Icelandic Chocolate

While on my trip, kept seeing these Traditional Icelandic Chocolate bars by Nói Síríus. There were several options, from Milk to Mint to Dark. Of course I opted for the Dark. What was interesting is that the Dark was only 45% Dark Chocolate. There was no dairy in it, fortunately. Finally broke down and bought one.

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It had a unique taste to it, and after reading over the ingredient list again, it has bourbon vanilla in it. It tasted similar to chicory to me though. Worth trying, not my favorite dark chocolate, however. Fairly sweet for dark chocolate. And still not sure what makes it Icelandic. And much prefer something that’s 73% dark.

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Chocolate and wine…combined

Office, client visit, who happens to be a doctor, thoughtful gift brought from a trip to California. What does it reveal…WINE.  What does it next reveal…some kind of heavenly trouble.  It’s a good thing doctors tell you wine and dark chocolate have antioxidants, that they’re good for you and all that other jargon because wow, this was a drug in a bottle.  What did we get?  An innocent (bottle of) chocolate bar by Riboli Wines/San Antonio Winery — (NOT in TX).

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It’s on the dessert-side of wine.  Sort of port-like.  It’s 18% alcohol, so enjoy this as dessert…maybe paired with some angel food cake, strawberries or raspberries.  You can only snag it at the winery proper in CA.  So if you’re out there, pick up a bottle.  Because, going back to do some research on their website, they don’t even list it on there!  They only list a Cab.

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1oz…unwrap or snap?

*I will forewarn that I am leaning towards one side on my comments in this post.

I have baked a good amount of times that I have frequently reached for unsweetened chocolate.  The convenient, perfectly measured, individually wrapped pieces of goodness that are added with a variety of ingredients for a delicious end product.  I was making some brownies last night and had to pick up some of the chocolate.  I open it up and am taken aback.  I don’t get a 1 oz. piece.  I get a bar.

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I flip the box over to be sure I purchased the right thing.  Yes, I did.  But they are advertising this great new phenom!  4 oz Easy Break Bar.

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Grrr…I wanted my 1 oz wrapped piece(s) of chocolate so I didn’t have to break anything/put forth any more labor.  And, easy break is not the word.  I could not snap it easily.  I had to get the knife out.  I needed 2 oz for the recipe and the first cut barely made it along the line.  On the second, most of the bar split.  *Again, can you tell my bias.*

So, as nice as changes are and innovation is, sometimes sticking to the old stuff is good.  I rest my case.  Would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve used the new ‘cut’ of the product.

Bake on, bake on.

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

I have a cookie recipe in my recipe binders that I’ve relied upon for years.  I never really get to enjoy the goods because of the butter in them but when people try them I hear rave, amazing, sometimes censor-needing (in a good way) reviews.  It’s Epicurious’ Chocolate Toffee Cookies recipe.  An amazing combo of chocolate, Heath bar…and dark rum.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon dark rum — I always throw a bit more in there
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate-covered English toffee (such as Heath bar; about 7 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped almonds

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy.

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Add egg, rum and vanilla and beat until well blended.

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Sift (or in my case I just add/drop in) flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into small bowl. (and then mix in with the power of KitchenAid) Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture.

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Mix in toffee and chopped almonds. (Ditto on the last KitchenAid statement — that’s what it’s there for!)

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Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto heavy large ungreased baking sheet (I still use Silpat mats), spacing 2 inches apart.

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Bake until cookies puff slightly and crack on top but are still soft to touch, about 11 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheet 1 minute. Transfer cookies to rack and cool completely (cookies will become crisp).  And then heavenly bliss arrives.

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Repeat shaping and baking with remaining batter. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

 

Paleo Brownie Bliss

I make birthday cookies for all my friends.  The friend on the roster last week is gluten intolerant and lactose intolerant, so it always makes it even more fun to bake something using gluten-free flour, xantham gum and/or other random goodies and no butter, milk, etc.  Well she told me she’s on the Paleo diet now and asked if I could make something based on that and mentioned there are good brownie recipes out there.  To the search engines I go…what I ended up deciding on were some Paleo Brownie Bites (aka bliss, heaven, death by chocolate), which I found from a great food blog, The Lucky Penny Blog.  They don’t require baking, have no crazy ingredients.  The only thing you need is to think a little bit ahead (for refrigeration).  And based on my tastes and the folks I knew they were going to, I made very few changes.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup raw walnut halves and pieces
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 heaping cup soft medjool dates, pitted (about 17 – 20 medium sized dates — I bought the small tub at Safeway)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons coconut milk OR any liquid sweetener, like honey, agave, or maple syrup if you want your brownie bites to be sweeter — I used Maple Agave Syrup from Trader Joe’s
2/3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut to roll them in (I’m not a fan of coconut so I rolled half of them in crushed walnuts, the others half I left plain)

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Directions:

Place pitted dates in a bowl of warm water for a minute to soften

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Add unsweetened cocoa powder and walnuts to food processor, blend until walnuts become fine crumbs.

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Drain dates and place in the food processor with the cocoa walnut crumbs. Add vanilla. Process until mixture starts to combine. It may not fully combine until liquid is added. Add coconut milk or liquid sweetener (if desired) half a tablespoon at a time. Pulse. You will know the consistency is right when the dough combines into a ball in the middle of the food processor.  If dough is too runny add a tablespoon or more cocoa powder to bring it back to a dough like state.

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Transfer dough to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I cooled mine overnight, you could also freeze it for faster results.

Once dough is cold, put coconut crumbs (or in my case, walnut crumbs) from earlier into a shallow bowl. I used the great Pampered Chef Chopper to get them nice and finely chopped.
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Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough and roll them between hands to form balls. Roll balls in crumbs, pressing the crumbs gently into the ball. Continue until all dough is gone. You can moisten your hands with water if the dough begins to stick to your palms as you roll.

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I made some smaller balls and bigger ones.  When done, kept them in the fridge.  Took them to my friend the next night for the party.  They were a huge hit!  Amazing!!  None left.  I might add a bit of flavor kick next time with a little spiced rum (as long as Paleo followers don’t mind) or hint of cinnamon.  But, I am so glad my friend requested something like this because it was an awesome recipe for me to find.  I also love that this recipe has no dairy in it so those who are lactose intolerant can easily enjoy some brownies.  Heaven, bliss, chocolate.

Simple (Dark Chocolate & PB) Pleasures

Simple things for simple minds?  Or simple, old school favorites tweaked to make lactose intolerant people thrilled?  Maybe they go hand in hand.  When I was at the store the other day there were some (unfortunate?) free samples of peanut butter cups.  Normally I just walk by them because they are the typically milk chocolate.  But, these looked a bit darker than usual.  Then I saw the display bag — dark chocolate.  I did some investigative work by reading the label because (too) many companies say their product is dark chocolate and have milk, lactose, cream, etc in them.  Oh, no, heaven be thy name.  There is no dairy in these things!  Thank you Justin’s.  You have brought me to eternal peanut better cup bliss!  And, aside from the little sample pieces, the store was giving away full size treats.  Simple things…

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Chocolat et moutarde

I’m in this French kick for some reason.   I spoke the language all through elementary school and it has correlated to my posts, so it’s not totally out of left field.

Anyway, a couple friends were recently in Paris and brought me back some treats from the well-known city in France.  They know me quite well and are fully aware of my lactose intolerance.  They did some good, deep digging over there to find some non-dairy-containing chocolate (considering the dairy loving area), along with some mustard.  The latter was not one I would expect.

The chocolate was super dark and had sesame seeds.  Wow — what a finishing taste.  For the mustard(s) — I received a pack of four Dijons, all with different flavors.  Talk about potency (in a good way)!  Absolutely amazing.  It’s great when people you know go away and bring edible souvenirs.

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Baking…1,2,3…Biscotti

It’s Friday, it’s pouring rain, what better a thing to do before dinner than bake?  You have to have dessert, right?  And it helps to prep for a party tomorrow.

One of my favorite things to bake is biscotti because it has (or truly doesn’t have to have) butter, which means those who are lactose intolerant can totally enjoy it!  And, it keeps for awhile.  The crispier, the better!!  With the recipe I use, I take the basics and alter the flavors.  Tonight, I was looking around my kitchen and opted to include dark chocolate (duh!), whiskey and walnuts.  There is a health benefit in all of those, in some way, shape or form.

 

Pic 001The aforementioned recipe I use is from a cookbook I received years ago.  You just combine:
-2+ c flour
-3/4 c sugar
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp cinnamon
-most times I also use 1 tsp nutmeg

Blend. Then add:
-1 egg
-1 tsp vanilla

Those are the basics.  Then you just need more liquid that is flavor and other dry ingredients for flavor, from nuts to chocolates to dry fruit to more spices  You might also need some water sometimes just for that extra bit of liquid.

So for this recipe I used:
-‘some’ whiskey
-about 1/2 cup chocolate chips
-about 3/4 cup – 1 cup walnuts

 

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Once the dough is mixed, you make it into flat ‘logs’ — I can’t think of a better word — and bake it for 30 minutes at 375.

 

 

 

 

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After half an hour, take it out and cut it into ‘biscotti’ shape.  And you know, these crumbs fall off– MUST sample.  They have no calories, come on.  Then, contrary to what the recipe said, I just turn the oven off, put the cookie sheet back in there, with the cut biscotti on it and let it sit in there, be it 1 hour or overnight.  Again, the crispier the better.

 

 

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Give Me Some Candy!

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T minus three days until Easter.  What does that mean?  Only a few more days of walking into stores and being surrounded by chocolate eggs, loads of colorful jelly beans and both chocolate and marshmallow bunnies.  Want some crazy stats?

According to the National Confectioners Association,

  • The first chocolate eggs were made in Europe in the early 19th century and remain among the most popular treats associated with Easter
  • 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are made for Easter each year
  • 16 billion jelly beans are made for Easter
  • Each day, five million marshmallow chicks and bunnies are produced in preparation for Easter
  • Easter is the second top-selling confectionery holiday behind only Halloween
  • 88 percent of adults carry on the Easter tradition of creating Easter baskets for their kids
  • 76 percent of people eat the ears on chocolate bunnies first
  • Red jelly beans are kids’ favorite
  •  According to the Guinness Book of World Records the largest Easter egg ever made was just over 25-ft high and made of chocolate and marshmallow. The egg weighed 8,968 lbs. and was supported by an internal steel frame.

Dang!  Need some other good numbers to give you a sugar high as we head into the weekend? Check out The Fact Site.   After reading all this, what do you plan to load up and/or munch on the next few days?