Friday, April 20, 2018

CRACKED EARTH FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE for EARTH DAY

Earth Day! As many of you know, I blog about mystery/crime fiction at Mystery Fanfare, as well as about Chocolate. I'm also the Editor of the thematic review Mystery Readers Journal. A few years ago, we had an issue (Volume 29:1) that focused on Environmental Crime Fiction/Mysteries. In addition I compose lists of themed crime fiction. Have a look at my Environmental/Ecological Crime Fiction list on Mystery Fanfare.

I don’t know of a good crime novel that involves the chocolate trade. That’s a theme ripe for a good mystery. Something to think about while you enjoy “Cracked Earth Flourless Chocolate Cake” from the recipe below.

I've posted many flourless chocolate cake recipes, but this cake, adapted from Tyler Florence of the Food Network, is one of my favorites. Cracked Earth Flourless Chocolate Cake.

Cracked Earth Flourless Chocolate Cake

Ingredients
1 pound organic fair-trade dark chocolate (65-85% cacao), chopped into small pieces
8 Tbsp unsalted butter
9 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 cups heavy cream, cold 

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter 9-inch springform pan.
Put chocolate and butter in top of double boiler over simmering water until melted.
Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks with sugar in mixing bowl until light yellow in color.
Whisk a little of chocolate mixture into egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs - this will keep eggs from scrambling from heat of the chocolate; then whisk in rest of chocolate mixture.
Beat egg whites in mixing bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into chocolate mixture.
Pour into prepared pan (spray bottom with nonstick spray) and bake until cake is set, top starts to crack, and toothpick inserted into cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 to 25 minutes (and then check every five minutes after that--don't overbake).
Let stand 10 minutes, then unmold.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

AMARETTO TRUFFLES: National Amaretto Day

Today is National Amaretto Day. Amaretto is a sweet, almond-flavored Italian liqueur. Interestingly enough it isn't always made from almonds. It's primarily made from apricot pits and spices. The original version was made in Saronno, Italy. Amaretto is Italian for "a little bitter." Here's a link to Homemade Amaretto at Chow.com.

AMARETTO TRUFFLES

Ingredients
10 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup Amaretto
1 cup blanched almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

Directions 
In food processor with knife blade attached, blend both kinds of chocolate until finely ground. In 1-quart saucepan, heat cream to boiling on medium-high. With food processor running, add hot cream, butter, and liqueur to chocolate, and blend until chocolate mixture is smooth.
Grease 8" by 8" metal baking pan; line with plastic wrap. Pour chocolate mixture into pan; spread evenly. Refrigerate chocolate mixture until cool and firm enough to handle, at least 3 hours, or freeze 1 hour.
Place chopped almonds in small bowl; place cocoa in another small bowl. Invert chocolate block onto cutting board; remove and discard plastic wrap. Cut chocolate block into 8 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 8 squares. (To cut chocolate block neatly and easily, occasionally dip knife in hot water and wipe dry.)
One at a time, roll half the chocolate squares in chopped almonds to coat; roll remaining squares in cocoa.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

ANIMAL CRACKERS & CHOCOLATE: National Animal Crackers Day!

Happy National Animal Crackers Day! The original animal crackers of my childhood didn't have a lot of flavor, but even now when I think of them I remember their unique taste during zoo and circus visits. These trips were always exciting, and animal crackers were an important part of the experience. I remember the red cardboard boxes with pictures of animals in cages (sad now, but I didn't think about that then) and little flat strings to carry your box.

Today there are many different brands of animal crackers--vegan, chocolate, chocolate covered, covered with icing and sprinkles, and so many more. There are the original Barnum's Animal Crackers, and I really like Barbara's (all natural) Snackimals Double Chocolate and Snackimals Chocolate Chip.

Want to dress up your store bought Animal Crackers today to celebrate National Animal Cracker Day? Dip the animal crackers in Chocolate:

Chocolate Dipped Animal Crackers

Melt a good dark chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water or in the microwave.
Dip animals and let cool on waxed paper.
You can either dip most of the animal (and use forks or special dipping tools) or just dip the feet as I did with the Walker Scottie Dogs with Muddy Boots. I like Trader Joe's Animal Crackers for chocolate dipping.

Want to get fancier? Healthy Happy Life (Lunchboxbunch.com) has a Chocolate-Covered Vegan Animal Cookies post with great photos and recipes.

There's even a Website devoted to Animal Crackers: www.animalcrackers.net/  Here you'll find a variety of recipes for animal crackers  such as Homemade Animal Crackers, Oatmeal Animal Crackers, Classic Animal Crackers, Cheese Animal Crackers, Chocolate Animal Crackers, and many others. Animal Crackers have been a snack since the mid nineteenth century. Today they are made by numerous well known companies, such as Keebler, Nabisco, or the Stauffer Biscuit Company. Although store bought varieties can be great, you might want to try some homemade animal crackers.

COCOA ANIMAL CRACKERS
Recipe adapted from AnimalCrackers.net


Ingredients
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Cup Organic Toasted Rolled Quick Oats
1/2 Cup Softened Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Baking Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
3/4 Cup of Cold Whole Milk

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In Blender, mix organic toasted rolled quick oats, with flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and kosher salt.
Pulse until base mixture is completely ground up into delicate powder, and color and texture are even and consistent.
Pour this mixture into mixing bowl, and stir in cold whole milk and softened real butter. Stir until dough becomes stiff, adding any extra milk if you need to.
Roll animal cracker dough into ball on clean flat surface, then flatten out into quarter inch thickness.
Using animal cracker or other cookie cutters, make as many shapes as you can with dough.
Place your finished shapes on lightly greased baking sheet. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes, or until crackers are crisp.
Cool on wire rack for half an hour.

Waiter, there's an Animal Cracker in my soup! Animal Crackers make a great starch for soups and stews.  I've posted a recipe for a great Chicken Mole Polano made with Animal Crackers.  Or try this recipe for White Chocolate Mole with Animal Crackers.

Want a sweet chocolate soup with Animal Crackers? O. K., this is more of a dessert. This recipe was originally found on the Hershey's Cocoa Box.

CHOCOLATE SOUP WITH ANIMAL CRACKERS

Ingredients
3/4 cups half-and-half
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
2 tsp cocoa
1 egg yolk

Directions:
Heat half-and-half. Pour into bowl, leaving about 1/4 cup in saucepan or cup.
Add sugar, vanilla, cocoa to pan and mix until it is a syrup. Add egg yolk and stir over low heat. Gradually stir in preheated half-and-half. Stir until blended and thick. Pour into bowl.
Top with animal crackers.

Here's a link to several other Cocoa Soup recipes. All go well with Animal Crackers!

Enjoy this video clip of Shirley Temple singing Animal Crackers in my Soup!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

THE GREAT NEAPOLITAN BUNDT CAKE: Retro Ad & Recipe

I love these Retro Ads, and this 1974 Betty Crocker Ad for The Great Neapolitan Bundt Cake is really fun. It's inspired by Neapolitan ice cream (strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate). This recipe is also retro because it includes cake mixes and food coloring. You can always adapt it with your own favorite cake recipe, and Wilton makes some natural red colorings. Also, remember to use real chocolate syrup (I also add some cocoa to the 'chocolate' portion). I don't make a chocolate glaze. I sprinkle this Bundt cake with confectioners' sugar.



THE GREAT NEAPOLITAN BUNDT CAKE
Adapted recipe

Ingredients
1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist™ white cake mix (or yellow cake mix)
1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 egg whites
10 drops red food color
1 tsp strawberry extract
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
1 Tbsp cocoa

Directions
Heat oven to 325°F. Grease and lightly flour 12-cup fluted Bundt pan, or spray with baking spray with flour.
In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil, and egg whites with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour about 1 2/3 cups batter into pan.
Into small bowl, pour 1 1/3 cups batter; stir in food color and strawberry extract. Carefully pour pink batter over white batter in pan.
Stir chocolate syrup and cocoa into remaining batter. Carefully pour chocolate batter over pink batter.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted 1 1/2 inches from side of cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes.
Turn pan upside down onto cooling rack or heatproof serving plate; remove pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
When cool, dust with powdered sugar or with chocolate glaze (original recipe)