Archived entries for chocolate

Just out of the ordinary: Aztec Chocolate Cupcakes.

If you’re on this site, you are probably of the same mind as I am, but I’m going to just go ahead and say it out loud: I love the Internet. It’s the ultimate playground for a misanthrope with an esoteric shopping list such as myself. Seriously. It’s where I get my news, my entertainment, my lessons in cookery, my clothing, everything. It’s also where I stumble across such useful articles as this.



I mean, before reading that, I had no idea that my intent was malicious when I brought in delicious baked goods to share with my colleagues. I thought I was just sharing something that I’d wanted to make; thank goodness I have the Daily Mail to tell me that secretly, what I want to do is distend the army of gorgeous women that I work with (and, in the interest of full disclosure, I work with some ridiculously beautiful women)! I feel so much more informed right now. So much more aware of who I am as a human. So full of evil glee. *ahem*


Now that I have revealed my innermost evil to you all, let’s talk about the delights that have formed the most recent weapon in my campaign to infect my colleagues with delicious treats: Aztec Chocolate Cupcakes! Essentially, it’s the gourmet Hostess cupcake of my dreams: chocolate cupcake with cinnamon and chili, topped with a luscious cinnamon-chocolate glaze. It’s a flavor combination I’d been contemplating for some time, enamored as I am with Mexican hot chocolate and all things cinnamon, and this seemed like the perfect vehicle. I was not wrong. The cinnamon and chili took what was originally just a perfect chocolate cupcake, and made it something warm and magical; the cinnamon-infused glaze gave it an unctuous richness.

Now, if chocolate and chili is not your jam, I’d still like to ask you to check out this recipe–omit the spices, and you’ve got what I consider to be a perfect chocolate cupcake base, an ideal canvas for your chocolate flights of fancy. It’s moist, has a lovely, light crumb, and takes to experimenting with enthusiasm. I personally plan to try at least a few more riffs on it in the near future, though I’m not yet sure what form or flavor profile that will take.

I’ll probably end up asking The Internet.

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Paging all Abuelitas: Chicken with Mole Negro

I’m noticing a worrying pattern in my cooking (beyond the fact that right now, I appear to be dishing up All Epic Fail, All the Time): I am becoming distressingly addicted to extremely complicated recipes. This is a truth that was driven home to me the other day by my friend J, who in telling me about a casserole he was about to make happened to mention that he knew better than to tangle with making anything that I might bring to a picnic. Hard words. But true, particularly so now that my schedule has changed and I suddenly have the time to spend four hours on a Tuesday making a sauce. I choose to think of it as my own personal take on Recession Cooking.

Chicken Mole

My latest labor is something I’ve been meaning to try for a long time: a Mole Negro. For those of you unfamiliar with the dish, mole negro is an aromatic, complex mexican sauce, flavored with chilis and chocolate. From what I can gather, it’s the mexican equivalent to the za’ataar blend, in that no two recipes are alike, and people guard their formulas viciously. This is both good and bad for the uninitiated cook. On the one hand, it allows for a certain amount of freedom in developing a recipe; on the other hand I don’t have a goddamn clue what I’m doing, and none of the roadmaps seem to agree. However, I thrive on that kind of chaos (and, hey, I had a half pound of unsweetened chocolate in my cupboard that needed attention STAT), so I rolled up my sleeves, reconstituted my chilis, and dove right in. Heedlessly, as I am wont to do.

The result?

Mole Negro

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Spiking Dessert: Eggless Tiramisu with Marsala and Kahlua

Everyone is writing about Twitter these days, perhaps because it’s really happening, or perhaps because everyone wants to figure out what the heck it’s good for. Quick answer: it’s great for wasting time. But I’ve also found that Twitter is a pretty interesting way to connect with people I may not have gotten to chat with otherwise, as well as a chance see a behind-the-scenes look at bloggers I admire. And it’s a useful forum for asking for advice on recipes and restaurants.

I was daydreaming about dessert when I asked my twitter-people (tweeps? Are we really calling them that?) whether they had any tips on tiramisu ingredients or technique. The kind person who contributes to Twitter for Everyday Food magazine responded, volunteering an easy recipe for me to try. How cool! But to me, their recipe just isn’t the real thing. These days, mascarpone is easy enough to find (especially in New York) so there was no way I was substituting a bar of reduced-fat-cream cheese. I wanted to grate some nice dark chocolate into it, too, not just use cocoa powder. Instant espresso isn’t really my game (it just tastes off to me, even in baked goods) and the recipe didn’t call for any alcohol!
We here at Pithy and Cleaver don’t mind baking with booze. Shiv did invent a Mint Julep Pie, after all. I was further encouraged when I stopped at the farmer’s market for a bottle of fresh cream. The woman from Milk Thistle Farm who sold me a bottle of lovely heavy cream offered her advice: for that true sophisticated tiramisu taste, I should go to a nice liquor store and buy a decent bottle of marsala. It just wouldn’t be the same without it. “One last thing,” she warned. “Don’t soak the ladyfingers too long. And don’t overbeat the cream, it’s so full of milk fat, it will turn into butter.”

Trying not to think of the giant tub of near-butter I was about to serve my unsuspecting guests, I headed for the liquor store with a plan. For this grown-up tiramisu, there would be not one, but two kinds of booze. Good freshly whipped cream, good chocolate, real coffee (spiked with Kahlua!) and real mascarpone, with a touch of marsala. Decadent, for sure.

And really delicious. Like, eye-rolling, expletive-dropping delicious.

This is the perfect dessert for company, since it requires no oven and must be assembled a few hours ahead. It’s dramatic looking—your guests will be so impressed, they cannot imagine what a breeze it was to put together. It’s rich, but not cloying. Traditionally, tiramisu has raw egg yolks in it, but this nearly-eggless version is worry-free. (If you’re allergic to eggs, you’ll need to find an eggless version of savoiardi, but if you’re just nervous about raw eggs, like me, then this recipe is perfect.) Don’t be scared of all the alcohol, the taste is just sophisticated, not too potent.

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Spiced Hot Cocoa Rice Pudding

Winter is tricky. It’s freeze-your-face-off cold, and the days are short and dark. It’s enough to make anyone crave comfort food. On the other hand, we’re all trying to eat a little healthier.

This recipe may not be totally guilt free, but it’s pretty impressive on that front. And so rich tasting you only need a few bites. As in risotto, the rice gives off velvety starch, thickening the pudding on its own, with the help of creamy nonfat yogurt. Considering it doesn’t call for eggs or cream or even 2% milk, it came out shockingly rich and fudgy, like Mexican hot cocoa frozen in time. No one would ever guess how light it really is.

For me, though, if you’re going to eat chocolate, it should really be darker. This pudding lacked the bitter edge of serious chocolate. If you’re a milk chocolate fan, then this recipe is for you. But if you like your chocolate intense and deep, consider using really good (expensive) and truly dark chocolate—maybe with a 75% cocoa content. I bet it would be nice with a bit of brewed (decaf) espresso thrown in, too. Yum. For Valentine’s day, perhaps?

Or go the other way. It’s kind of sad to lose the lovely simplicity of rice pudding by throwing chocolate into the mix. Chocolate overshadows the custardy, nutmeggy flavor of classic rice pudding, to the point where the nubby texture of rice seems out of place. I can’t guarantee that this pudding will be perfect without the chocolate, but it’s an interesting method to start with. Try dialing back the ginger and increasing the nutmeg, adding raisins, orange zest, etc. Let me know how it goes!

Spiced Hot Cocoa Rice Pudding

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 4

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of coarse salt
1 vanilla bean
3 1/2 cups skim milk
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or chips
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt, preferably Greek-style

1. Make the pudding: Whisk together cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Split vanilla bean and scrape into saucepan, add bean too. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low-medium heat. I love using enameled cast iron for this sort of thing. Add rice; toast, stirring constantly, until edges are translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add hot milk mixture; bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid, about 20 minutes. Add ginger and cinnamon. Cook another 10 minutes or so. If rice is not tender and has already absorbed the liquid, you can add a little more milk or water (or brewed coffee!) and let it absorb the way you do with risotto. Keep in mind that pudding will thicken as it cools—leave it a little loose and liquidy.

3. Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Add liquor and chocolate; stir until chocolate has melted. Stir in yogurt. Pour into a serving bowl or individual dessert bowls. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Top with light whipped cream or more greek yogurt. Don’t tell anyone it’s healthy.

Cookie conundrum, part 2: Dark chocolate and ginger crinkles.


First of all: Happy new year! We just woke up.

I was going to write about these cookies yesterday, but time got away from me (glitter waits for no blog!) and before I knew it, people showed up and then it was 2009 and there were fireworks and champagne. Years come and go so quickly here!

So! Cookies. I found these in an issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray that I read as we flew out to visit Bench’s parents (I may not like her shows, but I will grudgingly admit that her magazine ain’t half bad). I didn’t stand a chance: Dark chocolate AND crystallized ginger, in cookie form? Sign me up! I could barely wait to get back from the windy city to give them a try.

This is the first cookie recipe I’ve used that requires baking chocolate; it does not, however, require a double boiler, so the fiddly quotient remains pretty low. In addition to the baking chocolate, it requires a half cup of good cocoa powder–enough to render the dough the driest I’ve seen. Fortunately, it stands up to a good manhandling (I ended up kneading the dough, more than stirring it), and comes together really well once you start rolling it into little balls. So, don’t fret if your dough doesn’t quite seem dough-like in the bowl. It meant to do that, really.


They’re called crinkles because of the cracks and patterns that form as they bake; I think it’s also an apt description of the cookies themselves, which manage to be both crispy and chewy at once. Also delicious. Never forget the delicious.

Dark chocolate and ginger crinkles
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, January 2009

1 stick (4oz) butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped (about 1/2 c)
1 3/4 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 c flour
1/2c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 c crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/2c mini chocolate chips
1c confectioners’ sugar (for rolling)

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  2. Meanwhile! Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk together all the dry ingredients (except the ginger and chocolate chips) until well combined.
  3. Whisk the eggs into the butter/chocolate mixture–be VERY CERTAIN that it’s nice and cool (i.e., room temperature), otherwise you will end up with scrambled eggs. Then, add the wet mixture to the dry until incorporated. Like I said, it gets a bit dry, so don’t be afraid to get in there with your hands and really mash things around.
  4. Add the ginger and chocolate chips.
  5. Place the confectioners’ sugar into a wide, shallow bowl. Form the dough into 1-inch balls and then coat with confectioners’ sugar. Bake on cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment for about 15 minutes, rotating the pans after ten minutes or so.
  6. When they’re done, let them rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to racks to cool all the way.

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