CioccolaTò & The Mole

On Sunday we went to Torino to experience their annual chocolate festival, CioccolaTò. I have to say, it wasn’t as impressive as I was hoping.  Torino has several famous chocolate making companies–Venchi, Streglio, Peyrano, etc. — and a couple new, smaller artisan producers like Giraudi are popping up now that the city is promoting its chocolate history.

There were a few free samples and lots of hot chocolate (too bad it was 70 degrees out!), but nothing really creative or new, at least in the stands that were in the main piazza.  Maybe next year I’ll have to check out the laboratories.

Afterwards we went to the Mole to check out the National Museum of Film.  There was lots to see and a sort of magic glass elevator that took you up to the top to see the few of Torino from above.  Groovy.

Dad’s Favorite Brownies

Well, I officially started baking for the big Valentine’s Day party the night before last.  I swear, I think this is the first time I’ve made a dessert and managed to freeze half of it before eating it all!  Willpower.  I made my Dad’s favorite brownie recipe, which is incredibly quick and easy:

Dad’s Supreme Brownies


1 cup (8oz, 2 sticks) Butter, unsalted
2 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Baking Cocoa, superior quality
4 Eggs, beaten
2/3 cup AP Flour
1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
Salt, to taste
2 tsp. Vanilla or other flavoring, optional
2 cups Chocolate Chips/Chunks
1/2 cup Nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a 13×9 pan.
1. Barely melt the butter in a small saucepan; remove from heat.  Add sugar and cocoa; mix well.  Add the eggs & mix.

2.  Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Form a well in the middle, and slowly add the chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients.  Mix just until all the flour has been incorporated.  Stir in the chips and nuts.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the brownies pull away from the edges of the pan.  Do not underbake.

Chef Jorin’s Super Secret Milk Chocolate Caramels

As you can see from the title of this article, I should not even be posting this recipe online.  I promised Chef that I would not publish all of the CIA’s top secret recipes, and I intend to keep that promise.  This recipe, however, was one of his personal recipes, and I am duly giving him credit for his ingeniousness, so hopefully he won’t come track me down with a pot of boiling sugar to dump over my head.  I have actually changed the recipe slightly, but the basic proportions are his, so let us all bow down and thank the Great Jorin for these scrumdidilyumpsciuous chocolates; one of my all-time favorite truffle recipes.

Milk Chocolate Caramels

Yield: Enough for a Small Village  (Seriously, this makes a ton of truffles, if you want less, I would recommend using the same amount of sugar to make the caramel , half all the rest of the ingredients, and throwing half of the caramel away–very carefully–before adding the cream.  Making a smaller dose of caramel can get tricky as the sugar crystallizes more easily.)


4.5 oz. Sugar

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

1 cup Heavy Cream, very warm

18oz. Superior Quality Milk Chocolate (I like Lindt)

2 Tbsp. Butter, room temperature, chopped

A dash of liquor (hazelnut or almond flavored is nice) 

Chocolate for finishing, see Step #8


1.  Chop the chocolate with a serrated knife and place in a large bowl.  Make sure your butter is at room temp and chopped into pieces–throw it into the bowl with the chocolate.  Get a cup of water and a pastry brush out to wipe the sides of the pot while you make the caramel.  If you have a pastry bag, get that out and put in a 1/4-1/2 inch round tip.  Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Put the heavy cream in the microwave for a minute to warm it up–it should be hot, but you don’t want a skin.

2.Place the sugar and lemon juice in a medium sized saucepan over low heat and mix.  Let the sugar melt slowly, if it seems like there are little pieces of sugar on the sides of the saucepan that are starting to burn, brush the sides down with a little bit of water.  When the sugar has barely turned to liquid, stir with a whisk so that the sugar cooks evenly (there will probably be hot spots in your pan; you don’t want one part to burn black and the other to not cook at all: stir to combine).  When the sugar starts to really bubble, you can stop using your whisk.  Watching all the time, allow the sugar to cook until it’s one shade lighter than you want your caramel.  Use your best judgement; if the sugar is too dark, it’s going to taste burnt, if it’s too light, it’s not going to taste like anything (remember you still have to add all that chocolate and the cream, so that will dilute the caramel flavor a bit).  I usually let it go until it’s a deep amber brown.  In some boutique chocolate shops, Burnt Sugar is a very popular flavor, so don’t despair too much if your caramel is a little darker than you anticipated.  If it’s black however, you’re better off starting again.

3.When the sugar is one shade lighter than you want your caramel to be, carefully add the hot cream (BE CAREFUL, the sugar will bubble up drastically when you add the cream!!), whisking constantly over medium heat until you have a uniform consistency.

4.  Quickly pour the caramel sauce over the prepared chocolate and butter.  Let sit for a minute (so that the chocolate has time to absorb the heat of the caramel) and then stir briskly with a whisk; add liquor. 

5.  When you’ve got a uniform consistency, and the chocolate and butter have completely melted, cover with plastic wrap and put into fridge until your ganache is cool enough to pipe.  Put ganache into your pastry bag and pipe small domes (about the size of your thumbnail).  Pipe your domes close together to save space and don’t worry if they’re not perfect domes; we’re going to roll them between our hands later to even out the major imperfections. 

If you don’t have a pastry bag you can spread the ganache in a 9×13 baking dish lined with parchment (so that the parchment comes up the sides as well, you want excess to make it easy to pull it out of the pan later).  Cover with plastic wrap and put into fridge to cool.  Later when the ganache has hardened you’ll be able to slice little squares and then roll them to make globes.

6.  Let the ganache sit in a cool dark place until hardened, or if you want to speed up the process put it in the fridge.

7.  When the ganache has cooled, put on a pair (or if you have really hot hands, put on two pair) of plastic, single-use gloves and gently roll your chocolates until they’re round.  Remember, they’re called truffles for a reason–real truffles, the mushrooms that are hunted in northern Italy and France by dogs and pigs, are FAR from perfectly round.  Your truffles don’t need to be perfectly round either.

8.  Now you’re ready to finish the truffles in tempered chocolate. (Or if you don’t want to bother with tempering, you could roll them in cocoa, powdered sugar, ground nuts, or something like that).  Here is a good article on how to go about tempering your chocolate (use whichever you like, white, milk, dark….).

9.  When your tempered chocolate is ready, prepare a baking sheet or two with clean parchment, put on a clean pair of single-use gloves, smear some of your tempered chocolate on your left hand, pick up one or two trufflesand roll them into the chocolate on your hand and over your fingers, making sure the truffle is completely covered.  You don’t want there to be a lot of excess chocolate on your truffle, because it will make a “foot” or a flat bottom on your truffle.  (A major no-no amoung professional chocolatiers).  Place on the parchement paper in nice neat rows and keep going!!

Prunes & Chocolate

prunes.jpgI am addicted to prunes and dark chocolate together. OH YUMMERS! There is a typical wintery dish from Piedmont that involves wild boar, cocoa and prunes that is just to die for. I’ve seen people do a garnish for this dish where you pit the prunes, insert a chunk of dark chocolate, roll them in bread crumbs and fry them. (Crunchy bread crumbs, plump fruit, molten chocolate…) I feel it would make a great snack or pre-dessert as well! I’ve been wanting to make a dark chocolate fondue to dip my new favorite fruit in for awhile now…

Prunes are so flavorful and so under-appreciated. Today I had a snack of prunes & chocolate with a new chocolate bar from Perugia that incorporates little pieces of cocoa nibs. It was highly enjoyable with the extra crunch of the nibs.

I love this great combination of savory and sweet!

In other prune news, a couple of weeks ago Luca made a pot roast with prunes in the sauce that was awesome. I’ll get him to post the recipe.

In honor of the prune, I leave you this WONDERFUL recipe for Prune Armagnac Cake, which was published in either Gourmet or Bon Appettit several years ago. They say you can substitute the armagnac with cognac or grappa barricato, but I’ve tried all three and the armagnac version is 10 times better. Don’t be afraid to open a new bottle of armagnac just to use in this recipe–it will keep for a long time, and I guarantee you’ll want to make the cake again soon!) This cake is great for both breakfast and dessert. It’s nice and big too, and freezes wonderfully, so put half in the freezer to save for a rainy day if you can’t eat it all in one weekend. Enjoy!

Prune Armagnac Cake
16 Servings
Pitted prunes 12 oz. (Save yourself the work and buy them already pitted!)
Water 2 cups
Armagnac 1/2 cup

Vegetable oil 1 1/2 cups
Sugar 2 1/4 cups
Eggs 5 ea.
Vanilla 2 Tbsp.
All Purpose Flour 3 cups
Baking Soda 1 Tbsp.
Cinnamon 2 1/2 tsp.
Nutmeg 1 tsp.
Allspice 1 tsp.
Cardammon 1/2 tsp. (if you don’t have it, don’t worry, it’s great without this spice too!)
Cloves 1/2 tsp.
Salt 1 tsp.
Buttermilk 1 1/2 cups (if you don’t have buttermilk, add 2 tsp. of lemon juice or vinegar to the milk and stir)

Sugar 1 1/2 cups
Butter 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks)
Armagnac 1/2 cup
Light Corn Syrup or Honey 2 Tbsp.
Lemon Juice 2 Tbsp
Baking Soda 1 tsp.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Butter & flour a 12 cup bundt pan. In a medium-sized sauce pan, place the prunes, water and armagnac and simmer until fruit is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain prunes reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid for glaze (I hate to throw the rest of that great sauce away–if you’re using the cake for dessert, save all of the sauce and use it for garnish!) If you feel like it and have time, coarsely chop the prunes, if not, simmer the prunes a little longer so that they’re soft enough to break up with a spoon during mixing.

2. Beat oil, sugar, eggs & vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. In a separate bowl (or on a piece of parchment/foil), combine flour, soda, spices and salt.

3. Mix dry ingredients into the oil mixture. Add buttermilk, beating batter just until smooth. Fold in chopped prunes, distributing evenly throughout batter. Transfer batter to prepared baking pan (it’s a big cake!). Bake until tester inserted in center comes out clean–about 1 hour & 5 minutes.

4. Towards the end of the baking time, prepare the glaze (you want the glaze to be warm when the cake comes out of the oven). Combine the 1/4 cup of reserved prune cooking liquid, sugar, butter, armagnac, corn syrup, lemon juice and baking soda in a med-large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly (about 2 minutes).

5. When the cake comes out of the oven and is still nice and hot, pierce in several places (poke the devil out of it!!) with a long wooden skewer (or similar instrument of torture). Brush/pour/spoon the glaze onto the cake covering thoroughly. Make several passes to use up all the glaze. Cool at least 30 minutes before turning out of pan. Bon Appettito!!

Ultimate Hot Chocolate

hc.jpgIt’s so hard to find really good hot chocolate these days. My ultimate hot chocolate is made with very dark chocolate–a 70% couvature would be lovely–it’s nice and warm, but not hot enough to burn my tongue and not so hot that I have to wait for fifteen minutes before it’s safe to drink. It’s smooth, frothy, flavorful and satisfying; obviously not a hot chocolate made with powder. Just the thought of those little packets with rock hard mini-mallows makes my teeth feel gritty. If you’ve got a craving for the real stuff, try this thick, rich, creamy recipe–especially nice served with a crisp little cookie:

Milk 1 cup
Heavy Cream 1 cup
Sugar 1/8 cup
Chocolate, finely chopped (or chips) 3 oz.
And a dash of vanilla, if you’ve got some on hand

*Note: If you don’t have cream, use some combination of half and half or Vitamin D milk–whatever you have– and it will still be ten times better than the powdered stuff. Be advised this recipe tastes best with at least some dairy with a high fat content.*

1. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla, in a saucepot, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Bring just to a simmer and pour over the chocolate. Let sit one minute; whisk to combine. If you’ve got an immersion blender, blend that baby up! If not, whisk vigorously so you get some of that great froth. Yummers.

Weight Training With Cacao

I tried a dessert called “death by Chocolate,” but it only made me stronger.

A nice box of chocolates can provide your total daily intake of calories in one place. Now, isn’t that handy?

1 of 2