Chocolate Recipes: Exploring the World of Cocoa with Savory Spice

Chocolate Recipes: Exploring the World of Cocoa with Savory Spice

As any loyal reader knows, I have a thing for chocolate so when Savory Spice Shop approached the Virtual Potluck (VP) gang and we were all charged with choosing a section — I chose the baking section because Savory Spice Online has six different kinds of cocoa/cacao powder residing there.  Ah! The rich splendor of cocoa!

For the rest of this month, The Groovy Foody will be exploring the world of cocoa with a total of six recipes (one for each type) including a bevy of savory entries, because  if you haven’t experienced cocoa or chocolate in it’s non-dessert form, you’re only getting half the picture. (more…)

Dark Chocolate, Coconut Butter and Avocado Pudding

Dark Chocolate, Coconut Butter and Avocado Pudding

I’m in the midst of building a better me (gluten-free and lower sugar) — but that is a hard road most days, because I’m a chocoholic. Luckily the VP gang and I all received big boxes, chock full of avocados from So Cal Avocados. Delicious good-for-you-fat, avocados, that help lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, while boosting your good cholesterol.

That extra creamy fat-feel on your tongue can also translate into less fat on your thighs too, because when you replace other fatty food cravings during a dietary change, with avocado, your body feels more satiated — leaving you less likely to binge. And avocados are fiber-licious, helping you to feel fuller and aiding in your body’s digestion. Not only that,  but these little alligator-skinned beauties are like nutrition bombs — packed with potassium and vitamins A, C, E, and K. (more…)

Best Chocolate Cupcakes EVER! (made with quinoa!?!): A Tasty and Healthy New Year

Best Chocolate Cupcakes EVER! (made with quinoa!?!): A Tasty and Healthy New Year

Best choco-cupcakes in Bella Cupcake Couture Wrappers (Meisha Bird & Blossom)

Now, you’re probably thinking, “OK, GF, now that’s a mighty big claim you’re making — BEST. . .EVER? and did you say, with QUINOA!??!”

Yes, I did and BTW, did I tell you it’s flourless and gluten-free?

No, I will not back down from my claim.

These cupcakes are so rock-your-socks delish that I cannot see me making a traditional chocolate cupcake ever again.

Yes, you read that right.

Yes, I put these on a pedestal –one by Sarah’s Stands http://sarahsstands.com/

The Search for the Best Chocolate Cupcake

For years, I have been looking for the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe and though I have found some great cakes along the way, none even comes close to this one.  That’s because I am SUPER and I mean, SUPER picky about chocolate cupcakes. It can’t just be chocolate and sweet. And frosting — I hate traditional buttercream– too sweet and heavy for my tastes and it overwhelms the kind of cake I prefer.

When it comes to chocolate cake, I need depth of flavor in my chocolate– midnight black, preferably. I want to taste the night sky that the cacao pods grew under in each dark mouthful. But that density cannot come at the expense of the cake’s crumb or moisture. I would rather not have cake than eat a dry piece, trying to choke it down with lots of milk. I have ditched many a cupcake over this issue.

Naked cupcakes — In food porn, this is the money shot (Bella Cupcake Couture’s Lu Lu Damask)

My Chocolate Cupcake Criteria:

  • Deep, dark chocolate flavor (night sky, remember?)
  • Delicate crumb but not crumbly
  • Moist, but durable enough to frost and carry without a crumby trail following you
  • The frosting must be rich in flavor and mouth-feel without being greasy, heavy or over-sugared

I told you I had high standards. 😉 

Which is why, when I tell you this is IT — you’d better believe me.

Grab your notebook and jot this recipe down or turn on your printer and print it out. . . NOW!

I’ll wait.  I am not joking. I wouldn’t joke about a thing like this. I take it —much– too– serious.

Cocoa, quinoa and sugar– the new cupcake trinity

A Happy Accident

I fell into this recipe, sort of by blissful accident. As you may know, me, and the 12 other VP bloggers, are spending the month using Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch products in recipes for the Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge. At the same time, most of us have also pledged to Build a Better Me (our own year-long effort to get healthier in 2012) — for my part, I decided to go gluten-free for a while. (Which was fine,because my recipes containing flour for BRM/COR promo had been completed in December, before I went gluten-free.)

Except . . . in a twist of fate, 30AEats blogger, Susan, found herself out of town (and away from her BRM products) when she needed to post last week. She ran out to procure her ingredients for last week’s challenge, except she couldn’t find the Grande Grains that were scheduled. Being resourceful, Susan opted for this week’s grain, Quinoa (read all about her adventures here) and as luck would have it, unbeknowst to Susan,  decided to make the same dish, I was going to share with you this week — Quinoa Tabouleh.

I had to start from scratch, again. I wanted to do something out of the box, something that maybe none of my other blogger friends would be doing. I thought– dessert! But the obvious choice (a grain pudding) I just did last week.

Quinoa batter before dry ingredients

Meanwhile, being gluten-free for going on three weeks was beginning to take its toll– I craved cake, cookies, bread and pasta. I knew there were gluten-free cakes made with quinoa flour and thought maybe I could make the flour myself from the dry quinoa.

I began to search for gluten-free recipes online, typing in “gluten-free cakes” and “quinoa flour cakes.” There were a lot of ingredients in these recipes and a variety of match-ups of different kinds of gluten-free flours — I couldn’t decide.

But then, I accidentally forgot to type in “flour” on my next search. I just typed “quinoa cake,” and found myself staring face to face with, what looked in pictures, to be the richest, moistest, chocolatey-ist cake I’d ever seen.

I read the post on babble.com, it said it was delicious. But, you never really know about these things. I read the comments, people were extolling the virtues of this cake– still, I wasn’t sure. There wasn’t a morsel of flour in this recipe. Just whole grain, fully-cooked quinoa and the other usual suspects– cocoa, eggs, butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla. Really? REALLY??

Now, I’ve been a fan of quinoa for years but as a replacement for rice or cous cous — never in baking. I was intrigued. Would it work as cupcakes? Or would they dry out too much? Would it be chalky, gritty or flavorless. Would there be a lingering bitter bite?

What the heck, I thought, I decided to dive in.

After the dry ingredients

I admit, I tweaked the recipe, just a smidge along the way, substituting some of the butter for California Olive Ranch’s Everyday Fresh Olive Oil to bring a few extra flavor notes and some heart healthy goodness to the recipe. I also whipped up a frosting (after tasting how great the cake was) that would complement the cake, but not overwhelm it.

The results were amazing! Thank goodness (like Bob Ross used to say) for happy little accidents.

If Susan had not forgotten her grains, if we had not decided to make the same dish — I may NEVER have found the world’s most perfect chocolate cupcake, which means, I woudn’t be passing it along to you. (Thank you Susan!)

Into the oven

I KNOW you want to kill me now — “Where’s the damn recipe!!” you’re shouting.

OK, OK pipe down — here it is.

But when you taste this and you inevitably swoon with delight, remember who brought it to you and think of me kindly from time to time –the girl with the perfect cupcake.

Best Chocolate Cupcakes Ever w/Honey-Cocoa Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

The frosting is entirely my own creation and something I just whipped up out of thin air, tasting as I went until the desired consistency and flavor was reached. It is very much like a fluffy, light, chocolate mousse — rich, chocolatey with a touch of honey-kissed sweetness. It glides on smoothly and floating on top of the moist, light but deeply flavored chocolate cakes.

Cupcake Batter

  • 2/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quinoa
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup soymilk (you can use dairy or sub other milks if you like)
  • 4 large organic brown eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup California Olive Ranch Everyday Fresh Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Rinse and prepare the quinoa according to directions using the water measurements above. Once the quinoa is done, turn off the heat and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow the quinoa to cool. (Do not rush this.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the cups of two 1 dozen non-stick cupcake pans (no flour) or use cupcake wrappers.

Combine the milk, eggs and vanilla in a blender or food processor. Add 2 cups of cooled, cooked quinoa and blend until smooth. Add the oil and melted butter and blend to incorporate.

In the meantime, mix together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in your mixer bowl. Add the contents of the blender and mix well. scoop the batter with an ice cream scoop into the cupcake pans and bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.

Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan before serving. Frost if desired (these are delicious without frosting as well.)

Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Frosting

4oz cream room temp cheese

1/2 cup room temp butter

1/4 cup honey

1tsp pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup cocoa

1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered sugar (depending on desired consistency)

1tBsp almond milk

Cream butter and cream cheese together in a mixing bowl, slowly adding your honey as you continue to mix. Then add carefully add the cocoa and powdered sugar, bit by bit, alternating between the two. Add vanilla and almond milk until desired consistency is achieved. I like mine light, fluffy and mousse-like. If you like yours a bit more stiff add more powdered sugar or cocoa to firm it up a bit.

Frost cupcakes when cooled.

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

Frosted Per Serving — Calories: 234, Dietary Fiber: 3.2g, Sugars: 15.3g, Protein: 4.5g
Un-Frosted Per Serving — Calories: 158, Dietary Fiber: 2.0g, Sugars: 8.4g, Protein: 3.7g

Trust me, 3 year olds are picky and he LOVES ’em!

A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge Giveaway

Each week, the VP bloggers will challenge you to find (and use) the secret code word of the week, posted in the contest tab labeled “Virtual Potluck” on the California Olive Ranch Facebook page.

Each blogger will pick a single winner per week to receive a pack of the featured products from Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch.

That’s right- four weeks, 12 winners each week! That’s like 48 chances to win! The more blogs you visit the more chances you have to win~ so what are you waiting for?! Let’s get cooking (and eating!) A Tasty and Healthy New Year!

For more information on how you can win– visit the host page for links to the other sites!

Densely Dark Chocolate Brownies with Salted Caramel

Densely Dark Chocolate Brownies with Salted Caramel

Chocolate

Chocolate! Oh, what can I say about chocolate that hasn’t been written before and better. Probably nothing. But still, I am possessed by the spirit goddess of the cacao bean and as devoted to spreading the beauty of her rich message as any disciple in history.

I enjoy chocolate in pies, cakes and cookies, in sauces and savories, and scenting massage oils, sugar scrubs,  bubble baths and candles. I watch the movie Chocolat at least once each year and require a nearly religious stillness in my house to do so.  (See the GrooVyMovies entry.)

http://youtu.be/2tasemnJ_uA

My husband has on his hard drive, a spreadsheet dedicated to the brands of chocolate that I prefer and which flavor combinations are my favorites (Moonstruck’s  Ocumarian truffle, Alma’s Salted Lavender Caramel, Godiva’s raspberry filled milk chocolate twirl and white chocolate star)  so that he will never get it wrong — but how could he? The Goddess is never wrong and even in the cheapest derivations I can find some solace.

I prefer dark chocolate’s intense whisperings because they linger there on the tongue, revealing hints of orange peel or scents of fresh pipe tobacco or lush berries and I adore pairing fine dark chocolates with fruity red wines. But I have been known to curl my toes and roll my eyes towards the heavens over the creamy silken riches a good Swiss or Belgium milk chocolate can provide. I even have a healthy affection for the smooth butteriness of white chocolate, though technically not chocolate, this white siren transforms herself from the cocoa bean.

Buttermilk Bownies from A Well-Seasoned Life’s Blog

Since childhood,  one of my most favored ways to indulge my chocolate lust has been with brownies. Cake-like, chewy, crunchy topped and fault ridden, buttermilk, homemade or boxed, frosted or topped with powdered sugar, dark or milk, with chips or nuts or cream cheese or just plain — I have always enjoyed brownies.

Warm brownie batter – YUM!

But my favorite preparation of brownies these days, is a recipe I’ve been playing with for the past couple of years, willing it just right. It is the most densely dark, moist, chewy and truffle-like brownie I have ever tasted and because of this, I felt it needed just a little something to juxtapose it’s darkness, to lighten its depth — caramel, came to mind but then I needed to balance its sweetness — I decided upon sea salt. The result is true cocoa’d perfection. Not one person who has ever eaten them has not dissolved into the sort of pleasure sounds and face-making that usually accompany another libidinous past-time. (And like that past-time chocolate is good for you these days too, don’t ya know?)

And the bonus — they are SO easy to make.  (See my recipe for caramel sauce to top these dark ladies.)

Before heading into the oven ~ I never get the “after shot” because we eat them too fast

Densely Dark Brownies with Salted Caramel topping

*GLUTEN-FREE ADAPTATION BELOW*

Dense because they only use half a cup of flour, dark with cocoa and topped with homemade caramel sauce and sea salt — Scrumptious!

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large cold eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 cup homemade caramel sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Heat over to 350 and line the bottom and sides of 8 inch baking pan with baking paper or foil — be sure to leave a little overhang on the sides, this will help you lift a gooey brownie from the pan for easy cooling and cutting.

Heat and mix butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a double boiler or if you don’t have a double boiler, use  one the metal bowl or small pot, inside a pot of boiling water set-up to make your own. Stir periodically, until the butter is melted and everything is mixed smooth. Remove from heat of boil and set aside until it cools to warm — not hot.

Stir in vanilla and add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously until completely mixed. When the batter looks blended and shiny, add  flour and stirring vigorously until well-mixed.  Spread evenly into lined pan, drizzle the top with cooled caramel sauce and sprinkle the caramel trails with sea salt — course is best but fine will work too.

Bake until toothpick inserted  into the center to test, is only slightly moist with batter, around 20 minutes. Allow to cool and caramel to set, then lift brownies out of the pan by their paper or foil for cutting and serving.

Makes one pan or 9 to 16 brownies depending on size of  squares cut.

Gluten Free Adaptation

Remove flour and increase cocoa to 1 cup and baking soda to 1/4 tsp.

Luscious Cocoa is all the Rage in Red Velvet

Luscious Cocoa is all the Rage in Red Velvet

Red Velvet CupcakesEver since cupcakeries started rising up all over the country, from big cities like NYC’s Magnolia Bakery and LA’s Sprinkles to small boutique stand-outs like Boise’s Buttercup Happy Cakes and Portland’s many purveyor’s  (St. Cupcake, Cupcake Jones & The Sugar Cube) red velvet has seen a resurgence. ( Sprinkles even offers a gluten-free red velvet.)

Red Velvet Cupcakes w/mascarpone Buttercream Frosting

This delectable Southern concoction was previously relegated to a 50’s era favorite, before the grey armadillo exterior meets blood-red velvet interior of the groom’s cake featured in Steel Magnolias, brought this flavor screaming back into our collective consciousness. As one of my favorite sites, Foodista recently pointed out, you can get your red velvet fix in a variety of incarnations from whoopie pies and ice cream to cookies and Rice Krispy treats.

Red velvet pancakes with mascarpone topping & turkey bacon

But my all-time favorite recipe for this scarlet blushed confection is the Red Velvet pancakes featured with marscapone spread and Grand Marnier syrup in last February’s  Minnesota Monthly, from Chef Becky J. Windels of The Herb Box. They are incredibly moist and chocolatey, yet not overly sweet and not too rich (even with the mascarpone!). The recipe makes a ton, which you can save and use again the next day or you can do what I do and use the leftover batter for the most moist and fluffy cupcakes ever, frosted with mascarpone buttercream.  Yum!

A delight for and anniversary or Valentine's Day

If you live in Minnesota, I highly recommend you head on over to The Herb Box and get yourself a heaping stack of red velvet bliss — you’re welcome!

HERB BOX RED VELVET PANCAKES

By Chef Becky Windels

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
1 c. organic white sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cage free large eggs, lightly beaten
3 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. crème fraiche
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp. all natural red food coloring
3 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. rice bran oil

Directions: In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Add wet and dry together and whisk just until combined. Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium high heat. When hot, add butter or oil to grease, followed by a small scoop of the batter. Wait for the pancakes to bubble (2-3 minutes), flip and cook for a minute or two more. Garnish with mascarpone spread and Grand Marnier syrup.
Yield: Approx. 18 mid-size pancakes

MASCARPONE SPREAD
8 oz. softened mascarpone
4 oz. crème fraiche
1/4 c. organic white sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon zest

Directions: In a small bowl, whisk together to combine.
Yield: Approx. 14 oz

GRAND MARNIER SYRUP
2 c. organic sugar
2 c. water
1/2 c. organic orange concentrate
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 c. Grand Marnier
Slurry organic corn starch

Directions: Heat all ingredients to dissolve. Add cornstarch as needed to thicken.
Yield: One quart
Recipe as featured in Elizabeth Dehn’s article in Minnesota Monthly, entitled “Elizabeth’s Pick: Red Velvet Pancakes