Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Chocolate Dessert Cups

These are an easy way to make any dessert fancy, and any type of chocolate may be used (swirls of white and dark look nice). I've even filled them simply with ice cream and fudge sauce for company dessert.

To make 10-12 chocolate cups/baskets/bowls, melt 12 oz. chocolate with 4 tablespoons of butter. Cut out twelve, roughly 6-inch, circles of wax paper. Carefully melt the chocolate with the butter in a double boiler, in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (but not touching the water), or, if you're in a pinch, in the microwave. Stir until smooth, and spoon equal amounts of chocolate over each paper circle, using a teaspoon to spread close to the edges to make chocolate rounds with scalloped edges. Carefully lift each covered paper round and drape it over an upturned glass, curving the edges to create a frilled effect. Let the chocolate set completely, then carefully lift off the chocolate shape and peel away the paper.

Add your chosen filling and eat with delight.

**These are easy to make, but just make sure you spread the chocolate thick enough to ensure easy paper/chocolate separation.

TRUFFLES-- Espresso (or Raspberry or Mint or Orange or....etc.)


I'm posting this in response to a request specifically for my Espresso Truffles, but I use this recipe as a base for just about any flavor of truffle. It's the perfect base to play with, and if you make a heavenly variation, please post a comment so I can copy you! See the variations I make by the asterisks below.

12 oz. chocolate (I just use a bag of chocolate chips, but if you want to splurge, buy chunks of the best quality chocolate you can afford)

1/2 cup heavy cream (if making one of the jam variations below, use a bit less heavy cream, as the melted jam will make the truffles a little softer than usual if you use the same amount of cream)

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup roughly ground coffee or espresso beans OR run-of-the-mill ground coffee. (If making these like Martha, add the ground coffee and/or beans to the heavy cream right after it has reached the boiling point. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain, discarding the solids, and boil cream again before adding to the chocolate. Or, in a hurried pinch, just dump ground coffee into the chocolate mixture, to taste.)

***At this point, for a differently flavored truffle, I omit the vanilla and coffee and add one of the following:
- homemade raspberry jam, melted on the stovetop and seeds strained out, to taste
- any other flavor of jam, prepared similarly
- peppermint extract and/or crushed candy canes
- another extract such as almond or orange (if using orange, I usually grate in a bit of orange zest, also)
- rum extract (or rum!)with a few crushed toffee bits thrown in, if desired
- ....you get the idea

Cocoa powder, chopped nuts, chopped chocolate, crushed mint candies, flavored cappuccino mix, or melted chocolate, for rolling and dipping.

Place chocolate in a medium bowl (if using bulk chocolate, break into small pieces first). In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium heat. Pour over the chocolate pieces and let sit one minute. Stir until chocolate is incorporated and mixture is smooth (you may need to carefully heat the mixture a bit more to reach this point). Cool a bit and then stir in vanilla, to taste. If you're making them unlike Martha, this is also the point at which you dump in the run-of-the-mill ground coffee. (Add any ingredients for variations at this point instead of the vanilla and coffee.)

Place in refrigerator for several hours until firm enough to shape into balls. Shape into balls and roll or dip in desired coating.

If you want to coat them in chocolate, carefully melt 12 oz. chocolate with 1 tablespoon shortening in a double boiler or in a bowl resting on top of a simmering pan of water without touching the water. (Google "tempering chocolate" for instructions on proper tempering. Untempered chocolate tastes the same but may develop a "bloom.") Using a fork, dip them individually, shake off the excess chocolate, and place on wax-lined cookie sheet to let chocolate set. Dust tops with nuts or candy or whatever your little heart wishes. Squiggles of white chocolate can be squiggled on after the chocolate shell sets.

Truffles make my heart sing! (Okay, okay...that's a lie. I eat so many of the darn things that my heart actually creaks, complains, and then starts beating unevenly. Yes, arrhythmia is totally worth it.)

Brownie Trifle with Raspberry Sauce- Two Ways

I've made this trifle numerous ways with many variations, but first I'll give the standard recipe. Dani, I used the lazy-way on the one you tasted, and I layered individual trifles in the chocolate cups instead of spooning it up from a large bowl.

Benefits to making it from scratch:

Benefits to making it the lazy way:
the whipped topping is more stable than real whipped cream, even though it doesn't taste a quarter as nice and clogs your heart in unnatural ways...

The flavor of Brownie Trifle improves the next day, if you can believe it.


Fudge Brownies:
1 cup + 3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup baking cocoa
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
*chocolate chips, if desired

Melt butter in a saucepan and remove from heat. Stir in cocoa. Cool. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to the egg mixture. Stir in vanilla and the cooled chocolate mixture; mix well. Spread into a greased 13x9" pan. If desired, sprinkle 1-2 cups chocolate chips on top and then bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpck inserted near the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake.

Trifle Cream:
Stir together 2 boxes of vanilla pudding mix with 2 cups milk. Set aside in refrigerator. You can make the equivalent amount of homemade pudding if you've got the time or energy.

Whip as much heavy cream to stiff peaks as you'd like in the pudding (using about 1/2 to 1 pint of heavy cream), sweetening with sugar to taste. Reserve enough whipped cream to use as the top layer and carefully fold the remaining whipped cream into the pudding until combined. Set aside in refrigerator.

Raspberry Sauce:
1 bag frozen raspberries or several cups fresh raspberries
sugar, to taste
about one tablespoon corn starch dissolved in a tiny amount of water.
Puree the berries (if using frozen, you can just smush with spoon), place in small saucepan, and add the sugar and corn starch. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the sauce thickens.
NOTE: If you want to be proper, the pureed or smushed berries should be strained to remove the seeds BEFORE you put them into the saucepan, but I've always just left them in. Cool and refrigerate.

Cut brownies into generous-sized bite-size pieces and layer on the bottom of a large bowl. Alternately layer whipped cream mixture and brownie mixture until they're used up or you reach the top of the bowl. Top with a layer of freshly whipped cream. Garnish with reserved brownie crumbs and/or chocolate chips and/or fresh raspberries.


Lazy Brownies

one box Aldi fudge brownies
one bag chocolate chips

Prepare batter as directed, only before baking, sprinkle an entire bag of chocolate chips on top.

Lazy Trifle Cream
2 boxes of vanilla pudding, prepared as above with two cups milk
2 tubs of whipped topping (fold 1 and 1/2 tubs into the pudding and reserve half of one tub for the top layer of the trifle)

Lazy Raspberry Sauce
Prepare as above, because it's already fast and easy.

Brownie Trifle Variations

Trifle variations are infinite (even more so when you substitute sponge cake or gingerbread cookie pieces for the brownies and use different pudding flavors). Here are some of the brownie variations I've tried.

Make mocha brownies (your own found recipe or ask for the one I use)
Instead of using two cups milk in the pudding, use 1 and 1/2 to 1 and 3/4, substituting super-strong, brewed, cooled coffee for the remainder.
Garnish with chocolate curls and chocolate-covered coffee beans.

Make minty brownies.
add mint extract to the pudding, if desired (whether chocolate or vanilla)
layer in Andes Candies and garnish with the same

Etc, etc., etc.

I haven't tried a peanut butter variation yet, but I bet that would be yummy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pesto-- Plus a Bonus of Purdy Family Pesto recipes


3 cloves garlic (I use the plumpest in the head)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups basil leaves, firmly packed (another recipe I have calls for 3-4 cups loosely packed, but I suppose it's about the same amount)
1/4 cup pine nuts (walnuts may be substituted for the pine nuts)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (I sometimes cheat and use a parmesan-romano blend, even though pesto's best if you buy fresh parmesan and grate it yourself)

Place basil leaves in food processor with metal blade. Start machine, drop garlic down. When it is finely chopped, pour in oil. Add nuts with machine running. When nuts are ground, add parmesan. Turn off machine when well blended. Stop machine and scrape sides as needed. Makes about 1 1/4 cup, which generously covers 1 pound pasta.

To make Pesto Calzones, mix 1 cup of pesto and 1 lb. of ricotta. Use your favorite dough recipe; roll dough out into circles. Fill one half of the circle with filling and fold over. Seal the edges with a fork (using water to moisten the edge for a better seal) and poke a few air holes in the top. Repeat with remaining filling and dough; place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 450 degrees. Serve immediately.

To make Pesto Pizza, spread pesto on pizza dough, sprinkle with shredded cheeses, diced, fresh tomatoes, torn basil leaves, if desired, and whatever else your little noggin thinks of.

To make Pesto Lasagna:

2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups minced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups pesto
4 pounds part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, roasted
32 lasagna noodles
2 pounds part skim milk mozzarella cheese, shredded

1. In a large, heavy skillet, saute the onions in 1 tablespoons of the olive oil until the onions are soft (5-8 minutes). Add salt and pepper in moderate quantities. Remover from heat. Add drained, thawed spinach. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Add half the grated parmesan, the pesto, the ricotta and the sunflower seeds. Grind in some extra black pepper. Mix thoroughly.

3. Meanwhile, boil the lasagna noodles until partially cooked. Drain and rinse under cold water.

4. Coat 2 13 x 9 pans with olive oil. Place a layer of noodles in the bottom of each pan. Spread 1/4 of the filling onto the noodles. Sprinkle 1/4 of the mozzarella over the filling.

5. Repeat with remaining filling and mozzarella. Place a final layer of noodles over that.

6. Sprinkle remaining parmesan over the top. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cover with foil and bake at 350ยบ for 35-40 minutes.