Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

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Mini Bundt Cakes: The Perfect Dessert

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 by Andrea L

panWinter is the perfect time to experiment with new ideas and recipes while we are trapped in our homes, thanks to Mother Nature. So, I am really excited about this month’s retail promotion on bakeware. Recently, this mini Bundt cake pan caught my eye.  It’s now the most favorite present I have ever bought for myself, and I will cherish it for years to come.

I was tasked to come up with a new winter dessert at the restaurant where I work.  This was the perfect opportunity to put my new pan to work. The Nordic Ware mini bundtette pan sells for $39.95 at The Chopping Block. For the entire month of February it’s 20% off, as is ALL bake ware.  I was really drawn to the intricate craftsmanship of the pan, and the weight and feel of it just inspire me.

Mini Bundt cakes are the perfect dessert. They are an individual serving, aesthetically pleasing, and they taste delicious! I decided to create a rich chocolate Bundt cake with a salted caramel sauce and light dusting of powdered sugar. This cake would also make an excellent dessert for Valentine’s Day! Going the extra mile and making your loved ones dessert, rather than buying it, is such a more personal gesture.

So this month, I encourage you to take advantage of our 20% off bakeware sale and get baking!

Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes 

Makes 6 cakes: Nordic pan holds exactly 6

For the cake:

  • 1½ cups brewed coffee
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup natural cocoa powder + additional for dusting the Bundt pan
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • butter or cooking spray for the Bundt pan
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Brew 1½ cups of coffee. While the coffee is brewing, butter (or spray with cooking spray) the Bundt pan and then dust with cocoa powder. Do this well to ensure the mini Bundt cakes come out of the Bundt pan.
  2. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter for 20 seconds. Mix with the coffee and cocoa powder. Stir with a wire whisk. Once everything is combined, add the sugar and whisk until it has dissolved. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to whisk. Once all of the ingredients have been combined you will be left with a batter with the consistency of a slightly thick soup.
  5. Pour the batter into the mini wells of the Bundt pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  6. Remove the Bundt pan from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Once cooled, gently run a butter knife or fork around the sides of each cake to gently remove from the pan. Most likely, you will have cake excess that you can cut off and enjoy! Place mini Bundt cakes on a wire rack.

For the Salted Caramel Sauce:

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (I prefer Maldon sea salt flakes)

  1. Heat sugar and water in a 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to help the sugar dissolve, but stop stirring when the sugar comes to a boil. You can swirl the pan a bit if you want.
  2. When the liquid sugar hits a dark amber color, add all the butter to the pan. The mixture will foam up and thicken. Whisk until the butter has melted. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat.
  3. Add the cream to the pan (the mixture will foam up again) and continue to whisk to incorporate.
  4. Add the sea salt and whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Smother over the top and sprinkle cakes with dusting of powdered sugar.

What’s your favorite piece of bakeware? Share your thoughts here in the comments.

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Andrea Larson is a lover of all things food and wine. She is a culinary graduate of the Illinois Institute of Art Chicago and has worked at such local restaurants as Uncommon Ground, Spring and Custom House. Currently she is working on her local dream of eating her way around Chicago and probably spends more money on dining out than she should!

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Candy: Collated and Double Sided

Thursday, January 16th, 2014 by Chloe

Hey y’all. Chloe’s mom here. Chloe wasn’t able to write a blog this month cause she’s probably hungover or something. Nonetheless, she said I could write about anything, so I thought I would write about candy!

Did you know that they are PRINTING candy? Like, from a printer? Ya know, like where I print my Mapquest directions? Ya, like a printer. And they’re doing it in 3D. Like, three dimensions as shown here in this photo from Huffington Post.

3D-Candy

Basically layers of water and sugar powder are sprayed to make whatever picture or shape you want. It seems pretty fancy and complicated. I honestly have not explained it well. Is it even called a printer, or can it just be a called a machine that makes candy? Sounds like something Nestle and Willy Wonka have been doing for years! The idea of it, though, is that you can make it into any design you want, which perhaps is a little more advanced than what the fellows down at Hershey are pulling right now. I guess that’s pretty neat. Sometimes I think it would be fun to make a candy of my face, and put it in a bowl for my desk at work. What a gas that would be! My boss would get a kick out of it, I think.

Sugar Lab Photo

Photo Courtesy The Sugar Lab

But I guess the question that’s coming up in my brain, is what will candy start to look like? I mean, will my Junior Mints start coming out like spirals and mazes? Or do my Swedish Fish have to look like a Rubik’s Cube now? I think it’s real neat to see something as classic and timeless as candy get a revamp; however, do not touch my Swedish fish! Also, how much will this candy cost? Did you know a bag of chocolate is going for almost $5 now! God bless! $5?! The way my husband eats candy, we’ll be homeless in two months time with the way these prices are going up. They say these printers that are printing all the candy are selling anywhere from $5,000-$10,000. Uh-huh. That’s a new car, y’all. Think about it.

All these advances in science and technology can be really overwhelming. In fact, this whole discussion makes me want to go get a box of candy for some comfort eating.

What do you think about this new candy revolution? Are there any candies that are sacred to you? How would you use a 3D candy printer?

Also, tell Chloe to call me. She’s not answering my calls, and I don’t know if she’s going to be here for dinner on Sunday.

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Born and raised in Florida, Chloe Ditzel is a former class assistant at The Chopping Block, and would like to make it clear that she did not go to culinary school. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, and is discovering the culinary treasures of the west coast one delicious food truck at a time. Her biggest goal in life is to somehow combine the following three mediums: food, comedy & unicycles. Bon Appetite!

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Easy, Gluten-Free, Chocolate Valentine’s Dessert

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 by Melissa

With Valentine’s Day one month away, we will soon switch food gears from homey comfort food to decadent and seductive dishes. I, for one, have had enough turkey and ham to last me until the spring thaw! I’ve been pondering what to make for Valentine’s Day, specifically dessert, that will leave a lasting impression.

tartBeing gluten-free, I can tell you that dessert is not always easy. Unfortunately, there are a lot of not very memorable gluten-free options. Don’t get me wrong, not everything out there is bad, and there are a lot of new places that are very focused on making great gluten-free desserts.

But wouldn’t it be great if you could make that decadent Valentine’s dessert for your sweetheart from scratch? If you are really busy or can’t find your way around the kitchen, I have the perfect idea for you! This gluten-free chocolate tart is easy to make and even better if you do it a day ahead. So, that leaves you more time to make that luscious dinner for two, or call for takeout from your favorite Thai restaurant.

All the equipment you need is a tart pan with a removable bottom and a baby food processor.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Crust:

1 cup brown rice flour mix (To make this mix to use in gluten-free recipes, use 2 cups brown rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch and 1/3 cup tapioca flour.)

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon xanthum gum

5 Tablespoons cold cubed butter

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

Combine the brown rice flour mix, sugar, xanthum gum and mix. Add in butter and process till it looks like wet sand. Finally add vanilla paste. Press this mix into the tart pan to form a crust. Chill for at least 5 minutes, longer is always better. Par bake this crust for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

ganache2Filling:

2 cups heavy cream

1 pound bittersweet chocolate

Heat cream till a film forms on top and pour over chocolate. Let this sit for a minute and then stir till smooth. Set aside.

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup raspberry jam

jamCombine eggs, sugar and salt and mix. Add the chocolate into the egg mixture, mix well and pour into the par-baked tart shell. Swirl in jam, if desired. (If you are feeling ambitious, make it yourself with the help of our How to Make Jam video. Just substitute raspberries for the blueberries.) You can also omit the jam, if you want. Bake the tart for 14 minutes and cool completely before removing from the tart shell.

Cut your tart into desired pieces and let come to room temperature before eating.

What will you be serving your sweetie on Valentine’s Day?

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Originally from Cleveland, Melissa has lived in Chicago since 2000. She makes frequent trips home to get inspiration from baking with her young niece. After learning she had Celiac disease in 2005, Melissa decided it was the perfect time to start "playing" with new kinds of food. As a pastry chef, this brought a new perspective to cooking, eating and another world of desserts she would be inspired to create. After 10 years with Frontera Grill, it was time for a new challenge and Melissa got back to her first love: teaching. As a chef instructor at The Chopping Block, she has found a new way to pass on all that she has learned in the kitchen. When she is not teaching or baking with her niece, she takes long adventures with her dog, cooks with friends or buries her nose in a book.

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Talkin’ About Food Cravings

Friday, October 25th, 2013 by Chloe

According to a WebMD article I briefly read through, “almost 100% of young women and nearly 70% of young men had food cravings during the past year.” Besides the fact that I find that to be the most moronic statistic in the world, it brings me to my topic this month: food cravings! Yes, those blessed beasts, which come out of nowhere or they show up right on time.

ChipsI think like most people, my cravings usually occur after I do a specific activity. For example, I love cramming a ton of chips into my mouth immediately after taking a nap. I don’t care what kind they are, but chips are the best snack after a midday sleep. I crave them so bad when I wake up that I will stand over the sink, still half asleep and shove them in my mouth. I’m lucky my boyfriend hasn’t set up a Nanny Cam for a hilarious YouTube channel.

Here are some other cravings I have:

After a hike, I want french fries.

When it’s cold out, I want whiskey and carbs.

After an intense workout, I crave pizza.

After a long day of work, I want alcohol.

When I’m hungover, I want a cheeseburger and a Coca-Cola Classic.

After a breakup, I want nothing. (I love a good break up. I lose so much weight. Eek!)

When it’s a day of the week, I crave chocolate.

Pregnancy cravingsFood cravings can be caused for a variety of reasons. One of the big ones is pregnancy! Some women have cravings like pickles or ice cream or anything sour. Since I haven’t been pregnant, below is a list of cravings I wish I had.

After a fight with my mother, I wish I craved an all-veggie salad with a light vinaigrette.

After I confirm my attendance of my high school reunion, I wish I craved a handful of almonds and some fresh blueberries.

After going on Facebook and stalking random people, I wish I craved a 2-3 oz portion of grilled salmon with steamed broccoli.

After an especially long staff meeting, I wish I craved iced water with lemon.

Junk FoodWouldn’t it be great if we had cravings that were healthy and good for us? I guess it seems silly to expect our bodies and brains to be strong during our weaker moments. There are lots of suggestions and tricks on how to curb the cravings, such as choosing smaller portions or lower-calorie options. All of it sounds boring to me, unlike a delicious slice of pizza and a Slurpee. That’s not boring at all! But maybe a good way to kick those cravings is by having a mantra to repeat throughout the day. For example, here’s an acronym I came up with. Feel free to use it!

 

 

C – Completely

R – Remove

A – Awesome

V – Victuals

E – Everyday

I agree that it kind of sucks.

Can you think of a better acronym? Also, what are some of your unique or weird cravings?

 

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Born and raised in Florida, Chloe Ditzel is a former class assistant at The Chopping Block, and would like to make it clear that she did not go to culinary school. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, and is discovering the culinary treasures of the west coast one delicious food truck at a time. Her biggest goal in life is to somehow combine the following three mediums: food, comedy & unicycles. Bon Appetite!

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Cupcakes: Mini Cakes, Maximum Flavor

Monday, September 16th, 2013 by Melissa

As much as my niece loves making cookies with me, sometimes she has a hankering for a cupcake. And why shouldn’t she? Cupcakes are great! Almost any cake recipe can be turned into a cupcake, just pour the batter into lined muffin tins and bake away. The key is having a few really great cake recipes, and then cutting down the bake time.

MN NephewThe cake part is actually the easiest component of this equation. It’s the decorating that usually trips people up. When we get to the decorating part, my nephew is always right there ready to help and get in on the action. They both love decorating cupcakes and usually need to be very distracted so that we can let the cake part cool. Ever tried to decorate a warm cupcake? I did once when I was young as I turned my nose up at the instructions that said to let the cake cool. I thought why could that be so important, the cake is done and therefore I will now finish it. Yeah, that was the only time that I ever did that. By the way, cleaning frosting up out of tile grout is not fun, especially when that frosting is chocolate and the tile is white! So lesson learned, and one that I make sure my niece and nephew never repeat.

MN NieceI usually make a couple of easy frostings for them to use, break out the pallet knives and we’re off! The best part of their decorating is the bag of sprinkles that I have for them, and a little glitter too. Elana likes to place each piece down and Evan likes to dump them all over the top and watch where they land. Either method works, and we all love watching them make a special one for each of us!

My colleague Chef Kim and I just tested a new batch of recipes for Cupcake Boot Camp: New Fall menu coming next month. We got rave reviews from everyone who tried them. Some people could not believe that one of the cupcakes was gluten free, it tasted so good! Even if you have taken this class with us before, you must do it again. The cake recipes are all new (one so easy and delicious that you can be in the oven baking in 5 minutes) and there are new twists on some classic frosting recipes!

Here’s the new seasonal menu:

  • Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting
  • Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting
  • Cranberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganache and Candied Orange Zest
  • Gluten-Free Chocolate Bourbon Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting

Join us for Cupcake Boot Camp on October 6th or October 19th at the Mart.

What is your favorite flavor of cupcake?

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Originally from Cleveland, Melissa has lived in Chicago since 2000. She makes frequent trips home to get inspiration from baking with her young niece. After learning she had Celiac disease in 2005, Melissa decided it was the perfect time to start "playing" with new kinds of food. As a pastry chef, this brought a new perspective to cooking, eating and another world of desserts she would be inspired to create. After 10 years with Frontera Grill, it was time for a new challenge and Melissa got back to her first love: teaching. As a chef instructor at The Chopping Block, she has found a new way to pass on all that she has learned in the kitchen. When she is not teaching or baking with her niece, she takes long adventures with her dog, cooks with friends or buries her nose in a book.