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Tag: chocolate (page 1 of 2)

12 Days of Christmas (Cookies) #1: World Peace Cookies

While cook, author, and all around baking diva Dorie Greenspan is (justly) famous for many things, these cookies may end up as her most enduringly delicious legacy. Originally published in her book Paris Sweets, the recipe comes from frequent Dorie-collaborator Pierre Hermé and is just as divine as everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) says it is. And what better cookie, then, to kick of my 12 Days of Christmas Cookies bake-off? I’ll be attempting to crank out 12 delicious holiday cookies in basically the next two weeks. Insanity may ensue. (ed. note. It did, and this is as far as I got. Waaah-waah.)

Despite having read about these on countless blogs and having bought Dorie’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, which includes the recipe, I’d not made these buttery, darkly decadent sablés until very recently. And I’m here to tell you that the hype is very much well-earned. Distinguished by their saltiness, their chocolate flavor is powerful and sophisticated, with smoky, not-too-sweet nuance. Even the bits of chocolate embedded in the luxuriously sandy crumb are bittersweet.

Totally addictive, and so good that Dorie’s gone into production for herself. You can buy them at her Beurre & Sel shoplettes in New York City. They’re quite simple to make yourself, though, so if a trip to the Big Apple isn’t in the cards, you can still get your fix.

You could certainly use regular cocoa for these, but I love them with black cocoa. The Batman of cocoa, it’s dark and angsty and brooding and delicious. Use with caution. I get mine here. I also took the liberty of mixing in some broken cacao nibs for extra textural interest and because it seemed like a good idea.

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California Dreaming: Chocolate Avocado Mousse

When I travel for work, I’m usually headed to a state capital. Unfortunately, seats of government are rarely located in the parts of a state that one’d actually want to visit–the view is particularly bleak when one invariably seems to end up at the Holiday Inn Express on the Airport Bypass Road. But since I’m there to, you know, WORK, this isn’t that a big deal except for on the dining out front. Of my colleagues, I have the highest restaurant standards. I do not consider frozen Sysco hotwings food, and woe betide anyone who suggests otherwise.

I’m also generally the bossiest person, and the youngest, which makes me comparably adept at using the Internets on my phone (amazing!) to locate good restaurants and then chivvy everyone along for the ride. I’ve found that cross-checking Zagat, Yelp, and Chowhound recommendations gets a good list that doesn’t skew too old, too hipster, or too foodie. Even then, though, sometimes the road away from the T.G.I. Chilibees is a rough one, and I’ve had my moments of… compromise. (Graceful, naturally.)

Fortunately, my most recent trip was to Sacramento. And, while not as exciting as nearby San Francisco, California’s congenial climate and foodie culture meant that I had no problem mapping out the gustatory aspects of the itinerary. We had excellent ramen, Mexican food, and swanky Cali cuisine, but the most strinking meal was our lunch at the Magpie Café. After a smoke trout baguette, the most beautiful BLT ever, and a lushly lemony chicken salad, we felt we HAD to get the dessert specials. So, fennel blood orange ice cream sandwich it was, along with an avocado chocolate mousse.

Now, I generally turn up my nose at such hippie-dippie palaver, but everything else had been so good I figured the kitchen wouldn’t serve something that didn’t work. And lo, it was good. Dense and flavorful with no detectable avocado-y-ness, it’s more like a pudding or a pot de creme than a mousse, but very tasty regardless. And, as something of a lactard myself, it’s gratifying to have something so rich and delicious that doesn’t involve a bucketload of cream.

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Bitter Sweets: Bon Voyage Profiteroles

What, you wanted green, healthy, resolution-friendly things? Bahahaha… Ok, while we’ve definitely made the transition to a new year and I’ll probably be eating nothing but sweet potatoes between now and swimsuit season, the parties must go on. In this case, a going away dinner for a friend who’s inconsiderately decided to abscond to Spain, South America, and London for the next few years. Boo.

But this is the way of things, I suppose, and I often find myself preparing one last dinner for the latest person to embark on a new far-flung adventure. Of course, what better way to ensure a friend’s return than a really delicious send-off? For this bon voyage, I elected to make mushroom and butternut squash (not to be confused with carrot, ahem) risotto followed by arugula salad with shallot vinaigrette and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. I wanted a fun and special dessert to cap the meal, but it also couldn’t be a multi-day production–which, let’s be real, I generally enjoy but simply didn’t have the time for.

I immediately thought of these profiteroles–puffs of crisp and tender choux pastry filled with frosty ice cream and topped with warm chocolate sauce. I’d made them over Christmas and they were pretty much universally adored. What’s more, these  ”yummy nubbins” are far easier to whip up than one might suspect… and hopefully good enough to at least merit the odd postcard.

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Operation Birthday: Chocolate Malted Milk Ball Cake

Why heeeello there, Elphie! (Don’t ask; I don’t even get it…) It’s been rawther a while, yes, but I’ve been busy adjusting to single-bloggerdom and trying to get my snazzy new camera to take photos–a total failure so far, but more on that later.  In addition to the aforementioned tasks and, you know, WORK, I’ve also been pumping out a broad array of baked goods and cocktail nibbles for all and sundry for what seems like a very busy few months.  And I’ve not written about ANY of them. I am a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad blogger–particularly since some of this stuff has been goooooood.

This birthday cake in particular. Made for a dear friend fresh off a grueling summer of Arabic study in Damascus, she was in dire need of friends, booze, and cake–all things slightly hard to come by in Syria.  I was more than happy to oblige on all counts. Though, it must be said that Charles Shaw and I are no longer on speaking terms… that perfidious bastard. ANYWAY, the cake. Super, super delicious if I do say so myself.  And I do.

The cake: chocolate stout cake–richly chocolate with a moist, open crumb and a subtle depth from the stout. There’s a reason this is one of epicurious’ most-searched recipes. The filling: my go-to white chocolate cream cheese frosting, spiked with malt and crushed milk balls–first crunchy, then gooey, it’s good no matter when you eat it. The frosting: Rose‘s awesome milk chocolate buttercream. It’s fabulous on it’s own, but with a little malt, amazing. And since it doesn’t have a sugar syrup like most buttercreams, it’s pretty easy too.

The secret ingredient: Asian-spec Ovaltine. The “plain malt” version of U.S. Ovaltine isn’t right–too diluted with other crap (sugar, questionable chocolate, ech…). We just want the malt here, please. The unadulterated kind can be found most easily in larger Asian markets. I got mine at HMart. It’s not diluted with cocoa or anything, packs a powerful malty punch on its own, and adds an authentically Malteaser-y flavor to both the filling and the frosting.

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Strategery: A Weekend of Deep Dark Chocolate Fudge Cookies

chocolatecookie1As Joe’s explained, he spent Saturday morning charming the (presumably argyle) socks off the denizens of Rose Park in Georgetown while I hit a birthday brunch in Dupont. Aside from the scintillating presence of a passionfruit, these events had one other thing in common: Deep Dark Chocolate Fudge Cookies. The batch for sale got studded with white chocolate and dispatched with Joe. The remainder got ground into a crust for a white chocolate birthday cheesecake. When I proudly pointed out how efficient I was being, using one cookie recipe to ground my weekend’s baking, Mr. T. looked at me like I was crazy and then went to bed. But I’m used to that, so it’s all good.

Anyway, to the cookies! These are a no joke winner. Ultimately chocolatey, they have a salty, smoky edge that’s very much au courant. And they’re miracles of texture. Like the Brawny paper towel man, they’re tough but tender… with a soft, compact crumb that is simply delicious. These would be excellent to send somewhere too, as they seem to stand up to all sorts of atmospheric abuse without losing their tasty equanimity.

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Making Chocolate Bread Pudding for The Boss

breadpudding1Not Springsteen. Or Hogg. Or Hugo. (Though of the three I’d definitely pick the latter.) No, but last week we entertained a few friends for dinner, among them a former boss of mine. A tiny dynamo of awesome with perhaps the best laugh ever, she remains one of my favorite people–and certainly she comes in on my guest list far ahead of Bruce, the sheriff, and even the designer.

It was a Friday night, so I wanted to keep it pretty simple and within my comfort zone. I started with tapenade and chevre toasts that led, Frenchly, into Salade Niçoise and pissaladière–a luxe little onion tart. Since I’d made the tapenade and pre-cooked most of the salad components ahead of time, I had a little more time to invest in dessert. Remembering her penchant for chocolate bread pudding (I’d even scanned an article from Martha on the topic for her at some point…), I thought that was the obvious choice.

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Operation Birthday Cake: Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate

chocbdaycake2There’s little more in life that I enjoy more than planning a PARTY, for lord’s sake. Fortunately, the best aspect of being known to know how to cook is getting tapped early for party plans. Not to say that my winning charms aren’t sufficient on their own mind you, but let’s be real here, the cake helps. It’s been a while, though, since I’ve had the chance to make a birthday cake so I was particularly pumped to receive my marching orders for a cake as chocolate as possible for a good friend’s 1/3 centennial celebration.

Given that I didn’t really have much more than that to go on, though, it took a bit of thinking to get my plan of action together. Since I wasn’t sure how many people would be there, or how many of them would actually EAT CAKE (queens and their carb counts, I swear…), I elected to do a sheet cake. They’re easier to cut and portion than a round, feed more people, and supply a broader canvas on which to write… “Happy Birthday Whomever” is a lot of letters, people!

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Chocolate Apotheosis: Pots de Crème

potdecreme1Secrets. Everyone has them, and almost everyone ends up spreading them around. This wonderful little recipe holds several secrets that I’m very pleased to share. First–and no surprise–they are delicious. Smooth and creamy, every spoonful floods your mouth with the nuanced flavors of finest chocolate. So, yay for THAT. Also, and just as important, they are quick and easy. I can’t imagine why anyone would make a mere chocolate pudding or mess around with mousse when pots de crème can be had for the same level of exertion.

It goes without saying that these are very, very rich. I usually serve them with a few crisp little cookies (langues de chat are a lovely option) and a bit of fruit–grapes or a diced orange salad. Small tea or punch cups can be lovely, but I’ve found that demitasse cups yield the perfect portions. They’re really an elegant ending to almost anything. Infusing the cream mixture can add layers of flavor that enable them to cap more exotic meals. I’ve done chili and cinnamon to follow a Mexican dinner, and star anise with black sesame tuiles after a big, celebratory Chinese banquet.

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