I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite hot chocolate mix.
I’ve made hot chocolate or hot cocoa mix for the past several years as part of the gift boxes I like to send to friends and family. When I started, I would make hot cocoa mix that included powdered milk. Then I switched to this hot chocolate mix. The past two years, I’ve made Decadent Hot Chocolate mix from Smitten Kitchen.
Both this and my previous favorite are mixes that you combine with hot milk. I had problems with my previous recipe not fully blending into the milk at times. The last time or two I made it, I felt that it was a little too sweet at times (like drinking a candy bar, although I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that’s nice from time to time). This recipe uses a little less mix per cup of hot chocolate, which helps remedy that.
This recipe is a dark hot chocolate mix, so if you prefer milk hot chocolate, I suggest you try using that instead of regular semisweet or dark chocolate bars or chips. You can experiment with adding less mix per cup of milk to make it less chocolatey (although I certainly won’t do that!). I generally use chocolate chips when I make hot chocolate mix, so I don’t have to chop up chocolate. I always make hot chocolate mix with a food processor, as it pulverizes the ingredients the most finely, which is important in ensuring the chocolate dissolves well in the hot milk. If you don’t have a food processor, you can try grating chocolate bars for this instead.
This chocolate mix is very giftable. One batch yields about 1 3/4 cups, or 9 servings, and is a great size gift for a couple or family. I’ve also heard that spoonfuls of this mix are an excellent addition to coffee, so be sure you give plenty to your friends and family.
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When I found the recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake on the Smitten Kitchen website, I knew that it would be what I made Alex for his birthday. And I did, a little late, in 2014. It turned out beautifully, perfectly, but I never got around to blogging about it. So this year again, I baked for his birthday.
This is a fantastic cheesecake. The chocolate cookie crust was delicious, as was the peanut butter cheesecake, as was the chocolate fudge layer hidden beneath the cheesecake layer. Chocolate ganache covers the entire thing (and hides any cracks or flaws you might have, though mine surprisingly didn’t crack). The peanut butter cheesecake was smooth and creamy; it paired perfectly with all the chocolate. Overall this was a dense and rich cheesecake. I needed to cut slices very thin – about as thin as I could with a cheesecake – in order to be able to finish a slice. The only downside was that the crust was a little dense and hard in the corners where the sides met the bottom; that was the case two years ago as well, and I wish I knew how to fix that.
Given the separate layers, I find this an impressive dessert to make. No layer was particularly difficult to make. It took a little time and planning, but I didn’t have trouble making it with my toddler watching me (though it helped that she snacked on chocolate animal crackers in the meantime). I had it done in a morning, aside from the ganache on top.
If you love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, this is definitely a dessert for you.
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My mom has had a recipe in her recipe box for a chocolate sheet cake for as long as I can remember. She kindly texted me a copy of it a few weeks ago when I really, really wanted to make a sheet cake. I thought it was a Texas sheet cake. It’s not, although it’s similar. Although I thought I wanted to make a Texas sheet cake, I trusted that I’d had and enjoyed this cake before, so I went ahead with it.
It’s been a while since I’ve tried a recipe that wasn’t published online or in a cookbook, so I was a little nervous. However, the cake was delicious. It’s basically a frosted brownie. I inadvertently halved the oil in the cake, but it still came out very moist and stayed moist for a week. The cake itself was tender and chocolatey; it’s a definite keeper. Our least favorite part was the icing, which came out sugary – crystalline and fragile. The cake definitely needs a light icing, and although this one provided just the right amount of coverage and kept the cake from drying out, I’ll try a ganache next time for a better texture.
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Anyone who’s read this blog knows I love chocolate. Let me introduce you to one of the purest and most delicious chocolate things I’ve made.
Over the weekend, I finally made time to make the Belgian Brownie Cakelets from Smitten Kitchen. This weekend was dreary, bringing colder weather as well as snow for the first evening of spring. I didn’t have much in my house that I wanted to cook, though it was a good weekend to cook. This recipe really brightened the whole weekend.
The ingredient list is simple but decadent. Lots of chocolate, butter, and eggs; some sugar; a little salt and flour. It’s rich, but worth every calorie. The recipe itself was easy to assemble as well. Just melt together butter and chocolate; whisk in everything else; let rest; scoop into a muffin tin, then bake. It’s not a flourless cake, but it’s pretty darned close, and is better than most of those cakes that you find. You could substitute in some cocoa powder if you needed to make it gluten-free.
These were amazingly good, just as dense and rich and chocolatey as you might imagine. The cakes were soft and moist; when we microwaved them for 15-20 seconds, they became even richer and more decadent. They’re perfect for entertaining, since they’re individual desserts. Just garnish with a dab of whipped cream and a raspberry or mint leaf. It’s also perfectly fine to split a batch with your husband, for no reason at all except you can.
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Last week we had DirecTv installed. We had it before we moved to New Jersey, but decided to cancel it for a variety of reasons. However, in our area we get ZERO channels via regular or amplified antenna, so we decided to get tv service again. Alex and I went through our complimentary (but temporary) premium channels, recording new movies that we want to see again or that we didn’t get a chance to see in theaters. I knew we’d want a few movie nights, so I immediately wanted brownies to go with them.
Within the past few months I bookmarked the King Arthur Flour Fudge Brownies recipe, and I knew that was what I needed to make. I’ve been dissatisfied recently with my go-to recipe, Hershey’s Best Brownies. It’s not the recipe’s fault. I’ve changed, and it just doesn’t suit my needs any longer. I like them a little better when I add M&Ms or chocolate chips to them, but really, I just need a new go-to brownie recipe. This one is it.
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My intermittent weekend baking continues. While Alex took weekend nap duty with the baby, I whipped up a quick and easy chocolate chip coffee cake (adapted heavily from Taste of Home) for him for Father’s Day. If you just have one coffee cake recipe in your rotation, this should be it.
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This month I made Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons with some egg whites I’d previously frozen. I’d made them once before – the day before I gave birth, in fact. They were the perfect snack for being in the hospital – rich, two-bite indulgences that were very chocolatey and yet didn’t seem too decadent thanks to lots and lots of coconut, which made them filling. These were my go-to snack – I’d grab a few in the middle of the night before heading to the NICU to feed baby. They were both comforting and practical.
The recipe is similar to the Raspberry-Coconut Macaroons I made before; both recipes were very simple to make. The chocolate macaroons were just as rich and satisfying now as they were when I first made them in February. They are like a Mounds bar, but better since the cookies are not as sweet. The macaroons provide a real fix for a serious chocolate craving. And not only are they amazingly delicious – making them only took me 30 minutes from start to finish.
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Our baby is one month old! Recently my life has been changing diapers, nursing, and napping. It’s a good thing that I stocked my freezer with meals and all the bread I made last December, because we’ve gone through just about all of it. I don’t mind emptying my freezer or taking care of Amelia at all, but it does mean that I haven’t had two hands available to do cooking or typing/blogging. As baby gets bigger, spending time in the kitchen or on the computer should become a little easier, and I can keep updating this blog!
The only thing I made before last Saturday was baked oatmeal. It was very quick and easy to make in the evenings, and I only made it to streamline my breakfast during the week. My friend Jen reminded me that last Saturday was Pi Day. Was I going to make a special pie for a super-special Pi Day, since it was actually 3/14/15, the extended digits of Pi? It was a shame not to make a pie, since Alex would be home all day and able to watch baby. I hadn’t planned to make anything elaborate, but then I saw that Smitten Kitchen had posted the recipe for a Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie, and although it was more complicated than the super-easy Key Lime Pie I made recently, I couldn’t resist it.
This pie wasn’t too difficult overall, but it was a little more involved than I probably should have tackled with a 4-week old at home. When you have the time to make it, though, it’s totally worth it. As you can see, it didn’t last long in this house.
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Most of my posts start off with “recently I really wanted…” And really, why shouldn’t cooking and baking be that way? I’m fortunate that I can generally make whatever I want, and make it relatively well. Recently, what I wanted was biscotti. This surprised me, because I usually don’t choose hard cookies. I like tender, chewy, and soft. For a long time, that was all I ever looked for in a cookie. Over the past few years my palate has grown, and I’ve come to appreciate the variety of food that I can make and enjoy (even if it seems like I only make sweets based on the recipes I post). I can embrace gooey brownies and crisp biscotti without conflict.
Good biscotti can certainly be tender, and they don’t have to be rock hard. And that’s what I hoped the Chocolate Buckwheat Biscotti recipe I found would be. They were gluten-free without making any unusual substitutions, provided you embrace the buckwheat and almond meal included in the ingredient list. I only first tried buckwheat flour a few weeks ago, and based on my limited experience with it so far, I think I like it. It gives an earthy flavor that works well in these chocolatey biscotti.
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