Grandpa John’s Flourless Chocolate Cake

WIN_20160130_121602Grandpa John likes chocolate cake. No, Grandpa John loves chocolate cake… but Grandpa John is watching his carbs. No worries. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we love a good baking challenge!

This cake was inspired by the Chocolate Heaven Cake posted at ditchthecarbs.com. Suspecting that Grandpa John’s sweet tooth was just a bit stronger, I used dark chocolate chips with a lower cacao content to cut the bitter undertones. I also added a bit of almond extract and peanut butter, because we love peanut butter around here!

WIN_20160130_100016Ingredients

10 oz bag of dark chocolate chips (53% cacao)

3/4 cup real butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

6 eggs

6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar or other sweetener (I used stevia crystals)

1/4 cup “real” creamy peanut butter (not hydrogenated)

WIN_20160130_103228Directions

Step 1) Melt chocolate chips and butter together in a large skillet over low heat (you’ll be glad you used a LARGE skillet later). Stir constantly to avoid burning the chocolate.

Step 2) Once chocolate is melted and mixture is completely smooth, remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Step 5) In a separate bowl, whip together eggs, whipping cream, and sweetener on high for 5 minutes. The mixture will fluff up very slightly and will turn a pretty lemon yellow color.

Step 5) After the egg mixture is beaten, your chocolate mixture will have cooled enough to proceed. Stir your extracts into the chocolate mixture.

Step 6) Take your time here… slowly fold the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture. Add about 1/4 of the egg mixture at a time, carefully whisking everything together before adding more egg mixture. Aren’t you glad you used your larger skillet now?

Step 7) Once your batter is thoroughly mixed (you shouldn’t see any streaks of egg), carefully pour your mixture into a well greased baking dish. I’m using a 9 inch Springform pan, but a pie pan ought to work just as well.

WIN_20160130_103911Step 8) Spoon peanut butter into a snack size bag and snip off one corner of the bag as shown above. Use this homemade pastry bag to draw a design with peanut butter onto your chocolate cake batter.

Step 9) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until set.

This cake slices easiest when very cold. Enjoy!WIN_20160130_121719

Grandma Jenni’s Chocolate Pixie Cookies

WIN_20151224_094706Merry Christmas! Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, Grandma Jenni’s Chocolate Pixie Cookies are a Christmas favorite. I’m baking these for you in “real time,” on the morning of Christmas Eve. I hope you enjoy them!

My mother-in-law gave me this recipe as part of a bridal shower gift, and explained that these cookies were her son’s very favorite. I still remember making my first batch of Chocolate Pixies as a newlywed, and realizing that these take a bit longer to prepare than plain old chocolate chip cookies. When I showed the finished batch to my husband, I told him “Wow – your mother really loves you!”  🙂

In all seriousness, Grandma Jenni’s Chocolate Pixie Cookies aren’t difficult to make, they just take about 15 minutes longer to prepare than many other cookies. That’s because the recipe begins with unsweetened baker’s chocolate, which needs to be melted and cooled before continuing. See, that’s not so difficult. The end result is spectacular. If a brownie and a cookie got married and had a Christmas baby, well, that’s a Chocolate Pixie.

WIN_20151224_083100Ingredients (Makes about 40 cookies)

4 tablespoons butter

4 ounces unsweetened baker’s chocolate

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups powdered sugar, for rolling

WIN_20151224_090425Directions

Step 1) Over low heat, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir frequently, and really keep that heat low to avoid scorching!

Step 2) Use a rubber scraper to transfer the melted chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl. Allow the chocolate to cool for a few minutes, then mix in sugar (not the powdered sugar!).

Step 3) Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg. Add vanilla and mix well.

Step 4) Add all dry ingredients (not the powdered sugar!) and stir until well combined. Cover and chill dough for at least one hour.

Step 5) Roll chilled dough into small balls, using about 1 heaping teaspoon of dough for each ball. This is easier if you butter your hands a bit, to prevent sticking.

WIN_20151224_091321Step 6) Roll dough balls in powdered sugar and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Make sure dough balls are at least two inches apart, as cookies will spread.

Step 7) Bake at 300 degrees for 12 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Don’t forget to leave a plate of Grandma Jenni’s Chocolate Pixie Cookies for Santa!

Dark Chocolate Mole with Chicken (Cinco de Mayo, Part II)

 

WIN_20150423_182747Mole (pronounced Moh-lay) is a “sauce” like Venus de Milo is just another statue. There are literally thousands of varieties of mole, most of which prominently feature chili peppers and branch out to include countless combinations of additional ingredients. Mole has been central to Mexican cooking since ancient times, and is considered by many to be the most widely recognized “Mexican food” in the world.

WIN_20150423_180012Moles are complex, slow simmering sauces… many ingredients may seem disharmonious at a glance, but when the flavors are properly teased out by grinding, roasting, and simmering, the end result is nothing short of magical.

If you’re hosting a dinner party, you can make mole two or three days ahead of time. The flavors will actually improve when allowed to rest for a few days! On the day of the party, you can offer the mole in it’s own dish for guests to enjoy however they wish, or spoon the mole over your featured meat. Today we’re enjoying Dark Chocolate Mole over roasted chicken, but the mole is just as delicious over pulled pork, grilled shrimp, or even cubes of roasted sweet potatoes and other root vegetables.

One last suggestion before we get started… mole is a great dish to prepare WITH someone rather than FOR someone! Pop in some mariachi music, make a few margaritas, and spend the afternoon creating this magical sauce with a friend. It’s a lovely way to spend the day!

WIN_20150423_153419Ingredients (Makes about 4 cups)

3 dried chili peppers (any varieties which smell good to you)

2 cups pork stock (or use chicken broth)

1 small tomato

1/2 of an onion

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 small corn tortilla

1/2 of a ripe banana

2 ounces dark chocolate (NOT milk chocolate)

Optional ingredients (See Step #8 below): lime juice, chili powder, peanut butter, salt

WIN_20150423_154611Directions

Step 1) Remove stems and seeds from dried peppers (I used one Ancho chili pepper, one Cascabel pepper, and one Chipotle pepper). Place dried peppers in a large skillet and heat over low-medium heat for three minutes, turning once. This step releases the fragrant oils in the peppers.

Step 2) While the peppers are heating, microwave 2 cups of good quality pork stock in a medium size bowl. The stock doesn’t need to boil, but should be pretty hot. Remove the bowl from the microwave, add the dried peppers to the bowl, and cover for 20 minutes. This softens the peppers and blends the “first layer” of flavors.

WIN_20150423_160528Step 3) While the peppers are soaking, let’s get started on the “second layer” of flavors. Add one small, chopped tomato, half of a chopped onion, 2 minced cloves of garlic, and 1 teaspoon of olive oil to your skillet. Sautee over low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and are a pale golden color.

WIN_20150423_162211Step 4) Next, add 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 small corn tortilla (torn into pieces) to the skillet. Stir everything around over low-medium heat for another 5 minutes.

WIN_20150423_162611Step 5) Then, add 2 tablespoons of water and 1/2 of a banana (sliced) to the pan. Reduce the heat and sautee over low heat for 5 minutes.

Step 6) Transfer the contents of your skillet AND the bowl of peppers and pork stock to a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour the contents of the blender back into the skillet. This is where the real magic begins to happen…

WIN_20150423_164835Step 7) Sprinkle 2 ounces of chopped dark chocolate (at least 50% cacao, the higher the better) to the skillet. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 8) Make your Mole your Own! Taste your Dark Chocolate Mole and decide if it needs one or more of the following… but don’t get carried away. Remember, you can always add more of an ingredient, but it’s not so easy to remove once it’s already in the pan! I recommend trying ONE extra ingredient at a time. You might add (optional!):

  • 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice to brighten things up
  • 1/2 teaspoon of hot chili powder for heat
  • 1 tablespoon of creamy peanut butter (whisked in) to add body
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (not my preference, but this is YOUR mole!)

Step 9) Serve with chicken – roasted in your own oven, or a rotisserie chicken that you picked up ready made… it doesn’t matter. The Dark Chocolate Mole is the star of this meal!