Friday, February 26, 2010

Derry Church Artisan Chocolates

Hershey, Pennsylvania, a.k.a. Chocolatetown, U.S.A., has long been known as the epicenter of American chocolate. But it wasn’t always known as Hershey. Originally named Derry Church, it was the birthplace of Milton Hershey, who launched his chocolate company there at the beginning of the 20th century. They changed the name of the town to Hershey in 1906, a testament to Milton Hershey’s prominence and success as a businessman and benefactor. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blood Orange Panna Cotta with Ginger Pecan Biscotti

In the dead of winter, nothing is quite as refreshing as a ruby-red, sweet-tart blood orange. I use blood orange juice to make exotic cocktails (i.e. Blood Orange Margaritas or Hurricanes) and the segments in salads with slices of fennel. I even keep some blood orange concentrate on hand in the freezer just in case I can’t find fresh blood oranges. Blood orange juice and zest is an ideal addition to a simple panna cotta (‘cooked cream’ in Italian)—its mild acidity cuts the richness and gives it a refreshing end-note. I like to serve this dessert with home-made Ginger Pecan Biscotti. (The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley Frozen Blood Orange Concentrate--which is fabulous--is available from

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine’s Day: I LOVE COOKSTR.COM

Today is Valentine’s Day, but that’s not the only sweet thing happening today. Today I am the Author of the Day! (Ok, settle down everybody….please remain calm and stay in your homes.) For those of you poor souls who are unfamiliar with Cookstr, here’s the scoop: is a fabulous online destination for a broad collection of recipes from some of the best chefs and authors, including Marcella Hazan, David Burke, Nigella Lawson, Mario Batali, and dozens more. Me, too. The site was founded by a team of seasoned culinary professionals whose philosophy is that good food starts with good ingredients, and that eating responsibly and deliciously is within everyone’s grasp. Their extensive database of recipes includes a wide variety of recipes for all skill levels, making it an ideal source for everyone. Browsing through the Cookstr site is a great way to get an idea of the kind of recipes in a book before you buy it. Very sensible idea in this bad economy, where every penny counts. What’s the bottom line? I LOVE And I also love my husband, Dicky. Oh, yes, and I love all of you kind folks who visit my blog. It is Valentine’s Day, after all. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm In the Mood for Love: Chocolate Valentine Cake

Since Valentine’s Day comes but once a year, I thought I’d feature another heart-shaped dessert. This is one of my favorites, and it’s from The Cake Book (by moi). The secret ingredient in this flourless chocolate cake is whipped cream, which replaces butter as the fat and gives it an airy texture. The cake is baked in a water bath, insulating it from direct heat, and making it as creamy around the edges as it is in the center. After baking, the cake is coated in a dark chocolate glaze and then drizzled with a pastel pink white chocolate, making it the ultimate chocolate Valentine dessert. If you’re not in the mood for love (just chocolate), this cake can also be made in a standard 9-inch round cake pan and drizzled with plain white chocolate.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Token of Love

Baking for friends and loved ones is a labor of love. After all, it’s so much easier to pick up something from the bakery. Chances are, though, it won’t taste as good. (Unless, of course, you live in Paris or somewhere near a world-class pastry shop.) Baking takes time, effort and money—butter, eggs and nuts are not free. That's why baking something for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day is so appropriate. And baking something heart shaped really says “I love you.” Take these little heart cookies. Made from a Linzer-like almond butter dough, they are tender, much like the heart. The dough is very delicate and a little tricky to roll out, so roll it between two sheets of waxed paper, as directed. After baking, the top half is brushed with a thin sugar glaze, and the cookie is filled with a tart raspberry jam. These cookies take some time and effort to make (they are fussy), but they will be noticed, and will surely have the intended effect. Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Boutique Chocolate From Choclatique

Nut brittle and toffee are among my favorite confections. The combination of toasted nuts and buttery sweet filling is impossible for me to resist. Enrobe either in chocolate, and I’m officially addicted. I could eat a whole pound in a sitting. Ok, maybe a half a pound. Definitely five or six big pieces, at the very least. Excuse my ramblings—I get a little frenzied just writing about this stuff—it’s like crack cocaine for sweet-tooths like me. Recently I’ve become aware of a couple of outstanding products by one of my favorite American-style chocolatiers, Choclatique. Choclatique, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a super-premium quality chocolate company founded in California in 2003 by Ed Engoron and Joan Vieweger, “chocolate and confectionery dreamers and futurists,” as they refer to themselves on their website. Their goal? To marry “classic French-style artisan techniques with old-fashioned American ingenuity…to create the most beautiful, distinctive, luscious and authentically American chocolates in the world.”  They have, apparently, done just that. One of my favorite items from Choclatique is their Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle Bites (pictured above). This buttery brittle is made in small batches with U.S.-grown Spanish red-skin peanuts, coated with milk chocolate, and dusted with finely chopped peanuts. It’s not a hard brittle, it’s soft, almost flaky, so it doesn’t require a visit to the dentist right after ingesting. My other fave is their cousin, Chocolate Almond Toffee Bites. Made with a combination of roasted California almonds, Hawaiian-grown cane sugar, butter and Madagascar bourbon vanilla, these little squares are coated in 64% chocolate and dusted with chopped almonds, cacao nibs and a touch of Saigon cinnamon. Choclatique’s Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle Bites and Chocolate Almond Toffee Bites are both unbelievably good, and they’d make an ideal gift for Valentine’s Day. Not that I’m hinting or anything.