environment if you’re without air-conditioning and it’s humid, it can be unreliable.  So after finding lots of recipes agreeing on the proportions below I gave the Italian method a go. I’ve made this recipe many times, in all types of weather, and it’s close to invincible.

Macarons, Italian Method, Makes about 36

200 g almond flour

200 g powdered sugar

[Variation: Add 3 T. Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder for chocolate macarons]

200 g granulated sugar

50 g water

1/2 t. vinegar

150 g egg whites, divided into two 75 g portions

1/2 recipe chocolate ganache, or other filling of your choice

It’s easier if you pre-measure everything and have it ready. Combine the almond flour [cocoa if you’re using it] and powdered sugar in a bowl. Mix well, I use an immersion blender. Add 75 g of egg whites and stir it into a thick paste.

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Combine the water, vinegar and granulated sugar in saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir to make sure all of the sugar dissolves. Let it boil while you put the other 75 g of egg whites in a mixer bowl.

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Beat the whites until they hold stiff peaks. Turn the mixer down to stir if your sugar syrup is not quite at the soft ball stage. When the syrup comes to temperature, turn the mixer to high and pour the sugar syrup in a steady stream. Try to avoid the whisk if you can.

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Continue beating on high until the mixer bowl is no longer hot. The resulting italian meringue will be very stiff. Fold the almond paste into the meringue.

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Take some strong strokes at first to knock a little air out and then keep folding for about another 20 strokes. It’s perfect when you can drop some of the macaronage back into the bowl and it will hold its shape for 15 seconds before starting to slump back in. When you get close to 20 strokes just evaluate it one stroke at a time until you’re there.

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Grease your cookie sheets and line them with parchment paper, or use a silpat. Pipe 1-1/2″ mounds. They won’t spread a lot so you can keep them fairly close. Drop each pan onto the counter three times to get any air bubbles out.

Preheat the oven to 300 and let the sheets sit out for about 15 minutes. The macarons will form a bit of skin on top.

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Bake for 15 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to change racks halfway through the baking time.

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Let the cookies cool completely on the sheets and then remove them with thin spatula. Sandwich two halves with ganache and store them in the refrigerator. Take them out 10 minutes or so before serving.

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The chocolate variation:

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Birthday Ice Cream Cake

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by Heather Harris-Brady

My wonderful son asked for an ice cream cake for his birthday, chocolate chip cookie dough, to be exact. Because every year I’m thankful that I can celebrate his birthday without the three days of labor it required the first time, I am happy to go the extra mile for the dessert.

I am not a big fan of ice cream cakes myself, so I had to find a way to get past the things about them that bug me and come up with a tribute to teenage dessert excess. Behold.

Ice Cream Cake, Serves 8

One 8″ square chocolate cake layer

One recipe hot fudge sauce

One half-gallon ice cream

Line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with aluminum foil, leaving some long tails down along the sides. Take the ice cream out to soften. Cut the cake layer into strips about 1/2″ wide. Completely line the mold with them. You should have about 1/4 of the cake left when you’re finished. If you’re making this for an over-21 crowd it would be nice to spike things up here and sprinkle the cake mold with kahlua or some such jazz.

When the ice cream has softened, scoop it into the cake-lined mold. Smooth it down as you go and push it into all the corners so your cake will be nice and solid.

Cover the top with the remaining cake strips. Press the top down lightly with your palms and then put it in a deep freeze for a few hours to set firm.

Grasp the foil hanging down on either side of the pan and lift out the cake. I like to turn it upside down on the platter but if that scares you just peel the foil off and set it on the serving dish.

With the hot fudge sauce at room temperature put a thin crumb coat all over the cake.

Put it back in the fridge to firm up and then do a second coat, adding any sprinkles or other tricks at this point. Stick it back in the fridge until serving time. The hot fudge will set up nicely, but will stay easy to slice through.

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The cake all around the outside gives you an equal bite of cake, ice cream and fudge in each forkful. It also neatly contains the ice cream so it’s easier to slice and serve like a regular cake. It’s also a nice little cost-saver. An 8″ cookie dough cake at our local shop is $19.99, this one tallies up at around $6.50.

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Hot Fudge Sauce

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by Heather Harris-Brady

This is my favorite hot fudge recipe. I’m showing here on ice cream but I actually made it to frost an ice cream cake (spoiler alert) which will be the next post – because it’s a birthday week here at the little house! And not just any birthday, it’s a golden birthday.

This is a nice, rich hot fudge that puddles nicely along a scoop. It’s more runny warm and thickens as it cools.

Hot Fudge Sauce, Makes about 3 cups

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 can evaporated milk (you could use low-fat, but c’mon, it’s hot fudge)

1 egg

1/2 c. sugar

1/3 c. dark cocoa powder

2 t. vanilla

1 T. butter

 

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You can use a double-boiler but I don’t have one at the moment so I’m doing it directly on medium heat. Let the chips start to melt and whisk in the evaporated milk.

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It will look like a lumpy disaster but that’s okay. In a separate bowl beat together the egg and sugar.

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Then stir the cocoa powder into the egg mixture and pretend that I remembered to take a picture of it. Whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk. Continue whisking constantly for five minutes over the heat. If you’re using a double boiler you don’t have to whisk all the time. It will bubble up and get all dark and lovely.

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Remove it from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and butter.

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It’s ready to serve at whatever temperature you prefer.

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Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. It will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

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Cake Truffles

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Today’s cake pop trend really has its roots on the rum ball family tree – for many, many years bakers have been using up their extra frostings and cake on these little dainties. When I used to do a lot of wedding cakes I did the same thing. I kept the extra ganache and buttercream, mixed it with cake trimmings, added some brandy and then gifted them to the serving staff when I delivered cakes. Call me a stick in the mud but I have a few beefs with the whole cake pop concept – one, things on a stick are cute but hard to eat gracefully and two, most of the recipes call for canned frosting. If you’re going to the trouble of turning a cake pop into a miniature frog or some-such, you might as well take an extra five minutes and make it taste way better.

I wanted to share a primer on these little treats, because they make very easy and chic mini-desserts or holiday gifts. Since these were for a group of ravenous teens, I’ve just covered them in ganache. But you can dip them in chocolate or roll them in nuts, cocoa, more crumbs, etc. They would be terrific as part of a holiday champagne bar.

Cake Truffle Recipe, Makes about 36

1 recipe Guinness cake, baked and crumbled (or just bake two 8″ layers of your choice)

1 recipe basic ganache

2 T. liqueur, rum or brandy if  desired

Crumble the cake into a large bowl. Pour the liquid ganache over the crumbs and mix until well-combined.

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Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture starts to firm up. Form into balls (I just use my hands but a melon baller would work) and drop onto cookie sheets.

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Coat them as desired (see notes above). I’ll be doing a related post soon on chocolate dipping.

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Irish Hostess Cupcakes, Part III: The Icing on the Cake

Okay, so you have the cupcakes and the filling. Now all we need is the icing! I threw together a quick and easy icing from one my favorite cookbooks, Baking by Dorie Greenspan.

Quick Chocolate Glaze (Frosts 10 cupcakes)

3 oz. chocolate (I used Hershey’s Special Dark chips)

1 T. confectioner’s sugar

2 T. butter, slightly softened

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Let cool slightly and stir in the sugar.

Then stir in the butter, until everything is smooth and glossy. Mine was spreadable immediately, but if your kitchen is warm you might need to put it in the fridge for a bit.

Assembling the cupcakes:

Cut a small core out of each cupcake with a small paring knife, put the cores in a bowl – you’ll need them again later. Fill the holes with fluff and use some of your cut pieces to cover the top of the fluff on each cupcake.

Ice half of the cupcakes with the frosting, ice the rest with the remaining marshmallow fluff, reserving 1/2 c. of fluff. Sprinkle the fluff-topped marshmallows with the leftover cake. Fill a piping bag with the reserved fluff and pipe it in swirls over the chocolate frosted cupcakes.

Next time I’m going to try and find some dessert glasses shaped like pints, and put the cake in the bottom with a “head” of fluff on top.


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Irish Hostess Cupcakes, Part II: Honey Marshmallow Fluff

So, we’re on to part two of the great Irish Hostess cupcake project! The cake recipe posted on Monday. I’m not sure I want to think too long about what is actually in the real filling of the cupcakes on the supermarket shelves. It’s super easy and fun to make your own fluff, and you know exactly what’s in it – sugar, just like nature intended. I’ve used honey here because it rounds out the stout nicely. This recipe will give you plenty to fill all the cupcakes plus some leftover. You can do what I did, and use the extra to frost some of the cupcakes or you can make a couple of the world’s best fluffernutter sandwiches.

Honey Marshmallow Fluff

2 egg whites

1/3 c. sugar

1/3 c. honey

1/3 c. water

1 t. vanilla

1 t. unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1 T. cold water

Beat the egg whites on high until you get stiff peaks. Set aside.

Combine the sugar, water and honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook to 246 degrees, the firm ball stage.

 

Working quickly, turn on your mixer and beat the hot syrup into the egg whites on medium-high until well-combined. When you’ve poured in all the syrup, add the gelatin mixture and vanilla, turn the mixer to high and beat for another five minutes, until light and fluffy.

 

Now on Saturday just the icing and then we’ll be ready to put it all together!

 


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Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding, A Passion for Chocolate

There is nothing like pudding to sooth the soul, and after a crazy busy week it was just what the doctor ordered. Even without a box it is entirely possible to throw it together with the rest of dinner and get it to the table while still slightly warm. This also makes great filling for chocolate cream pie.

Chocolate Pudding (Six servings or filling for one 8″ pie)

3 c. milk (whole milk is best, but I used 1/2%)

2 T. cornstarch

1/2 c. sugar

2 T. cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark.)

2 t. vanilla

1/2 c. chocolate chips

Warm the milk over medium heat. Combine the dry ingredients together well.

Whisk the dry ingredients into the milk. Continue to whisk over medium heat.

It will thicken up, bubble and start to look like pudding.

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat until combined. Spoon a couple large dollops of hot pudding into the eggs to temper them.

Stir together and dump it into the pan on the stovetop. Whisk briskly for another minute over the heat.

Take the pudding off the heat. Whisk in the vanilla and chocolate chips, stirring until the chips are melted and incorporated. This final step is what gives you the richness of boxed pudding.

Pour into bowls or dishes. You can serve it right away or put it in the fridge. If you don’t like the skin on the top, just press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface before you put it in the fridge.