Category Archives: Desserts

Passover Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

It’s Passover season again. It’s one of my favorite holidays. I like the seder service, the story of escape and freedom, and gathering around a table with friends and family sharing in a centuries-long tradition. What I don’t like is the dessert options! Traditionally, Passover desserts are a major let down. While I like macaroons, I get sick of them during the weeklong holiday.

But pastry chef’s have really upped the ante in the past few years and have created some really excellent Passover dessert recipes. I found this Bon Appetit recipe for a chocolate tort with berry coulis (I actually replace the blackberry coulis with a raspberry sauce) a few years ago and it has been a major hit around the seder table.

Then last year my boyfriend’s Mom gave me a cookbook called Passover by Design by Susie Fishbein. In it I found this amazing recipe for Passover chocolate chip cheesecake. The crust is made with ground up chocolate macaroons (I use Manischewitz brand), which is just brilliant! You probably can use this crust for any of your favorite tarts or pies in order to make is Pesach appropriate. Chocolate chip and regular macaroons would probably also make a great crust. This recipe is also perfect if you are gluten-free, year round.

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) can chocolate macaroons (about 28 small macaroons)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 (8-ounce) bars cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (not fat-free, reduced fat is fine though)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1.    Preheat oven to 350˚F.

2.    Spray a 9-inch nonstick springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

3.    Place the macaroons into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until it forms crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl. Mix in the melted butter. Press the crumbs into the prepared pan. Set aside.

4.    In the bowl of a stand mixer (can also use a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese until fluffy, about 1 ½ minutes. Add the sugar and eggs, beating until smooth. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla.

5.    Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter onto the prepared crust.

6.    Bake on the center rack, uncovered, for 1 hour. Turn over off and leave the cake in the oven for an additional oven. Remove from oven and cool completely. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until ready to serve.

7.    Run a small knife or metal spatula around rim of the cake to loosen it. Release the sides of the springform pan.

Makes 12 servings

Homemade Candy

There are only a few days left until Christmas and the malls are packed. Apparently there is even a Macy’s out in Tyson’s Corner that is open 24/7 up until Christmas Eve. If shopping for sweaters and coffee table books at 3a.m. doesn’t strike your fancy than perhaps you can follow my lead and give your friends, family, and co-workers a homemade gift.

Last year I spent the better part of a weekend making my friends and co-workers cookie boxes. This year I decided on homemade candy. The three recipes below are so much fun to make and are decadent and delicious. Even better a bunch of the recipes can be made days in advance, so you can make them tonight, sit down with a glass of eggnog, and then package them up right in time for St. Nick to arrive. Your loved ones will appreciate the personal touch—-and all the chocolate!

Happy Holidays!

Chocolate Truffles

16 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate (or a combination), finely chopped
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon coarse salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder and assorted crushed nuts, for rolling

1.    Place chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan heat cream until it begins to simmer; pour over chocolate. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand 10 minutes. Uncover and whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Mix in vanilla and salt. Pour into a 9-inch pie plate and let cool 15 minutes. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until completely set, about 3 hours.
2.    With a melon baller or a teaspoon scoop out chocolate mixture and place on parchment paper. Coat hands with cocoa and roll truffles into balls; place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes. (To store, cover with plastic and refrigerate, up to 2 weeks). Roll in finely chopped nuts or more cocoa powder before serving or packing.

Makes 70 truffles
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food

Peanut Butter Cups

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ cups smooth peanut butter, preferably all natural
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
36 1 3/8-inch paper candy cups

1.    Combine sugar, peanut butter, and butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or electric mixer). Beat on medium-low speed until combined. Set aside.
2.    Melt chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Keep melted chocolate over hot water near work area. Use a small spoon or small paintbrush to coat insides of the paper candy cups with the melted chocolate, making sure to cover the bottom and sides well. Transfer cups to a rimmed baking sheet or muffin tins (which will keep the cups from sliding around). Transfer to freezer until set, about 10 minutes.
3.    Remove cold chocolate cups from the freezer. Either using a pastry bag or a small spoon, pipe/spoon peanut butter filling into each cup until three-quarters full. Spoon melted chocolate into each cup to cover. Return to the freezer until set, 15 to 25 minutes. Peanut butter cups may be served right away or kept tightly sealed in the freezer for 2 to 3 days. To serve remove from freezer and serve, slightly cold.

Makes 36 cups
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Double Chocolate Bark

8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
7 ounces salted cocktail peanuts (about 1 ½ cups)

1.    Place white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until chocolate melts. Remove from heat.
2.    Melt bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Stir in peanuts. Spread on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, spreading peanuts in a single layer. Drop spoonfuls of white chocolate on top, and swirl chocolates with a skewer or chopstick. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Break bark into large pieces. Bark will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 1 ¼ pounds of bark
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Free Dessert Day

What’s better than a free lunch? Free dessert! In honor of the series premier of Top Chef: Just Desserts, Opentable.com is partnering with Bravo TV for a free dessert promotion on Wednesday, September 15th. 83 restaurants are participating in one-way or another. Some pastry chefs are preparing a special dessert for the occasion. You can get red velvet cake at Firefly, vanilla ice cream profiteroles at Mon Ami Gabi, and donut holes with dipping sauce at Darlington House. And many restaurants, like Bistro Cacao, Zola, and Capitol Grille, are

Image courtesy of Kitsunbabe

allowing you to choose a dessert off of their regular menu. Personally, I’m grabbing lunch at Againn, and hoping to check out the sticky toffee pudding I’ve been hearing so much about.

A full list of participating restaurants can be found here. (There are many reservations still remaining).

And don’t forget to tune in to Top Chef: Just Desserts at 11pm on September 15th (tomorrow!). DC’s own Heather Chittum will be cheftestant.

Note: Restaurants around the country are participating in Free Dessert Day. If you live outside of DC, go to Opentable.com to see which restaurants are participating in your city.

Photo courtesy of Alain Limoges

Book Club Dinner 2010

Once a year I host Book Club on my rooftop. I wait until the weather is nice out and put together a delicious menu for my Book Club buddies, because we all know Book Club is just as much about the food, wine, and gossip, as it is about the book (by the way, this month we read One Day. It was just so-so.)

The white bean dip has become a standard in my repertoire this summer. It is super easy to make and delicious. The chicken bites are amazing. I am so happy I found this new recipe (and sauce, which can easily be used for different dishes). The chicken bites were crisp and moist on the inside. I will be cooking breaded chicken in this manner from here on out. The tart was also a nice addition, and I didn’t have a problem using store bought puff pastry (so much easier than making your own…unless you are on Top Chef).

We finished off the meal with these delightful ice cream bonbons. The coconut ones tasted like a frozen Almond Joy. The raspberry/chocolate combination was equally as mouth-watering. If you’ve never ladled chocolate, it is a must-try cooking method—lots of fun!

Overall this was a successful dinner party. I will certainly be making each of these recipes again.

Roasted Garlic White Bean Dip

1 head of garlic
¼ cup olive oil
1 can (19-ounce) cannellini beans drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Coarse salt and ground pepper

1.    Preheat oven to 350˚F. Cut top ¼ inch off head of garlic to expose cloves.
2.    Place garlic in a small baking dish. Add oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Turn garlic cut side up. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until garlic skins are golden brown and cloves are tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic coves from skins and set aside.
3.    In a food processor, combine cannellini beans, olive oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and roasted garlic. Season with salt and ground pepper. Puree until smooth.
4.    Place puree in a serving bowl and lightly sprinkle with chili power over the top. Serve dip with carrots and pita chips.
Note: Can be made the day ahead and kept in the fridge in a Tupperware container.

Panko-Crusted Chicken Bites with Apricot-Dijon Dipping Sauce

Nonstick cooking spray
½ cup all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds) cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup apricot jam or preserves
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves


1.    Preheat over to 375˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and fir with a wire rack. Spray with cooking spray; set aside.
2.    Place flour in a large bowl and season very generously with salt and pepper. Whisk eggs in another large bowl with 2 tablespoons water until well combined. Place the breadcrumbs in a third bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Stir in cheese and cayenne and mix well.
3.    Place chicken pieces in the seasoned flour and toss to coat. Working in 3 batches, shake off any excess flour from chicken pieces and transfer to egg mixture; stir to combine. Transfer coated chicken pieces with a slotted spoon to the breadcrumb mixture and toss until completely coated. Place the breaded chicken pieces on a rack-lined baking sheet, spacing them evenly apart. Repeat process until all the chicken is breaded. Bake until golden brown and chicken is cooked through 18-20 minutes.
4.    In a small bowl, stir the apricot jam, mustard, and thyme together until combined. Allow chicken to cool 10 minutes before serving with apricot mustard mixture.

Serves 12
Source: The Martha Stewart Show

Spinach, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Tart

Flour for rolling out puff pastry
1 (from a 17.3 ounce package) sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and pepper
2 packages (10 ounces each) cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 package (10 ounces) fresh baby spinach
2 ounces soft goat cheese crumbled

1.    Preheat oven to 400˚F.  On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place the pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score dough to form a 1-inch border. Using a fork, prick dough inside the border every ½ inch. Bake until golden, rotating pan once, about 15 minutes or until tender.
2.    Meanwhile, in a small saucepan with a tight-fitted lid, toss onion with 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir. Continue cooking with cover on for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Set aside.
3.    In a large saucepan with a tight-fitted lid, heat remaining oil. Add mushrooms; cover and cook until lender and all liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Fold in spinach season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, until wilted, about 5 minutes more. Drain any liquid.
4.    Top dough with mushroom-spinach mixture. Scatter onion and goat cheese on top. Bake until cheese is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Cut into smaller pieces and serve.

Serves 6
Source: Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food


Coconut Ice Cream Bonbons

12 chocolate wafer cookies
¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 pints coconut sorbet
12 whole almonds
26 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

1.    Set a wire rack over a baking pan. Arrange the wafers, top sides down, on rack, spaced evenly apart. Place 2 teaspoons shredded coconut in the center of each wafer. Using a 2-inch ice-cream scoop, scoop a ball of coconut sorbet onto each wafer. Place an almond on top of each scoop of sorbet. Transfer pan to freezer for 20 minutes.
2.    In a double boiler, or a heat-proof bowl, set over a pan of barely simmering water. Melt chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally. Remove bowl from heat. Let cool slightly.
3.    Remove baking pan from freezer. Generously ladle melted chocolate over the bonbons, covering entirely. Return the baking pan to the freezer for 30 minutes more or overnight. Serve.

Note: I ended up making half with coconut sorbet and the other half with raspberry sorbet. The raspberry was equally delicious. Just omit the almonds and coconut. If you want to use 2 different flavors of sorbet you will only need 1 pint each. Also if you can’t find chocolate wafers (I couldn’t find them in any of the Dupont-area grocery stores) you can buy Oreo cookies. Use just the cookie parts; the cream filling will come off easily with a flat knife.

Serves 12
Source: Martha Stewart Living

Chocolate Fudge

I love, love, love chocolate fudge! I’ve tried tons of different recipes, many that use corn syrup or marshmallows. I’m not sure what either of those ingredients do but after trying this simple recipe from the new Gourmet Today cookbook I’ll never use fancy fudge recipes again. This recipe takes about 15 minutes of actual cooking and contains only 4 ingredients (most of which you probably already have in your fridge or pantry).

I made this lovely fudge recipe for the Rose Park Bake Sale and it was a big hit—I think part of this had to do with the fact that I packaged the fudge in brightly colored mini-takeout boxes. Note to future bakers: kids are attracted to anything brightly colored with a handle, even if it is a more adult treat. (Perhaps next time I’ll package the boxes with fruit and vegetables!).

Ingredients:
¾ pound chocolate (I used a combination of ½ bittersweet and ¼ semisweet), finely chopped
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preparation:
1.    Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
2.    Stir together all ingredients in a metal bowl. Set bowl over a saucepan of barely summering water, and heat until chocolate appears to be melted, 5 to 8 minutes. Gently stir with a rubber spatula occasionally, letting chocolate rest for a few minutes if it appears to stiffen, until smooth. (If you so desire, this is where you can mix in chopped nuts).
3.    Pour mixture into a baking pan and refrigerate, uncovered, until firm, about 4 hours.
4.    Run a knife around the edges of the pan, invert fudge onto a cutting board, peel off paper, and cut fudge into 1-inch squares. Serve cold.

Note: the fudge keeps, refrigerated, layered between sheets of parchment paper, in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes about 64 pieces (depending how large you cut them).

Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies

For the Rose Park Bake Sale I wanted to try something out that was fun and different. I’m a huge fan of all things carrot cake but I certainly wasn’t going to be able to make multiple cakes, and mini-cakes was out of the question since I only have 2 mini-loaf pans. Then I came across a recipe for inside-out carrot cake cookies in the new Gourmet Today cookbook. Perfect!

These came out well…although I was hoping they would be prettier. But the taste was there, so who really cares right? They were a big hit at the bake sale and were the first item to sell out.


Ingredients:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely grated carrots (2 medium)
1 cup (about 3 ¼ ounces) walnuts, chopped
½ cup raisins

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
¼ cup honey

Preparation:

Make the cookies:

1.    Put racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat the over to 375˚. Butter two large baking sheets.
2.    Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
3.    Beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Mix in carrots, nuts, and raisins at low speed. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined.
4.    Drop 1 ½ tablespoons of batter 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are lightly browned and springy to the touch, 12 to 16 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets on racks for 1 minute, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Make the filling and assemble the cookies:
1.    Blend cream cheese and honey in a food processor or with an electric mixer until smooth.
2.    Spread a generous tablespoon of cream cheese filling on flat side of half of the cookies and top with remaining cookies.

Note: You can also use this delicious cream cheese frosting recipe.
The cookies keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 1 day.

Makes about 1 dozen sandwiched cookies.

A Delicious, Decadent Dinner Party

Clearly life has gotten in the way of State Dinner, since I haven’t updated in quite awhile. That said I figured my first post back should be one of delicious decadence. A few months ago I invited some friends over for a dinner party. I decided to make short ribs for the first time. Ever since making Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon last summer I’ve been obsessed with browning meat and then braising them in the oven. I decided on this recipe of short ribs from the January 2002 issue of Bon Appétit because I love the flavors of Provence.  I served the short ribs with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and a great bottle of red Zinfandel.

For dessert I served my “famous” molten lava chocolate cakes. This is the easiest recipe, can be made ahead, and guests always find it soooo impressive! It’s super easy to multiply and nothing tastes more delicious.

Short Ribs Provençale

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
6 pounds meaty beef short ribs
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
12 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon dried herbes de Provence
2 cups red Zinfandel
2 ½ cups beef broth
1 14 ½-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 bay leaf
½ cup water
24 baby carrots, peeled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preparation:

Preheat over to 325°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add ribs to pot and brown well, turning often, about 8 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer ribs to large bowl.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from pot or add oil as necessary to measure 2 tablespoons. Add onion, chopped carrot, and celery and cook over medium-low heat until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, flour, and herbes de Provence; stir 1 minute. Add wine and 2 cups brother; bring to boil over high heat, scraping up browned bits. Add tomatoes with juices and bay lag. Return ribs and any accumulated juices to pot. If necessary, add enough water to pot to barely cover ribs.  Bring to a boil.

Cover pot tightly and transfer to oven. Bake until ribs are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours 15 minutes.  (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly, then refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and keep refrigerated. Bring to summer before continuing).

Add remaining ½ cup broth and peeled baby carrots to pot; press carrots gently to submerge. Cover, return to oven and continue cooking at 350°F until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Transfer short ribs and carrots to platter. Tent with foil to keep warm. If necessary, boil sauce to thicken slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over short ribs. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with mashed potatoes.

Makes 6 servings

Molten Lava Cakes

Ingredients:
6 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
2 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
10 tablespoon (1 ¼ stick) butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar (plus a little more for sprinkling)
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Grease 6 (6-ounce) custard cups. Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave. Add the flour and sugar to the chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Divide the batter evenly among the custard cups. Place in the oven and bake for 14 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center will be runny. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto dessert plates. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve with raspberries.

Note: If you want to make this dessert ahead of time, make the batter, pour into custard cups and then cover with tinfoil or plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 1 day.

The beautiful flowers I bought for my dining room table.