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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hi! I hope you are having a wonderful Valentine’s Day! I am happy to report that we got our valentine cards out in time this year (well… all but one. Sorry Great Grandma Vera, yours got stuck in the pile of extra envelopes and I didn’t see it until last night). We kept it simple and used foam and sparkle stickers on white card stock. I learned that Chloe finds 3-dimensional stickers on sheets to be easier to peel than stickers that are pre-punched out. I did a lot of pre-peeling just to keep things moving. Also, we worked on cards over several sittings, the length of each determined by Chloe’s attention span and interest.

This morning, David surprised me with a lovely card and a box of truffle-filled dark chocolate hearts. For him, I designed a card cover, and inside I included this pop-up pixelated heart in red. I think he really liked it. To surprise the kids, I picked up some helium foil valentine balloons from the dollar store while Chloe was in preschool.

One extra special something I got for Chloe is a hand-carved stamp with her name. She already recognizes and says the letters, but hasn’t learned to write it yet, though she tries. If only I had waited one more day before mailing her cards this would have come in handy! The artist kindly agreed to customize it with a little heart, which I love. Now I’m thinking Leo will need one too. :-)

Want a stamp of your own? Lauren of Doodlebug Design  is offering a 10% discount to Paperseed readers. Just use code Doodlebug10 at checkout.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Chocolate Soda (Old Fashioned Egg Cream)

In honor of National Ice Cream day, I thought I’d share these tall, dark beauties that I craved almost incessantly during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. It was cool, chocolaty, and refreshing, just the thing for any hormonal mama. As a matter of fact, it was going to be the follow up to this post, but baby Leo decided to show up a couple weeks early and then I forgot all about it.

Here’s the recipe: Pour chocolate syrup in the bottom of a glass (or chocolate fudge topping thinned with milk). Add two generous scoops of rich chocolate ice cream. Then fill ‘er up slowly with sparkling water, with a little whipped cream on top. Sip slowly and enjoy!


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Cookie Jars

We were finally able to finish and deliver all the cookie jar gifts we made for the holidays this year. They are very similar to the ones from last year, but with a revised label since I took a shortcut and bought the cookies instead of making them this time. I daresay they taste just as good, if not better. :-)


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Chocolate fix

I find these little Ferrero Rondnoir dark chocolates pretty irresistible. Have you tried them? They’ve got a crunchy dark chocolate shell that surrounds a crispy wafer layer, that encloses a soft dark truffle that holds a little pearl of solid dark chocolate in the very center. How’s that for layered perfection?

Do you have a favorite chocolate (bar, brand, candy, etc)? I’d love to hear about it, and maybe get recommendations for my next binge. :-)


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Chocolate Chip Cookies :: Aussie-Style

Every once in a while I get a hankering for a spoonful of sweetened-condensed milk straight from the can. My husband thinks its gross, and maybe it is, but I love the creamy sweetness of it. Afterward, I have almost a whole can left, so what to do? Sometimes, it goes in the fridge to be added to coffee, Vietnamese-style, or sometimes I’ll make a dessert with it, like 7-layer bars. But this last time I wondered about adding sweetened condensed milk to chocolate chip cookies. Turns out the Australians beat me to it, and they are delicious (both the Australians and the cookies). :-)

In this recipe, the sweetened condensed milk acts as a substitute for eggs, and turns out a cookie with a finer crumb, more crispy than crunchy, with good flavor. The original recipe can be found here on Nestle’s site, but I’ve adapted it below the way I made it, with American-style measurements. I used my favorite Trader Joe’s organic sweetened condensed milk.

Australian Chocolate Chip Cookies
(about 36 cookies)

15 Tbs butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (basically 4 big handfuls)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line oven trays with parchment paper.

2. Cream butter and sugar together and then then beat in the sweetened condensed milk.

3. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl and then mix it into the above mixture until combined.

4. Add in the chocolate chips.

4. Spoon rounded tablespoons of mixture onto prepared trays, allowing room to spread.

5. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned around the bottom edges and golden on top.


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Valentine Idea: Day 9 – Chocolate

Chocolate – Mmm, chocolate, how I love thee! Your richness, your sweetness, your warmth… even just your good looks alone make me want to wax poetic. Alas! I have finally found your dark, delicious secrets in the recipes below. The question is – which one of you will Be Mine?


Salted Chocolate Tart


Passion Pops


Chocolate-Orange Pots de Creme


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A bit disappointing


Remember my blog goals? Well, for the month of January I was supposed to try a new recipe and you may be wondering why I never wrote about it. The truth is, it turned out a bit disappointing. I was hoping I’d have time to try another recipe before the end of the month, but I didn’t. So, let me tell you about that flourless chocolate cake I made following a recipe from the Art & Soul of Baking:

The idea of this cake intrigued me, as it only called for four ingredients: chocolate, eggs, sugar and butter. It was easy to whip up, and right out of the oven it was delicious – warm with a light and crispy outer crust and soft chocolately center. David and I kept nibbling at the side of the pan while we were making dinner. But by the time we each had a slice for dessert, the crust had softened, the cake had deflated, and it was just kind of… meh. I’m not sure why. Did the moisture from boiling the pasta we had for dinner seep into it and ruin the texture? That’s my best guess. Also, despite being in a generously buttered, non-stick spring-form pan, the cake stuck. It was not pretty, so there went the presentation, too.

To make matters worse, to accompany the cake, I tried making a creme anglais. I followed the directions perfectly, and when it reached the required 175 degrees I pulled it off the heat. I turned around to add more ice cubes to the already prepared water bath and when I picked up the saucepan it was too late – I had pulled it off the heat, but not far enough and so part of it overcooked. Sigh. So, there you have it, a disappointing start to the recipe portion of my goals, since even the photos didn’t come out very good. *shrugs*

Thankfully, there’s always next time. :-)


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Chocolate Covered Oreos + Label and Packaging Idea

For other procrastinators like myself, I thought I’d share this quick and tasty treat I made earlier this week. A search for “chocolate covered oreos” provided several good recipes and instructions (1, 2, 3), but basically I just melted a package of chocolate chips in the microwave. The cool thing about these cookies is that you don’t actually have to bake in order to have pretty handmade treats to give friends and neighbors. For packaging and display, I found tall glass canning jars at our local New Seasons, covered the lids with fabric and attached a label, which you can download here. For more packaging inspiration, marthastewart.com has a nice slideshow on 13 beautiful ways to package cookies, my favorites being the cookie gift sleeve, and the cellophane-wrapped cookies.

Download your own free “Fudge Dipped Oreos, Made with Love” Labels here.


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The Most Amazing Buttermilk Chocolate Cake *Update*

I made this buttermilk chocolate cake again this past week. A perfectly wet and dreary week called for a little bit of baking to cheer the place up. Although, not wanting too much of a good thing, I decided to halve the recipe this time and used a 9×13 glass pan at 330 degrees instead. Then I sliced it in half and squared the edges for a double-layer cake. The ganache frosting got poured directly over the top with just a little smoothing at the end. Nothing too fussy, just simple, chocolatey goodness.

Here are the two layers after cooling and squaring the edges:

Here are the slices that were removed and ready to nibble:

The final cake, after dripping the chocolate ganache frosting down the sides and smoothing the top:

The very first slice – dark, gorgeous, and utterly delicious!


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Swap Package

I just want to share this amazing swap package that I found in the mail yesterday. It is from Pina, my thoughtful blog pal from Slovenia. The photo just doesn’t do justice to the fine details in her handmade creations – the lovely pouch with pink button and felt bird, the sweet scent of lavender from the felted stone, the perfectly chosen fabric on the elephant softie for Chloe, plus a gorgeous bar of dark chocolate to boot! See how talented she is?! Thank you so much Pina. You inspire me with your talent and generosity!


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The most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER

buttermilk chocolate cake

Okay, I am not kidding here, but I just made the most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER! And truly, it was not hard at all. I originally saw the recipe in Marcy’s copy of February’s Portland Monthly magazine, and thought I should write it down, but I forgot. Then, while David was waiting that extra hour for me to finish with my dentist appointment, he came across it again and thoughtfully asked the receptionist to photocopy it for me. (Such a sweetheart!)

Since we were having a friend over for dinner, I thought I’d use that as an excuse to try out this new recipe. And it was… magic! Moist, rich, chocolaty, not too sweet and with just the right amount of depth and complexity. And did I mention beautiful? Gorgeously dark with a semi-matte, creamy ganache frosting. I’m never going to buy chocolate container frosting ever again. Now I know the secret – and so do you!

Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake

Once you pour the hot coffee into the batter, don’t be alarmed by its thinness.
“It’s definitely the thinnest cake batter I’ve ever worked with,” [Portland Baker
Melissa] McKinney says. As for the frosting, there’s no need to use fancy chocolate,
she says. “I just use semi-sweet chocolate chips and it comes out perfect.”

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)*
1 1/3 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed, extra-strong hot coffee*
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

2. Place flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix on low to combine. Keeping the mixer on low , add oil, buttermilk, then eggs one at a time. Add hot coffee in a thin stream, pouring down the side of the bowl. Add vanilla and mix until batter is smooth. Divide into pans and back until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool in pans for at least 20 minutes.

3. To make the chocolate ganache frosting, create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bringing it to a boil. Place chocolate chips and cream in a stainless steel mixing bowl (I used glass) and set on top of simmering water, Allow mixture to melt–do not stir right away, When chocolate has melted, stir it with a whisk. Allow to cool at room temperature.

4. Remove cakes from pans. Place one layer of cake on a serving plate. Trim the top with a serrated knife to make it even (although I didn’t find this necessary). Place a scoop of ganache in the middle and smooth it out to the edges using a palette knife or spatula. Trim the top off the other layer and place the untrimmed side down on the top of the frosted layer, pressing gently. Spoon more ganache on the top and smooth it around the sides, adding more ganache as needed to cover. If you need to apply a second coat of ganache, put the cake in the refridgerator for no more than 15 minutes to set before adding a second coat (although I found myself with a surplus of frosting). Makes a single 9-inch layer cake.

My notes: For the cocoa powder I used Droste cocoa from Holland, which is like gold around here, but I really wanted to make it extra special. I also didn’t bother to sift it. For the chocolate frosting I used Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. And instead of the extra strong coffee, I pulled four extra long shots of espresso, enough to make the full 1 1/2 cups.

Postscript: In response to a comment below, I thought I’d add this paragraph from the article for those interested:

So what gives this recipe such staying power? It’s the oil, says McKinney. “Oil makes a moister cake, and allows it to last a week, whereas a layer cake made with butter becomes dry the next day.”  Plus, the hot coffee elevates the cocoa’s depth and complexity. The cake is versatile as well: The batter can be stored in the fridge for several days; stout can be used in place of coffee, it can even be made vegan (McKinney suggests using egg replacement and vanilla soy milk.) And the layers can be filled with whipped cream and fresh berries instead of ganache.

*Update* See this post on halving the recipe, with updated shape and photos!

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Similar Posts You Might Like:

*UPDATE* to AMAZING Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

5 Impressive Cake Frosting Techniques + Tutorials

 


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I am so enjoying these cookies right now

chocolate cookies

Yummy Chocolate Fudge Cookies (or should I say Fondants au Chocolat Biscuits?) by Dare. The dense and creamy fudge center is sandwiched between layers of chocolate cookies that are crunchy and not too sweet. Although, at a whopping 100 calories a piece, I’m trying to restrain myself. Oops, too late, there’s nothing but crumbs left now. Nice to know that they’re natural, at least.

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