A lowdown on life and a recipe for chocolate pecan pie

A lowdown on life and a recipe for chocolate pecan pie

Why hello there! What’s happening? I figured since I have a couple days off school it would be a good time to catch up over here on this blog that I seem to forget about 99% of the time. Oops. So what’s going on? Well the November issue of Culinaire is out and I’ve got my usual Tips and Tricks article in it. This month is all about working with spices and you can read about it here (pages 16-17). I’ve also written another food/psychology piece for Eat North, which can be found here. Oh and if you missed all of my exciting ramblings on Facebook, I was on the news! I did a short segment on baking and cooking with apples which was a ton of fun and something I would love to do again. I am one of those crazy people who enjoys public speaking in any and all forms. Well as long as I know what I am talking about that is. There is nothing worse than giving a presentation on a topic you aren’t comfortable and confident speaking about. That being said, when it comes to cooking, I could go on forever.

Outside of food writing, I’m being kept well occupied with grad school applications. It’s a daunting process planning this next phase of my life, especially when the admission rates for clinical psychology are somewhere around 5%. That’s right, it’s easier to get into med school than it is to gain acceptance into a clinical psyc program. All I can say is I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

School itself is good as well. I’m plugging away at my Honours thesis and recently ran participant #19. Only 41 more to go between now and April! It’s hard to believe that after this semester, I only have 3 courses left before I’m finished my degree. Time flies.

Despite all of my food writing, I actually haven’t spent much time experimenting in the kitchen lately. So when Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate sent me some  holiday recipes to share, I was pretty happy to use them as an excuse not to come up with my own material. Sad, I know. But seriously though, how good does this chocolate pecan pie look? Too good not to share, that’s for sure. With the Christmas fast approaching, I cannot think of a better way to end a holiday meal. I’m in the midst of helping to plan a work Christmas party and this pie is definitely going on the menu.

That’s it from me for now. Have fun out there! PS. if you bake this chocolate pecan pie, let me know how it turns out. It’s on my to-do list to try it in the very near future!

Chocolate pecan pie
Photo courtesy of Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate

Chocolate Pecan Pie
 
Take your pecan pie to the next level with this chocolate pecan pie, perfect for the holidays!
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 255g (9 oz) Ready-made sweet short crust pastry
  • 85g (3 oz) Green & Black’s Organic Dark 70% Chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 5 tbsp. Unsalted butter
  • 2 Large free-range eggs
  • ⅓ cup Superfine sugar (white granulated sugar will work if you cannot find superfine)
  • ½ cup Corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Pecans (finely chopped)
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Pecan halves (to decorate)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
  2. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the shortcrust pastry to the thickness of a quarter. Use it to line an eight inch loose-bottomed quiche pan with 1 ¼ inch straight-edged sides but do not trim off the excess. Chill until needed.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Cool slightly.
  4. Place the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, and cooled chocolate mixture in a large bowl and beat together until smooth. Fold in the chopped pecans, then pour into the pastry. Trim the pastry to ½ an inch above the filling. Decorate the surface with the pecan halves.
  5. Transfer the pie to the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until just set.

 

Dark Chocolate Tart – A Guest Post from Farm on Plate

Dark Chocolate Tart – A Guest Post from Farm on Plate

chocolate-tart-1

Today’s guest blogger is Medha from Farm on Plate. I first discovered her blog back in October of last year and as she will share shortly, I was smitten from the get-go. With the plethora of food blogs out there, she still manages to offer something different. First of all, her photography is outright fantastic. Look at these pics, they are brilliant, right? More importantly though, she shares some incredible stories about her life and all that she has learned and discovered along the way. In other words, Farm on Plate is more than just a pretty, it actually has some substance to it which I really appreciate. I’m just going to shut up now and let Medha take the stage because I’m not sure I could ever do her work justice, and surely not in a single intro paragraph.

chocolate-tart-2 chocolate-tart-3

When I started my blog farmonplate.com last fall, I felt like it was my first day at a new school. No one knew who I was and I had no friends. I was very nervous how I was going to fit in. All I needed was a smile or a hello letting me know that I was okay, that I belonged here. That first friend, someone who smiles and says hello to you, leaves a mark on your soul. In that moment, that person seems like your own guardian angel.

Mallory was the first one to walk up to me and say hello on my first day at school! Well, I actually got an email from her, but the emotions I felt were exactly the same. The fact that she took the time to tell me I was doing okay, that I shouldn’t self doubt, tells a lot about who Mallory is as a person.
Here is a short version of that email Mallory had sent to me last fall:

“I came across your blog this morning and I just wanted to let you know how impressed I was (and still am) with the content of your site. Nowadays, food blogs are nothing new. I tell people that I have one and it hardly evokes a reaction anymore. But finding a blogger that actually cares about food, now that is another story. Coming across Farm on Plate this morning was really refreshing. You mentioned in your tweet about being full of self doubt and I will be the first to say that you don’t fit the “food blog” stereotype. But don’t let that cause you to question whether or not you are doing the right thing. I think what you are doing is truly passionate and inspired.

You clearly care about food; good food and that comes across in your writing, recipes and pictures. And hey, if you are ever in Calgary, feel free to look me up and I can show you around our food scene. – Mallory” 

Mallory, I want you to know that your friendship means a lot to me! May be its because you like chocolate, but you definitely add to the sweetness in the world! When Mallory asked me to a guest post for her blog, I knew I had to use chocolate. I wanted to make something that was decadent but healthy and simple to make. This vegan and gluten free dark chocolate tart takes less than 30 minutes to make, leaving you plenty of time socialize and chat with your friends! 

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Dark Chocolate Tart - A Guest Post from Farm on Plate
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Makes 1 7 inch tart
Recipe type: vegan, gluten free, dessert
Ingredients
  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 15 dates – pitted
  • ¼ cup coconut flakes
  • ¼ cup hemp seeds
  • 1½ tbsp coconut oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 oz good quality dark chocolate, I have used 70% dark
  • 1 cup coconut milk unsweetened - cold refrigerated
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean pastee
Instructions
  1. To make the crust:
  2. Place almonds, dates, coconut flakes, hemp seeds, sea salt and coconut oil in food processor. Pulse until chopped, to chunky/sticky mixture. Add couple of tbsp of cold water if needed. Place mixture in a springform pan, you can also use regular cake pan covered with saran wrap. Flatten out with your fingers or back of a spoon.
  3. To make the filling:
  4. Melt chopped chocolate in a double boiler (heatproof bowl set over saucepan of simmering water). Stir occasionally until chocolate melts. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  5. In another bowl, mix vanilla bean paste and coconut milk. Now add melted chocolate and mix well with spatula. Use a hand mixer on lower speed and beat the mixture for 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the mixture over the crust and tap the pan gently on the counter to release any air bubbles. Put the pan in the freezer for at least an hour to set. Before serving, take the pan out of the freezer and thaw for 15 minutes. Top the tart with your choice of fresh fruit or berries before serving.

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Chocolate Caramel Tartlets

Ok I have waited long enough. Time to break out the big guns. And by “big” guns, I really mean “mini” chocolate caramel tartlets. Big, mini, there’s no difference really.
I made these babies for an office warming a few weeks ago and they were definitely a hit. Who doesn’t like caramel, chocolate and salt singing in harmony in a convenient 2-bite portion? That’s what I thought.
We are well on our way through October now and I don’t know about you but I am ready for a break from pumpkin. These are a more than adequate substitute. Sorry pumpkin, but you are no match for chocolate in my mind. Even when you are paired together, chocolate is still the star of the show. That being said, I will be back on the bandwagon with another recipe for pumpkin something-or-other (did someone say sticky buns?) on Friday.
But in the meantime, let’s indulge in some chocolate caramel heaven, shall we?
Chocolate Caramel Tartlets
Chocolate Caramel Tartlets
Chocolate Caramel Tartlets

Chocolate Caramel Tartlets
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes 24

Ingredients

Chocolate Dough

4 ounces (115g) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) white sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla (paste or extract)
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
6 tbsp. (50g) cocoa powder


Caramel Filling

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Ganache

4 1/2 ounces (130g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (90ml) heavy cream
coarse sea salt

Instructions 

To make the dough, cream together the butter and sugar (with a mixer or by hand). Add in the egg, salt and vanilla, beating until smooth. Add both the flour and cocoa all at once. Mix until the dough forms a ball, but don’t over-work it.


Grease 24 mini muffin tins. Roll the dough into 24 2cm balls. Place each ball in its own mini muffin tin. Take your thumb and press down in the middle of each. Then work around the edges, pressing the dough into the sides to form a little cup. If you find that your fingers are sticking to the dough, grease them lightly with butter. Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes or until the dough loses it’s sheen. Cool slightly and remove the tarts from the mini muffin tins onto a cooling rack to come to room temperature.


To make the filling put the sugar in a pot with a splash of water. Cook on high heat until it reaches a deep, caramel colour, swirling occasionally. Remove the caramelized sugar from the heat and stir in the cream. Careful, it will bubble. Return the pot to the heat and cook over medium until the sugar and cream come together to form a cohesive sauce (this should not take more than 2-3 minutes). Allow the caramel to cool a bit before spooning about a teaspoon of it into each cooled tart shell.


Now for the ganache, the easiest part. Heat up the cream in a pot or you can be lazy efficient and pop it in the microwave like I did. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Just let it sit for a second to allow the chocolate to melt. Stir it together and dollop about a teaspoon of it onto each caramel filled tart. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Who’s ready for some chocolate caramel tartlets??


Chocolate Caramel Tartlets

chocolate coconut tarts and the drama of making them

Chocolate Coconut Tarts
Chocolate Coconut Tarts
Most of the time I talk about the psychology of eating food. Today though, is all about the psychology of actually making food. Never in my life have I gone through a more painful process than making these chocolate coconut tarts. Oh they were good alright but you have to wonder how much better they tasted just because of all the effort that went into them.
Let me tell you a little story about some chocolate coconut tarts. These very chocolate coconut tarts you are looking at.
They started first thing in the morning, before breakfast. I made the coconut cream filling, adapted from Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Bakery. That was probably the only part that actually went smoothly.
Then I made tried making what was supposed to be a heavenly milk chocolate mousse. I melted the chocolate, whipped some egg whites, beat some yolks and folded the works together. It looked a bit runny but I figured it would set up in the fridge. Nope, that’s a lie. I knew that no matter how long it sat in the fridge, it wasn’t going to set. But I held on to that inkling of hope that for some miraculous reason, it would prove me wrong. Well folks, when your gut is telling you something, you better listen to it.
Anyways we went out for the day, walked around Canmore, took some nature pictures. Actually over 100 nature pictures. Ate lunch, yada, yada. Back to continue tart construction.
Plan b), let’s fold some whipped cream into the soupy mousse (over 7 hours later and still not set) to tighten it up. Hmm…still looks like frothy chocolate milk. But maybe, just maybe, it will firm up. Or not.
The mousse went down the drain (literally). Time for plan c). Milk chocolate ganache. Melt some chocolate, mix it with whipping cream. Easy peasy. Cue chocolate seizing. But you can pipe seized chocolate right? As it turns out, you can’t. You can dig through the garbage to find the 3 piping bags I wasted to show for it.

Chocolate Coconut Tarts

Getting a little annoyed now but we’ll try plan d). Mix together about equal parts coconut oil, cocoa powder and maple syrup. Basically a vegan chocolate ganache. Let’s try piping that on top. Great, now we have a tart that looks like it was constructed by a five year old. I don’t even think my mom ranked it that high, actually I’m pretty sure she likened it to the creation of a 3 year old. Beauty.
Now for the fun part, scraping the little chocolate coconut turds off the top of the tarts. At this point I’m at least an hour and a half into tart making session #2. Getting a little desperate. Plan e) better work or I’m done. Caramel sauce. Of all things, I cannot possibly fail at caramel sauce.
I know you are expecting me to say that I failed at the caramel sauce. But alas, it worked!
And that’s my story. If at first you do not succeed, try, try again. Or in this case, try, try, try, try, try again.
Oh yeah, then I spent at least an hour taking pictures.
There you have it, the all day chocolate coconut tarts. Did I mention I only made 2?
Chocolate Coconut Tarts

I guess the biggest question we are all asking ourselves is, why? Well maybe you aren’t but I definitely am. And the simple, if not obvious answer is, because I like chocolate. But more to the point, I persevered because I am an obsessive, perfectionist weirdo when it comes to food. It may not always be the healthiest attitude but I have high standards, especially in the cooking department. If it’s not restaurant quality, why bother? Meanwhile everyone else is asking, can we just eat already? Luckily you have some leeway when you are the one doing the cooking. So spend as much time making things exactly the way you want them to be. If you aren’t happy with the final product, no one else will be. Which is a complete lie because when you feed people, 99% of the time they will eat it, no questions asked. More aptly, if you aren’t happy with the final product, you better do something to fix it. Because if you are anything like me, you will stew over those little imperfections and they will drive you crazier than making the food did in the first place. It puts a whole new meaning into “The Joy of Cooking”, doesn’t it?

Chocolate Coconut Tarts
Chocolate Coconut Tarts

Chocolate Coconut Tarts
Serves 2

Crust

1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
2-3 tbsp. melted coconut oil

Stir together to form a wet, sandy mixture. Divide the crust evenly between 2 mini tart shells and press it into the base, into the corners and up the sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before filling.

Coconut Pudding
Adapted from the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 egg
1 tbsp. flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. coconut oil

Bring the coconut milk and coconut to a boil over medium high heat. Meanwhile whisk together the egg, flour and sugar. Once the coconut milk mixture reaches the boil, gradually temper it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return everything to the pot and cook over medium heat until the pudding begins to bubble, whisking constantly. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Then remove the pudding from the heat and pour it into a bowl. Place this bowl in a sink filled with ice water to help cool down the pudding as quickly as possible. Once it has cooled at least to room temperature, cover it with plastic wrap (directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin) and refrigerate until completely chilled before filling the tart shells.

Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup white sugar
2 tbsp. heavy cream

Put the sugar in a small pot with a splash of water (just a couple tablespoons). Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Don’t stir it. Allow the sugar to dissolve, swirling the pot occasionally to help it along. Continue to cook on high until the sugar caramelizes. Once it achieves a rich, brown colour, remove it from the heat and add the cream, stirring with a wooden spoon to mix it in. Allow the caramel to cool slightly before drizzling it over the tarts.

To assemble:

Fill each tart shell with coconut pudding (I left them in the molds as they were quite delicate). Drizzle caramel sauce on top of the pudding. Eat up!

A Regional Canadian Food: Chocolate Cherry Tartlets

Summer.
I don’t know what that means where you’re from, but here in Alberta summer is immediately associated with cherries. Not that we actually grow them in our province, but our lovely neighbours to the west do and we snatch them up like hotcakes. I thought that a recipe for dessert with cherries would be perfect for the July Canadian Food Experience Project theme, “A Regional Canadian Food“.
Now I prefer my desserts to provide a chocolate overdose – bring it on, there can never be too much chocolate. But when you are working with beautiful, fresh fruit, you would be an idiot not to make it the star. Chocolate and cherries? Bingo. Add some vanilla in there? Now you’re talking my language.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard for anything to taste better than a big ‘ol bowl of luscious cherries on a hot summer day (in fact I’m sure if you look far enough back in the albums you can find me at my friend’s summer birthday party, shoving my face with cherries and Cheezies, what a combo). If they’re not better, these chocolate cherry tartlets are at least on par.  And there are no pits to worry about. We wouldn’t want anyone swallowing a pit and growing a cherry tree in their stomach, now would we?
Chocolate Cherry Tartlets
Chocolate Cherry Tartlets
Chocolate Cherry Tartlets
Chocolate Cherry Tartlets

Chocolate Cherry Tartlets
makes 4 mini tarts

Chocolate Tart Dough
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 cup AP flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed
2 egg large egg yolks
2 tbsp. cream or milk (whichever you have on hand)

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium size bowl (everything from the flour to the salt). You can sift it if you like but it’s really not necessary. Add the butter and work it into the dough using your hands. It should look like coarse meal by the time you’re done. Add the yolks and cream/milk and mix until the dough comes together, forming a cohesive ball. You can knead it lightly to help with this process but don’t overwork it. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using it. If you want to be on the ball, make it a few days in advance or even whip up some large batches and freeze for future use.

When you are ready to roll it out, get yourself 2 large pieces of parchment paper. By rolling it out between the 2 sheets, you prevent the dough from sticking to everything (which means you don’t have to spend unnecessary time scrubbing down the counter). Using a rolling pin, get the dough to the point where it is about 1/4 inch thick. Also, try to keep it as circular or square as possible. Then you can cut it into 4 even portions and press the dough into your tart shells. Be sure to get it right into the corners. Drape the dough, leaving a little bit of overhang to work with and be gentle. Don’t worry if it rips here and there, it’s pretty easy to patch back up. Remove the excess dough from the edges by pressing down on the tart shell with the palm of your hand or rolling across it with the rolling pin. Any scraps can be formed into little chocolate cookies to munch on. Pop the tarts in the freezer for 15-20 minutes prior to baking.

Heat your oven to 325F. Once the tarts have chilled, bake them off for 15-18 minutes (if you made extra cookies, these only take about 10 minutes). You’re looking for them to be opaque. If the dough is still shiny/greasy looking, it needs more time. When the tarts are done, allow them to cool to room temperature before removing them from the tins.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Take your pastry cream (see recipe below) and distribute it equally amongst the 4 tart shells. You will need about 25 cherries (halved and pitted) for the 4 tarts. Place the halves on top of the cream, skin side up, in the pattern of your choice. Depending on how tightly you pack the cherries together, you may need more or less than 25 (it’s just an estimate). Cover and chill before serving. And remember to take lots of pictures of your handiwork!

Chocolate Cherry Tartlets
Chocolate Cherry Tartlets
Chocolate Cherry Tartlets

Vanilla Pastry Cream
Adapted from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup AP flour
1 cup milk
1/2 tbsp. vanilla bean paste
1 tbsp. butter

Bring the milk and half the sugar (2 tbsp.) to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, flour and remaining 2 tbsp. of sugar. Now pastry cream comes together fairly quick, so from this point on, you want to make sure you have everything ready to go. Fill your sink with ice water so you can chill down the pastry cream once it has thickened. Put the butter in a bowl large enough to hold the finished pastry cream (if it 1.5-2 cups worth you’re golden). Also, get yourself a fine mesh sieve and set it over top of the bowl.

Now you’re ready. Once the milk is simmering, whisk in the vanilla bean paste. Then gradually pour the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer everything back into the pot and cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat. After it comes to a boil, pass it through the sieve into the bowl with the butter. Place the bowl into the ice bath you created in your sink. Stir the pastry cream to help some of the heat dissipate.

At this point, you may or not have lumpy pastry cream. I find that no matter how many times I make the stuff, it always turns out lumpier than I want it to be. But no fear, you have one of two options to fix this problem. A) Strain it again. The only issue here is that you lose some of your pastry cream because it sticks to the sieve. B) Pull out an immersion blender and go to town. Works like a charm every time.

Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, directly on the surface (to prevent a skin). Refrigerate until ready to use.

Chocolate Cherry Tartlets
Chocolate Cherry Tartlets