A peanut-free version of the Rocky cookie

Never in my life, until just over a year ago, had I known so many people with food allergies.  Now I have adopted an entire family full  🙂  (and I love them all) and have several friends with them as well.  There are allergies to spices, some to raw fruits and veggies, to gluten, to tree nuts, to peanuts, to dairy, and the list goes on.  Then there are the folks who make life choices to exclude certain foods- people who eat paleo, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, etc.  All of this adds up to challenge the “foodie” at each party.  You want to bring a dish that looks good, tastes great, and that everyone will be able to partake in.  It can be a little crazy, but I’m up for the challenge.

This particular recipe is an adaptation of the Rocky cookie which tastes a bit more tropical and uses no peanut butter.  It’s for Sheila and Michael as she loves her healthy foods and he doesn’t breathe so well when peanut products are near him 😉

Ingredients:

2 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup steel cut oats

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour (or oat flour)

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

dash of  nutmeg

Sprinkle of sea salt

Handful of bittersweet chocolate chunks

Handful of raisins

Handful of chopped dates

Handful of cashews

Handful of shredded coconut

Handful of dried pineapple

Handful of wheat germ

Handful of flax seed meal

Handful of sunflower seeds

1 egg

1/2 cup real maple syrup

1/4 cup molasses

¾ cup plain, unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

a well-ripened banana

1 large scoop of Tahini

  • Preheat the oven to 375
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix
  • Scoop the batter by the tablespoon onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper (cookies will not spread)
  • Bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on your oven).  You want a finished cookie that is golden brown around the edges and a bit on top

Rocky cookies

Bittersweet chocolate tart with pretzel crust

When I decided that I wanted to make a sinfully chocolate dessert for Christmas dinner with my siblings I went in search of recipes.  There were brownies and cakes, truffles and pots de creme, bread puddings and pies to choose from, but none were quite right to finish off our night of gluttony.  Then I came across this recipe and while it wasn’t perfect, it was workable.

What we have here is a shortbread type of crust which uses pretzels, rather than nuts, for a bit of texture.  The filling is a basic ganache, and it’s topped with simple crème fraiche (but you could also substitute whipped cream, ice cream, or even a yogurt dollop).  It is rich, silky, not too sweet, and absolutely lovely is small servings.  It pairs very nicely with a cup of coffee too 😉

Crust

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups coarsely crushed pretzels

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 large egg

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted

Filling

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon sea salt

sea salt, crushed pretzels and crème fraîche, for serving

  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with 3/4 cup of the pretzels and the confectioners’ sugar at a low speed until creamy
  • Beat in the flour and egg
  • Add the remaining 1/2 cup of pretzels, being sure to leave some pretzel pieces intact
  • Flatten the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an hour
  • Preheat the oven to 350°
  • Roll out the dough between the sheets of plastic wrap to the size of your tart pan
  • Press the dough into the tart pan and patch any tears, trim the overhanging dough and refrigerate the shell for another 30 minutes
  • Line the shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (you can substitute a cake pan for the pie weights)
  • Bake the shell for 30 minutes
  • Remove the parchment and weights and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the tart shell is firm and just browned
  • Let the shell cool completely, then brush the melted chocolate over the bottom and up the side and refrigerate for 10 minutes
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer, then take it off of the heat and add the chocolate and let it stand for 5 minutes
  • Whisk until smooth, then add the vanilla (or you can substitute any liqueur) and sea salt
  • Transfer the filling to a bowl and let it cool to room temp for about an hour
  • Pour the filling into the shell and refrigerate until set (about 4 hours)
  • Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and crushed pretzels. Cut into wedges, top with crème fraîche (or other topping of your choice) and serve

Espresso Dark Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

In our family, one of the Christmas morning traditions has become this decadent shortbread which melts in your mouth.  My sister came across the recipe a few years ago on Smitten, and we’ve been making them ever since.The cookie is wonderfully buttery, with a tiny bit of sweet, the lovely background aroma of espresso, and itty-bitty chunks of chocolate.

As far as chocolate goes, I will say that my personal favorite for baking in this cookie is Valrhona guanaja.  I am able to buy it at Whole Foods in whatever size chunk I may need, then I cut it up myself, at home, with a serrated bread knife.  This way my chocolate is minus the stabilizers that are used in commercial chips and I get to have a variety of sizes and shapes of chocolate bits.

Ingredients:
1 oz. fresh brewed espresso
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions:

  • Working with a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and confectioners sugar together until the mixture is very smooth
  • Beat in the vanilla and espresso
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until blended
  • Fold in the chopped chocolate
  • Using a rubber spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick.  As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so that it doesn’t make creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, and for up to 2 days
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper
  • Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and cut it open. Turn the chilled dough out onto the board and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares
  • Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines all the way through the cookies
  • Bake for 18 to 20 minutes (Note:  The cookies will be very pale as they shouldn’t take on much color)
  • Transfer to a cooling rack & cool to room temp before serving or freezing (I make these about two weeks before Christmas and freeze them, then pull them out on Christmas eve to thaw in the fridge overnight)

 

Rocky cookies

I have a dear friend named Roxanne.  Those who know her well call her Rocky.  Rocky is a giving and loving person, always there to listen to a friend, offer advice, lend her opinion.  Rocky also happens to be famous for her cookies, and I mean that.  She’s been asked to make them for parties at a salon, for people’s backyard shindigs, she’s made them for co-workers.  She willingly shares her recipe and I’ve used it over and over.  In fact I have a family member who swears that Rocky cookies helped her survive through a rough patch of menopause.  My weight-lifting friend asks me to make them as her cheat after competitions.  I’ve made them for constipated children who don’t get enough fiber in their diet, and for adults after surgery.  I make them for myself as a snack.  Unlike conventional cookies, they’re packed with healthy fats and fruits, nuts, and energy-supplying seeds.  No butter, no brown sugar, no white sugar- you get my drift.

This cookie is hearty.  It can be made with every ingredient in the list, or only a few of them.  You can play with combinations for flavor such as pumpkin and walnut, or chocolate and cherries, or sunflower and raisin.  Personally, I love to have a little bit of dark chocolate, lots of different fruits (prune, fig, raisin, cranberry), some wheat berries, a mixture of flours (barley and whole wheat)- a little bit of everything.

The recipe may confuse some as it calls for a handful of this and that ingredient.  It means that, literally.  The dough should not be terribly stiff when complete, but if it’s too runny just add a bit more flour to the mix.

2 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup steel cut oats

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour (or oat or barley flour)

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon cinnamon (can also add a dash of cloves and/or nutmeg)

Sprinkle of sea salt

Handful of bittersweet chocolate chunks

Handful of raisins

Handful of dried cranberries

Handful of walnuts

Handful of wheat germ

Handful of flax seed meal

Handful of seeds if you like them (sunflower, pepitas, flax, sesame, etc.)

the dry ingredients

1 egg

¾ cup real maple syrup (or any variation of, honey, agave, and/or molasses)

¾ cup plain, unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup coconut or olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup canned pumpkin (or a well-ripened banana)

1 large scoop of peanut butter (or almond or cashew butter)

the wet ingredients

  • Preheat the oven to 375
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix

the mixture

  • Scoop the batter by the tablespoon onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper (cookies will not spread)
  • Bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on your oven).  You want a finished cookie that is golden brown around the edges and a bit on top

the Rocky cookie

J

Chocolate Stout Cake

If you love deep, rich chocolate then this cake may be for you.  Low-fat it is not, but heavenly it is.  Although it contains stout, this cake does not taste like beer.  It simply uses the roasted malt flavor from the beer to lend to the intense character of the cake, the crumb of which is very dense and moist.  I’ve baked this many times over the last few years and find that while it’s great to eat just a few hours after baking, it’s superb the next day.  So if you have the ability to make and ganache the cake the day before, I think that you’ll be pleased with the outcome- not that I think you’ll ever be let down if you eat it the first day.

chocolate stout cake with espresso ganache

Ingredients:

1 cup stout (I generally use a chocolate stout like Young’s Double Chocolate or Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate, Southern Tier’s choklat even made an appearance once)
1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (my favorite is valrhona)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons sour cream (I’ve used non-fat without adverse effects)
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chunked
6 tablespoons heavy cream
¾ teaspoon ground espresso

Cake prep:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Grease a bundt pan
  • Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly
  • Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and ¾ teaspoon salt in large bowl
  • Using a mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend
  • Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine
  • Add flour mixture and beat briefly on a slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold the batter until it’s completely combined
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes (but sometimes as long as 50)
  • Transfer cake (in the pan) to a rack; cool 10 minutes
  • Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely

Ganache:
For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and espresso in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water in a sauce pan until smooth, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of the cooled cake.

Inspired by this post on smittenkitchen.com

J