Archive for ‘Chocolate’

September 27, 2013

Zucchini Nutella Swirl Muffins


Summertime in Strasbourg means discovering gardens. As a Long Islander, born and raised, the only two times anything grew in my backyard was when 1) a pool appeared and 2) my Italian great uncle Cono managed to make a cucumber grow out of the sandy soil.

As you can see my experience with fresh produce, literally in my own backyard, was fairly limited up until this year.

The Beard’s mom has a garden. And she has zucchini plants. Flowers? What do we call those anyway? Alls I know is that we received zucchini deliveries by the crateful. The weekly task is therefore to find ways to use them all up before they go bad.  There was therefore a lot of cake made in our household…

..but it is zucchini, so it is healthy, right?

Or so I told myself…

This recipe was unbelievable, my only qualm was that it didn’t make yield nearly enough muffins!


Zucchini Nutella Swirl Muffins



What you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ½ cup Nutella (or the German knockoff NUSS-something or other)

Now what?

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 f/ 180 c. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large enough bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Whisk to mix well.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Beat the egg in.
  3. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture until just combined.
  4. Stir in the zucchini and lemon zest.
  5. Use a ¼ cup scoop to evenly distribute the batter between the muffin liners. They should be 2/3 full.
  6. Dollop 1 teaspoon of Nutella on top of each scoop of batter and swirl with a toothpick.
  7. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes. Check the centers with a toothpick. The toothpick should come out clean before removing the muffins from the oven.(I am sure this would make a wonderful zucchini loaf, to be baked for about 35-50 minutes, depending on the loaf size.)

Bon app!


(look at that swirl!)

August 8, 2013

chocolate caramel bark aka lovexcore cookies


These treacherously delicious cookies have several names. My father calls them “heart-attack” cookies. My friends and I used to call them “lovexcore” cookies. Traditional society would probably call them “bark.” Whatever their actual title, these cookies were a big favorite growing up on the Long Island peninsula. Whenever Kelly came over with a tin or a Tupperware, you knew what she had up her sleeve. These puppies.

With such simple, everyday ingredients (but perhaps some shocking quantities?) these are easy to whip up. Just be sure to have the patience to let them cool down in the refrigerator before plunging head-first into the baking tray.

The saltiness of the saltine crackers coupled with the butter and the chocolate make for an addictive and compulsive treat. I suggest that you test these bad boys out when you are going somewhere and you are going to share them. In fact, this was probably Kelly’s technique all along…

The French are normally not a big fan of a salty-sweet combination (WHAT? I live for this happy marriage of flavor) but those who did get a taste gave this treat a healthy, happy, albeit metaphorical two thumbs-up.

Fun fact: In just thinking of a French person giving two thumbs up, I had to ask myself — do the French even do this sort of gesture? According to wordreference, this is not translatable.


Kelly’s lovexcore cookies aka Chocolate Caramel Bark

What you’ll need:

  • 40 Saltine crackers or something similar (I’ve heard tell of doing this with Matzo)
  • 1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
  • 1 cup (220g) packed light brown sugar
  • A big pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup toasted chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts or a nut of your choice (optional)
  • Sprinkles (optional)
  • Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional but who doesn’t love extra sea salt!)

What now?

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C. While the oven is heating, line a large baking sheet (11 x 17) with aluminum foil and THEN parchment paper. You want to fit these two perfectly on the baking sheet. I’ve learned that the parchment paper really helps the lovexcore cookies to NOT stick.
  2. Line the now covered baking sheet with saltine crackers. You may have to break them apart in order to completely cover the baking sheet. Don’t worry about it looking perfect, just get that baking sheet covered.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together on medium heat until it comes to a boil. Once it’s come to a boil, let it continue to boil, stirring it often so that it thickens (or becomes a caramel!)
  4. Remove from the heat and add salt and vanilla extract.
  5. Quickly pour caramel over the saltine crackers and spread if you can to cover every part of the crackers.
  6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the outer edges of the crackers start to brown. Pay attention! You don’t want it to burn or get too dark.
  7. Once removed from the oven, immediately cover the saltine crackers with the chopped chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, until the chocolate has become melty and spreadable. Using a spatula, spread the wealth chocolate deliciousness to fully cover everything. If using, sprinkle the chocolate with sprinkles (hehe)/ almonds / nuts / whatever you’d like.
  8. Wait an eternity (or put it in the fridge) to cool. Once cool, break the saltines up into bite sized pieces of your choosing. Try not to taste the entire baking sheet while you are breaking them apart. Been there, done that.

Bon app!


May 31, 2013

5 ingredient cookies by the lovely Kim

Due to my prolonged absence due to a hurried attempt to finish a masters thesis in a foreign language, a foreign school system and a foreign economic system, Kim has come and saved the day with a guest post. This is how it happened.

Kim: “I am making cookies!”

Me: “snap some pics and guest blog!”

Kim: …….ok! (20 minutes later the drop box folder was shared.)

I present to you all, Kim.


I cleaned the kitchen yesterday, top to bottom.  It really needed it.  Then I cooked and a beetroot salad and new potatoes somehow managed to leave me in a state of bereavement.  The clean surfaces of yesterday were still marked by the beetroot juice from yesterday’s salad, and the potato pan, the bowl I mixed the dressing in, the colander, the salad bowl, the chopping board…  YEP all STILL dirty.

My good friend at à L’aise fraise sent me a recipe yesterday that had been playing on my mind.  Craving gooey chocolaty stuff as I often do, especially in times of endless “home-working”, as the French put it – which for me meant sitting at my table in my PJs all day looking at articles and feeling lost, I couldn’t get this woman’s recipe off my mind…

I set to accumulating the ingredients and realised I didn’t have everything, and although not difficult, they would add to my washing up rather more significantly than I was prepared to LEAVE the house to GET DRESSED to GO to the supermarket for.  So sat right back down, and tried, my very hardest, to WORK.  Inevitable continued surfing of the food blog entailed until I set my eyes on these beauties.

I counted the ingredients: 1,2,3,4… 5!  I had everything I needed.  No less than 2 minutes later, I had forgotten about those papers and my mind was focussed on COOKIES, (In another life I must have been blue, furry and had someone’s hand up my arse).  I set to work and they really did only take 10 minutes to make as promised on the blog.  I popped them in the freezer, and set to the washing up from last night’s salad.  I had finished by the time they came out of the freezer, all I had to do was pop them in the oven and WAIT… EIGHT WHOLE MINUTES.

Got them out, sprinkled them with salt and bob is very much your mother’s brother…

THE best motivation I have EVER found, bar none, to do washing up:

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup nutella (135 grams for me and my UK/FR readers)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour + 1 tablespoon (around 65-70 grams)
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Monique at Ambitious Kitchen, reckons that there are 12- 14 cookies to be made from this batch… maybe I was a little too generous as I only got 10 out of it – but whatever the case…

All you do, is:

1.Mix up the ingredients (apart from the salt)

2.Put it in the freezer for 10 minutes (while you wash up)

3.Cut the dough  into even portions to make 1 inch chocolate balls

4. Stick it in the oven at 180° C or 350° F for 8-10 minutes

You will never ever buy a cookie again when it is THAT simple to make one.

November 28, 2012

FrenchGiving : The Third Edition (Chocolate Croissant French Toast | Pain au chocolat pain perdu)

This past Thanksgiving marked my very third Thanksgiving spent in France.  The first Thanksgiving was spent in intimate company where I attempted to recreate my mom’s recipes with plastic cups as estimated cup measurements.  The second Thanksgiving was a bit larger: 12 guests, innovative recipes, classic recipes, a wild goose chase for fresh cranberries, the whole kit and caboodle.  The tradition of cooking for this holiday was something that fulfilled me and made me less sad about being so far away.  This is why I have not called this year’s day Thanksgiving.  Because it was not.  This year was a new idea.  Seeing that I knew I couldn’t give this holiday my whole heart (5 days of cooking, days spent biking back and forth to supermarkets across town, hours to do the dishes afterwards), I decided not to do it.  I hesitated.  I thought about making one infamous dish.  But then I decided that you can’t have Thanksgiving with just one dish. It doesn’t work like that.

So I put a moratorium on Thanksgiving for this year and this year alone.  I couldn’t bear to go at it half-heartedly.  But my roommates, now with a taste of Thanksgiving in their hearts after 2 years gone by, were desperate to celebrate somehow.  I did what any American parent knows will thrill their children and I said….”how about breakfast for dinner!?”  Worked like a charm.  They were happy to do something,  I was happy that it wasn’t a shoddy version of Thanksgiving, and everyone cooked a frenchicized version of an American breakfast dish, sending all of us into food induced Frenchgiving comas after our 10 pm dinner.

My contribution was thanks to my darling Schnooze : croissant “french toast” / pain perdu.  In French, french toast is translated by “lost bread” because it was initially made out of stale brioche in order to salvage the hardened treat.  I bought some pain au chocolat (chocolate ‘croissants’ for a lack of a better translation) and turned them into a French toast worth making over and over again.

Chocolate Croissant French Toast | Pain au chocolat perdu

What you’ll need:

  • 4 croissants | pain au chocolat
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla as desired

Now what?

  1. Cut the croissants in two length-wise
  2. Dip them, but not for too long, into the milk/egg/sugar/spices mixture.
  3. Cook them in a heated frying pan with a little bit of salted butter until they are crispy, crunchy and melty.

Et voilà.  Bon appétit.  It is as easy as that.

November 21, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies | cookies au chocolat

My oh my.  This week is Thanksgiving week.  Normally, I would have been planning for this occasion since December of last year.  But given my hectic schedule and an inability to pee on certain days due to time constraints (true story), I decided to forgo my cooking madness this year.  I am feeling a little blue about it, since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all time.  There is no greater feeling than waking up to a home that smells like cooking, rushing down the stairs at 7 am to help my mom, especially for the stuffing, sneaking bits and pieces of the stuffing into my little mouth when no one was looking, being with family, eating so much that you cannot breathe, falling asleep on the couch with a pillow over your stomach.  Ah. My kind of holiday.  I am slightly soulagée, however, because this year my mom will be cooking for Christmas Eve and I will be home to celebrate and help.  It compensates, I suppose.
This week totally does not feel like Thanksgiving.  Since I will be sitting in class all day on Thursday (mentally protesting the fact that I am not at home doing all of the aforementioned Thanksgiving festivities), I promised my classmates that I would bring them a little taste of America (they don’t know it yet, but I will be implementing a mandatory ENGLISH LANGUAGE LUNCH ! mwahahaha) I just needed to melt some chocolate, stay in the kitchen until 11pm, and blast the Carpenters’ Christmas album for it to feel like it was actually Thanksgiving week.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

(adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready For Dessert)

What you’ll need:

  • 1 pound (450 g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ stick (115 g) butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups (200 g) chocolate chips

Now what?

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl in the microwave in intervals of 30 seconds as to not set fire to the mixture (been there, done that.) Mix fully until melted.
  2. With an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, whip the eggs, sugar and vanilla at high speed until they form a well-defined ribbon when you lift the whisk.  Remove the whisk and attach the paddle to the mixer.  Turn the speed to low, and mix in the melted chocolate mixture.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder, then add them to the batter.  Add the chocolate chips.  Place the dough in the refrigerator until it is firm, at least 30 minutes.  I left mine in there overnight.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough with your hands into three 10-inch logs, 2 inches in diameter.  If the dough is too cold and firm, wait until it becomes easy to handle.
  5. To bake the cookies, position the oven racks in the center and upper part of the oven and preheat the oven to 350⁰F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Cut the logs into ½”-thick cookies, and place them on the baking sheet, evenly spaced.  Bake for about 7 minutes.  Rotate the baking sheets and switch racks midway through baking. Bake for a few more minutes or until they start to firm up around the edges.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool fully, otherwise they will fall apart when you move them.  Once they have cooled completely, store the cookies in an airtight container, or a beautiful box that was given to you on your birthday!

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