Tag Archives: dark chocolate

Peppermint Ravioli Cookies


Peppermint Ravioli Cookies

I wait for the winter holidays for Ghirardelli to send out its peppermint squares again just to make these Peppermint Ravioli Cookies. This once a year treat is delicious on it’s own but incorporated into a cookie can’t be beat.

And if you’re looking for something different to add to that cookie exchange or tray, these Peppermint Ravioli Cookies could be just the thing.

After the holidays were done we snapped up all the half price or less peppermint squares we could find. I had a ball in January working with them. These Peppermint Ravioli Cookies are easy to make and would be a perfect gift for anyone during the holidays and what a treat for those of us loving this candy as I do. Continue reading

TJ’s Cowboy Bark


TJ's Cowboy Bark for TJj's Cowbow BarkTJ’s Cowboy Bark is a perfect segment for TV.  Easy, quick and absolutely delicious.  Somebody first told me about Trader Joe’s Cowboy Bark and I knew I had to try it. A bark is melted chocolate, spread out and almost anything you wish can be sprinkled on top. The nine ounce package of Cowboy Bark costs about $3.69. You get about 4 times that with this version. The thing that is so interesting about this bark is the add ons. How can you go wrong with oreos, peanuts, almonds, toffee bits and pretzels. Sweet and salty all at once.

Research showed that there are quite a few copycat recipes out there. I picked the one from Averie Cooks at www.averiecooks.com as my starting point. When I read comments about the Cowboy Bark on the web, the most prevalent criticism is the use of semisweet chocolate for the base. It seems people thought it overcame any of the other flavors.

I also thought the chocolate base was really thick. So in I chose instead to use half semisweet chocolate and half milk chocolate to allow all the other add ons to shine. I will say that this combination does make for a softer chocolate base – but really good.

Because all the add ons for the Cowboy Bark need to stick to the chocolate, make sure everything is prepared before you melt the chocolate. Then add them in the order of the recipe to make sure you go from large to small so they all stick to the chocolate. I added another step to insure that everything sticks.

One other suggestion is to use single stuffed oreos. I used double stuffed and they had a tendency to separate when the Cowboy bark was broken into pieces.

Cowboy BarkIngredients for TJ's Cowboy Bark1 pound chocolate, all semisweet or a combination of semisweet and milk chocolate, melted
About 1 to 1 1/4 cups salted mini pretzels
7 to 8 oreo cookies cut into quarters (Trader Joe’s Chocolate Jo-Jo’s may be used also)
1/4 to 1/3 cup salted, roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 to 1/3 cup roasted slivered almonds
1/4 to 1/3 cup toffee bits (Heath makes these)

Line a half sheet pan with parchment. Draw a 10×15 inch rectangle on the paper for a thin base or a 10×13 for a little thicker base. Turn the paper over and line the pan. Set aside. Have all other ingredients prepared.

Combine the chocolates if using more than one.  Two chocolates in a bowl for TJ's Cowboy BarkMelt the chocolate or chocolates over a double boiler or at half power in a microwave for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Start with the shortest amount of time. Stir the chocolate until completely melted.  Spread the chocolate within the rectangle on the parchment paper.Melted chocolate poured into a sheet pan for TJ's Cowboy Bark

Chocolate being spread for TJ's Cowboy BarkChocolate spread for TJ's Cowboy BarkPlace the oreos on top of the chocolate,Oreos on chocolate for TJ's Cowboy Bark then the pretzels. Pretzels on chocolate for TJ's Cowboy BarkSprinkle the almonds, Almonds on chocolate for TJ's Cowboy Barkpeanuts Peanuts on chocolate for TJ's Cowboy Barkand lastly,  toffee over the chocolate in that order.Brickle on for TJ's Cowboy Bark

Place a piece of waxed paper on top andWaxed paper on top of TJ's Cowboy Bark lightly press all the ingredients into the chocolate.Pressing the waxed paper down on TJ's Cowboy Bark Remove the paper and refrigerate briefly to set the chocolate up

When firm, break into pieces.

Enjoy your very own Cowboy Bark (and try to share some with others)

Close up of bark for TJ's Cowboy Bark

Hazelnut Crunch Bars


Finished Hazelnut Crunch BarHazelnut Crunch Bars are a fantasy dessert.  Milk chocolate, rice krispies and toasted hazelnuts form the crunch base for these bars which are topped with a layer of caramel.   A light as air marshmallow tops the caramel and the dark satin ganache finishes the Hazelnut Crunch Bars elegantly.

When I had the bakery, I was asked by the Hyatt to duplicate a Hazelnut  Crunch bar.  That one was topped with a chocolate mousse and while very good, I borrowed the base from that one for my Hazelnut Crunch Bars.

As far back as the mid 80’s, I have had a love affair with homemade marshmallow long before it became so popular.  In fact, in the March/April 1984 issue of Cuisnarts magazine “The Pleasures of Cooking”I supplied the recipe used in the article “Many, Many Marshmallows”.

There are two methods of making marshmallows.  The one made with egg whites is lighter, airier and taller than the one made with gelatin alone.  The gelatin one is more firm and a bit bouncy. But there is no right and no wrong.  It just depends upon which one you want to make.  The marshmallow I used for the Hazelnut Crunch Bars is made with egg whites.

I made both versions to ascertain which I preferred.  You can see the difference between the two,A comparison of two different methods of making marshmallowThe marshmallow on the left is made with gelatin only.  The one on the right is made with egg whites.  You can see the difference in texture and height as the one on the left is denser, firmer and a bit bouncy.  The marshmallow on the right is made with egg whites and is much lighter, more tender and is taller.

Both versions require a sugar syrup taken to 240°F.  The syrup is then poured over either a gelatin mixture or beaten egg whites that have been stabilized with sugar.

At this point, if you use the egg white recipe,  you have an Italian meringue.  It is then stabilized with the addition of liquified gelatin.

Marshmallow may be colored after the sugar syrup has been added. Gel pastes work best here.  Just add the desired amount and beat until it is cold and light.  There are several ways of flavoring the marshmallow.  Extracts may be used as well as freeze dried fruit that has been powdered in a blender.  Since marshmallow is fairly neutral in flavor, it does a good job of picking up the fruit flavor.  Coloring can be added to intensify the look. One of my favorites is to roll them in toasted coconut.

I have also read of adult marshmallows being flavored with booze, although I haven’t tried it.

While I love marshmallow plain, I like to incorporate it into desserts as a component part.   While beautiful to look at, these Hazelnut Crunch Bars are even better to eat. It is like a symphony of flavors in your mouth.  So when you think of marshmallow, don’t confine yourself to hot chocolate, s’mores or eating them plain, although there is definitely nothing wrong with those options.  Think Hazelnut Crunch Bars!

There are four component parts to this dessert.  The base adds the crunch being made with rice krispies, toasted hazelnuts and milk chocolate.  This is a very thick mixture and sets up very quickly.  It is important to have the pan lined with parchment and sprayed as well as having  the back of a large spoon sprayed in enable quickly spreading out the base.

The caramel is spread over the base and this is set aside.  Once the marshmallow is made, it is necessary to get it spread over the caramel layer right away.  If the caramel has set up and is firm, use a blow drier to heat it up a little while the marshmallow is beating to insure that it adheres.  The final flourish is the dark chocolate ganache.

When cut, it appears there are 5 layers but that is because the bars must be cut with a hot, dry knife which smears the top of the marshmallow layer with the chocolate.

Caramel –using the ingredients below, please go here for how to photosCaramel for Hazelnut Crunch Bars1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups sugar (300 grams or 10 2/3 ounces)
2 tablespoon corn syrup
7 tablespoons unsalted butter (105 grams 3 2/3 ounces)
1 cup 40% cream, hot
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the water, sugar and the corn syrup in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is dissolved completely. Bring to a boil; wash sides of pan down with a natural bristle pastry brush dipped in cold water, then boil, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a medium golden color.

Off heat, immediately add the butter and stir until it is melted. Combine the cream and vanilla then stir in all at once. If some of the cream lumps up don’t worry.   Return to medium high heat and bring to a boil.

Boil to 234°F on a candy thermometer. Pour into a bowl. Do not stir at this point as it can become granular if you do. Allow it to come to room temperature.

This can be made a week ahead if desired  Refrigerate after it has cooled.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Hazelnut CrunchIngredients for Hazelnut Crunch Bars1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (70 grams or 2 1/3 ounces)
9 ounces  milk chocolate (255 grams)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons rice krispies (35 grams or 1 1/4 ounces)

Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment and spray the parchment and sides of the pan.  Set aside.

Process the hazelnuts fairly fine. Empty into a large bowl. Add the rice krispies. Rice Krispies and nuts in a bolw for Hazelnut Crunch Bars

Mix well and set aside.  Rice Krispies and hazelnuts mixd for Hazelnut Crunch Bars.Spray the back of a large spoon with cooking spray. Set aside. Place the milk chocolate in a bowl and place over a double boiler to melt or melt at half power in the microwave. Milk Chocolate melted for base of Hazelnut Crunch BarsPour over the nut mixture and very quickly mix all together with a large spoon or your gloved hand. Combining base ingredients for Hazelnut Crunch BarsPour into the pan and quickly spread it smooth with the back of the sprayed spoon.Base in the bottom of the pan for Hazelnut Crunch BarsSpreading base in the bottom of the pan for Hazelnut Crunch BarsBase spread in the bottom of the pan for Hazelnut Crunch Bars

If the caramel is stiff, microwave it briefly to soften it then spread it over the crunch layer.  Set aside.Caramel on the base of the Hazelnut Crunch LayerCaramel over the base of the Hazelnut Crunch Bars

MarshmallowIngredients for Hazelnut Crunch Bars1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar, divided (200 grams or 7 ounces)
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (1 tablespoon +1/2 teaspoon, 10 grams or 1/3 ounce)
1/4 cup cold water
3 egg whites (100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine the water, 3/4 cup sugar (150 grams or 5 1/3 ounces) and corn syrup. Water, sugar and corn syrup for marshmallowBring to a boil, wash down sides of pan with a brush dipped in water. Boil to a temperature of 240 degrees.Washing down sides of pan for Hazelnut Crunch Bars

Sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/4 cup cold water.Gelatin in water for Hazelnut Crunch Bars

Stir to combine.  This is referred to a blooming the gelatin.  Set aside.Gelatin bloomed for Hazelnut Crunch BarsIn the meantime, put the egg whites and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer Eggs whites and vanilla in mixing bowl for Hazelnut Crunch Barsand beat until soft peaks form. Egg whites beaten to soft peaks before the sugar syrup is added for Hazelnut Crunch BarsSlowly add the remaining sugar and beat to stiff peaks.   If the syrup has not reached 250 degrees, reduce the mixer speed to low and keep beating. As soon as the syrup has reached the temperature, slowly pour it into the egg whites. Try to keep the syrup between the beater and the bowl when pouring.Pouring sugar syrup into the egg whites for Hazelnut Crunch BarsLiquify the gelatin in the microwave for about 30 seconds and pour it into the hot egg whites. Beat until cold and stiff.Marshmallow whipped for Hazelnut Crunch Bars Whipped marshmallow on a whisk for Hazelnut Crunch BarTowards the end of the beating, heat the caramel layer with a blow dryer to warm it if it has set up so the marshmallow will adhere to the caramel. When the marshmallow is ready, Immediately pour it over the caramel and Marshmallow over layer for Hazelnut Crunch Barssmooth it out. Let it cool completely.Marshmallow spread over caramel for Hazel nut bars

Pour the ganache below over the marshmallow.   Spreading the ganache over the marshmallow for the Hazelnut Crunch BarsSpread evenly over the marshmallow. Ganache on top of the Hazelnut Crunch BarsRefrigerate to set ganache. Loosen the edges with a small flexible spatula and turn out.   Turn right side up and, with a hot knife,  cut 6 across and 4 down. The knife must be dipped in very hot water and quickly dried with a paper towel for each cut.  Let the knife cut slowly through the ganache which will be cold and firm, then cut straight down.  This sounds a lot more complicated than it is.   However, realistically you will get into a rhythm and it isn’t difficult at all to make these very professional looking cuts.

Dark Satin Ganache-using the ingredients below for how to photos please go here.
1/2 cup 40% or heavy cream
1/4 cup clear cornsyrup
5 tablespoons butter (75 grams or 2 2/3 ounces)
10 ounces 58% to 62% semisweet chocolate (285 grams or 10 ounces)

Combine the cream, cornsyrup and butter in a small saucepan until very hot. Submerge the chocolate and after several minutes whisk until combined. Pour over the marshmallow.

Yield: 24 bars.  These can sit at room temperature but for longer storage refrigerate.

For Petit Fours, cut each bar in half yielding 48 pieces.

Tri-Chocolate Pate


Finished PhotoTri-Chocolate Pate is  a spectacular, showy dessert that is easy to make and can be done well  ahead  of time.

Consisting of white, milk and dark chocolate,  each layer is highlighted with a complimentary flavor.  This was a catering favorite at the bakery.  The chocolate used will determine the underlying flavor of the pate.  The chocolate we used was a 58 to 62%.  If one of the newer, chocolates is used it may alter the outcome as they are much more liquid when melted.

Do not let the layers firm up completely before adding the next one.  If you do, they will not bond when you add the layer on top.  When you slice it the layer will separate.  Not a big deal, just push it back together on the plate.  However, it is best to have them bonding.  The white layer is the biggest offender as there is not whipped cream to soften it. Continue reading