Tag Archives: chocolate

Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti

Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti 1Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti

At a friend’s annual New Year’s Day party this year, a fellow guest asked me about why it’s so difficult to replicate restaurant dishes at home.  There’s several reasons why this might be true, I replied.  Having your own prep team to make stocks and sauces and pulling together mise en place is one aspect.  Another is the access to top-notch ingredients.  Still another is that restaurant recipes are scaled for service, and when they are modified for home cooking, sometimes they just don’t work.  Case in point, are these Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti that I brought to that same party.

Original RecipeOriginal biscotti recipe

I was given this recipe when I was a culinary student at the International Culinary Center, working at L’Ecole.  The then-Pastry Chef rattled it off to me one night just before the start of our (the students’) part of service.  What I’d liked about these biscotti when I’d snacked on them one night was that they weren’t too sweet.  They also had a nice crunch to the outside and a firm texture on the inside, without that teeth-shattering consistency of some Italian-style confections.  In looking at the proportions on this card, it shows that making the recipe using these ratios would yield a lot of cookies.

Re-scaled recipeRe-scaled recipe

There’s also the issue of measurements.  The original recipe has a mixture of pounds, grams, cups, teaspoons, a real mish-mash of amounts.  Truthfully, this isn’t all that uncommon in restaurant chef recipes either, which is another reason that trying to scale them to work in a home kitchen doesn’t always produce the same results.  Still, I was hoping that my math skills and baking knowledge would enable me to wing it through this recipe, as it was my contribution to the party, along with a bottle of Ronnybrook Farm‘s fabulous, seasonal eggnog.

Wet ingredients mixed togetherWet ingredients mixed together

So, I divided the amounts by eight, basing that on the quantity of eggs and flour, as that seemed easy enough to do.  It got a little tricky when I tried to scale down the 1.5 pounds of butter, but I think I got it right.  As the only actual directions on the card said to use the creaming method, I mixed the softened butter and sugar together and then added the eggs.

Dry ingredients mixed togetherDry ingredients mixed together

Then, I mixed together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  I gradually added the flour mixture to the egg mixture.  The combination ended up being much drier than I’d expected it to be.  I’ve only ever made biscotti once, and that was a while ago, so I was still a bit skeptical that this was going to turn out all right.  I tossed in the chocolate chips (actually a chopped up chocolate bar) and the pistachios and formed the batter into two logs that were sort of biscotti-shaped.

Dough prepared for ovenDough ready for the oven

The only other instructions on the card were the baking temperatures and times.  I baked one of these loaves intact the entire time.  The other one, I cut into pieces after the first baking.  In the past, I’d remembered in making biscotti and mandelbrot that before the second time in the oven, the loaves had been sliced into cookies.

Baking two waysBaking biscotti two ways

Turns out that, in this case, I didn’t really need to do that step at all.  The dough was very soft when I’d cut into it.  Waiting until after all the baking cycles were done proved to make it easier to handle the loaves and to make more evenly-sized cookies.  I let the biscotti cool on the baking sheet on the stove top, letting the carry-over cooking dry them out just enough to give them that crunchy factor.  I made these the evening before the party, and they held up very well.

BIscotti out of the ovenBiscotti cooling

They were very well-received at the party, both in taste and texture.  The host agreed with me that they could have been just a hair sweeter and that maybe the cocoa powder that I used wasn’t exactly right.  I’d thought about going the Dutch-processed route, but stuck with a more general variety.  The fun thing about playing around with recipes is that there’s always the next time to try to make it better.

Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti

Prep Time: about 1 hour

Portion Size: about 2 dozen biscotti


3 ounces Unsalted Butter, softened

1 c. White Sugar

2 Large Eggs

2 c. AP Flour

1/2 c. Cocoa Powder

1 tsp. Baking Soda

1/4 tsp. Salt

1 c. Pistachios, shelled

1/2 c. Chocolate Chips (or chopped chocolate bar)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Whip butter and sugar together until smooth and light in color.  Add the eggs and beat into the sugar mixture until thoroughly incorporated.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir to mix together.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and incorporate completely.  The dough will be quite dense.  Add in the chocolate and pistachios and fold them into the batter as best you can.

On a parchment-lined baking tray, form the batter into two biscotti-shaped logs.  Bake them for 15 minutes.  Lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the biscotti for 12 minutes.  Rotate the baking tray and bake them for another 12 minutes.

Remove the baking tray from the oven.  Cut the biscotti logs into 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices and let them cool on the baking tray for 10-15 minutes.  Eat them within a couple of days, if they last that long.

Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti 2Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti

Buon appetito!

2014 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Sculpture for top 10 pastry chefs

I know that I mentioned last week that Brooklyn Uncorked is one of my favorite food events of the year.  Well, another annual gathering about which I get equally excited is the Dessert Professional Magazine Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America ceremony and dessert tasting, which was held this past Monday night.  I have a massive sweet tooth, and, as I generally work on the savory side of the kitchen, getting to eat and see incredible confections from some of the country’s (and the world’s) most talented pastry chefs is a real treat.  For one evening, I get to hang out in Willie Wonka’s workshop!

Richard Grausman - 2014 HonoreeRichard Grausman – Founder & Chairman of C-CAP

Before the dessert tasting starts, however, there is the awards ceremony which recognizes the hard work and dedication of all of the chefs who were selected.  In the audience, I spotted some past winners, maybe a few potential future nominees, as well as other well-known pastry chefs.  Each year, too, one person is recognized for his or her significant contribution to the industry.  This year, Richard Grausman, the Founder and Chairman of C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program), was inducted into the Hall of Fame.  He also announced that, starting in 2015, his organization would be awarding an annual scholarship to be applied to any pastry and baking program at The Institute of Culinary Education (the event host).

Table with mixing bowlsMixing bowls from KitchenAid engraved with each chef’s name

After the formal part of the program, we get to visit each of the kitchens where the chefs have set up their tables laden with desserts for us to taste.  Do I really eat all of this dessert?  Well, honestly, I try to sample most of them.  It does get to be a bit overwhelming sometimes.  Fortunately, I found a few friends who were willing to share plates with me, so none of us was completely overloaded with sugar.  I also captured some pictures of the prep and plating of the desserts, which are visible on my slideshow below.  As this was also the 21st anniversary of the event, cocktails as well as sweets were served at many of the stations.

Georges Berger, MOF, Owner of Chocolate Fashion (FL)

Georges Berger - sign

Georges Berger - Pistachio Brittle & White Peach Mousse

Georges Berger - White Peach-Vodka Cocktail

Ebow Dadzie, Pastry Chef at NY Marriott Marquis and Pastry Instructor at Monroe College (NY)

Ebow Dadzie - sign

Ebow Dadzie - Coconut Lime Dacquoise w Mango Olive Jelly, Banana Lime Sorbet

Ebow Dadzie - Sorrel beverage

Della Gossett, Executive Pastry Chef at Spago (CA)

Della Gossett - signDella Gossett - White Chocolate Crottin with Surinam Cherry Preserve

Katzie Guy-Hamilton, F&B Director and Corporate Pastry Chef at Max Brenner Worldwide (NY)

Katzie Guy-Hamilton - sign

Katzie Guy-Hamilton - Suntory Chocolate Torte

Katzie Guy-Hamilton - chilled chocolate drink

Cher Harris, Executive Pastry Chef at The Hotel Hershey (PA)

Cher Harris - sign

Cher Harris - Mandarin n' Chocolate Hazelnut Sponge

Joshua Johnson, Executive Pastry Chef at Vanilla Patisserie (IL)

Joshua Johnson - sign

Joshua Johnson - Chocolate Mousse Chocolate Cremeux Cherry Compote Chocolate Pound Cake

Joshua Johnson - corn macaron with jalapeno jelly, corn cream, arugula

Ghaya Oliveira, Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Daniel (NY)

Ghaya Oliveira - sign

Ghaya Oliveira - The Cherry Tart

Derek Poirier, École du Grand Chocolate Pastry Chef Western USA – Valrhona USA (AZ)

Derek Poirier - sign

Derek Poirier - To The Five Boroughs

Derek Poirier - Chocolate Cocktail

Rudi Weider, Master Pastry Chef at Hilton San Diego Bayfront (CA)

Rudi Weider - sign

Rudi Weider - Chocolate Espresso Creme Brulee

Jennifer Yee, Executive Pastry Chef at Lafayette (NY)

Jennifer Yee - sign

Jennifer Yee - eclair display

2014 Top 10 Chefs Dessert Pro Mag2014 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America

For my re-caps of the event the previous for the previous two years, please visit these links on this website:

2013 Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine

Buon appetito!

Thank you to Ruskin International for inviting me to participate in this event.

Chocolate-covered Candied Orange Peels (aka Orangettes)

Packed orangettesOrangettes ready to be gifted

I’m not sure exactly when I first had Orangettes (Chocolate-covered Candied Orange Peels), but I instantly loved them.  I remember my mom candying orange peels once upon a time, but she never seemed to do it again that I can recall.  It’s been on my To Do List to try to make them at home.  I’ve been testing another recipe (that I’ve yet to write up) that needed several blood oranges cut into suprêmes or membrane-free segments, so it seemed like a good excuse to make them.

Blood Orange SupremesBlood orange suprêmes

After removing the flesh of the fruit, I was left with a mound of orange peels.  It felt like such a waste to throw them away when I knew that they could be turned into something deliciously sweet that I could use as a calling card for some upcoming appointments that I have.  Turns out, these aren’t so difficult to make at all.  The hardest part is resisting the temptation to eat them all and not to share any!

Orangettes (Chocolate-covered Candied Orange Peels)

Prep time: 2-3 hours (includes drying time)

Serving size: makes about 2-3 cups orange peel


3 large Blood Oranges

250 g White Sugar

5 Allspice berries

2 Cloves, whole

1 Cinnamon stick

50 g White Caster Sugar

100 g Milk Chocolate

100 g Semi-sweet Chocolate (70% cocoa)


Trimming orange peelsTrimming orange peels

Cut away the orange peel from the flesh of the orange.  If you cut away large pieces (as in the case of segmenting the orange), you can trim away the excess white pith from the orange peel.  The pith is bitter, but you do need to leave some of it with the peel to give structure to the final product.  A few millimeters is all you need of the white.  Then, cut the peel into thick strips lengthwise.

Blanching orange peels 1Blanching orange peels

To take away the bitterness of the peel, you need to blanch it.  Put a pot of water on to boil.  Put the orange peel into the boiling water for about 15 seconds.  Remove it and place it into an ice bath to stop the cooking.

Cooling down orange peelOrange peels in ice bath

Repeat this process two more times (for a total of three times).  Start with fresh water each time.  Every time you do this process, the peel will be quickly cooked in the boiling water and then dunked in an ice bath to cool it down.  When blanching the orange peel for the third time, keep the cooking water.

Poaching orange peelPoaching orange peels in simple syrup

Mix together 500 ml of the orange cooking water with 250 g white sugar in a saucepan and cook on low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the allspice, cloves, and cinnamon, and then add the blanched orange peels.  Cook for 30 minutes over low heat until the orange peels are translucent.  Drain peels.  Keep the syrup and reserve for another use like sweetening tea or cocktails or to pour over pancakes and biscuits.

Tossing orange peel with syrupTossing orange peels with sugar

Pour the caster sugar into a bowl along with the orange peels.  Toss together to coat each of the peels with the sugar.

Sugar-coated orange peelSugar-coated orange peels

Shake the orange peels to remove the excess sugar and dry them on a baking rack set over a parchment-lined sheet tray.  Let them cool for about 30 minutes.

Dipping orange peels in chocolateDipping orange peels in chocolate

Melt chocolates in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water (or in a double boiler if you have one).  Dip one end of each of the orange peels into the chocolate and place it on a parchment paper to allow it to set.

Chocolate-covered candied orange peelOrangettes (aka Chocolate-covered Candied Orange Peels)

Leave orange peels alone for 30 minutes while you try to resist the temptation to eat them.  When the chocolate has set, you can store the chocolate-covered blood orange peels in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

Buon appetito!

Pain Perdu with Caramel and Chocolate Sauces

Snow Day Feb-2014Wintry window scene – NYC

The photo above is what I woke up to this morning.  Yet another snowstorm and blustery day in NYC.  We haven’t really had a winter like this in the 14+ years I’ve lived here.  Then, the heat and hot water stopped working in my apartment.  It kicked back in a while later, fortunately.  I was going to cook up something really wonderful as a Valentine’s Day dessert recipe, but my inspiration faded fast with the drifting snowflakes and the temperatures dropping inside my home.

Faux setupFaux recipe set up

I had gathered up all the ingredients for a potential recipe, having even bought extra chocolate in a pre-storm grocery run, looked at them on the counter, and then decided to scrap the plan.  The laziness factor kicked in, and I didn’t want to mess with measuring cups and ovens and such.  Instead, I decided to recycle some recipes and to forage in the fridge and freezer for leftovers.  I love leftovers, and in the kitchens I’ve worked in, we try to make the most of everything, even leftover bread.  So, this Pain Perdu with Caramel and Chocolate Sauce was the first thing that came to my slightly frozen mind (plus, someone had mentioned wanting pain perdu this week).

Here’s how it came together:

Brioche rollsBrioche rolls

The best bread for this recipe is thick-cut slices of brioche bread.  I do have a whole loaf of it stored in my freezer, but I didn’t want to break into that.  I found these brioche rolls that remain from another cooking project shoved in the back, so they seemed perfect for this project.  I defrosted them and split them in half.

Milk left in bottleThis amount of milk left still means you have to go downstairs to get another carton

Fortunately, there was just enough milk left in the bottom of the carton for this project so that I could make the egg mixture for the Pain Perdu (basically, a fancy French Toast).  This is the same amount that my little brother used to leave in the carton so that he would not, technically, be the person to finish the last of the milk, so, thereby, not having to go downstairs to the back up refrigerator (yes, large families have a back up refrigerator) to get a whole new gallon of milk.  This was an on-going battle for years when we were growing up.

Chocolate SauceLeftover chocolate sauce

I know, that phrase doesn’t make sense, right?  I mean, who has “leftover” chocolate sauce?  Well, there was some remaining after I’d tested the recipe for Spice Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce last week.  I could have just eaten all of it directly from the container with a spoon, but I was trying to be a bit good.

Caramel Sauce bubbling awayCaramel sauce bubbling away

While chocolate takes center stage today on Valentine’s Day, and I really do love eating chocolate, I’m also a huge fan of caramel.  A little secret?  It is super easy to make at home, as I wrote about in this Millionaire’s Shortbread recipe.  The only down side?  Once you figure it out, you might be tempted to make it all the time, and then just sit there and eat it by the spoonful.  Or maybe that’s just my issue…

Pain Perdu with Caramel and Chocolate Sauce

Prep time: 30-45 minutes

Serving Size: 2 portions (if you share, you can stretch it to 4)


4 slices Brioche Bread (or 2 Brioche Rolls split in half)

1 Egg (in this case, size doesn’t matter, just whatever you have on hand)

1/4-1/3 c. Whole Milk (whatever is left in the carton)

1/4 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1 pinch Salt

1 tsp. Butter (again, just use what you have)

Chocolate Sauce (click link for recipe)

Caramel Sauce (click link for recipe)


Pain Perdu soakingBread in egg mixture

Warm up a skillet over medium heat.  While waiting for it to get hot, mix together the egg, milk, vanilla, and salt.  Dunk the bread slices in the mixture.  Toss the butter into the pan and let it melt.

Pain Perdu cookingPain Perdu cooking

When the butter has melted, remove the bread from the egg mixture and place it in the pan.  Let it cook for several minutes until it becomes golden brown.  Flip it over and then cook it on the second side until it also becomes golden brown.

Chocolate & Caramel SaucesChocolate and caramel sauces

While the Pain Perdu is cooking, set up the plate with the two sauces.  I spread the chocolate sauce in the middle of the plate and then surrounded it by a ring of the caramel sauce.  You could choose to do the opposite or to divide the plate evenly in half between the two sauces.  It’s up to you and your taste preferences.

Pain Perdu on the platePain Perdu with Caramel and Chocolate Sauces

Once the Pain Perdu finished browning, I added that to the plate on top of the sauces, the residual heat from the cooking process melted all of the sauces together, making them warm and gooey.

Cleaning the plateCleaning the plate

Then, I sat on the couch in front of the tv, watching as the snowstorm switched over to sleet and freezing rain, and ate the whole entire thing all by myself.  Sometimes snowdays are the best thing ever!

Buon appetito!

Spice Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce

Pair of Pears with ChocolateSpice Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce

Now that you’ve decided not to go out to some restaurant to spend a bunch of money on a Valentine’s Day prix fixe or to have a private chef fix a romantic meal à deux, you’ve got to figure out how to pull something together for next Friday night’s dinner to show your sweetie how much you care about him/her.  Sure, you can order up a rotisserie chicken and pick up some side dishes from the local gourmet food store, but what about dessert?  Chocolate, of course, is on the menu, but what about making something to impress just a little bit, to show that you did put some effort into making the meal a special one.  That’s where these Spice Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce come into the picture.

Spiced sugar syrupPoaching liquid

This dish is composed of several easy steps.  First is to create a poaching liquid for the pears of simple syrup combined with allspice berries, star anise pods, a cinnamon stick, and orange peel, giving the fruit a luxurious texture and delicate, exotic spiced perfume.  A rich, velvety chocolate sauce is poured around the center of the plate.  Then, pears are placed on a mound of creamy mascarpone cheese with finely chopped toasted hazelnuts as the base.  This dessert should be just the thing to win your honey’s heart this Valentine’s Day.

Spice Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce

Prep time: 30 minutes

Serving size: 2 portions


2 Tbsp. Hazelnuts

250 g White Sugar

250 g Water

1 Bosc Pear

4 Allspice berries

2 Star Anise pods

1 Cinnamon stick

Peel of 1/2 Orange

100 ml Heavy Cream

100 ml Whole Milk

1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1 Tbsp. Confectioner’s Sugar

100 g Semi-sweet Chocolate (I used a bar with 70% cocoa.)

2 Tbsp. Mascarpone

1 tsp. Confectioner’s Sugar

Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

IngredientsGetting started


Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Put hazelnuts on a baking sheet and cook for 5-10 minutes until golden brown.  Set aside to cool.  Place sugar and water in heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the water is simmering.  You can stir it with a wooden spoon if the sugar seems to be hanging around on the bottom of the pan.  Add allspice berries, star anise pods, cinnamon stick, and orange peel.  Peel and core the pear and cut it in half.

Poaching pearsPoaching pears in spiced syrup

Place the halves, cut side up, in the spiced syrup to cook for 15 minutes until they are soft but not mushy.  The point of a knife or a cake tester should easily go through them.  Let the pears cool for 5 minutes in the syrup and then remove them.  Strain and reserve the poaching liquid.  This makes a great syrup for tea or a base for cocktails.  While the pears are cooking and cooling, make the chocolate sauce.

Chocolate sauceChocolate sauce

Heat up heavy cream and milk together on low heat until bubbles are on the side of the liquid.  Don’t bring it to a boil.  Add vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar.  If using a bar of chocolate, break it into pieces and add it to the hot cream-milk mixture.  Stir with a whisk until chocolate is completely melted and incorporated.  Turn off the heat and set aside.  [At this point, the pears and chocolate can be refrigerated until ready to serve.  Pour chocolate in a pan or reheat in the microwave just before putting on the plate.]

Mascarpone addedChopped hazelnuts and mascarpone

To serve, place a mound of finely chopped hazelnuts on the center of a large plate.  Mix mascarpone with 1 tsp. confectioner’s sugar, and put 2 dollops of mascarpone, of about 1 tsp. each, on top of the hazelnuts.  Then, spoon chocolate sauce around the center of the plate, sort of moat-like around the chopped hazelnuts and mascarpone.  Slice pear halves lengthwise and place them on top of the mascarpone so that it isn’t visible.  Garnish with a sprig of mint, if desired.

Pears on tableSpice Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce

If you like, you can also serve this dish on two separate plates, but it is a little more romantic to present it on one and to share it.

Buon appetito!

Kitchen Witch Tip:

Coring pear

You know that melon baller that’s stuck in the back of your kitchen utensils drawer?  Well, it makes a great way to core apples and pears, making them easier to cut cleanly in half.

Boozy Chocolate-Orange Bread Pudding

Chocolate-Orange Bread Puddings ready to serveBoozy Chocolate-Orange Bread Pudding

I don’t have to tell any of you who live in the Northeast just how miserable and cold it has been these first few weeks of 2014.  This provides a great excuse to make all sorts of creamy, heavy, filling dishes to try to warm up our bodies and souls.  The first Sunday of Season 4 of Downton Abbey, I hosted a few friends at my place to watch the show.  They came over with bottles of wine, and I put together a few snacks for us to munch on while we caught up on the latest dramas and antics in the lives of the Crawley family.  For dessert, I made these Boozy Chocolate-Orange Bread Pudding for us to enjoy (and as a way to use leftover brioche bread to clear up room in my freezer, one of my 2014 goals).

IngredientsIngredients for bread pudding

Chocolate and Orange are one of my favorite flavor combinations.  Add to that the custard mix, some buttery-rich brioche bread, and a healthy shot of orange liqueur, and you have the simplest of desserts that all comes together very quickly.  This is a perfect dish to whip up for a dinner party as well or even an impromptu dinner for two.  I’m almost tempted to break into the other full loaf of brioche bread in my freezer to make some more of these, but this time, I might not share them!

Boozy Chocolate-Orange Bread Pudding

Prep time:  A little bit over an hour

Serving size: 6 ramekins


2 Large Eggs

2 Tbsp. White Sugar

1/3 c. Heavy Cream

2/3 c. Whole Milk

1/4 c. Orange Liqueur (like Gran Marnier or Cointreau)

1 pinch Salt

Butter for greasing ramekins

3 c. Cubes of Brioche bread (about 1/2-inch in size)

Zest of 1/2 an Orange

1/2 bar of Semi-sweet Chocolate (use whatever you have on hand), grated


Whisking up fillingFilling mixed together

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Whisk together eggs and sugar in a bowl until they are thoroughly combined.  Add heavy cream, milk, orange liqueur, and salt.  Whisk these items together.  Set aside for a moment while assembling the bread puddings.

Buttering ramekinsButtering ramekins

Lightly grease each ramekin with butter.  For a hint as to how to make this messy job a bit easier, see Kitchen Witch Tips for a suggestion here.  Divide the brioche bread cubes into equal amounts and distribute them among the ramekins.  Sprinkle the top of each bread-filled ramekin with a bit of orange peel and some of the chocolate shavings.

Bread Puddings ready for the ovenBread Puddings ready for the oven

Pour the custard over each of the ramekins, making sure to get the liquid in all of the corners of the puddings and to cover as much of the bread as possible.  Let them sit for about 10-15 minutes to make sure the custard is absorbed into the bread.  Put in the oven on a baking sheet and cook for 25-30 minutes.

Chocolate-Orange Bread Puddings ready to serveBoozy Chocolate-Orange Bread Pudding

Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for at least 5 minutes before attempting to eat one.  You can also make these a bit in advance and reheat them just before serving.

Buon appetito!