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Entries in Chocolate (9)


Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake for John's Birthday

It's John's birthday again! Well, it's John's birthday on Thursday, the 12th. But I'm posting early. I like to stay ahead of him, keep him on his toes. 

Some of you may wonder what we do to celebrate John's birthday. Well....that gets dicey. John hates his birthday!

Whaaaaaat? Yes, yes - it's true! I just don't understand this hatred. So, I like to go around him and plan things for him that he would ordinarily, left to his own devices, ignore, avoid and fear. I'm a good sister, yes?


For his 29th birthday I planned a beer pong surprise party. Remember that part about being a good sister? I am one, clearly.

Last year, I respected his wishes and didn't throw a party, but I embarrassed him publicly on the blog, stating the various things that made him a great brother. You can read last year's testimonial here.

This year, I am taking him out to dinner. He hasn't decided where he wants to dine yet. But I would like to invite you all to post your birthday wishes on this blog. I'm going to pick a few random commenters and give out a prize.

While you're waiting for winners to be announced, you might want to make this cake. You can make it for someone's birthday, or you can invent a birthday, as the cake is that good, you might not want to wait for a special occasion. Marmo made this for Easter Sunday, and we all had to restrain ourselves from diving face-first into it.

This recipe is from Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz.

What You Need:

Serves 12

12 oz of almonds finely ground

6 eggs, separated

6 tablespoons sugar

8 oz of bittersweet chocolate

2 sticks of butter

10 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup sugar

What To Do: 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter and flour a 10 inch springform pan.  Line the bottom with wax paper or parchment paper.  Butter and flour the lining.

In a food processor grind the almonds in 3 batches pulsing each with 2 T sugar for a total of 6 T of sugar.  Set aside.

In a double boiler melt the chocolate and butter together.

In a mixing bowl beat the egg yolks until lemon colored and then gradually beat in the 10 T sugar.

Add the melted chocolate and butter to the egg yolks.  Stir to mix and fold in the ground almonds and stir will.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites with the ¼ c of sugar until they are stiff.  The fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake on a cookie sheet for 90 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 15 minutes and remove the sides  from the springform pan.

When the cake has cooked turn it upside down onto a serving plate and dust with confectioners sugar.


C'Mon....Give me a Bacio (kiss)!

Sometimes worlds collide. When this can happen in a way that doesn't involve the alarming effects of gravity literally pulling me down to the ground (or into a wall) and causing me harm, I love it.

It's rare, let me tell you. But sometimes these worlds collide in a most wonderful and advantageous way, as in this case, on which I am about to elaborate.

Many of you know I'm a graphic designer by day (check the About Section, peeps!), and if you haven't figured out by this time that I love food, I will really need to check your pulse.

I work at a studio called Square Root Creative where I am the Creative Director/Graphic designer/Hungriest Person in the Room/Champion Gum Chewer. And at this studio, we had the opportunity to acquire a food client – an ITALIAN food client.

Our client is Perugina, an Italian chocolate producer originally hailing from the beautiful, mountainous Umbrian town of Perugia. Perugia's specialty is truffles and chocolate. I am currently on a one-way flight there.

No! I'm sitting in my apartment.

At Square Root Creative, we had the opportunity to completely redesign the United States Perugina website, featuring as the star, the famous "Baci".

Baci are a chocolate confection produced by Perugina. A truffle-like assembly of dark chocolate ganache coating an inner core of chopped hazelnuts and milk chocolate that is an Italian sweetness party in your mouth. It's like a nutty, chocolate mini-slider.

Eataly recently sponsored an event demonstrating how Baci are made:

The above hazelnuts are awaiting their position on beds of milk chocolate and chopped nuts featured below:

Finally the whole contraption is dipped into tempered dark chocolate:

According to legend Baci was created on Valentine's Day in 1922, and since then has been a traditional Valentine's gift in Italian households.

Since Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and the Perugina site is now live, I thought I would show it off to you all. I worked with a wonderful group of designers, managers and programmers who all contributed to this site. I was also responsible for all of the product photography. All the photos you see in the "Products" section are mine!

So we've got food, Italian food, design, and chocolate. Did you feel the earth shake right then, or was it only me?

Anyway! As an added bonus, the new site offers recipes featuring Perugina products. So for today's post I have recreated the Baci Pancakes (original recipe found here). However, I modified it a bit in my usual fashion. The result was an intensely fluffy, cookie-like pancake with tangy cherries and excellent chocolate hazel flavor. And it was ever-so-slightly healthier. A teeny bit...

What You Need:

1 egg
2/4 cup soy milk (you can use regular milk if you like)
1/2 all purpose cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 oats
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
3 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 chopped Baci*
*Note: the Baci will be easier to chop if they are cold

What To Do:
Mix all the dry ingredients together until they are well combined.

Add in the egg and the soy milk (or regular milk) and mix until a thick batter forms.

Lightly coat a griddle or frying pan with oil or butter and heat until hot.

Drop generous 1/4 cup of batter onto grill per pancake. Brown on one side, then flip and brown other side.

Can be served with syrup, butter or just sprinkled with powered sugar.


Homemade Marshmallows in Spicy Hot Chocolate to Celebrate a New Blog Look!

There's a lot of stuff going on in that title, huh? That's because there's a lot going on here. On this blog. Today.

Maybe you noticed? No? Huh. I thought it was obvious....

WE HAVE A NEW DESIGN! Sorry for shouting....I should use my inside voice. But it's hard to get noticed here on these interwebs.

We decided we needed something new. Like a party dress for the holidays. It was actually John that wanted the party dress....with sequins. I would have been fine with something sensible. But not him. Noooooo.

So, I was all like, "OK, I'll take one hundred million aerial shots of different food setups and we can interchange them to keep things fresh, and maybe I'll have a go at a logo refresh too..."

And he was all like, "Yeah." I think he may have also said, "Glorious."

And so here it is: our new header, featuring a hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows atop a Brooklyn Slate. We are going to change these headers every now and again. We may do it seasonally, bi-weekly, once in a blue cheese moon, etc. So stay tuned!

I actually made all the above items myself, except for the candy canes which I bought at Duane Reade. The cups and sparkly spoons are Vietri and I bought them at Terrine, in case you were curious. They're great holiday gifts if you need some.

Now, let's get to the recipes!

Honey Vanilla Marshmallows

I've been wanting to make my own marshmallows for a while. But I was scared of making a mess (which I should be used to by now). And I really didn't think it would work. But it did! And it's so worth it. Especially the vanilla bean. You MUST use really vanilla bean. Please.

Oh, magical vanilla bean, these marshmallows are for you.

I used Joy the Baker's recipe for these. I would love for you to visit her blog for the recipe because I think that's a nice thing to do. Maybe bring her a bottle of something when you visit.

Afterwards, you can dip the marshmallows in bittersweet chocolate for extra decadence. It is the holidays after all. Here's how that works:

What You Need:

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
glass bowl
small pot

What You Do:

Pour some water into the small pot and set it to simmer on your stove top. Not boil - just simmer.

Place the glass bowl on top of the simmer pot of water so that the bottom of the bowl sits in the pot but DOES NOT touch the water. That part is important because you don't want to boil or burn the chocolate. You want to steam it, or ....wait for the big fancy cooking term...TEMPER it.

Cut the chocolate into coarse chunks and throw it into the glass bowl. It will begin melting.

You can use a spatula to stir it a bit.

Once the chocolate is melted, go ahead and dip the marshmallows in there. Just one side is fine. You'll get the black and white cookie effect. Then lay them on some parchment paper to dry.

Now for the Spicy Hot Chocolate. This stuff is good, especially with a little cayenne kick. If you don't like your hot chocolate to kick you in the taste buds, you can leave out the cayenne. Personally, I prefer kicking.

What You Need:

1 1/2 cups of milk (you can use any percent of fat you prefer)
1 1/2 tablespoons of UNSWEETENED cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

What You Do:

Throw all the ingredients in a small pot at the same time (I love recipes with those instructions). Turn the heat to medium-low and stir with a wire wisk until all the ingredients are incorporated into the milk.

Let the mixture heat up - but don't let it boil.

Pour into mugs and serve immediately topped with the marshmallows.


Food Foto Friday - Camera Angles!

Today's Food Foto Friday explores camera angles.

The subject matter of today's shoot is a dark chocolate bar with pistachios and cherries from Cocoa V. I purchased this bar for Marmo for Mother's Day, and it broke en-route to her, so I used the opportunity to take some photos of it, as the broken bar was more interesting (visually).

For a surfance, I used an old plank of wood, reclaimed from my friend Meg's farm (Fresh and Fancy Farms). I painted one side of the plank a light seafoam green, which I thought looked nice with the pistachios.

I am going to show you three (glamorous) angles of a chocolate bar:

Camera Angle #1:
For the above photo, I chose a 3/4 view. Slightly above, but not quite aerial view. I got into the bar pretty close as well, and I think this may be my favorite of the three shots.

For your comparison purposes, I put title treatments in all the photos.

Camer Angle #2: Straight on. For this angle, I put the camera almost on "eye" level with the chocolate bar. The depth of field is a little more dramatic in this shot: notice how the background is much blurrier than the first photo. And even the back of the chocolate bar is much fuzzier than the first photo.

Camera Angle #3: Aerial View: For this shot, I positioned the camera directly above the chocolate (bar and wood board were balanced on a kitchen chair). I also left a little negative space on the left hand side for text. I like this view, but I feel as though the title treatments look nicer on the other two.

Finally, you can see how I set the whole thing up here:

Fancy, no? Kinda takes the glamour (if there was any to start) out of the whole thing. But it does show you that you don't need much to set up a decent shot. The tripod is really key. I resisted mine for a while, but now I love it and am considering the purchase of a fancier model.

Which shot do you like best? Let me know in the comments!

And Happy Friday!


Cannoli in Motion - Food and Art Collide on the Path Train

John and I are as choosy with our Italian desserts as we are with our entreés (like pizza). I happen to be a tiramisú snob, and have turned up my nose at quite a few slices, while John will down well-made panna cotta like an Electrolux that's just had its filter cleaned.

But the cannoli....Ahh...the cannoli. A perfect cannoli is a study in contradictions, a perfect blend of opposites in flavor and texture. As the holding device, the shell represents a challenge: It must be crispy and ever-so-slightly sweet. NEVER chewy or dense. With lots of airy holes for extra crunch.

The cream presents another challenge. First, it has to be ricotta cream. I know....I know, you may be thinking, "Who would fill cannoli with anything else?" If you asked that question, you're hired!

You might be surprised to learn how many whipped cream filled cannoli I have encountered. And put down after the first bite, because that's just wrong, people. WRONG.

Assuming that the filling is ricotta based, it should also be rich, thick in consistency and have a definite sweetness that is not overpowering. Light and airy are not characteristics of the filling – those belong to the shell.

Now a final word of caution: NO PRE-FILLING the cannoli shells. If you walk into a bakery and there are a stack of filled cannoli in the glass display case, don't order them. They could have been sitting there since the Dharma Project's last food drop.

The shells should be lined up, empty awaiting your order. Then, and only then, do they get their ricotta cream piped into them. This is because cannoli filling will make the super crispy and light shell a soggy, dense mess. True story.

As for toppings or additions to the cream filling, these are traditional and definitely allowed. I'm not a huge fan of succade, or chopped, candied citrus peel, I find that they don't add much in terms of flavor and are just interruptions in the cream filling. Like speed bumps. I do, however approve of mini chocolate chips, either integrated into the cream or sprinkled on top. These do add flavor, and because they are firm, but not crunchy, an extra layer of texture. Pistachios often make an appearance, as does a nice dark chocolate dip. However, prepping the chocolate dipped varieties usually means pre-filling, so I'm not the biggest fan of this option.

OK, I think I'm done with my pastry-related tirade. Are you still here? I hope so, because Rocco's cannoli are definitely worth the trip. To the West Village. In the pouring rain. And John doesn't walk very quickly. So, if you're going with him, you should know that.

Rocco's has a lot of other treats that we didn't sample. We went straight for the cannoli. But you might like to try some of these:

They sure looked tasty.

After navigating the somewhat confusing line (it seems that people just queue up in no particular order, and there's no number system), we noticed the empty cannoli shells lined up in the back awaiting their creamy centers – a very good sign. We ordered 2, and got them to go.

Probably we should have enjoyed them at on of Rocco's cafe tables. Instead, we ventured out into the pouring rain (did I mention that John walks slowly?) and to the PATH train to head back to Hoboken.

Both John and I are very impatient when it comes to food. We want to eat it NOW. Whatever it is. Now works. The train unfortunately arrived immediately, even as I was unwinding the intricately-laced bakers twine on the box.

John: "I have never wanted the train to NOT arrive before...." This said as I reluctantly returned the white box to its plastic bag.

Once on the train, all bets were off. Especially the ones saying "No Eating or Drinking on Path Trains". John dove into his cannoli as I attempted to take photos of them on the moving train. Please keep in mind that we are professionals. You shouldn't try this at home. Or anywhere.

I held off on eating mine as I wanted to take a nice glamor shot of it once back at my apartment (see the first photo for evidence of self-restraint). But I was curious, so I asked John some questions.

Me: "How is it?"

John: "Great." (You might not think it, but this is actually very high praise from John).

Me: "Ummm...Could you give me more details? How's the filling?"

John: "Awesome, man."

I see.

Once I could sample mine in the comfort and stability of my non-moving apartment, I could tell that John was correct. It was a great cannoli. The shell was fried to perfection, and I detected a hint of cinnamon in the mix that added a subtle flavor. The cream was indeed awesome: a ricotta cream with very tiny and sparingly applied succade and topped with mini chocolate chips. I may have wanted the cream a bit thicker, but the flavor was true to form. The shell even maintained its crispiness throughout our soggy walk home, shattering as I bit into it (this is supposed to happen).

Rocco's: a great place for awesome cannoli. Man.

Pasticerria Rocco
243 Bleecker Street
New York
New York, 10014