National Chocolate Day

As mentioned many times previously, I am not a huge chocolate person – I’m a lemon girl when you get right down to it, with a little caramel tossed in for good measure. And some butterscotch.

But since today is National Chocolate Day, I would be remiss if I did not mention my favorite chocolates of all time. Unfortunately, I only get to go there twice a year. Once when I have to go to Tallahassee for work in March and once when I have to go through Tallahassee on my way to Orlando for work in the fall.

Last year, I just assumed I could go by and pick up what I wanted on my way out of town. HUGE mistake. Should have known by about 2:00pm on Friday that all the pain au chocolate would be gone – duh. So this time in the last week of September, I made a call from Orlando to explain that I would be driving through Tallahassee on Friday and while what I wanted was not a special request, I did want them to sit aside a few things for me to pick up around 3:00pm.

The staff person was so pleasant (yes, I know, I should have gotten her name) and I explained. “I am coming through Tallahassee tomorrow around 3:00pm, I would like to have 4 pain au chocolate and 2 croissants and then I will pick a pastry or two and some chocolate.” Her answer was, “we will set them aside for you in the morning.” Well, that’s cool. I did ask about the Noisette – to quote the menu, “A whole caramelized hazelnut covered in gianduja, encased in dark chocolate.” But that is a holiday thing – which has me thinking to go to Tallahassee in December just to get them. They were always my favorite, even when I was a poor grad student and it was a huge splurge. Is it worth the 2 1/2 hour drive? Um, I am thinking yes. I’ll just have to add all the other places I like to go in Tallahassee – it’s a long list – but that is another post entirely. Might be a cool weekend, as long as there is no football going on. 

Okay, let’s just get down to it – my go to, only, chocolate shop is Au Peche Mignon. I have written about it before, but it opened the year I moved to Tallahassee. It’s still in the same building, but they have expanded and have more seating now. I wish, so wish, we had something like that here in Pensacola. Maybe that should be what I do with my retirement account – not likely, since that would involve getting up kind of early.

My chocolate selection for this fall:

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Au Peche Mignon – a little sin …

The best name for a French pastry shop I have ever heard. This is the one thing that makes going to Tallahassee, or through Tallahassee on the way to Orlando for work, or through Tallahassee on the way to Jacksonville tolerable. Thankfully we do not have to make the long (boring) drive to Jax on I-10 anymore. Just Pine trees – sigh.

This shop opened up the year we moved to Tallahassee and I am not entirely sure how I found it, might be because it near a great sushi restaurant – Kitcho, but Au Peche Mignon quickly became a favorite of mine. I could not afford it as a student very often, but it was a total splurge for me. Even one pain au chocolate was worth it – what a total pleasure.

D&D_2126This time I am ordering ahead of time to make sure I get the things that I want. As mentioned many (many) times, I am not a huge fan of chocolates, but Au Peche Mignon makes a bit of a liar of me – it is always the Noisette – a whole caramelized hazelnut (I want to know how to do that) covered in gianduja (which is odd because I do not like nutella), encased in dark chocolate. This is just the most amazing chocolate for someone who really does not care for chocolate in the grand scheme of things. I would like to just intern there and learn how to do things – that would make me really happy. Unfortunately these chocolates are a Christmas treat that I will not get in September. Sigh.

So here is the rest of the order for our way home from Orlando through Tallahassee.*

2 Croissants
4 Pain au chocolates
8 pieces of chocolate – it is so worth the $15.00
1 key lime tart – my first time with this.

I am going to spend way too much money, but I only do it twice a year at best. You have to eat the pastries fast, but the chocolates can last in the fridge for quite some time. Yep, spent $40, but it made me stupidly happy.

*Hopkins’ Eatery is another Tallahassee favorite – some of the best sandwiches ever – see: The Spin.

Chocolate Guinness Cake – Nigella

I cannot help myself, but I really like Nigella. I know people get weird about the “domestic goddess” thing, but she has always seemed like my kind of cook – do not take it too seriously and have a good time, and that is what I really try to do.

I have her cookbooks “How to Eat,” and “How to be a domestic goddess.” Oh, and “Nigella Summer.” I would love to have such a cool name. When you have a name that many people have – my name, it is kind of annoying. Thankfully my mom was ahead of the curve. There were no other Jennifers in my classes, but lord help you if you were a few years younger than me, there were Jennifers aplenty. Sometimes it helps to be in the forefront of a popular name. And then it is still kind of a thing that I would like a unique name. I guess that is why Jj works for me.

D&D_1945I am always looking for the ultimate version of a Guinness cake, so let’s see how this one stacks up to the other I made last year. I know it is not strictly the Guinness time of year (March), but I don’t really care. It’s what I want to make so it is what shall be made.

Butter for pan
1 cup Guinness stout
10 Tbs unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 Tbs vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9″ springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place on wire rack and cool completely in pan.

Break up any lumps in confectioners’ sugar – I sift. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable.

Remove cake from pan and place on platter. Ice top of cake only to resemble a pint of Guinness. Because that is just really cool.

Pi Day

This is a repeat of a pie that I love to make, but do not make often enough. Lots of people think that National Pie Day (January 23rd)** is Pie Day, but for me  – this is Pi Day. Yep. I am that nerd. 3.14D&D_9457

This is also Albert Einstein’s birthday if you can imagine that. Not that he really had much to do with Pi, but …. science nerdism.

i8Σπ – I am ate (me) some pie. It is a total nerd joke, but there it is.

I was young in one of my first jobs. This proper job, because I was not going to go to college (how things change), was at a regional office of a fast food restaurant. One of our things was birthday celebrations for those of us in the office. And celebrations equaled pies from Village Inn. While I’m not a huge chocolate fan, and it was not my pie to order (read: lemon), French Silk was a favorite of just about everyone. My friend Marie gave me her recipe at the time and I made and enjoyed it, and while I cannot find it now, this one is not to far off the mark, and also better than I remember. It’s not too sweet, light, but slightly rich too. Small pieces are in order.

I was surprised to find that the name French Silk Pie didn’t translate to everyone. By definition, French Silk is a mousse-like chocolate pie. Am I being, as I’m often accused, a food snob again? Probably. And yes, raw eggs are used – get over it.

French Silk Pie
1 9″ pie crust, baked and cooled *
4 ozs bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 1/2 sticks, unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
Additional whipping cream, for topping – which I never seem to make.

Heat the chocolate in a microwave on medium power until melted. Whisk in vanilla and espresso powder, if using, and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream on high until stiff peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for one minute. Add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and beat until incorporated. Add 2 eggs and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add the remaining egg and beat for another 3 minutes until the mixture is silly and smooth.

Fold the chilled whipped cream into chocolate filling until no visible white streaks remain. Pour filling into prepared pie crust and smooth with an offset spatula. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, but preferably overnight. Decorate with freshly whipped cream – again – never seem to do. Sigh.

Source: The Kitchn

Notes: I used my graham cracker crust* from the Three Cities of Spain Cheesecake, my go to cheesecake recipe that never fails to impress. Here are the details:

5 ozs graham crackers (1 sleeve)
5 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse crackers, sugar, and salt to mix together. Add melted butter, and pulse to incorporate. Press into pie plate and refrigerate until needed.

** I shall disabuse you of this idea, because honestly it just too easy. And you may say this is too easy too – repeating something you’ve done before, but I think this the funny bit – to be honest. And I have to go out of town this week, so there is no one to make pie for at this point. And that makes me slightly sad. But this pie really is worth a repeat.

Brownie Cakes or something like that…

I am not a chocolate person, but this is one of those recipes that I love to make. I have everything on hand – do love this kind of recipe – no grocery store – woo hoo. Also I do like to make the people in my life who like chocolate-things happy. I did try one of these muffins (if you can call them that) and it totally has a great brownie thing going on. I really made these for the Boy and I think he liked it, at least I hope so. I shared a few at our beach local now that we can get out there again – Shaggy’s.

It is kind of funny. I am not much of a sweet person. I guess that is not entirely true. I will try a new recipe, once, and then I am done. Now the MotH is not into sweets at all, but he will try something if I press on him a bit. I do want his opinion – it is important to me. So my “test subjects” are my office, the Boy, and Shaggy’s. I really think they mostly do not mind too much. At least it seems that way to me.  Although I do seem to get blamed for people gaining weight, but ……

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1 cup unsalted butter, 16 Tbs.
1 cup chocolate chips, Ghiradelli is my favorite and my go to.
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt the butter and chocolate chips over a low heat on the stove. I do not think this is a place for the microwave. Nope not at all.

Line your cupcake pan with paper liners. This makes 18 cupcakes which to my mind is really kind of annoying. I have a 12 cupcake pan – then had to wait till the pan cooled down to do the last six. Fine – I can do it, but I just do not want to. Guess I am just being fussy – but really?

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Beat eggs and sugar together. Sift flour over the egg mixture and add vanilla (I am very liberal with the vanilla – just saying). Fold in the chocolate – butter mixture and there we are – ready to make brownie cakes. Fill cupcake pan wells about 1/2 full.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Just like a brownie will do.

This reminds me of the brownie cookies. They are like small brownies with lots of crusty edges, which to my mind are the best part of a brownie. I am a brownie edge person, not a brownie middle person. Guess it is a personal preference, but I do like a little bit of crunch.

Source: All Recipes and love that this is a Grandma recipe. Old recipes are my favorite kind.

 

 

Butter Usage – by month – May 2016

11 May 2016 – 16 Tbs – Pretzel Toffee – Did not work – need to use a thermometer for the temp of toffee. Damnation

12 May 2016 – 16 Tbs – Shortbread with mini chocolate chips & Heath pieces – just saying damn skippy – And my birthday – the 50th. So where do we go from here? Being old that’s where I go anyway. Just something I have to do. I have always said it is better than the alternative.

21 May 2016 – 16 Tbs – Pretzel Toffee – again. This time I got it right. It is stupidly good. Yep. Stupid. D&D_1465

This was not the best month for me. My Fred died and I miss him so. But I also miss my Mom and my little Bering and my big dog Duke. I am kind of tired of people and dogs I love dying.  Yep tired of all this.

Will do better next month – really need to get back into the kitchen and do something useful.

The kitchen always makes me feel better.

Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Bars

So when I buy buttermilk to bake something I try to find other things to make with what is left. I know, I know, you can freeze leftover buttermilk, but I never seem to do it.

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Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

 

It is funny I do not remember my mom making anything with buttermilk – really nothing. Not even biscuits and that is strange for a Southern woman. I do not have it on hand all the time, but most of the time.

Most recently, I have used buttermilk in Savory Herb Muffins and in Basil Sun-Dried Tomato Mozzarella Bread, and of course, Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Glaze which was the original intent of the buttermilk purchase. And now another recipe with just a bit of buttermilk in it.

In the grand scheme of things, it is kind of a test. What can you do with it, and make it different. Not just cake or biscuits or whatever – try to make a variety of things. I am sure the next time I have buttermilk (like now) homemade ranch dressing will be in my future as is often the case in the spring. And that always means spinach and mushroom quiche. One of my favorite things ever and a recipe I have had since before the boy was born – way before.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs canola oil
1 large egg, room temperature
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup roughly chopped pecans (Renfroe’s, of course)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9 x 13 inch baking pan*, spray with baking spray and line with parchment and spray again.

Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and both sugars. In a small bowl, crack egg, add canola oil, vanilla, and buttermilk. Add flour a little at a time. Stir in chocolate and pecans.

Spread dough, it will be thick, into pan making sure to get dough all the way into the corners. Bake 30 – 35 minutes until center is set and the edges are golden. Cool bars in pan and the cut into bite-sized pieces with a plastic knife because you do not want to jack up the pan with a metal knife.

Source: Baking Bites – one of my favorite baking sites. Must, at some point, figure out how many recipes that I have used from this site. I think there will be several.

* Love William-Sonoma Gold Touch Pans – they really are the best. Thank you America’s Test Kitchen for showing me how amazing these pans are. They really live up to all the hype.