Sophisticated Sugar: Mexican Chocolate

MexicanChocolate

If you’re looking for something new and hip, and with a bit of a kick, this is perfect!

Mexican Chocolate

2-3 cups melted milk chocolate (less chocolate and you’ll have more of a kick, more chocolate and the spices will be more mild)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chili powder (yes, you read that right)
Chocolate Molds

Melt chocolate (in microwave or in double boiler) and mix in the spices. Stir until well incorporated – you don’t want any clumps of chili powder!

Carefully spoon into chocolate molds and tap the molds until the chocolate is smooth across the top and all air bubbles are gone. Place chocolates in the refrigerator or freezer until set. Pop out by turning the molds upside down and twisting (like you are popping ice out of a ice cube tray). Enjoy!

 

 

Sophisticated Sugar: Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

CaramelPecanCheesecake

 

I have the most amazing dessert EVER in store for your Valentines weekend! Of all the cheesecake, sweets, and desserts I have ever made this is one I am requested to make over and over again by my family. If the Chocolate Orange Cheesecake from last week didn’t strike you as romantic enough, try this one! You sweetheart will be pudding in your hands.

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

Crust:
2 cups gluten-free cookie or cracker crumbs (you can always use non gluten-free too, shortbread cookies work well here)
6 Tbsp butter, melted

Caramel Pecan Layer:
11 oz caramel
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Chocolate Cheesecake:
2 pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
8 oz Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the crumbs with the melted butter and pour into the cheesecake pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and one inch up the sides. You can use the underside of a cup or a measuring cup with a flat bottom so that the crust is well pressed and smooth. Bake crust for 8 minutes.

Once the crust comes out, toast the pecans by placing the nuts out on a flat cooking sheet and cooking for a couple minutes, just until you can smell them when you open the oven door. Remove from oven and place on a plate to cool. Melt the caramel with evaporated in a large bowl (the caramel will tend to boil up when it gets hot so  make sure to use a large bowl). Make sure the caramel and milk are well blended – it may take some stirring but keep going, the two will combine. Pour the caramel directly on top of the baked crust and sprinkle with toasted pecans. Set aside

Now for the chocolate cheesecake! Mix cream cheese and sugar until very smooth. Add eggs and beat. Slowly add melted chocolate and beat until uniform in color. The batter is thick enough it won’t spread well if you just dump it all in the center. Instead spoon large scoops of the batter on top of the caramel mixture and then gently spread. Return to oven.

*Note: ALWAYS place cheesecake pan directly on a cookie sheet or other flat pan (this is in case the cheesecake leaks the bottom of your oven won’t get all nasty). Also, ALWAYS place a 9×13 pan, 2/3 full of water on the rack directly below the cheesecake. This prevents the cheesecake from cooking too quickly or from drying out.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Allow cheesecake to cool for 1-2 hours on the counter and run a knife around the outside before wrapping and placing int he refrigerator. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 6-8 hours before serving. (Although, if you place it in the freezer, it won’t need that long. More like 3-4 hours.)

Want to try this one? Let me know what you think!

Sophisticated Sugar: Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

ChocolateOrangeCheesecakeTwo

I made this for a group of friends and everyone was so impressed! This cheesecake balances tangy orange and sumptuous chocolate perfectly.

Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

Crust:
2 cups gluten-free wafer crumbs (just ground up your favorite gluten-free cookie or cracker)
6 Tbsp. butter, melted

Filling:
2 pkg cream cheese (room temperature, so that they will cream)
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup Orange Juice Concentrate
8 oz. Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted

Orange Topping:
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Orange Juice Concentrate

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Start with the crust – place crumbs in a bowl and create pour the melted butter into the center. Stir until well mixed then dump into cheesecake pan. Use your fingers to press the crust across the bottom of the pan and about an inch up the sides. You can use the underside of a cup or measuring cup to flatten the crust. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Next make the filling – cream the cream cheese and sugar until very soft and there are no cream cheese lumps. Add eggs and orange juice concentrate and mix. Melt the chocolate, but let it cool a minute before adding to the cheese and egg mixture. Mix well. Pour into slightly cooled crust and bake for 50 minutes.

*Note: ALWAYS place cheesecake pan directly on a cookie sheet or other flat pan (this is in case the cheesecake leaks the bottom of your oven won’t get all nasty). Also, ALWAYS place a 9×13 pan, 2/3 full of water on the rack directly below the cheesecake. This prevents the cheesecake from cooking too quickly or from drying out.

Once the cheesecake comes out, allow it to cool for ten minutes while you make the topping. Beat the sour cream, sugar, and orange juice concentrate together until well blended. Pour over the chocolate layer. Return cheesecake to oven (still on the cookie sheet and still with the pan of water on the bottom rack) and cook for 5 minutes. DO NOT REMOVE FROM OVEN, but turn oven off and leave cheesecake in the oven for 30 minutes with the oven door slightly open. (This allows the cheesecake to cool off slowly and helps prevent cracking.)

Remove cheesecake from oven and leave on the counter for 1-2 hours. Before wrapping and placing in the refrigerator, run a knife around the edge to separate it from the pan. Do not remove the sides of the pan, but as the cheesecake cools it will shrink slightly and if it is still stuck to the sides it could cause the center to crack. Wrap cheesecake and refrigerator OVER NIGHT – serious, this cheesecake is much better the second day, once the flavors have a change to meld together. (Although, I have made it and placed it in the freezer for 4-6 hours before serving. It wasn’t as good as waiting until the next day, but still very good!)

Although this cheesecake seems to have a lot of steps, it isn’t complicated or hard at all. And so worth every minute spend waiting for it to set up! So amazingly good! Let me know what you think.

 

After Dinner Mints

After Dinner Mints

 

Cool and refreshing, nothing beats a great mint. These are fantastic and totally fancy!

After Dinner Mints

Callebaut Dark Chocolate Snaps
Guittard Vanilla A’Peels
Mint Extract
Chocolate Mold, something thin works best

In separate bowls, melt both chocolates. Add a couple drops of mint extract to either just the white chocolate (for a light minty flavor) or to both chocolates (for a stronger mint experience). Taste the chocolate to make sure it has the amount of mint you want, just know that the mint flavor will be slightly stronger after the chocolate has set up.

Using a small spoon, pour a small amount of white chocolate into the mold; the goal is to fill it 1/3 to 1/2 of the way with white chocolate. Allow to set up either on the counter in a cool room (below 70 degrees) or in the refrigerator. (Do not place chocolate in the freezer at this point as this will make the chocolate TOO cold and hard, when you add the dark chocolate on top they won’t fuse together well and you’ll run the risk of the two layer breaking apart when handling).

Once the white chocolate has set up (if you placed it in the refrigerator this should only take about 5-10 minutes) fill the mold the rest of the way with the melted dark chocolate. Note: the white chocolate doesn’t have to be completely hard, just firm enough that the two chocolates won’t mix.

With both white and dark chocolate in the molds place the mold either in the refrigerator or the freezer until the chocolate is completely set up and hard. (Placing chocolate in the freezer at this point is totally fine.)

Turn mold upside down and twist (like you would when popping ice out of an ice tray). Enjoy after dinner or serve at any party!

Chocolate Dessert Cup

ChocolateDessertCup

These easy to make-ahead dessert cups make even a simple scoop of ice-cream look like it came from a five-star restaurant! And, oh, the possibilities! Imagine these with your favorite custard and fresh fruit. Or – try this – a little lemon custard followed by a heaping spoon of citrus flavored whipped cream.

Sorry. I think I’m drooling.

Chocolate Dessert Cup

1 1/2 cups good Melting Chocolate (Not chocolate chips, something that will set up after its been melted.)
Wax Paper
Cupcake Pan

Start by melting the chocolate – either over a double boiler or in the microwave (always keep the microwave on half power and never for more than a minute at a time).

As the chocolate is melting, cut out 6 squares of wax paper, approximately 6 inches by 6 inches each.

Use a spoon to pour and then spread a small amount of chocolate around the center of one square of wax paper. Turn the cupcake pan upside-down and drape the chocolate covered wax over the top of one cupcake. Make the other five chocolate bowls like the first, spacing the wax out across the whole pan.

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Carefully lift and place the cupcake pan with the chocolate cups on it into the freezer. Chill until the chocolate is set, about 30-60 minutes. Remove the wax and chocolate off the cupcake pan and then slowly peel the wax away from the chocolate.

Stack the chocolate bowls with a piece of  clean wax paper between each one and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. (Not that these need refrigeration, the cold just helps prevent the cups from softening from sitting in a warm room.) Fill with anything that strikes your fancy!

 

Caramel Custard

CaramelCustard

Looking for the perfect treat to serve this New Years Eve? This Caramel Custard is wonderful if you are serving twelve guest or just two. It’s smooth and creamy – okay, honestly it’s basically pudding; but oh, so grown up! Seriously, you’ll be amazed at how scrumptious the smooth texture and slightly sweet vanilla flavor of this custard is!

Custard

2 cups milk
1/2 cup white sugar, divided
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup tapioca flour (can use regular all-purpose flour if you prefer)
Pinch of salt
1 tsp Vanilla
1/4 cup butter

Pour milk and half the sugar (1/4 cup) in a sauce pan and warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

While milk is heating up, place egg yolks in bowl and add the remaining sugar (1/4 cup). Beat until light and fluffy. Add flour and salt and beat until well combined.

Once the milk is quite warm to the touch, temper the eggs by doing the following:

While beating the egg mixture, pour in a small amount of the warm milk (approximately 1/3 cup). Beat for a second or two and then add a small amount of milk again. As you continue to beat the egg mixture add more and more milk slowly. This raises the temperature of the eggs gradually so that they cook without becoming scrambled eggs.  Once half the milk mixture has been added to the egg mixture, pour everything from the bowl into the sauce pan, combining all the eggs in with the milk.

Place the sauce pan back on the heat and whisk continuously until the mixture begins to boil. Keep whisking and cook for one minute.

Remove from heat. Add vanilla and butter. Whisk until the butter has fully melted and mixed into the custard.

Pour custard into any dish you like – ramekins, small bowls, or even fancy party glasses! Before refrigerating the custard, place wax paper or plastic wrap directly on top of the custard. This prevents a skin from forming.

Get the Look!

Making the Caramel Custard as shown is super simple!

1) Pick up some totally cute skinny champagne glasses (these are 6 ounces each).

2) Turning the glass upside-down, trace the size of the top onto a sheet of wax paper and cut the circles out. These will be used at the very end to cover the custard so a skin doesn’t form.

3) I just used caramel out of a squeeze bottle and squeezed it directly into the glasses where I wanted it. Place the glasses in the refrigerator so that the caramel will set up and not run while making the custard.

4) Make custard!

5) As the custard cools in the sauce pan, pour a small amount of lime juice in one bowl and poured a small amount of sugar into a second bowl. I used Sugar-In-The-Raw because of it’s big crystals, and it’s slightly caramel-y flavor (since the molasses hasn’t been removed). This kind of sugar is called Turbiando sugar. But any kind of sugar will work. Working each glass in turn, flip the glass upside-down and dipped the rim in the lime juice first and then in the sugar.

6) To keep the glasses looking clean, pour the slightly cooled custard into a Zip-loc bag and, after sealing it shut, snip a hole in the corner. Using this to pour the custard into the glasses means you don’t have to worry about ruining the beautiful sugar along the top edges of your glasses. Refrigerator custard until ready to serve!

 

Sophisticated Sugar: Zucchini Bread Muffins

ZucchiniBreadMuffins

At this time of year, when everyone’s garden is full of Zucchini this is a fantastic recipe to use! It’s also a fun way of sneaking vegetables into your kid’s diet. They’ll never know they’re eating zucchini, you can’t taste it at all. This muffin is soft, sweet and addicting . . . so watch out.

Zucchini Bread Muffins

3 Eggs
1 1/2 cups Brown Sugar
1/2 cup White Sugar
1 cup Oil
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 cups Flour
2 cups peeled, seeded and shredded Zucchini

Beat the eggs and then add sugar and oil. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Mix. Starting and ending with flour, alternate between adding zucchini and flour to mixture. Beat on low for the softest muffins.

Grease muffin tins and pour batter in. Cook at 325 degrees for 15-18 minutes. (Not at 350 degrees! I’ve made that mistake many times.) Allow to cool before removing from muffin tin. Makes 24 muffins.

You can make Zucchini Bread. Just grease and flour two bread tins and bake for one hour at 325 degrees.

***Note: You can always peel, seed, and shred your Zucchini in advance, place two cups worth into a zip-loc bag and freeze for up to a year. Any time you want muffins, just pull out a  bag, defrost, and bake away. The batter will be more runny when using frozen zucchini, but after baking, the muffins will be just the same as if you used fresh. This is a fantastic use for all that home garden zucchini that doesn’t stop coming!