30 April 2009

Appetizer Recipe: Chocolate Bruschetta



From Denny: Sometimes, you just don't want all the sugar interrupting the nirvana taste of your chocolate. Well, here is an interesting take on Italian "toast"! I'm used to having bruschetta with marinara sauce or olive tapenade.

The last thing I would have thought of would be to spread it with chocolate, cool! I have seen chef Giada on the Food Network spread her pizza bread with Nutello (hazelnut chocolate spread) that Europeans swoon over like we do peanut butter in America.

The restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia are leading the way with something unusual but very tasty for an appetizer - again. You can make it as a savory or as a sweet version, your choice! Mmmm... fresh and cooling mint...

I think the Great American Oracle (me) predicts this recipe will be adopted eagerly at our house for regular snacking! :)

Chocolate Bruschetta

From: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hands on time: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Serves: 12


Ingredients:

12 ( 3/4-inch) slices baguette (about half a loaf)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or other coarse-grained sea salt)

Mint leaves for garnish


Instructions:

Brush bread with the olive oil. Toast on a grill or under a broiler until golden brown. Remove from heat and spread a generous amount of melted chocolate over each slice. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and garnish with a mint leaf.

Nutrition:

Per serving:
160 calories (percent of calories from fat, 60), 4 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 12 grams fat (6 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 583 milligrams sodium.

And a couple of traditional bruschetta recipes:



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29 April 2009

Funny Chocolate Quote!



From virtualchocolate.com where you can become a member and become a card carrying chocoholic with your very own 12-step program for overcoming addiction:

Seen recently on a tee shirt ~ "EMERGENCY ALERT: If wearer of this shirt is found vacant, listless, or depressed, ADMINISTER CHOCOLATE IMMEDIATELY."

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28 April 2009

Recipe: Quarky Chocolate Cake



From Denny: Pastrywiz.com is a fascinating site with lots of chocolate recipes! This is something new to me though I've made similar cakes I was unaware of this German version. Cheese and chocolate in a cake, who knew? Take a look!

***

"Sour cream cakes are a dime a dozen, but using, German-style quark (a low- or nonfat fresh cheese that tastes like a combination of sour cream, yogurt, and cream cheese) takes this ordinary chocolate cake into the realm of the memorable. It's fudgy, yet slightly easier on your conscience.

If you can't find quark, which is available in some supermarkets, you can make this cake with sour cream. Since this is a three-layer cake, plan to serve a lot of people or to have a lot of leftovers. This cake is best eaten the day it's made, though it will hold, covered, for twenty-four to forty-eight hours at room temperature. Do not refrigerate."

Yield: 12 to 15 servings

FOR THE FROSTING

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1 2/3 cups sugar

6 1/2 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, such as Scharffen-Berger or Callebaut, finely chopped

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into tablespoons

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

FOR THE CAKE

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process), plus extra for dusting the pans

4 ounces high-quality unsweetened chocolate, such as Scharffen-Berger or Callebaut, coarsely chopped

1 3/4 cups cake flour

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar

1 whole egg

5 large eggs, separated

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup quark, such as Ellen's Nonfat, stirred until smooth

To make the frosting:

In a medium-size saucepan, heat the cream and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the chocolate and stir until it is thoroughly melted. Remove from the heat, cover, and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Using an electric mixer, mix the butter on medium-high speed until it is smooth and creamy. Turn the mixer to medium-low and add half of the chocolate mixture along with the vanilla. Mix well. Add the remaining chocolate mixture and mix until smooth and creamy.

Set aside until it hardens slightly, to become a spreadable consistency, 1 to 2 hours. (Or, you can refrigerate the frosting for about 30 minutes, or until it becomes thickened and spreadable. Bring it to room temperature before frosting.)

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously grease three 9-inch round cake pans. Cut a piece of waxed paper to fit the bottom of each pan and place inside the pans. Grease the waxed paper, and dust the pans with cocoa powder until well coated. Set aside.

In a small heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water over the 1/2 cup cocoa. Stir until the mixture is very smooth, and set aside to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler or in a stainless-steel bowl set over a pan of hot, but not boiling, water. Stir occasionally until smooth. Remove from the heat.

Into a medium-size bowl, sift together both flours, the baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add 2 1/4 cups of the sugar and beat until well blended, about 5 minutes. Beat in the whole egg and egg yolks, one at a time. Beat in the cooled cocoa mixture until very smooth, scraping down the sides as you go.

Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the melted chocolate, beating until well incorporated. Add the vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and add half the dry ingredients. Then add the quark, mix well, and add the rest of the dry ingredients. Beat until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a copper or stainless-steel bowl, and using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at high speed. When frothy, add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks, 5 to 6 minutes.

Using a large rubber spatula, fold about 1 cup of the chocolate mixture into the egg whites. Then gently fold that mixture back into the chocolate mixture, just until the egg whites are well incorporated. Do not overmix.

Distribute the batter evenly among the pans, and bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Do not overbake. Cakes are done when the tops are just beginning to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Let cool on a rack for about 15 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.

To assemble:

Place the first layer on a serving plate and frost the top only. Place the second layer on top of the first and frost the top. Repeat with the top layer. Spread the remaining frosting along the sides until the cake is completely covered with frosting. Cut and enjoy!

Source: The New American Cheese by Laura Werlin

Here is a wonderful small 6-inch easy chocolate cake when there are just two of you at home and don't want the bother of making a traditionally-sized cake that feeds 8 - 10.



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27 April 2009

Slap That Cold Silly with Food as Medicine



Slap That Cold Silly with Food as Medicine: "Utilize spices in your food to give healing support to that cold or flu. Here’s an easy exotic and delicious soup recipe when you are feeling miserable. Soup recipe included."

By Denny Lyon @ HubPages

From Denny: This is a popular article. While it may be almost early summer and hot here in Louisiana it sure isn't in other parts of the country and world! After all it snowed in Colorado this month. On the news is the latest about a new outbreak of flu.

What is good about this article and soup recipe is that it gives real information about the properties of food and how they can benefit a situation with a cold, flu or allergy symptoms. Lentils and beans both act as astringents, pulling excess water out of the body. For that reason alone this is a good and practical read! :) We all know the miseries of a stuffy and runny nose.

Spices are another forgotten food in our modern culture and contain many healthful properties waiting to be rediscovered by us today!

Written by Denny Lyon @ HubPages
Photo of paprika peppers by meaduva @ flickr

26 April 2009

4 Health Articles You Might Enjoy



From Denny: I'm always finding the most interesting articles about the latest health study. Too bad there wasn't more research devoted to orphan diseases, ones that afflict a small percentage of the population. Read that as the drug companies believe they can't make big money by searching for cures for these diseases - so they do nothing. Maybe it's the role of international governments to get into the act to help the suffering sectors of humanity? What do you think?

Health is a large area to cover so if you have some suggestions of anything I might be overlooking and you want to throw out at me, please do! You can also email me: warriorspearl@gmail.com too if you like. Yes, I actually answer my own email and am not too full of myself - well, not yet, anyway...! :) (There goes that cheeky side escaping again...)

Here are a few articles you might find an interesting read:

Drink Coffee: Lower Risk of Uterine Cancer

Broccoli Sprouts May Be Germ Fighters

The Pill and Gaining Muscle

Popping a Zit Can Kill You?

Photo by left-hand @ flickr



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25 April 2009

4 Science Articles You Might Enjoy



From Denny: Since I have too many interests I've parked them on other blogs in addition to this one. Apparently, most people start a blog, lose interest, abandon the first one to start another blog. Not me. I just keep expanding to ADD more blogs! (totally crazy, I suppose - but hey! I'm happy...)

Anyway, articles about how the brain works, astronomy, psychology, some math and physics on basic levels is what I park over at the blog The Soul Calendar. It keeps climbing in the traffic rankings quite nicely and I happily write about whatever catches my interest for the week! Life is good!

I'm still poking around the web for children's resources for parents and science projects readers might find interesting. If you know of any sites or projects, speak up and shoot me an email at warriorspearl@gmail.com, much appreciated!

Here are a few posts you might find an interesting read:

Is My Brain Making Me Buy Things I Don't Need?

Double Amputees Shed Light on Brain's Flexibility

Robolegs Help People Walk

Hurricane-Killing, Space-Based Power Plants

NASA Photo by Image Editor @ flickr

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24 April 2009

Recipe: Chocolate Charlotte



From Denny: When we used to live in Atlanta we often dined our way across the metro area and still didn't get to sample all the goodies - so many great choices! The local newspaper now carries a lot of these wonderful and sometimes classic recipes from the famous local restaurants as the one for today.

From the recipe page: The Chocolate Charlotte “has been on the menu since the day we opened in 1981, and it’s always in our top five desserts,” said owner Karen Bremer. “It’s truly decadent.”

As good as the restaurant version is, the home version may be even better. At the restaurant, the mousse filling requires some gelatin to withstand the rigors of a dessert case, but at home, where the charlotte will rest quietly in your fridge, no gelatin is necessary. The result: “It’s actually a little bit lighter and fluffier,” Bremer said. - Deborah Geering, The Journal-Constitution

NOTE: If you are worried about the uncooked eggs in this dessert, you can use pasteurized, though you will have to beat the egg whites a long time to make them stiff.

Chocolate Charlotte

From:
Dailey's Restaurant
17 Andrew Young International Blvd.
Atlanta, Georgia
Phone: 404-681-3303

Hands on time: 30 minutes

Total time: 5 hours

Serves: 16

Ingredients:

1 family-size (about 18 ounces) package brownie mix, plus the ingredients listed in the instructions

2 (12-ounce) packages semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup strong coffee

4 eggs, separated

4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

2 cups whipping cream, divided

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and then grease the parchment paper.

Prepare the brownie mix according to the package directions. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until the brownies are done but not crispy. Remove from the oven and cool about 15 minutes. Invert the square pan of brownies onto a cutting surface. Slice a 1-inch strip from one end, then cut the remaining brownies into 3 long strips (they’ll each be about 2 1/2 inches wide). Press the 3 wide brownie strips along the inside edge of the springform pan to form a ring. Use a piece of the 1-inch wide strip to fill in the gap. Using kitchen shears, trim the top edge of brownies flush with the top of the pan.

In a microwave-safe dish, melt the chocolate chips and coffee on 50 percent power for 1 minute. Stir, then repeat in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Beat the yolks and stir in the chocolate mixture.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with 3 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture. In the same bowl as used for the eggs, beat 1 1/4 cups whipping cream until it holds its shape. Fold into the chocolate mixture. Spoon the chocolate mousse filling into the brownie shell and smooth the top. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours.

Before serving, whip the remaining 3/4 cup cream with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar until soft peaks form. Remove the sides from the springform pan. Serve the charlotte with the whipped cream.

Notes: Total time includes at least 4 hours of chilling time.

Nutrition:

Per serving:
525 calories (percent of calories from fat, 56), 6 grams protein, 56 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 35 grams fat (17 grams saturated), 120 milligrams cholesterol, 139 milligrams sodium.

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23 April 2009

Funny Chocolate Cartoons!



From our friends over at the high-toned The New Yorker magazine come funny chocolate cartoons! They don't have embedding enabled and use links to go to their site. These are just 20 second shorts and very amusing!

Lover's Leap, go here.

Chocolate Easter Bunnies, go here.


Photo by heliosphan @ flickr


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22 April 2009

Passed 100th post milestone!



From Denny: Well, I hear we blogger types are supposed to jump up and brag about reaching the 100th post milestone. ;) You can tell I'm really "great" about some anniversaries as I've already passed that milestone with now 120 posts. Oh, well, so much for showing off!

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Recipe: Chicken and Pistachio Mocha Mole Sauce

From Denny: Chicken Mole sounds divine, especially this exotic recipe I found over at Chocoholic.com! This is a faster convenience version of the traditional complex slow-cooked mole. Wonderful for spring and summer entertaining.

From: Robert Phillips

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

CHICKEN

4 5-to-6 ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon coffee liquor (Kahlua), separated

SAUCE

1 Tablespoon coffee liquor (Kalhua)

1 cup pistachios, plus extra for garnish

1 poblano chile

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish

1 Tablespoon finely-chopped bittersweet chocolate

1 teaspoon garlic

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper

3 cups stock

2 Tablespoon cream

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

Directions:

Trim any excess fat from the chicken breasts. Marinate the chicken in 1 cup of coffee liquor for several hours or overnight.

Shell the pistachios, roast them lightly in a skillet, and then coarsely chop them.

Carefully roast, peel, and chop the poblano.
Preheat a grill or broiler.

In a saucepan combine all of the sauce ingredients ingredients, except the cream and cornstarch, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Cool slightly. Then carefully pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and puree. Strain through a sieve into a clean saucepan. Mix cream and cornstarch together first, then whisk into the sauce. Heat until slightly thickened.

Adjust seasonings to taste.

Meanwhile, remove chicken from marinade and wipe off excess marinade. Grill or broil the chicken, turning once, until well-browned, about 8 minutes in all. To serve, top each chicken breast with enough sauce to cover and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped pistachios and cilantro leaves.

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21 April 2009

Recipe: Chocolate Espresso Bars

Chocolate Expresso Bars


From CBS: Instant espresso powder offers the most practical way to impart a rich coffee flavor to cookies, candies and cakes. Sold in well-stocked food markets and specialty coffee stores, the fine powder dissolves quickly in hot liquid, producing a bolder, more concentrated taste than regular instant coffee. This intense flavor comes with a solid dose of caffeine, however, so if you are sensitive to caffeine's effects, look for a brand of instant espresso powder labeled "decaffeinated."

Ingredients:


3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder

3 tbs. instant espresso powder

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

8 tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 eggs

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the glaze:

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. instant espresso powder

4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

Pinch of salt

16 chocolate-covered espresso beans (optional)


Directions: Preheat an oven to 350°F. Generously grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl; set aside.

In a small, heavy saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and chocolate and heat, stirring occasionally, until melted, about two minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar until blended. Gradually stir in the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the vanilla, then add the flour mixture and stir until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the edges pull away from the sides of the pan and the center is springy to the touch, about 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool.

Meanwhile, make the glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream and espresso powder and heat, stirring, just until the powder is dissolved and bubbles start to appear around the pan edges. Add the chocolate and salt, remove from the heat and stir just until the chocolate is melted. Let cool to room temperature.

Using a small offset spatula, spread the cooled glaze over the cookie in a thin layer. Refrigerate until the glaze is set, about 30 minutes. Cut into 1 1⁄2-by-2 1⁄2-inch bars or 2-inch squares. Top each bar with a chocolate-covered espresso bean. Makes 16 bars.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, "Cookies," by Marie Simmons (Simon & Schuster, 2002 ).



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20 April 2009

Recipe: Chocolate-Banana Croissant Panini

Chocolate-Banana Croissant Panini

From CBS: "Our simple sandwich is inspired by pain au chocolat, a much-loved after-school snack in France. It is, literally, a chocolate bar sandwiched between two slices of bread. This sweet treat is also enjoyed by schoolchildren in Spain."

Ingredients:

2 day-old croissants, cut in half horizontally

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate shavings

1 small banana, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch slices

Directions: Heat an electric panini maker to medium, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Lay the bottom half of each croissant, cut side up, on a clean work surface. Sprinkle with about two-thirds of the chocolate, dividing equally. Arrange the banana slices on top, then sprinkle with the remaining chocolate. Place the top half of each croissant, cut side down, on top.

Place the sandwiches on the heated panini maker and close the lid. Cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until the chocolate is melted and the tops are golden, 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer the sandwiches to a cutting board and cut in half. Serve immediately. Serves four.





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19 April 2009

Recipe: Chocolate-Amaretti Heartbreakers

Chocolate-Amaretti Heartbreakers

From CBS:

"These are really waffled cakes? moist, cocoa-rich and flecked with ground amaretti (Italian macaroons) and bittersweet chocolate. They're delicious as is, with just a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar, luscious with lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream, and downright indulgent with ice cream and hot fudge."


Ingredients:


3 large double amaretti (or 6 amaretti from 3 paper-wrapped packets)
2 oz. high-quality bittersweet chocolate

5 tbs. unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. double-acting baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

pinch of salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup cocoa, preferably Dutch process

1 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. almond extract

2 eggs

Confectioners' sugar, sweetened whipped cream, ice cream and/or hot fudge sauce for serving (optional)


Directions: Place the amaretti and bittersweet chocolate in the work bowl of a food processor or in a blender and process until pulverized; set aside.

Preheat a waffle iron. If you'd like to serve the waffles warm, preheat an oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar and cocoa. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, almond extract and eggs until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with the whisk to combine. Fold in the amaretti-chocolate mixture and the melted butter.

Lightly butter or spray the grids of the waffle iron, if needed. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick.

Spoon out 1/3 cup of batter (or the amount recommended by the manufacturer's instructions) onto the hot iron. Use a metal spatula or wooden spoon to spread the batter evenly over the grids. Close the lid and bake until just set. Bake these slightly less than you do other waffles because chocolate has a tendency to burn easily. There's no need to worry, but you do want to keep an eye on these. Transfer the finished waffles to a cooling rack while you make the rest. If desired, just before serving, warm the waffles briefly, about 2 minutes, in the oven. They're good at room temperature, too.

To serve: You can present a full five-of-hearts to each person, shaking a dusting of confectioners' sugar over the entire waffle and then scooping some whipped cream or ice cream onto the center. Hot fudge sauce is both luscious and luxurious over these. Broken into individual hearts and filled with ice cream, these make fabulous sandwiches. Makes about 10 full five-of-hearts or about six 6 1/2-inch round waffles.

Adapted from "Waffles from Morning to Midnight," by Dorie Greenspan (Weldon Owen, 2001).




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18 April 2009

Recipe: Irish Mist Cake







From Denny: Following are 4 videos demonstrating how to make this easy cake. Lots of people love Irish Whiskey and this is certainly one interesting way to "drink" the libation! :)

They take their time making the cake as this is an unprofessional video where a couple of regular people enjoy the romp through their version of the Food Network. Amusing as well as instructional.


Photos by stevegarfield @ flickr

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Video 1: Irish Mist Cake

Video 2: Irish Mist Cake

Video 3: Irish Mist Cake

Video 4: Irish Mist Cake

17 April 2009

Recipe: Hot and Spicy Flaming Chocolate Mousse

Royal StreetImage via Wikipedia



From Denny: If you are coming for a visit to New Orleans this April you might want to sign up and take these cooking lessons from some renowned New Orleans chefs!

Photo of Royal Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.

From Country Roads Magazine: Each week renowned New Orleans chefs including Maras, Poppy Tooker, Frank Brigtsen, and Boo Macomber come to The House on Bayou Road to teach their delicious lessons, at 5:30 pm each Thursday through Saturday in April. 2275 Bayou Road, twelve blocks from the French Quarter on Esplanade Ridge. All classes are $150 per person, all inclusive. (504) 430-5274.

Hot and Spicy Flaming Chocolate Mousse

From: House on Bayou Road, Chef Poppy Tooker

Yield: Serves 6 - 8

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds semisweet chocolate morsels

½ tsp cayenne pepper

4 egg yolks

2 cups heavy cream

¼ cup sugar

8 eggs whites

¼ tsp coarse salt

8 sugar cubes

¼ cup 151 proof rum

Directions: Place the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl and melt in the microwave. Stir in cayenne pepper. Cool to room temperature.

Using an electric mixer, beat in egg yolks one at a time. Whip 1 cup of heavy cream until thickened. Gradually, add the sugar, beating until the cream is stiff.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the whipped cream. Stir about one third of the cream mixture into the chocolate. Gently fold in the remainder, sprinkling pinches of salt into the mixture as you fold. Pour into individual serving dishes or a serving bowl and refrigerate, allowing it to set for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, whip the remaining cup of heavy cream. Soak the sugar cubes in the dark rum. Top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream, then carefully place the rum soaked sugar cube on top. Light the sugar cube and serve.



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16 April 2009

Video: Helping the Amazon Forest by Growing Chocolate!

From Denny: In case you missed this wonderful story on NBC News the other night, here it is. Businessman Steve McDonnell is helping a group of people in the Amazon grow cacao and make chocolate. This is one way to help preserve the rain forest and improve the lives of people in Ecuador. The farmers have formed a co-op to get better prices for their cacao beans. Their goal is to become popular chocolate competitors with the Americans and Europeans.

It is amazing that everyone wins here from the farmer to the consumer - even the planet - for slowing down de-forestation of the Amazon rain forest!



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Posting Problems



From Denny: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday have been difficult times to try and post anything. Not sure why. Could be global internet traffic is highest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (Monday and Tuesday in American time zone). Could be the computer worm going around driving servers insane courtesy of hacker jerks that are probably mostly comprised of intelligence community guys from countries all over the world.

What I have managed to post has gotten scrambled from time to time. Sorry for the inconvenience. I always go back to proof read and catch the errors, usually within minutes of posting. Lightning storms in my area haven't helped that process and have been delayed. If you see something I didn't catch within a day or two, please feel free to let me know as it would be much appreciated!

Fun photo by gidibao @ flickr

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15 April 2009

Top Chef's Chocolate And Vanilla Recipes

White Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes with Bitt...Image by Bev (Sugarbloom Cupcakes) via Flickr

Top Chef's Chocolate and Vanilla Recipes – check out chocolate cake baked in a glass jar so you can travel with it!!!

From Denny: From Food Network’s top pastry chef Gale Gand are some wonderful recipes depicting how she says she thinks: “Some people think in black and white. I think in chocolate or vanilla and thought it would be fun to do a cookbook dedicated to America’s favorite flavors.”

My favorites are the Chocolate-Praline Cake baked in a jar so it can travel, Baked Ricotta Custards and Boston Cream Cupcakes.

CBS won’t allow embedding this video so here is the link just for the video, go here.

Here’s the link to the print story, recipes with the video, go here.

All recipes are from CBS.

CHOCOLATE-PRALINE CAKE IN A JAR

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup sifted cake flour

2/3 cup sour cream

2/3 cup brewed coffee

For the praline topping

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 10 to 12 half pint glass canning jars on a rimmed baking sheet, evenly arranged with space between them.

To make the cakes, in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the brown sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and mix until combined. Add the half of the flour, then half of the sour cream, and mix until combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. Drizzle in the coffee and mix until smooth. The batter will be thin, like heavy cream.

Pour the batter into the jars, filling them halfway. Bake until the tops of the cakes are firm to the touch, about 25 minutes.

To make the topping, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the brown sugar and 1/2 cup water and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and bring to a boil. Stir in the nuts.

Pour the praline topping over the cakes to cover, working quickly, because the praline hardens as quickly as it cools. Let the cakes cool completely if they aren't already, before screwing on lid jars.

***

PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE CHIP THUMBPRINTS

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, chopped

1/4 cup chopped roasted salted peanuts

For the Filling

3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons peanut butter

2 tablespoons corn syrup

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

To make the cookies, in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar and vanilla and mix on medium low speed. Mix in the flour and salt, then add the milk and chocolate chips and mix until combined.

Using your hands, roll pieces of dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and dip the top of the balls in the chopped peanuts. Place peanut side up 1 1/2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Push your thumb into the middle of each cookie to make a deep impression.

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they're light golden brown. Let cool on the cookie sheet while you make the filling

To make the filling, melt the chocolate chips in a medium bowl set over, but not touching, a sauce pan of simmering water. Stir in the peanut butter, corn syrup, 1 tablespoon water, and the vanilla until well combined. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using a spoon, fill the centers of the cookies with the filling. Let sit for 30 minutes to set.

***

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED PEANUT BUTTER BALLS


4 1/4 cup powdered sugar 2 cups creamy peanut butter

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3 cups crisped rice cereal

12 ounces semi sweet chocolate

12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, or by hand, mix the powdered sugar, peanut butter, and butter on low speed until well combined. Mix in the puffed rice cereal.

Using your hands, form the mixture into walnut-size balls and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Stir the chocolates together in a heat-proof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolates are melted and smooth. Stir in the vegetable oil.

Using a fork, dip the peanut butter balls into the melted chocolate, rolling them around so they are entirely coated, then fish them out with a fork, shake them off a bit, and set the coated ball on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Set aside for at least 2 hours to cool and set up.

***

INDIVIDUAL CHOCOLATE PAVLOVAS


1/2 cup large egg whites, at room temperature

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar

1/4 cup cocoa powder, preferably dutch processed, sifted

1 cup heavy cream

10 ripe strawberries, or 1/2 cup raspberries, blueberries or blackberries

2 to 3 ripe kiwis, peeled and thinly sliced

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt on medium high speed until foamy. Add 1 cup of the sugar, the cornstarch, vanilla and vinegar, and continue whipping until the whites form stiff peaks and are smooth and shiny, about 5 minutes more. Add the cocoa powder and stir on low speed until just blended.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Fit a pastry bag with a large plain tip and fill the bag with the meringue. Pipe twelve 4- to 5-inch disks of meringue about 1 inch apart onto the parchment.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the pavlovas are crisp on the outside but still moist on the inside. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the pan.

To serve, whip the cream with the remaining two tablespoons sugar. Place a dollop of cream on each meringue, spreading it to the edge, and arrange the fruit on top.

***

BAKED RICOTTA CUSTARDS WITH RASBERRY-MINT SALAD

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

2 large eggs

1 large egg white

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

For the Raspberry Mint Salad

2 (1/2) pint containers of raspberries

2 tablespoons sugar

2 mint leaves, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Bring a tea kettle or medium sauce pan of water to a boil. Have ready ten to twelve 4-ounce ramekins in a baking dish or roasting pan that's large enough to hold them all.

To make the custard, using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until it's light, smooth and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the ricotta and mix until combined. Mix in the eggs and egg white at one at a time until combined, then mix in the vanilla sugar, and cream.

Pour the batter into the ramekins, filling almost full and pour the boiling water around them to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the custards are set but not colored. Remove from the oven and let cool in the water bath to room temperature. Remove from the water, cover, and put in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.

For the raspberry mint salad, using a fork, mash a quarter of the berries in a bowl with the sugar until pureed. Fold in the whole berries along with the mint.

***

BOSTON CREAM CUPCAKES


For the Cupcakes

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour

1 1/2 cup teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 recipe éclair custard filling


For the Chocolate Glaze

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cupcake liners

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light a fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sugar and continue to whip. Add the vanilla and gradually mix in the eggs, one by one until well combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk and ending with the dry ingredients.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, filling each slot three-quarters full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cupcakes are puffed firm in the center, and light golden brown on top. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack.

To fill the cupcakes, use a small paring knife to remove a plug of cake from the top center of each cake and set the plugs aside. With pastry bag fitted with a large (1/2 inch) plain tip, pipe or spoon the custard into the cavities. Trim each plug so that it is a flat coin. Top the filled cupcakes cavities with the coins and chill for 30 minutes while you make the glaze.

To make the chocolate glaze, heat the cream in a saucepan or in the microwave until almost boiling. Meanwhile place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and whisk until melted.

Dip the chilled cupcakes in the warm chocolate glaze to coat the top. Refrigerate until serving.

To serve, spoon the raspberry mint salad over the top of the chilled custards.

***

VANILLA CHARLOTTE

1 package ladyfingers, store bought

2 (1/2) pint containers raspberries

4 cups whole milk

1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin

2 tablespoons cold water

12 large egg yolks

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

white chocolate curls

powdered sugar

Have a large bowl ready near your cooktop. Fill the bowl three-quarters, full with ice and cover the ice with water.

Bring the milk and vanilla bean to a boil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and let vanilla steep in the milk for 10 minutes.

Gradually sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small bowl and set aside for the gelatin to soften.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar for about 1 minute to combine and then gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking continuously. Return the mixture to the saucepan and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened and is 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer, being careful not to over cook it or it will break.

Immediately stir the softened gelatin into the custard until it's dissolved and then strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Put the bowl of custard into the bowl of ice water and stir frequently until the custard starts to cool and thicken.

Fold in the less than perfect berries and then pour the custard into the pan lined with ladyfingers. Spread the top of the custard to smooth it. Cover the charlotte with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours.

To serve, trim the ladyfingers even with the top of the custard. Put a serving platter upside down over the pan and quickly invert it. Remove the old and parchment. Arrange the reserved raspberries around the edge of the charlotte and pile white chocolate curls in the center. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into wedges for serving.

***

MARY'S BUTTERBALLS

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup raspberry jam or ganache

2 cups vanilla sugar for rolling

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it's light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Mix in the granulated sugar and when the mixture is blended add the flour and mix until it forms a dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 3 hours to make it easier to handle. This also helps prevent balls from flattening out too much when they're baked.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Taking off pieces of dough with your hands, roll small (3/4 inch) balls of dough (about the size of a hazelnut in the shell). Chill them for 30 minutes in the freezer, then place them 2 inches apart on cookie sheets to allow for some spreading. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or just until the cookies are firm but not browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pans.

Spread the flat face of half of the cooled cookies with the jam or ganache and top with a second cookie to form a little sandwiched ball. The filling will not show very much. Once you've sandwiched them all together, but them in vanilla sugar to coat the entire outside.


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14 April 2009

Chocolate Heaven

macaroonImage by rachel is coconut&lime via Flickr

From Denny: This video was done for the last Christmas season and featured editor Dede Wilson from Bon Appetit magazine. Lots of great recipes here for any time of the year for a chocolate lover! A quick to mix up macaroon with a wonderful bittersweet chocolate sauce to drizzle over them and many more.



THE RECIPES

Ambrosia Macaroons

These cookies use the flavors of ambrosia -- the South's favorite sweet salad -- in a new way, adding finely-grated orange peel to classic coconut macaroons, and then drizzling them with bittersweet chocolate for a festive finish.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
3 large eggs
24 oz sweetened flaked coconut (about 6 cups firmly packed)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted

METHOD

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and salt; beat until blended. Beat in orange peel, then eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in coconut. Drop batter onto sheets by tablespoonfuls, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake macaroons, 1 sheet at a time, until golden on bottom and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on sheets.

Using fork, drizzle chocolate over macaroons. Chill on sheets until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.

Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

INGREDIENTS


6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons Armagnac, Cognac, or other brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

METHOD

Combine chocolate and butter in medium metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until melted and smooth. Remove from over water.

Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan; gently stir into chocolate. Add Armagnac, vanilla, and salt and stir to blend. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool, cover, and chill. Re-warm over low heat before using.


Devil's Food Cake with Peppermint Frosting

This showstopping cake is layered with dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate cream, then topped with marshmallowy peppermint frosting. To give the final product pastry-shop flair, set a pile of chocolate curls in the center.

INGREDIENTS

Cake


2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 cups ice water

Dark Chocolate Ganache

1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
14 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

White Chocolate Cream

12 oz high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons pure peppermint extract

Peppermint Frosting


2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

METHOD

Cake:


Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in yolk. Add cocoa and beat until well blended. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with ice water in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until just blended and smooth after each addition. Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks and cool completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil; store at room temperature.

Dark Chocolate Ganache:

Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Chill until firm enough to spread, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Before using, let stand at room temperature until soft enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

White Chocolate Cream:

Place white chocolate in large heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup cream to simmer in saucepan. Pour hot cream over white chocolate. Let stand 1 minute; whisk until smooth. Whisk in extract. Cover; chill until mixture thickens and is cold, at least 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.

Add 2 cups chilled cream to white chocolate cream and beat until smooth and peaks form. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Rewhisk to thicken, if necessary, before using.

Using long serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally in half. Place 1 cake layer on platter, cut side up. Spread 1/3 of dark chocolate ganache over cake. Spoon 2 cups white chocolate cream in dollops over cake; spread evenly to edges. Top with second cake layer, cut side down; spread 1/3 of ganache over, then 2 cups white chocolate cream. Repeat with third cake layer, cut side up, remaining ganache, and remaining cream. Cover with fourth cake layer, cut side down. Chill while preparing frosting.

Peppermint Frosting:

Combine sugar, 1/2 cup water, egg whites, and corn syrup in large bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer. Whisk by hand to blend well. Set bowl with mixture over saucepan of gently simmering water; whisk constantly with hand whisk until mixture resembles marshmallow creme and ribbons form when whisk is lifted, 8 to 9 minutes. Whisk in peppermint extract. Remove bowl from over water and attach bowl to heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until mixture is barely warm to touch and very thick, 7 to 8 minutes.

Using offset spatula and working quickly, spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle chocolate curls over top and sides. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill.

Orange Scented Brownies with Dried Cranberries, Pistachios and Ginger

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
3 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 21 ounces), divided
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup shelled unsalted natural pistachios
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 oz high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), chopped.

METHOD

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving overhang. Butter foil. Place butter, 1 cup chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water. Stir until mixture is smooth. Remove from over water and cool to room temperature.
Using electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and coarse salt in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. On low speed, gradually beat in chocolate mixture, then orange peel. Add flour and beat just until blended. Fold in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Spread batter in pan.

Bake brownies until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 cup chocolate chips. Let stand 2 minutes for chips to soften, then spread evenly over brownies. Sprinkle cranberries, pistachios, and ginger over.

Place white chocolate in small glass custard cup. Microwave on low in 10-second intervals until just melted; stir until smooth. Drizzle white chocolate over brownies. Chill until topping sets, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Using foil overhang as aid, lift brownie sheet from pan. Cut into squares.

All recipes from CBS.

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13 April 2009

Chocolate Past And Present

From Denny: Fun video about the history of chocolate when chocolate was often consumed as a meal rather than as a snack. Wow! Fun to watch how our Colonial Early American ancestors used to hand-roll and grinding on a board at a 45-degree angle they crushed the cocoa beans to make their early morning chocolate drink. It isn't the hot chocolate as we know it today. Even the Revolutionary War soldiers drank this chocolate in the morning as we drink coffee today. Then the video moves on to famous chef Jacques Torres discussing wonderful chocolate trends of the future. Cool informative video!


Watch CBS Videos Online




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12 April 2009

HAPPY EASTER!!!



From Denny: From my rose garden to yours this year! Louisiana is in full bloom and the worst of pollen season is finally done. These are Tiffany roses. They practically glow from within with the golden hearts and the light perfumed scent is absolutely DIVINE!

Happy Easter to all! May this be a wonderful time of spiritual renewal for you whatever belief system you hold in your heart...

For more wonderful Easter photos from flickr friends and a few special ones of my own, check out the photo blog: Visual Insights.

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11 April 2009

Recipe: Oreo Cheesecake Bites



From Denny: Here's an easy little gem that sounds absolutely DIVINE to make for this Easter weekend! You could always substitute another hard cookie that your family enjoys or you just have on hand.

The ancient Romans always used cheese in their cakes and make cheesecake for their Spring celebrations. Here's an easy recipe for your family!

Ingredients:

36 OREO Cookies, divided

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, divided

4 pkg. (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN Sour Cream

1 tsp. vanilla

4 eggs

4 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate



Directions: HEAT oven to 325°F. Line 13x9-inch baking pan with foil, with ends extending over sides of pan. Finely crush 24 cookies. Melt 1/4 cup butter; mix with crumbs. Press onto bottom of prepared pan.

BEAT cream cheese and sugar with mixer until blended. Add sour cream and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each just until blended. Chop remaining cookies. Gently stir into batter; pour over crust.

BAKE 45 min. or until center is almost set. Cool. Meanwhile, microwave chocolate and remaining butter in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1 min.; stir until smooth. Cool slightly; spread over top of cheesecake. Refrigerate 4 hours. Use foil handles to lift cheesecake from pan before cutting to serve.

Nutrition (per serving)

Calories 220

Total fat 16g

Saturated fat 9g

Cholesterol 70mg

Sodium 180mg

Carbohydrate 17g

Dietary fiber 1g

Sugars 12g

Protein 3g

Vitamin A 10%DV

Vitamin C 0%DV

Calcium 4%DV

Iron


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10 April 2009

Video: Bake a Cake in the Can!

Bake a Cake in the Can! (and you can ship it!) This was a novel idea, easy and fast. A lot like a chocolate souffle and little flour. Sort of a cross between a flourless chocolate cake and a chocolate souffle. Demo by a chef.





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