Tag Archives: chocolate

Coconutty Balls

Happy 4th Day of Tropical!

Call me immature, but I still giggle when my 9-year-old son dies laughing every time someone uses the words “balls” or “nuts”.  Yes, he is still in the phase where that is funny, and apparently I am as well. B had no interest in helping me in the kitchen today, but my youngest daughter did. She is featured in these pictures.

To make this yummy treat, all you have to do is toast some coconut, chop a little chocolate, and of course add nuts.

What we used:

  • 1 ¼ cups sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (we used macadamia nuts and walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup not super sweet chocolate, chopped (a semi-sweet bar worked great)
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips


Start off by toasting the coconut in a 350-degree oven, for about 10 minutes. Next, chop the nuts and chocolate.  Melt the chocolate by placing it in a bowl over a pot of boiling water; just make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water.

After the chocolate is melted, combine it with the nuts and coconut.


Finally, scoop balls of the mixture onto a lined baking sheet. We decided to sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar, before chilling them for a bit.  They turned out to be more of a blob-ish shape, but were delicious nonetheless!


B loved them, although he wouldn’t let me take his photo…





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Banana chocolate rum bread

Of all the family stories, the one most fascinating* to me is that of my great-grandpa.  My mom can tell this story better than I, but it involves the Great Depression, hitching rides on trains from West Virginia out to the promise of the West, singing gospel songs on the radio along the way, and eventually, happenstance-ly, meeting the brother of the woman who would eventually become my great-grandma.  Maybe we can get Mom to tell the story in its entirety.

I was very young when those great-grandparents passed away, but I still have two solid memories of my great-grandpa:

1) Whenever my mom and I visited, he would have fresh, summer-ripe peaches for me to eat, but insisted that they be peeled by dropping them in a pot of boiling water to slip the skin off. This, of course, took time – time for the pot of water to boil, time to allow the peaches to cool before slurping them up, and time wasted (in my 3- or 4-year-old mind, at least) that could have been spent slurping up more peaches.

2) He made the best banana bread. Without doubt. No banana bread could ever rival his banana bread.  As such, I’ve long given up the dream of ever having delicious banana bread again. (I had very sophisticated tastes at 3 or 4 years old, believe you me.)

Sometimes, though, a memory wants to be more than just remembered – it wants to be recreated, tried again, honored, even.

So here we are. Luisa sums this recipe up quite perfectly:

“What sets it apart from other banana breads is the huge amount of brown sugar in the batter. It entirely replaces the usual white sugar and adds not only to the appealing dampness of the final product, but it also gives the banana bread a depth of caramel flavor and a warmth that I wasn’t expecting. It’s not overpowering – molasses doesn’t waft up from the crumb – but it’s more nuanced and delicious. Also, you don’t purée the bananas – you mash them with a fork, leaving little lumps and bumps in the batter that give each finished slice tenderness and cozy banana flavor.”

With a description like that, how could I not try to make banana bread that even my 3- or 4-year-old self would love?

…except when I started to mix the ingredients together, I came to a realization that, hopefully, a 3 or 4 year old wouldn’t come to: What goes quite, quite well with brown sugar, ripe bananas, vanilla, and chocolate? Rum – just a dash – a taste – a hint – of rum.

chocolate banana rum

The bread/cake comes from Nigel Slater, and it is absolutely a-ma-zing. Don’t wait 20-something years to make this banana bread, ok?

pre bake

Banana chocolate rum bread
adapted from The Wednesday Chef/Nigel Slater 

A note about measurements: In my “I just graduated from college! I need to have a decently stocked kitchen! I need a digital scale!” phase, I purchased a digital scale. I believe it was this one. It’s super convenient and accurate and has all those nifty weight options. What I’m saying is, I left the below measurements in grams. Sorry if that makes this recipe difficult to convert, but maybe this is life’s hint that it’s time for you start your “I found a delicious-sounding recipe! I need a digital scale!” phase.

  • 250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 125 grams softened butter
  • 235 grams muscovado or dark brown sugar or turbinado sugar
  • 4 to 5 ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon rum (I used Mt. Gay Eclipse Black rum)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100 grams dark chocolate, chopped (mine happened to be of the salted-nutty variety, and it was splendid)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a standard-sized loaf pan with parchment paper, or grease/butter a loaf pan if you recently ran out of parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and beat until combined and slightly fluffy.

3. Peel the bananas and mash them with a fork in a medium bowl.  You want the bananas to be a little lumpy and not completely pureed. Stir the vanilla extract and rum into the bananas.

4. Fold the chocolate and mashed banana mixture into the butter/sugar/egg bowl.  Gently mix the flour and baking powder into the banana batter.

5. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake in the oven for 50 – 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the bread is browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Remove the bread from the oven and let sit on a rack for 15 minutes, then gently plop the bread out of the pan and allow to cool completely on the rack.

Luisa says the bread will keep for a week or more – we’re on day three and it’s more than halfway gone, so I doubt we will have the chance to test its longevity. Also, this bread is quite good toasted, with a pad of butter. Or, nutella. Surprised?


In other news, I have about five (5!!!) other recipes I neeeeeed to tell you all about. Omg, you guys, they’re great.


*Ok there is actually another story about a different great (or maybe great great) grandpa who may or may not have been a dear, close friend of Pancho Villa and fled Mexico after that all went down, but that story is more family legend than fact. Maybe.

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Chocolate is for lovers

Rich, warm chocolate.  Nutty, buttery pastry.  Pillowy soft whipped cream and a sweet little sparkle.  Oh, and did I mention French?  If you are feeling extra romantic, by all means, go all out on a $55,000 red velvet cupcake topped with an 8-carat diamond engagement ring (if you have the means and are looking for a tantalizing way to pop the question).  If your means are a bit more modest, though, try this chocolate tart, and your loved one(s) will be glad you did.

Tarte au chocolat!  It was the cover recipe I spotted on a French magazine back on Thanksgiving Day when we took a drive to Alsace and wandered through a grocery store (yep, we went grocery shopping for Thanksgiving…I was feeling a little humbuggy about being so far away from family on the holiday, which is just a normal work day to all our neighbors).  Well, right away I put the tart on my list for Christmas dessert.  However, with Kara home to help and guests who brought all kinds of delicious contributions, Christmas dinner evolved into a Mexican feast and we ate our fill and then filled in all the little extra tummy spaces with cayenne caramel corn, pepita brittle, soft gingerbread cookies, raspberry kolachky, polvorones, and other assorted nibbles, and we didn’t even give the tart a thought until the next day.  When I pulled it out of the fridge and cut in, it was really hard to slice through.  We chiseled away at little servings, but I remember remarking to Kara that I had abandoned my plan to write up the recipe for the blog because my guiding question is always “Would I make it again?” and in this case, the answer was no.  It was very fast and easy* to make, with a fail-safe crust and a nice deep chocolate flavor, but the texture was way too hard and heavy.

But then……fast forward a few days.  Kara was already back in DC, and I looked at the recipe again.  Now, I don’t speak French, but I can generally make out a written passage on a familiar topic due to similarities between French and Spanish.  I labored through the text and noticed one important detail I’d missed….or rather, I noticed I had read into the recipe something that wasn’t there.  It doesn’t say to chill the tart before serving!  I took out a slice and zapped it in the microwave for 30 seconds and found myself in chocolate heaven.  If you like chocolate**, you’ll love this chocolate tart.

Tarte au Chocolat
Adapted from Zeste Nouveau, Cuisinons simple et bon
October-November, 2011

Sablé Pastry:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons ground hazelnuts (substitute almonds or other nuts)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups flour

Cream together the butter and powdered sugar, then beat in the egg.  Stir in the ground nuts, salt, and flour and work the mixture gently until it holds together.  Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic; chill in the freezer for 15 minutes or in the fridge for an hour or more.

Heat the oven to 325 F.  Roll the crust out on a lightly floured surface and cut a circle the size for a 9-10 inch tart pan (a regular pie plate is fine).  Fit the pastry round into the pan and trim the edges (no need for a fluted crust – the filling won’t fill the tart very deeply, and anyway, rustic is the new sophisticated).  Don’t start eating all the extra dough yet!  First, put the extra slabs of rolled pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cut out little hearts with a cookie cutter, about an inch apart.  Now you can pull the extra dough away from the hearts and eat it if you want.

Cover the pastry in the tart pan with foil or parchment, then fill it with pie weights or dry beans.  Blind bake for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil/parchment and weights.  Break an egg into a cup and beat it until it is frothy, then use a little of the egg to brush over the partially baked crust and bake for another five minutes or more, until it is completely cooked through and just starting to brown.  Brush the raw dough hearts with egg as well and sprinkle the hearts lightly with sugar.  Bake the little hearts until they are golden brown and set aside to decorate individual tart slices.  Keep whatever egg is left to add to the filling (the original recipe says to use one egg plus a yolk for the filling and to use another yolk to brush the pastry, but this method works just as well and makes use of two whole eggs so you don’t end up with two extra egg whites).

While the pastry is baking, make the filling:

  • 8 ounces dark chocolate (I used two 100-gram bars, which is slightly less than 8 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg plus the extra beaten egg from the pastry
  • ¼ cup sugar (twice as much as the original recipe, but it seems needed to me)

While the chocolate is still in the wrappers, give them a couple of solid whacks on the counter top to break the bars into pieces.  Melt the chocolate pieces with the butter over a double boiler (if you cover it and keep a close eye on it, you can do the melting in the microwave if you prefer).  Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thick and light yellow colored, then blend in the chocolate and butter mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the tart shell and return to the oven for another 12-15 minutes, until it is no longer liquid.  Cool before cutting, but serve at room temperature or slightly warmed.  Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream and the heart cut-outs.

Yield: 12 servings

*And I do mean easy.  The recipe is part of an article called Atelier chocolat (Chocolate Workshop) which features a dad making chocolate recipes with two little kids.  A six-year-old could make this recipe with a little help.

**I used one bar of 72%, and the other one, labeled Herren Schokolade (Gentlemen’s Chocolate), is 60%.  The mix seemed just right, but if you use all 60% you might want to cut back the sugar to 2-3 tablespoons.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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