Archive for Chocolate

Vegan Valentine’s Day Truffles

vegan chocolate truffles

What do you do with leftover frosting? If you have a little, you can lick it off your finger or spread some on toast. But when I have a whole cup left, I turn it into truffles. Because the filling is too soft to handle at room temperature, I freeze it prior to dipping. When you eat the truffles at room temperature, the filling explodes in your mouth. It’s so good that you’ll want to make frosting just for truffles.

You can probably use any frosting as the base, but ones with a high percentage of chocolate will melt in your mouth. I used Cook’s Illustrated‘s vegan ganache frosting. If you eat the truffles fresh, I swear no one will be able to detect the tofu. After a couple days, there is a slight spicy/beany flavor, but these are still some of the best truffles I’ve ever had.

These truffles require tempered chocolate, a process that involves heating, cooling and stirring chocolate. It’s laborious and virtually impossible to do without a thermometer. Fortunately, Alice Medrich developed a cheater’s method: Melt the chocolate at a low temperature and forget about the technical stuff. It requires chocolate that’s already in temper (one that looks smooth and glossy, not one with white streaks because it’s been sitting in your car).

This Valentine’s Day, make these vegan truffles or the simplest cream truffles ever (That recipe goes like this: Heat up cream. Pour over chocolate. Eat.).

Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated and Alice Medrich’s Cookies and Brownies

For truffle filling:
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (about 1 2/3 cup)
1/4 cup hot brewed coffee
2 tablespoons boiling water
1/4 cup light coconut milk
2 ounces silken tofu (recommended brand: Morinu)

For coating:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (about 1 1/3 cup)
2 ounces extra chocolate, in 1 or 2 chunks

Special equipment:
Electric mixer
Melon baller scoop or a sharp knife
2 large sheet pans
Heatproof glass bowl with a 2 1/2- to 3-quart capacity
Instant-read thermometer
Rubber spatula
Roasting pan or large baking pan at least 2 inches deep

Make filling:

  • Set a medium bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Place the chocolate in the bowl, and pour the hot coffee and boiling water over the chocolate. Whisk until smooth, then add coconut milk and whisk until incorporated.
  • Blend the chocolate mixture and tofu in food processor until smooth and combined, 10 to 15 seconds, scraping down bowl once or twice.
  • Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cool and texture resembles firm cream cheese, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (If the mixture has been chilled longer and is very stiff, let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.)
  • With an electric mixer, beat the mixture at high speed until fluffy, mousse-like, and it forms medium stiff peaks, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Spread the mixture into a shallow pan and freeze until firm enough to scoop, at least 3 hours.
  • Have ready a bowl of hot water, a melon baller, a sheet pan lined with wax paper, and the firm filling. Dip the melon baller into the water and wipe dry. Scoop out a scant 1-inch ball of the filling. Set on the prepared sheet pan and repeat with the remaining truffle base. If you don’t have a melon-baller, use a sharp knife to cut the base into little squares. Roll each piece between your fingers until it resembles a ball.
  • Freeze the filling again until firm, about 1 hour.

Temper chocolate:
Tempering chocolate involves a sequence of heating, stirring, and cooling that stabilizes the cocoa butter and ensure that the chocolate becomes snappy and shiny. This method works only if it’s followed carefully. First, start with a fresh bar of solid chocolate. It should still be in temper if it’s glossy rather than gray or dull. The trick is to melt the tempered chocolate gently, so the temper isn’t destroyed. This method can’t be used for chocolate that is out of temper; been melted to an unknown temperature; or looks dull, spotted, or gray.

Use good chocolate, not chocolate chips or coating (which aren’t really chocolate). Don’t work in a hot room. Don’t let any moisture touch the chocolate. Don’t try to rush the process with extra heat, and DO chop the chocolate as finely as directed. Make sure that the inside of the bowl, the spatula, and the thermometer stem are clean and dry. Whenever you take the temperature of the chocolate or the water, wipe the stem clean and dry with a paper towel.

  • Cut 8 ounces of chocolate into pieces the size and shape of matchsticks, or chop it into small pebble-size pieces (you can also do this in batches in a food processor). Put the chocolate in the bowl and set the bowl in a roasting pan. Set the extra two ounces of chocolate chunks aside.
  • Pour hot tap water (120° to 130° F) into the roasting pan until it reaches just above the level of the chocolate in the bowl. Let sit for 5-6 min., or until the chocolate around the sides of the bowl begins to melt. Stir with a rubber spatula until the chocolate pieces are sticky and are begin to form together. There will be barely enough melted chocolate to accomplish this.
  • Remove the bowl of chocolate from the roasting pan, and replenish with hot tap water. Put the bowl back in the pan and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Begin stirring with the spatula, turning the sticky mass over and over. Keep stirring (it may take 5 minutes), spreading the chocolate against the sides of the warm bowl and scraping it off as it melts. Don’t replenish the hot water; it’s still warm enough.
  • When 3/4 of the chocolate is melted, check its temperature. If it is less than its maximum temperature of 90° F for dark chocolate (88° F for milk chocolate or white chocolate), continue to stir. Remove the bowl from the warm water as soon as the chocolate reaches the maximum temperature, even if it hasn’t melted entirely.
  • Wipe the outside of the bowl dry. Stir the chocolate for at least 30 seconds, to equalize the temperature and melt any remaining pieces. The chocolate is now melted and still in temper. Use it for dipping immediately.
  • If you accidentally exceed the maximum temperature, even by only a couple of degrees, the chocolate will probably be out of temper. Keep the bowl out of the roasting pan. Add the reserved chocolate chunks and stir until the temperature of the melted chocolate falls below the maximum (90° F for dark chocolate, 88° F for milk chocolate or white chocolate). The chunks will not be entirely melted, but the chocolate will be back in temper.
  • To test it, smear a dab of chocolate, 1/16-inch thick, on a small piece of wax paper and put it in a cool place in the room or in the refrigerator. If the smear begins to dry and set within 5 minutes in a cool place or 3 minutes in the refrigerator, it’s back in temper. Remove the chunks and refrigerate for 10 minutes, then reserve for reuse. Stir the chocolate thoroughly before dipping. If the smear still looks wet and shiny, continue to stir the chunks of chocolate in the bowl for 2 to 3 minutes more and test again. Repeat until the chocolate is in temper.
  • Stir the chocolate occasionally as you work with it. If it cools or thickens too much, set the bowl in a pan of water only 2 degrees warmer than the maximum temperature for the chocolate (see above), and stir until the chocolate is rewarmed.

Coat truffles:

  • Line another sheet pan with wax paper.
  • With your right hand (left if you are left-handed), fingers together and slightly cupped, scoop a large handful of melted chocolate into your left hand. Rub both hands together to coat them with a thick layer of chocolate. Try not to coat your fingers. Quickly pick up a frozen center with your left hand and roll it gently between your hands with a circular motion and as little pressure as possible, just long enough to cover it with a coating of chocolate. Add chocolate to your hands as necessary.
  • Set the truffles on the other prepared sheet and let harden.
  • Truffles keep at room temperature, in a well-sealed container, for one week.

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And the winner is…

Menu for Hope V logo

Thanks to everyone who donated to the fifth annual Menu for Hope campaign. We raised $62,000 to help feed children in Lesotho, Africa. That’s amazing, considering the economic climate.

The lucky winner of La Maison du Chocolat’s box of truffles is…Samantha Hanley. Samantha, come on down and claim your prize.

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Five More Days to Win La Maison du Chocolat!

The Menu for Hope campaign has been extended till Dec. 31! So far, we’ve raised $41,000 for the school lunch program in Lesotho. This is great, considering the state of the economy, but we still have a ways to go before matching last year’s $90,000. I know it’s difficult to give this year, but this is the time when people need help the most. You have the opportunity to make your donation go that much further!

If you’d like to win some of the best chocolates in the world from La Maison du Chocolat, bid on prize UE11.

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Menu for Hope V: Win La Maison Du Chocolat’s Shimmering Snowflake Coffret

Menu for Hope VLadies and gentlemen, start your bids. You can win some awesome prizes through the fifth annual Menu for Hope charity campaign. The premise is simple: for each $10 you donate, you’ll get one virtual raffle ticket toward the food-related prize of your choice. Last year, food bloggers from across the world raised more than $90,000 towards the UN World Food Programme‘s school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa.

This year, La Maison du Chocolat has graciously donated a shimmering snowflake coffret, filled with more than half a pound of chestnut, orange confit stick, dark ganache with banana, milk ganache with rosé Champagne, milk praliné feuilleté with hazelnuts and almonds, almond paste with citrus zest, and dark plain ganache confections. New York is the only place in the U.S. where you can buy these chocolates in person, but if you bid on prize UE11, you can get them at your door (provided you live in the U.S.). These are among the best chocolates in the world, and trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of other brands.

La Maison du Chocolat

If you don’t win, you can always make La Maison du Chocolat’s truffles at home, although it’ll never be as divine as the original. The company’s founder, Robert Linxe, sources his cream from an exclusive farm in France, and he married into the Valrhona family, so he works with a custom chocolate blend.

Also, my co-workers at Gourmet are giving away a copy of each month’s Cookbook Club selection for 2009. Every month, the magazine selects an extraordinary cookbook and features recipes, videos, and exclusive menus online. Past selections include The Art and Soul of Baking, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Sure, you can follow along online, but it’s even better if you get all the books sent to you for an entire year. Bid on prize UE16 if interested.

Here’s how to “play:”

  • Browse from the tempting list of prizes at Steamy Kitchen (prizes from the U.S. East Coast) and Chez Pim (worldwide).
  • Make a donation at First Giving.
  • Each $10 you donate will count towards one raffle ticket for a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UE11 and 3 tickets for UE16. Please write, “2xUE11, 3xUE16.”
  • If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we can claim the corporate match.
  • Please allow us to see your e-mail address so that we can contact you if you win. Your e-mail address will not be shared with anyone.
  • Winners will be announced late Dec./early Jan. Good luck!

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Fun and Fancy Free

Although there’s thousands of free samples for the taking, it’s tough covering the New York Fancy Food Show each year. The corporate giants are always there, and finding a new product with an interesting story and a distinctive taste is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Plus, I’m saving the really good products for work, so I can’t share everything here. But I bet Gourmet‘s not interested in these foods. (No offense to these guys, but they just have a niche audience.)

I Swear it Tastes Better Than it Sounds

raw food bar

Raw Revolution is similar to Larabar, except with more interesting flavors and textures. Both brands pack their energy bars with ground nuts and puréed dates, but Raw Revolution leaves some nuts whole, so you’re not left with uniform, nubby bits. Raw Revolution also has a spirulina flavor, but I swear it doesn’t taste “green.” As a bonus, there’s flax seeds, which are high in omega-3s.

It’s a shame that Raw Revolution hasn’t caught on like Larabar. I suspect it’s the packaging, which has an anarchist-type feel. If you’ve ever opened a Nutrigrain bar and felt cheated by the tiny bar inside the big wrapper, you’re in for the same effect here. As an organic company, you’d think they’d cut down on wasteful packaging.

Another warning: That bar has as many calories as a small meal, but it’s nutrient-dense too. ($1.99 for a 2.2-oz bar)

raw food bar

BranTreats and Flaxmax sound more like bird food than desserts, but these are delicious. A hybrid between biscotti and crackers, these cookies’ only source of fat is the almonds. Delicate and crisp, you don’t need to soften them in a cup of coffee, although they certainly go together. If you still don’t believe me, Almondina, the parent brand, swept four awards at past Fancy Food Shows. ($4.49 for a 4-oz bag)

But it’s Just…

granola
Photo: Fox & Obel

Granola-Kingslake & Crane has chunky clusters with an astoundingly light texture. Normally, nuts are an afterthought in granola, but these ones are perfectly toasted and fresh-tasting. There’s also tart cherries to complement the brown sugar-covered oats. This was so tasty that I assumed it was soaked in oil. Surprise, it was dry toasted. Although oats are dirt cheap, I don’t think you can replicate this recipe at home.

I make my own granola, and I’ve never been able to get those coveted clusters, toasted flavor, and light texture without adding oil. The best taste comes from Alton Brown’s recipe, but it has 1/4 cup oil. Deborah Madison‘s no-fat-added, apple juice granola is tough and bland, and The Traveler’s Lunchbox’s granola is light, but I’m not fond of the flavor. Maybe if I combine all three recipes, I’ll come close to Kingslake & Crane. ($9.95 for a 1-lb bag)

peanut butter

Peanut butter-Sunland/Peanut Better makes all their peanut butters from Valencias, which are naturally sweet. The sweetness is disconcerting for the plain butters, but they’re perfect for their chocolate and praline butters. Too bad they don’t make hazelnut butter, because they could outdo Nutella. ($5 for 10 oz)

Where Have You Been All my Life?

Bonnat Chocolate

Bonnat is not new, nor does it have a flashy backstory, but their Chuao bar is amazing. Normally, Venezuelan chocolate has notes of soil and raisin, but this chocolate is different. Sadly, I don’t remember what it actually tastes like, because it was one of the last things I ate at the show, and my taste buds were spent. ($8.25 for a 3.5 oz bar)

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Chocolate Sorbet That Makes Me Melt

chocolate sorbet

For a couple years, I’ve been trying to create the perfect chocolate sorbet: an intensely flavored mixture of low-fat cocoa and water that tastes as decadent as premium ice cream. I reverse-engineered my favorite sorbet from Ciao Bella, but it melted faster than you can say “Frosty the Snowman.” Since I didn’t have the patience to tinker it, I tried other recipes that were too icy, too grainy, and too caramely.

I was about to accept defeat until Alice Medrich, author of Pure Dessert, came to the rescue. Her recipe tasted like a melted chocolate bar, but it was practically fat free. Unlike most homemade ice creams, it stayed creamy for days. Move over, Ciao Bella.

The secret to this recipe was a new spin on kitchen wisdom. Oftentimes, hot water is combined with cocoa to coax out the flavors. I failed in my previous sorbet attempts because I boiled the mixture, thinking more heat equaled more flavor. According to Alice, too much heat destroys the flavor of cocoa. You want the mixture to be hot but not cooked to death.

This tip applies to other recipes, like hot cocoa. Whenever I made hot cocoa in the past, I’d microwave the whole thing–soy milk, cocoa, and sugar–in one mug. What’s with those instructions that say, “Pour boiling water over cocoa?” Why would I want to get another pot or cup dirty? For the best chocolate flavor, you really do need two containers. Heat your milk, all alone, in one vessel. Add just enough liquid to the cocoa mixture to make a paste, and then add the rest. Some of you might want to save a cup by dumping the cocoa on top of the milk, but don’t. It will clump.

Chocolate Sorbet
Adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

1 cup (3.25 oz) cocoa
Scant 1 cup sugar
2 tiny pinches salt
2 cups boiling water
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tbsp rum or vodka (optional)

Combine cocoa, sugar, salt in saucepan and whisk in 1/2 cup boiling water to make a thick paste. Add the remaining water. Stir over medium heat just until tiny bubbles form at the edges of the pan. Don’t cook any longer, as the heat can damage the flavor of the cocoa.

Take the mixture off the heat and add the vanilla. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours. Add the rum or vodka, if using. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Harden the sorbet in the freezer for at least 3 to 4 hours.

Note: The flavor is so rich that you can substitute half of the water with milk.

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Churros for Cinco de Mayo

churros

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Here’s a recipe for churros. (Sorry, I recycled this recipe last year too. Hmm, this blog needs more Mexican desserts.)

mound of chocolate-chile almonds

Oh yeah, there’s also chocolate-chile almonds. It comes from a Puerto Rican chef, but the flavors are Mexican.

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Nutella for Nerds

Will Goldfarb
Photo: Willpowder.net

If making your own chocolate-hazelnut spread weren’t enough, check out Gourmet.com for some molecular magic. Chef Will Goldfarb demonstrates how tapioca maltodextrin turns this creamy spread into “soil.” He also provides a recipe for a Nutella knock-off, but I like mine better. My version is healthier and uses more common ingredients.

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Testing the Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

homemade Levain chocolate chip cookies

Two years and 262+ comments later, I finally decided to try the recipe for Levain Bakery’s monstrous chocolate chip cookies. Weighing nearly half a pound, I lusted after them but never dared make them. When they were featured on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, a torrent of commenters asked me how the recipe was. I shrugged my shoulders but gave educated guesses.

Then, more commenters swooned over the tweaked recipe. With high expectations, I attempted this new version. Sadly, they tasted plain (even after I added 2 tsp vanilla) and had a sandy texture. Sure, there was a nice contrast between the crisp outside and doughy center, but if you piled any chocolate chip cookie dough into a 1/4-cup mound, you’d probably get the same result. My favorite recipe is still the one I’ve been using for nearly 15 years, and it has whole wheat flour. The whole wheat gives it extra flavor, and combined with the brown sugar, a good chew.

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St. Patrick’s Day Chocolate Cake

chocolate potato cake

I love potatoes so much that if I were to list the ways I eat them, I would sound a lot like Bubba in Forrest Gump:

Anyway, like I was sayin’, potatoes are the fruit of the earth. You can fry them, bake them, boil them. There’s uh, potato salad, mashed potatoes, screaming potatoes, potato pancakes, potato bread, potato dumplings, potato sticks, potato gratin, criss-cut fries, cream of potato soup, potato curry and potato cake. That—that’s about it.

By cake, I don’t mean latkes. I mean dessert. Mashed potatoes make moist bread, like Nutella babka, but I’d never tried it in cake. I wanted to add it to a favorite chocolate cake recipe, but I wasn’t sure whether it would replace the fat or the flour (because it’s creamy and starchy). Off to the Internet I searched. Some recipes had virtually no chocolate, while others had too much butter. This one, from I Love Chocolate, seemed the most reasonable. Since I didn’t have the Dutch-process cocoa it called for, I used natural cocoa and tinkered with the leavening. Besides, I think natural cocoa has a more complex flavor.

The resulting cake was light and moist. I didn’t think it was chocolatey enough, but maybe it’s because I forgot to add the vanilla. Paired with vegan chocolate frosting, this cake will cause tasters to do a double take. It’s an unusual dessert for St. Patrick’s Day, because it doesn’t scream green (or Guinness). If you really want to go green though, Gourmet.com has plenty of ideas, like apple celery granita.

Irish Chocolate-Potato Cake

Cake adapted from Stephanie Zonis. Frosting adapted from More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally by Fran Costigan.

For cake:
2 medium or 1 large potato (to make 1 cup hot, unseasoned mashed potatoes)
2 tsp instant espresso or coffee granules, dissolved in 1 cup hot water
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
2 tsp plus a pinch of baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs

For frosting:
(Makes 2 cups, enough to fill and frost one 9-inch two-layer cake)
Tofu frosting without chocolate is too watery and beany for my tastes. This one, which resembles mousse, is a keeper.

1 (12.3-ounce) aseptic box firm silken tofu (recommended brand: Morinu)
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp canola oil
1/3 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 heaping tsp vanilla extract
6 ounces (about 1 cup) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted
1-3 tablespoons chocolate, vanilla, or plain soymilk, if needed

Equipment: potato ricer/food mill or a fine-mesh sieve, food processor, 9-inch round cake pan, serrated knife, icing spatula

Make mashed potatoes: Boil or steam the potatoes until fork tender, about 15 minutes. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin. Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer/food mill. Or mash them with a fork and push the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of the lumps. (You can make the mashed potatoes a couple days ahead of time.)

Make cake: Position a rack to center of the oven; preheat oven to 350°Â F. Grease 9-inch round pan with butter. Lightly flour the pan, knocking out any excess flour; set aside.

Place mashed potatoes into a medium bowl. With a small whisk, gradually stir in coffee to form a smooth mixture; do not beat mixture excessively. Cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer. Beat at a low speed to blend, then beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping down bowl and beater(s) with rubber spatula once or twice. Add eggs, 2 at a time, beating in at a low speed until blended. Scrape bowl and beater(s) with rubber spatula. Increase mixer speed to medium; beat 1 minute.

At lowest speed, add sifted dry ingredients in 3 additions and mashed potato-coffee mixture in two additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and beating after each addition just until blended. Scrape bowl and beater(s) occasionally with rubber spatula. Batter may still appear curdled after all ingredients have been added.

Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake in preheated oven about 1 hr, rotating pan 180 degrees during baking. Cake is done when toothpick inserted near center emerges with a few moist crumbs still clinging to it. Remove to cooling rack.

During baking, cake center will rise higher than edges, but center will fall slightly as cake cools. Cool completely before frosting. Store at room temperature, covered airtight, for up to 3 days; freeze for longer storage.

vegan chocolate frosting

Make frosting: Combine the drained tofu, oil, and salt in a food processor, and process about 1 minute until pureed. Use a rubber spatula to clean the sides of the bowl and add the sugar, cocoa, and vanilla. Process 1 to 2 minutes, until the tofu mixture is smooth.

Add the melted chocolate and pulse the processor three or four times to incorporate. Process 1 to 2 minutes until the mixture is very creamy. Refrigerate in the processor for 20 minutes. The cream may need to chill for 1 to 6 hours in order for it to become firm enough to spread.

The degree of firmness will determine the amount of soy milk needed to create the final texture. It should be thick but easy to spread. Dip an icing spatula into the cream to test to the texture. If the cream is too stiff to use, add 3 tablespoons of the soy milk and process 1 minute. Add more soy milk, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed. When the cream is ready to use, spoon it into a bowl and begin to assemble the cake.

Frost the cake: With a serrated knife, level off the top of the cake. Cut the cake into two even layers. (Need more detailed instructions?) Cover one layer with frosting, then add the top layer. Frost the top and sides.

finished chocolate cake

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