crunchy chocolate quinoa bars

A while ago I was at a little coffee bar on Spadina for one of their most excellent Americano’s and I picked up a little chocolate bar for a bite.  This little bar was full of crunch and was otherwise solid, melt in your fingers chocolate.

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I learned of this coffee bar, Sense Appeal, from a friend of a friend after a discussion about where to get good coffee in Toronto. There are so many delicious coffee bars in town who roast their own beans that it is incredibly hard to say which is the best, but some of them definitely stand out.  Sense Appeal is one of those and I’ve been missing it terribly since my office relocated from that area about a year ago. (Although, we moved to a new area with a different terrific coffee roaster just up the street!) However, this post is not about coffee so back we go to the chocolate.

If I were to have a cookbook, there would be a whole category called Heaven and it would contain this recipe , among others, all catering to the tastes of chocolatophiles everywhere.

So here is my version of the toasted quinoa bar.

Toasted Quinoa Bar (By Sense Appeal, as modified by me!)

Ok, this recipe is more of a guideline as I wasn’t very specific with many of the measurements.

Ingredients
10 oz dark chocolate (70% is a good place to start)
1-1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup toasted quinoa

Other suggestions:
chia seeds
pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds
dried fruit – I’ve used dried raspberries, apricots, cranberries, prunes and dates – chopped
shredded coconut
cocoa nibs
smashed coffee beans

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These are all things I keep in my pantry so you can substitute for anything you like based on your current supplies.

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Dry toast the quinoa in a frying pan over med heat – keep watch and swirl the pan to keep them from burning.  They are finished when they are crackling and jumping and smell like toasted grain.

While you are toasting the quinoa, melt the chocolate until smooth in a double boiler or heat poof bowl and set aside. Stir in coconut oil. You will add all your ingredients to this bowl.

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I didn’t want to overwhelm the bar with quinoa but you want to use enough to get the crunch.  I filled in space with the chia seeds. They add a second level of crunch more like that of crispy rice. I used plenty of chia seeds.

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After those two main ingredients just add the others in a ratio favourable to you. I added a handful of each and stirred until it was a smooth mix of everything. There should be more than enough chocolate to coat everything but the mixture should be lumpy.

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Pour into a 9×9″ pan and refrigerate until solid. Sometimes I top it with some toasted coconut.

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aDSC06809and here is one I made with toasted coconut on the top.

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Fudge. Fudge? Fudge!

Full of guilt for not posting in ages, I finally logged on today with intentions of writing and skimmed my feed.  I read the first bit of a few posts and a surprising number of them began with ‘Well, I’ve been a bit quiet lately because of, you know… life’, and I started to feel a little less guilty about disappearing myself. I’m pretty sure my fan base consists of only my mom and my girlfriend at this point, but hey, its a start!

I’ve had some time to bake a few new things lately and they’re worth posting for sure. Plus, chocolate looks so good in pictures!DSC05795a

This past long weekend I made some fudge from a recipe I’ve been saving for too long.  I say too long because if I had known what I was missing this whole time, I would have made it the day I found the recipe.   Fudge is amazing in its regular sugar filled creaminess, but it has long since started to hurt my teeth just looking at it. Now, fudge is just a distant memory of a love for sweetness no longer realized.  /le sigh.  However, after this recipe my faith in fudge has been restored. It isn’t exactly the same as the original, but it will make you forget about it.

First of all, its dairy free.❤ for lactose intolerant people, like me. Also, no processed sugar and it’s gluten free! wheeee!

OK, OK, OK! Without further babble, here it is:

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Fudge (AKA Raw, vegan, gluten-free fudge)

Layer 1:
2 cups cashews – (raw if you can find them but otherwise, roasted, unsalted – preferably organic)
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut – organic
240g (approx. 10 large dates) very soft medjool dates, pitted *
1 cup raw organic cocoa powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
pinch of sea salt

Layer 2:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup extra virgin unrefined coconut oil
1/2 cup raw organic cocoa powder

I used my large and small food processors for this recipe.

Starting with the large food processor, add the cashews and process until very finely ground. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t turn into butter.

Add the coconut and process again until well combined.  The recipe suggests it should be fine in texture, but it doesn’t mention that it will also be clumpy and sticky. It threw off my definition of ‘fine in texture’… 

Add the dates and process into a soft paste. I soaked my dates for 20 or so minutes to make them softer. Not sure if this was necessary, but it helped me peel them a bit, since the peel sorta freaks me out… I have a love hate relationship with dates. 

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Mine never really formed a soft paste…

Add cocoa and process again.

Lastly, add the maple syrup and a pinch of salt and process until a creamy texture.

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Firm… but creamy.

Press into a parchment lined pan or mold, (I used a 9 x 9 pan) and place in the fridge while you make the “ganache” for the top.

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In the mini food processor process the maple syrup and coconut oil until combined.  I have a feeling this is supposed to be fluffier, but it was 31°C when I made this and my oil was nowhere near solid.

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Scrape down the sides and add in cocoa powder. Process until smooth.  Pour over the first layer and refrigerate for at least an hour. Keep leftovers (if they survive) refrigerated.

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I think I’d really like to add some crushed coffee beans to the top. Cause everything needs coffee. But until I do that, I’ll just have to eat it with my coffee.🙂

 

*Edit:
My mother took my “approximately 10” very literally, and even though she had tiny dates, used only 10. which turned out to be barely 50g.  They were tasty squares, but not what I would call fudge. Use as many as you like but the fewer used the less creamy and ultimately fudgey yours will be.

Wedding Cupcakes

Early this year, maybe even near the end of last year, I agreed to two rather immovable events.  Vacation in Europe with my girlfriend and making cupcakes for a wedding.  I did this without confirming dates because I thought “Hey, there are 52 weeks in a year and there’s no way they could be on the same day”. Guess what? They were.  The vacation had to happen to coincide with a conference in Milan, Italy, which started the day after the wedding.

Seriously. I make two major plans for a whole year and they fall in the same timeframe. Someone, somewhere is laughing at me!

Anyhoo, it mostly worked out, but the evening after I got back from Europe I was at the Bride’s sisters place prepping for 4 types of cupcakes.  We only had to make 100. It sounds a bit daunting but easily falls into the category of ‘Oh, its only a few batches’ (8).

Day 1 – made the ganache, spicy ganache, bacon (yes, bacon) and strawberries.

Day 2 – 8 batches of cupcakes and begin icing with ganaches.

Day 3 – Panicked and made another batch of strawberry to replace the little ones. Iced all remaining cakes.

Day 4 – Ruin 8 cupcakes. Wedding.

When we got the the venue in the evening I asked the staff for the cupcake tower I had been told about. A few minutes later someone materializes with 3 12″ square plates and a small metal stand. I stared at it for a bit before telling them that I had 100 cupcakes. The guy’s eyes got really big for a second and he said “Oh. Ok, I’ll go see what we have.” He came back with enough stuff though, so it wasn’t a big deal. I guess I just assumed a cupcake tower might be larger than that.

Everything after that was smooth.  The wedding was fantastic, the cupcakes and cake were a hit and the couple is happy!

All in all we made:  Whiskey Maple Bacon, Spicy Chocolate Surprise, Chocolate, and Strawberry Vanilla.

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The Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Does your other half ever go into such intense chocolate cravings that they inspire you to make the biggest baddest chocolate cake you can? Mine does.

She would see the Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake box at the grocery store and stop me “Sweetie, can we make one of those?” “No no, I’ll make you a chocolate cake”.

This is the result of that adventure in chocolate.

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It’s deliciously rich without being too sweet. To die for? Yes.

Cake Ingredients:

2 cups brown sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup warm espresso
1 cup milk
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).  Butter 2 9″ cake pans and line the bottom with parchment.

In a large bowl combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, bakings powder and soda and salt.

Whisk together the eggs, coffee, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl.  Add to dry ingredients and whisk until combined.

Divide the batter between the two pans – I weigh them to make sure.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.

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Cook on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pan to cool.

Place one cake on a large plate.

Ganache:

10 oz dark chocolate
10 fl.oz whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla

Coarsely chop chocolate and place in a large bowl.

Bring cream just to a boil and pour over chocolate.  Let sit for 5 minutes. Add vanilla and stir until combined.

I separated about half of it to cool faster in the fridge. When it was solid enough I whipped it until light and fluffy.  Spread this over the cake on a plate. I tried to spread the surface flat with the chocolate, but I probably should have just flattened the cake but cutting the dome off.😛

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Top with second cake.

If the other bowl of chocolate is still warm enough, pour it over the middle top of the cake and let it spread over the edges. Reheat it over a pot of hot water if it isn’t melty enough. Let cool.

Cut yourself a slice. Devour.

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Cut yourself a second slice.

 

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Long time no…

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Ok, so it’s been AGES since I’ve blogged. I just wasn’t feelin’ it!  But, while I was gone I still baked and sometimes I actually remembered to take pictures.

I’ve been doing some digging into DIY detergents and body products and makeup and wow. It really is amazing how much you can do with baking soda, coconut oil and beeswax! I don’t wear makeup and I never really did use skin products, other than a moisturizer here and there… So even though I want to make my own mascara I have to remind myself that I haven’t worn it in too long to remember, so why now? I just like to make new stuff🙂

I think I’m going to make a Links section and post some good resources in there.


So, here is what I made for Valentine’s Day. They were pretty divine. I love raspberries and dark chocolate together.  I wasn’t entirely happy with the pastry I used, some of the shells were too thick and kinda dry. I want to find something a little more delicate.

I actually can’t remember where I got this recipe from, and writing this 5 months after leaves my memories wanting. So, We’ll just go through the basics!

Chocolate Raspberry Mini Tarts

1 bag frozen strawberries – or about 2 cups
granulated sugar
corn starch
8oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup whipping cream

For the crust I’m going to try this next time: Pate Brisee from my favourite Joy of Baking! But if you have your own recipe, go for it. Just keep the crust very thin as it overtakes the tart otherwise.  I started by measuring out equal bits of dough. I cut it down after the first batch came out too thick. Bake as per recipe, but keep an eye on them.

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Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and bring cream just to a boil.  Pour over chocolate and let stand for a few minutes before stirring the cream into the chocolate.

Set aside to cool, but not too much. Keep it soft so you can drop little blobs.

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Thaw your raspberries for a few minutes in a fine mesh strainer.  Place the strainer over a bowl and begin to smush the berries through. Make a mash and use a flat-ish spoon or a spatula to help. It will take a little while, but I like the texture of doing it this way. You will end up with basically only seeds left in the strainer.

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Stir in 2 tsp of cornstarch.  If it needs to be thicker, add 1 tsp at a time until it is a little gooey.

Add sugar to taste – as sweet as you like (or not). It will also depend on your raspberries.

Set aside.

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Once you have your pastry baked, wait for them to cool and then fill them with a spoonful or two of raspberry sauce and then top with the soft chocolate. I like the random melty look, but you could whip the ganache and pipe it out, too, if you want a more uniform look.

I dropped on the lip sprinkles since it was that day and they looked so cute!

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More Meringue

My experiments in meringue have led to some citrus creations!

I like simple flavours; Items with few ingredients that can stand on their own and meringue fulfills this pretty well.

Only 4 ingredients, although sometimes I leave out the vanilla.

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This time I did lemon and orange zest.  Not together, although, that gives me an idea for the next project – lemon-lime! ooooo😀

Of course, I started them without enough time to bake the last two batches, so I tried a method I heard about from my friend Jane: Forgotten Kisses. Put the cookies in the oven, turn it off and leave them for at least two hours. It worked like a charm.

Both types are light and fluffy with a great flavour. The forgotten kiss method keeps them nice and white although they don’t poof as much.

Recipe:

2 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
zest of lemon, orange or lime

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

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I whipped the egg whites and split them up into two bowls.

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Fold in gently and bake for about 15 mins.

Let cool on baking sheet and remove to wire rack.

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Steamed Boston Brown Bread

I have a breadmaker for the everyday sandwich loaf bread. Toss it all in, leave it alone overnight, wake up to fresh bread! Voila!

Except every time I do that I have nowhere to put the bread. Wrapping it in cellophane is tedious and wasteful so, last Friday, I ordered something from Amazon for the first time. Ever.  I bought myself a breadbox. OK, it isn’t one of those giant countertop breadboxes, its a small portable one with a little vent for moisture control. Sweeeeeet.

Wheeeee

Best thing ever? It showed up Monday! This was my motivation to make the Brown Bread.  This recipe is from the same book as the potato soup that I love, The Encyclopedia of Nutrition and Cooking, and it has lots of really down to earth recipes.  I haven’t decided if I actually like the bread yet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty. It’s moist and rich and the molasses stands out most of all.  The raisins are a source of uneasiness for me. I really don’t like them in baked goods, the texture is completely at odds with fluffy. But sometimes they surprise me.

I only had one can so I used a few jelly jars instead with varying results.  I forgot to grease one of the jars, and figured I would be able to tell which it was thinking that I would have trouble removing it. However, it was the exact opposite. Two of them were stuck. Do I not need to grease the bottles? Or did I do something else? Hmmmm…

Recipe:

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1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup enriched yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup dark molasses
1 cup dark or golden raisins

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In a bowl, combine raisins, molasses and buttermilk and stir until the buttermilk and molasses are joined.

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In a a larger bowl, whisk together flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

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I got to use my new danish whisk! It worked like a charm. I like its sturdiness and somehow, the dough doesn’t stick to it.

Add liquid mixture to flour mixture; stir only enough to moisten flour.   (I couldn’t bring myself to post a picture of the batter. There is just no way to make some batter look nice.)

Spoon batter into well greased 16-oz cans (small coffee can) – only 2/3 full.

Cover cans tightly with foil. (I added a rubber band)

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Place cans on a trivet in a steamer or in a saucepot with a tight-fitting cover. Fill steamer with water to no more than half the height of the can. Tightly cover steamer (saucepot). Steam for 3 hours.

(I didn’t exactly have a tight fitting lid, so I kept having to refill the water. I’m not sure all the ups and downs in temp were good for it.)

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I did my jars the same way. I greased them with coconut oil and then added foil and elastics.

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After about an hour and a half, I got curious… aaaaand impatient. So I peaked under the lid of the can and I convinced myself it was done! The toothpick came out clean and so I set about heating up some beans cutting myself a slice.

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Sadly, and yet somehow not unexpectedly, it was close, but not quite done.  Back in the steamer with you, Loafy! I was pretty sure I had ruined it at this point.

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I kept the tester slice and ate it with some beans. Very tasty, even if a tad doughy!

Eventually, after the full 3 hours was up, I ended up with a nice collection of bread cylinders.  They are dense and moist and I am not totally opposed to the raisins. haha!

Serve warm and layer with a generous helping of butter and enjoy!

DSC03670aAt least now I have somewhere to store them!😀

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Now that’s some steamy bread!

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