Posts tagged ‘chocolate’

Dark & Sweet Bread Pudding

Roaasted Pumpkin and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding

In my search for seasonal sweets to celebrate Cupid’s big day, I immediately fell head over heels in love with this recipe the moment I laid eyes on it in my RSS feed.  Two of my favorite flavors in the entire world – pumpkin and dark chocolate – combined into a rich and comforting bread pudding.  But, to tell the truth, there was an immense foreboding in my mind as I chopped up my very last winter squash for the year.  I couldn’t stop myself from wondering, “Am I being greedy?  Is this demanding too much of the culinary fates to have both chocolate and pumpkin in one dessert?  Will the whole dish become a muddled mess of flavor that doesn’t satisfy either craving for warmly spiced pumpkin or intense 75% cocoa?”  

Butternut squash and chocolate

I know that the marriage of chocolate and pumpkin is nothing new, and I’ve actually enjoyed a pie made of both that was indeed quite tasty.  Generally  speaking though, this combo does seem to always disappoint ever so slightly.  But who am I to resist such temptations even in the face of possible folly?  To be completely blunt, I am somebody who has one hell of a weakness for both chocolate and pumpkin and thus no ability to resist. 

Chopped butternut squash

Let me just cut to the chase.  This bread pudding is ethereal in its complex balancing act of these two domineering flavors.  Neither diva gets to take center stage, but they both get to show off the best of their personalities.  I think it’s the thick cubes of sweet challah that we have to thank for that.   It cushions both the pumpkin and chocolate like delicate tissue paper keeping antique dishes from uncomfortably banging together.   That analogy’s not working for you?  Okay, the challah is like the moist layers in a wedding cake separating what would be otherwise overpowering and competing filling flavors like lemon curd and raspberry.   Long story short, this dish is utterly amazing.

Challah bread

Now, a word or two of advice on the two main ingredients.  First, use good dark chocolate here people.  Don’t go skimping by using up the last of the brittle Hersey fun-size bars from the kids’ Halloween party.   I have a block of outstanding dark chocolate I got from a gourmet bulk food store that nearly cost what some of us might put towards a monthly car payment.  But it was worth every penny because it tastes phenomenal and, as most everything bought in bulk is, it wound up being cheaper than the Hershey bar at the end of the day. 

Diptych

As for the “pumpkin”, you’ll notice I used a butternut squash.   It’s a lesser known fact that most any winter squash with a bulging collar at the base of the its stem where it connects to the body can be used for any recipe calling for pumpkin.  In fact, some – myself included – might argue that other varieties of winter squash make a better “pumpkin” than pumpkin itself does.   I’ll make this dish again sometime in the future with your standard orange seamed orb, but I’m fairly confident that it won’t be quite as good since the butternut squash used this time is more flavorful and just a tad bit sweeter so it stood up to the dark intensity of the chocolate. 

ooey gooey goodness

All debates and quandaries aside, I really must say this is probably my favorite dessert to date on SFTF.   Make yourself a generous bowl of real whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream beat on high with 2 tablespoons of superfine sugar until stiff peaks form)  to lather on top, and you’ll have nary a care or a craving in the world…until you hit the bottom of the bowl. 

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February 10, 2009 at 8:23 pm 12 comments

Frosty Festive Treat

fresh whole cows milk

In my family, there is an emerging holiday tradition that takes place between Christmas and New Year’s: a homemade ice cream contest between each segment of our immediate family.  My three brothers and their respective families along with my parents and then D and myself all form teams to come up with an original ice cream flavor, which we then all make on the same day and have judged for bragging rights.  Trust me, bragging rights are a far better prize than any other, although there’s talk of getting a gold-painted ice cream scoop for a traveling trophy. 

Peppermint Dark Chocolate Ice Cream

This year was the first I participated as I usually had to leave for other engagements by the time the contest took place.  I mulled over my flavor options for quite a few weeks.  It’s not an easy task to come up with a winning scoop in this family of expert ice cream makers.  One of those cartoon light bulbs went off when I hit upon the idea of Peppermint Dark Chocolate Ice Cream.  It was seasonal, unique, and I already had a superb creamy rich chocolate recipe in my arsenal.

Ice Cream Contest Mosaic

The day of the contest, last Friday, was chaotic with four teams (one brother bailed at the last minute) hard at work while simultaneously egging each other on with competitive jabs and threats of sabotage.  Really, it was a blast.  Each ice cream was made with gallons of fresh whole cows milk lugged across the 100 yards from the dairy barn to the house.  And for my recipe, I used some amazing local brown eggs with yolks the color of deep golden late summer sunshine. 

Peppermint Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Mosaic

Four generations crowded into the kitchen for the official judging.  A panel of three judges – my aunt, uncle and cousin – were tasked with determining the ice cream with the best taste and texture.  They didn’t know who had made what flavor so it was about as fair as it could get within a highly competitive family.  The other three flavors were Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Chocolate Cashew, and French Vanilla with Chocolate Chips.  All tough and worthy contenders, to be sure. 

Oh, and yes, I won. 

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December 30, 2008 at 10:00 am 7 comments

dark chocolate rosemary ice cream

Dark Chocolate Rosemary Ice Cream

I wasn’t planning on putting up a post today.  The agenda’s a little cramped as it is.  But I couldn’t keep this recipe under my hat.  It’s just too amazingly – perhaps even surprisingly – delicious to hold back until there’s more free time for blogging. 

Rosemary

Dark Chocolate.  Rosemary.  Ice Cream.  
I’ll let you digest that combination for a minute.
Think about it.

Dark chocolate square

I know.  I know.  You’re scrunching up your forehead, trying to decide if that’s the best or the worst idea for an ice cream flavor you’ve ever heard.   I wasn’t so sure myself at the outset.  I had been planning on just plain old run-of-the-mill rosemary ice cream but got to thinking about a conversation I had recently with my dad.  He, being an old pro at homemade ice cream, believes that chocolate based ice creams are by far creamier and longer lasting in the freezer.   Oddly enough, I’d never made a chocolate ice cream on my own and was curious to test his theory.  

Mosaic

I thought I might be crazy though to pair chocolate and rosemary so I google the two and saw a recipe on Godiva for a rosemary and chocolate mousse.   I knew the best chocolate makers in the world couldn’t be off their rockers so I went ahead with my plan for Dark Chocolate Rosemary Ice Cream.

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September 30, 2008 at 9:10 am 34 comments

A Sweet Heart

Dulce de leche

Remember that homemade dulce de leche from back in December?  It’s definitely been one of the most popular posts to date on this blog and for good reason.  I believe my exact description of it was “sweet-but-not-sugary-creamy-like-the-best-fudge-you’ve-ever-had-deep-richness-of-caramel-with-a-hint-of-vanilla-goodness.”   I’ve since truncated that to just two words: disturbingly delicious.   There was only one thing that could make it better.  C.h.o.c.o.l.a.t.e.

picture says it all

The other week I was in Cake, a local bakery in Chestnut Hill well known for their creative confections that has recently expanded to a beautiful atrium space and a breakfast/lunch menu, and couldn’t help but notice the Dulce de Leche Tarts in their display case.  I was so torn.  I wanted to try it, but I’d been salivating over the memory of the coconut cream tart I’d had the last time I was there and couldn’t quite bring myself to give up what I’d been anticipating.  The sight of those creamy caramel chocolate treats did get the wheels in my head turning though.  A recreation of those tarts, when made in the little heart pans I had at home, would be perfect for Valentine’s Day dessert.  A sweet heart for my sweetheart!  I’m such a cheesy romantic sometimes…

Pastry Case at Cake
Cake's sign out frontFountain inside Cake with counter in background

As happens so many times when I have a culinary inspiration, I had trouble finding an existing recipe that matched my specifications.  I wanted to chocolate crust for sure.  That wasn’t so hard to find other than I needed to decide if I was baking the tarts or not.  And since I already had the homemade dulce de leche prepared, I didn’t want a recipe that started with “1 can sweetened condensed milk” and went on from there with directions for boiling all the ingredients together to make what I consider to be an inferior dulce de leche tart filling.  I’ll spare you all the details of the hunt and skip to the end: I flew by the seat of my pants. 

Dulce de Leche Chocolate Tart

Those must have been some very lucky pants!  The tarts are luscious, bordering on obscenely rich in the best of ways.  Mini tarts are the ticket to enjoyment here as any more than one would be too much.  Well, at least at the first sitting.  After an hour, it’s quite possible you’ll be having another. 

Tart tins

The final list of ingredients, as you’ll see after the jump, was really rather short, assuming you already have dulce de leche on hand.  I realize the special day is less than 24 hours away so making your own dulce de leche from scratch could be tricky.  Here’s my two cents about dulce de leche shortcuts (you can feel at liberty to disagree with me).  It can be made by boiling the contents of a can of sweetened condense milk in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven.  All of these methods are much less labor intensive and somewhat less time consuming (the microwave is shockingly fast) than getting fresh whole milk, sugar and vanilla beans to cook down into a thick, rich, gooey caramel.  Shoot me for saying this if you will, but I contend that you shouldn’t even bother with these boiled-can methods. 

chocolate wafer cookies used for crust

Instead, when in a pinch, head to a specialty food or kitchen store and buy a jar of it.   It pains me to say that since it goes against every fiber in my “make it yourself” body, but the stuff you buy will be of better quality than the boiled can since it started with fresh whole cow’s milk, the right proportion of sugar, and vanilla beans.  If you can’t find a jar of good quality dulce de leche for sale on short notice, use the condensed milk method, but promise me you’ll give the from-scratch method a try next time to see what you’re missing. Pretty please?? 

mmmmm, chocolate and dulce de leche!

Time to get off the soapbox; the pictures alone should be more than enough to convey how divine this tart is.  If you don’t have a sweetheart to share it with, make it as a treat for yourself.  I spent many a year avoiding cupid cut-outs and the onslaught of rose deliveries that seemed to go to every door but mine.  Making the day sweet for myself was extremely gratifying once I realized I didn’t have to wait for somebody else to give me chocolate and flowers.  Livin’  la vida dulce! 

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February 13, 2008 at 11:00 am 10 comments


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