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Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’

I don’t think I can go a day on Twitter or reading through my favorite food blogs without coming across at least one mention of Nutella in all its yummy hazelnutty, chocolately goodness. Earlier this month the uber talented Jenni Field AKA Online Pastry Chef (@PastryChfOnline) did an interesting comparison of Nutella and other chocolate hazelnut spreads. Go ahead, take a moment and read her analysis here. I’ll wait.

Back? Good.

Then earlier this week she tweeted a blog post by Wolf Paulus who uncovered a Nutella secret: The American and German versions are NOT. THE. SAME. There were subtle differences not only in taste and texture but in the packaging as well.

Gasp! Shudder!

Apparently the American version is produced in and imported from Canada, the original version is from Italy. Wolf compared versions from the US and Germany and he found differences in the products: he and his testers preferred the German version.

So anyway, after reading his analysis and chatting with Jenni in 140 characters or less, I realize my curiosity had gotten the better of me; I decided I need to do my own quasi-scientific experiment as well. She joked about my willingness to “take one for the team”. I figured I could suffer through it LOL

There is an Italian market not far from my house called Uncle Giuseppe’s which carries many imported and interesting, I might add, products. So I figured that if anyone would have it they would. Makes sense: Italian market – Italian product – oh the logic.

I had planned on going over the weekend but I could hardly contain myself when I got home and babbled mentioned it to my husband.

Me: honey, since we have to run out anyway, would you mind taking a ride with me over to Uncle Giuseppe’s? I need to see if they have Nutella imported from Europe.
Husband: Sure, what are you making?
Me: well you see I had this conversation… I think I bounced around the room as I blathered on recounting the entire story for him.

So now here’s where I ever so slightly risk embarrassing myself in the middle of a supermarket. They happened to have a HUGE display by the produce area and I squealed when I saw it. I think I did a little hop too. I grabbed a bottle and realized it was glass, not plastic! Yes! I looked for all the signs and then checked the label: Imported from Italy!!! SCORE!

I grabbed two bottles and bounced, yes I did, over to the checkout counter. I’m sure this amused my husband; I know the lady at the register found me quite comical.

The next day I ran to a local chain supermarket and picked up a fresh bottle of the American version for this experiment…and panko breadcrumbs but that’s a different post.

Okay lady, get on with it already.

Fine.

So here’s my Quasi-scientific experiment:

While the ingredient lists are comparable, they are not the same.  Most notably the European version uses vegetable oil and the American version uses palm oil.  Some of this may be semantics, but it is also worth noting that in Europe they use fat-reduced cocoa powder, skimmed milk powder and whey powder, while here the manufacturer uses cocoa, skim milk and reduced minerals whey. Take from that what you will.

You also need to consider where these ingredients or sourced – if they are not the same and I wouldn’t expect them to be, that too can have an impact on the final product.

European (Italian) Version:
Sugar, vegetable oil, hazelnuts (13%), fat-reduced cocoa powder (7.4%), skimmed milk powder (5%), whey powder, emulsifier (lecithins) (soy), flavourant (vanillin).

American Version:
Sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin: an artificial flavor.

So here’s how we did it:
We took two unopened bottles of Nutella, one from Italy and the other from the US. Upon opening each we gave them a sniff and surveyed their appearance.

Husband:

  • European version has a pronounced chocolate aroma. As for appearance, it appeared to be a semi-gloss, looked thick.
  • American version he felt was the same as far as aroma goes but noted the oily appearance.

Me:

  • European version has a stronger chocolatey aroma. I also detected hazelnut. As for appearance, I got the same impression: semi-gloss, and a thick appearance.
  • For the American version overall it was less aromatic, I also did not detect much if any hazelnut.  It appeared glossy and oily

For the taste test, I put the same size glob of each into small bowls labeled on the bottom with origin and we took turns tasting: He closed his eyes and I fed him and he did the same for me. (I have to admit this was kinda fun) We each took a sip of water between the two to cleanse our palettes.

Here’s what my husband said:

  • European: Thick, chocolate, rich, pronounced flavor.
  • US: chocolatey, rich, oily.

So when asked which he liked better, he chose the European version.

Here’s what I detected:

  • European: Pronounced hazelnut and chocolate, thick, sweet
  • US: Thin, very sweet, not as flavorful as the previous one I tasted (remember I didn’t know which was which) very oily.

I too preferred the European version.

The Verdict:
We both preferred the European version in texture and taste. Of course it’s easy to tell the difference when they are side by side but my husband said he’s not sure if he was eating one or the other he would be able to detect it’s origin. I think I would. In fact I will now only buy my Nutella from Uncle Giuseppe’s to ensure I get the good stuff!

One last point I want to mention: viscosity. Look at the difference between the European (left) and American (right) versions. This is after they sat for oh about 30 minutes or so.

You can clearly see where the spoon dug into the European version but it is barely visible in the American version.

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CuttingOutCookies

Oh these have a been a long time coming. I first made them for a cookie swap with some Twitter friends. Such yummy fun! I had planned on posting the recipe but somehow never got around to it until now. I had wanted to mess with the recipe a bit so I suppose that’s my excuse.

FlutedCutterFlour

Well, after one of the people in that swap, Kate (AKA: Knitsophrenic), had asked for the recipe and said she loved them (which TOTALLY made my day) I figured maybe I’d leave well enough alone. So now I have no more excuses.

I like the texture cornmeal adds to cookies and I’ve said it before, I love the floral flavor of cardamom. So why not combine them? I recommend you use a fine cornmeal rather than course or the dough may have a gritty texture.

CardamomCookiesCooling

The thing with this dough is you need to let it rest before rolling and cutting. A couple of hours would suffice but I’ve left it overnight and even frozen the dough and they come out beautifully. If you do freeze the dough, you’ll want to put it in the fridge to thaw 24 hours before you plan to bake them off.

I also decided to fancy them up a bit by dipping half of the cookies into a nice chocolate ganache. What do ya think Kate?

DippedCardamomCookies

You can cut them into any shape you like, I used a 2 1/2 inch fluted cookie cutter but use what you have. A glass dipped in flour would work just as well if you don’t have cookie cutters.

I hope you enjoy them! 🙂

Orange Cardamom Cornmeal Cookies
Adapted from “The Cookiepedia” by Stacy Adiamando

Ingredients
3/4 cup (3 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 1/4 oz) white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (2 1/4 oz) fine cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon cardamom, plus additional for sprinkling
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons orange zest
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature butter
1/2 cup (3 3/4 oz) sugar in the raw
2 egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon orange juice (from the orange you zested)

Dough Instructions
1. Combine flours, cornmeal, cardamom, baking powder, salt and zest, set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the egg yolks and mix well.
4. Mix in the orange juice.
5. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three installments to the butter mixture.
6. Form the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic and let rest in the refrigerate for two hours or overnight.

Baking Instructions
1. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until it is pliable. Meanwhile, preheat the over to 350 degrees.
2. Line two cookie sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4” thick.
4. Cut out the cookies using a 2-1/2 inch cookie cutter of your choice (I used a fluted cutter) and place about an inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
5. If desired, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a tiny bit more cardamom.
6. Bake until the edges just turn golden, about 10-12 minutes.
7. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache
1. Place a sheet of parchment onto one or two sheet pans, depending on how many cookies you are going to dip. Set aside.
2. Heat 1 cup heavy cream in a pot over a low flame until you start to see bubbles around the edges, don’t let it boil.
3. Remove from heat and add 8 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate and whisk until all of the chocolate has melted.
4. Carefully dip half of each cooled cookie into the chocolate and place onto the prepared sheet pan. (I put them onto a rack which left ridges on the back…oops!)
Allow the cookies to set before serving.

Notes:
You can use 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour if you do not have whole wheat.
The cookies I decided to dip in the ganache did not have the cardamom sprinkle, but don’t let that stop you, go ahead and sprinkle away. 😉

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PassoverBiscotti

I love cooking for Passover. It brings back so many memories of my childhood cooking and baking and prepping with my mom. As it got closer to that time, she would pull out all her recipes and decide on which ones she would make that year. There were of course her staple items, but often she would throw something new into the mix. I think that was my favorite part and I guess that’s where I get it from, every year I look for something new and different to serve.

Anyway, I’m not hosting as I did last year so I’ll be doing some desserts and possibly an appetizer (stay tuned for that) which I will bring to my in-laws on Friday.

This year my nephew with the tree nut allergy will not be joining us for our Seder, so I’m free to use them in my recipes for the family. Welcome almond flour!

Almond Flour

I must admit I’m kinda excited about the prospect, not that I won’t miss having him around it’s just, well you know.

As I was trolling some of the blogs I enjoy reading I came across a gluten-free Triple XXX Chocolate Biscotti recipe on EA Stewart’s blog. EA is a Registered Dietitian who blogs about healthy eating, cooking tips and is gluten free. You should check her out.

When I saw EA’s biscotti recipe, my first inclination was to step into the kitchen and make them at that instant. Then I thought, hmmm…I’m working on some dessert ideas for Passover and it occurred to me that this recipe was darn close…so I started playing.

PassoverBiscottiIngredients

For my first batch, I whipped up some egg whites to replace the baking soda (I know, some people use it on Passover but I prefer not to) but because the batter is so dense, it really didn’t do much.

PassoverBiscottiDough

I also used some espresso powder, which you can omit if you don’t drink coffee on Passover or if you can’t find Kosher For Passover.

For the second batch I added some dried tart cherries and nixed the egg whites.

So after few more tweaks here and there, voila!

ChocolateAlmondBiscotti-Passover

Gluten-Free, Chocolate-Cherry Almond Biscotti for Passover!
Recipe Adapted from EA Stewart, RD

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups almond flour
1/2 cup light brown organic sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder (non-alkalized)
1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
2 1/2 tablespoons potato starch
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or Kosher for Passover extract)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup tart dried cherries
1/4 cup slivered almonds (optional)

Instructions
1. Preheat you oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with a silicone liner, like Silpat.
2. Combine the almond flour, sugar, cocoa powder, expresso powder (if using), potato starch, vanilla sugar and salt in a large bowl. Whisk them together so all ingredients are evenly distributed and set aside.
3. Add the coconut oil and eggs to the dry ingredients and stir until just about combined. Add the chocolate chips and dried cherries and fold into the chocolate mixture.
4. Divide the dough in half and form in to two loaves, approximately 4 inches by 8 inches, on each baking sheet. Sprinkle with slivered almonds if using (press them down a bit) and bake in oven for about 22-25 minutes. The dough should be firm to the touch. Remove them from the oven and allow cool for approximately 20 minutes.
5. Reduce your oven temperature to 300°F. Using a thin sharp knife (like a carving knife), cut the loaves into 1/2 inch slices on the diagonal. Place slices, cut side down back onto the baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes. Remove the trays from the oven and carefully flip the slices over and bake for about another 12 minutes.
6. Remove the trays from the oven and allow to cool completely before serving.

Notes
The biscotti will keep in an air tight container on your counter for two weeks. Alternatively, you can bake and then freeze them. Allow to thaw at room temperature. If they soften a bit, toast in a 300°F oven for 10 minutes or so.

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 Pumpkin-Chocolate Coffee Cake
I love coffee cake! It’s like baked comfort food so when I saw Abby’s recipe I practically jumped out of my skin. I needed to get home so I could start playing with flour.

Back in February, I had a bit of a rant about coffee cake vs crumb cake. Similar but not the same, at least in my mind. Abby’s is very much a coffee cake and is just the way I like ’em. But okay, the whole point of #baketogether is to take one of her recipes and change it up to make it your own.

I recently had a Twitter conversation with a couple of knitterly friends, theindigomuse and pegknitz, about about pumpkin spice lattes, chocolate and the combination of pumpkin and chocolate. It all actually started with a cheesecake, chocolate cupcake batter and pumpkin butter in Tanya’s (theindigomuse) freezer…

Anyway, the point of the matter is I was thinking about taking this wonderful pumpkin bundt cake recipe I’ve made in the past and tweaking it so that I could add chocolate to it. Then I saw the coffee cake and thought better of it.

I’ve changed up the base cake recipe by adding pureed pumpkin and tweaked the spices a bit.

I melted some chocolate and mixed it with a bit of the batter and a touch of milk to make a chocolate swirl layer.

Finally I added some pecans to the streusel topping cuz I like pecans and pumpkin…I also like pecans and chocolate, go figure. Of course if you are allergic you can absolutely leave them out.

This was a fun recipe and really tasty.

If you have never had the combination of chocolate and pumpkin (Peggy I’m talking to you!) what are you waiting for?! It’s delicious, and this is a great recipe to try out the combination. Give it a shot!

Happy baking!

Pumpkin-Chocolate Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Sour Cream Coffeecake
Recipe Adapted from Abby Dodge
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

For the streusel
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the cake
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon table salt

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup sour  cream, at room temperature
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon milk

To Make the Streusel
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and pecans. Drizzle over the melted butter and, using a fork (or use your fingers), mix the ingredients are well blended and form small crumbs. Pop in the frig while you make the cake batter.

To Make the Cake

1. Chop the chocolate and put into microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals until almost melted. When a few small chunks remain, stir vigorously until they are melted. Set aside to cool.
2. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour the sides and bottom of a 9 x 2-inch square  baking pan. (Note: I had my oven on convection so I reduced the temp by 25°)
3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt. Whisk until well blended.
4. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until well blended, about 3 minutes.
5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stop to scrape the bowl and beaters as needed.
6. Add about one third of the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until blended. Add the sour cream and continue mixing just until blended. Add another third of the flour mixture until just blended and then add the pumpkin and continue to blend. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining flour mixture.
7. Scoop out about 1/3 cup of the batter and combine with the melted chocolate. Add the milk to thin it out a bit.
8. Scrape half of the remaining batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Dollop the chocolate mixture over the batter and then swirl with a knife or skewer as if you where making a marble cake.
9. Spoon the remaining batter evenly over the chocolate and spread evenly. Scatter the streusel evenly over the top.
10. Bake until the top is browned and a pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes on convection, 43 to 45 minutes for a conventional oven.
11. Cool the pan on a wire rack until warm or room temperature.

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Irene Chocolate Shortbread Cookies-Row

Hurricane Irene caused quite a bit of damage along the east coast of the US. We were lucky, losing power only for about two days, although not everyone on Long Island fared so well. Of course everything in the fridge had to go and getting restocked was a little challenging at first but we got through it.

We did have a little fun teasing one of our hounds through all of this…her name is Irene. 🙂

Unfortunately not everyone got through it quite so easily. Even though she had lost power for quite a number of days, Abby Dodge had the August roundup and the September #baketogether cookie on her mind. So with the help of Barb from Creative Culinary, she got both up on her site before her power was turned back on!

I had just made several batches of cookies recently and so I decided to change things up a bit: layered bar cookies.

Irene Chocolate Shortbread Cookies-Pan

I made a shortbread cookie base and layered raspberry jam between two layers of chocolate. In retrospect, I should have put the jam between the shortbread and chocolate layers so you could see it a bit better. Because I needed the consistency of the chocolate layer to be thinner than traditional cookie dough, so I could spread it, I cut the amount of flour in the recipe. I also cut the sugar because I was adding the jam so I would have plenty of sweetness in my bar cookies.

As a result of these changes, the chocolate cookie turned out more brownie like; definitely not a problem for me.

They turned out to be quite delicious and decadent! If you like rich desserts, this one is for you. I’d say cut them into smallish squares as they are quite rich and to be honest, a little much for me. My husband however gave them thumbs up.

So here’s my take on Abby’s #baketogether #Irene Double Chocolate Mousse Cookies.

Irene Chocolate Shortbread Cookies-Stacked

Shortbread Chocolate Raspberry Bar Cookies

For the Shortbread
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks butter, softened
¾ cup light brown sugar

Instructions
1. Coat a 9 x 12 baking pan with cooking spray. Line it with parchment, allowing it to overhand two sides and then spray.
2. Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl.
3. Beat the butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.
4. With the mixer running, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined.
6. Pour the dough out into the prepared pan and press into the bottom.
7. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to firm up.
8. While the shortbread is in the fridge, start making the chocolate layer.

For the Double Chocolate Mousse Cookie Layer
2/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 ounces butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
½ cup raspberry preserves, at room temperature

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk until well blended.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter, sugar and cocoa powder. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat on medium speed until well blended, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and the beater.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time mixing until blended after each addition. Add the vanilla along with the last egg. Continue mixing on medium until well blended, about 1 minute.
5. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and mix until just blended, about 30 seconds.
6. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until the mixture is well blended, about 1 minute.

Assembly
1. Remove the shortbread from the fridge.
2. Spread about half of the chocolate batter over the shortbread.
3. Carefully spread about ½ cup raspberry preserves over the chocolate layer.
4. Dollop the remaining chocolate batter over the raspberry preserves and then carefully spread with an offset spatula. It’s okay if some of the raspberry pokes through.
5. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 – 50 minutes.
6. Allow to cool in the pan about 20 minutes and then carefully lift out by the parchment paper.
7. Cut into squares.

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