Desserts

Christmas Chocolate Bark

Christmas Chocolate Bark

 

One of the holiday traditions in our family is to bake Christmas cookies together.  Each December, we pull out our cookie recipes and pick out our favorites, gather and shop for the ingredients, turn up the Christmas music, and get to baking.  I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember – back when I lived at home with my parents and baked with my mom and brother and sisters, when I moved out and lived on my own and baked cookies for everyone at work, when I got married and baked cookies for family parties and gifts, and now the tradition has come full circle and I am baking with my kids.  It’s such a great feeling and so comforting to take part in a tradition that has been passed down over the years!

 

This year, when we looked over our recipes, the kids and I came up with the following list, which we hope to package together and use as gifts for each of their teachers, our mailman, the bus driver, their great-grandparents, the barber, our neighbors, and anyone else that we think of who seems like they could use some Christmas cheer in the form of sweets!

 

·         Soft Molasses Cookies (our favorite newcomer from last year’s baking list)

 

·         Holiday Gingerbread Cookies (quickly becoming an old standby for our family and a fun tradition for the kids to use the cookie cutters and decorate the final result with homemade icing)

 

·         Gingerbread Biscotti (a new recipe we are trying this year – seems promising!)

 

·         Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites (a variation on my Granola Energy Bites)

 

·         Christmas Chocolate Bark (a variation on my Chili Chocolate Bark)

 

 

Here is how we made the Christmas Chocolate Bark:

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 1      

 

Place 12 ounces of chopped dark chocolate (70% or higher), 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 tablespoon of ground Ceylon cinnamon in a double boiler.  I like to use a glass mixing bowl over a medium pot of boiling water.  Heat and stir until melted and smooth. 

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 2

 

Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped crystallized ginger plus ¾ cup each of dried cranberries and pepitas.

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 3

 

Pour chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Spread evenly with spatula. 

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 4

 

Sprinkle with another 1/4 cup each of dried cranberries and pepitas, as well as some coarse sea salt.  Use the spatula to gently press the fruit, nuts and salt into the chocolate ever so slightly.  You want the red and green colors to still be visible in the end product but you need to press them in enough that they will stay put when the bark is cooled.

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 5

 

Place in freezer for 15 minutes or until hardened.

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 6

 

Break into pieces and serve immediately or store in fridge or freezer in airtight container. Enjoy!

 

Christmas Chocolate Bark

 

Whether you are planning a baking extravaganza as we are, or you just need a little pick-me-up in the form of chocolate, or maybe you signed up to bring a dessert to your holiday party – here is a recipe that is sure to be a winner!

 

Christmas Chocolate Bark
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  2. 1 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  4. 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped
  5. 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries, chopped
  6. 1 cup pistachios (roughly chopped) or pepitas (whole)
  7. coarse sea salt
Instructions
  1. Place chocolate, cocoa powder, and cinnamon in a double boiler (I like to use a glass mixing bowl over a medium pot of boiling water) and heat and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in all of the crystallized ginger plus ¾ cup each of the dried fruit and nuts.
  2. Pour chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Spread evenly with spatula. Sprinkle with remaining dried fruit and nuts, as well as coarse sea salt. Use the spatula to gently press the fruit, nuts and salt into the chocolate ever so slightly. (You want the red and green colors to still be visible in the end product but you need to press them in enough that they will stay put when the bark is cooled.)
  3. Place in freezer for 15 minutes or until hardened. Break into pieces and serve or store in fridge or freezer in airtight container. Enjoy!
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/

 

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake

When we have a family dinner or get-together, we all like to contribute something to the menu.  My grandmother often volunteers to make or bring a dessert (she’s got quite a sweet tooth!).  At one family dinner, she showed up with these Mexican Hot Chocolate Mini Brownies from the bakery section of our local grocery store.  They were delicious!  So of course, I looked at the ingredient list (which was about a mile long and contained things that I couldn’t pronounce, let alone identify) and decided that I wanted to find a way to make a homemade version on my own!

 

After some online research and a few test batches, I’m excited to share a version that is just as delicious as the ones that we tried at our family dinner but uses whole wheat flour and maple syrup (you could also substitute honey) in place of refined flours and sugars and does not contain any added flavors or preservatives.  Win!

 

The idea behind a Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake is that you take the flavors from a Mexican hot chocolate (which is traditionally made with cinnamon and some sort of hot pepper to kick it up a notch) and bake it into a very moist chocolate cake.  My version also contains coffee so I guess it’s sort of a Mexican Mocha Cake. 

 

During my online research, I happened upon the idea of baking cake batter in pint-sized Mason jars so that you can serve them as individual servings.  I thought it was such a fun idea, especially when serving kids!  One night, when we had an extra kid sleeping over at our house, we made a batch of these cakes and all enjoyed them on the sofa while having a movie night.  Fun! 

 

[You could also make this recipe in a traditional cake pan but, to be honest, I didn’t try that out during my recipe testing so you’ll have to let me know what time and temperature you use if anyone tries it at home.  I would recommend keeping a lower temperature than most cake baking so that it stays moist.]

 

UPDATE: We made this recipe in a 9×13″ pan for family vacation earlier this month and it turned out great!  We baked it at 325°F for 40 minutes.  Still nice and moist! 

 

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake in a Jar
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
  2. ½ cup cocoa powder
  3. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  7. ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 1 ½ cups maple syrup
  10. 1 cup buttermilk
  11. 1 cup coffee, at room temperature
  12. ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  13. 1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, maple syrup, buttermilk, coffee, coconut oil, and vanilla.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a third at a time, whisking to incorporate in between each addition.
  5. Arrange ten 8-ounce or pint-sized Mason jars on a baking sheet and carefully pour ½ cup of the batter into each jar. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool slightly so that you can safely handle the jars. Hand out the jars and some spoons and enjoy!
Notes
  1. Makes 10 individual cakes.
  2. (*TIP: put 1 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup and add milk to the 1 cup line and let sit for 5 minutes to make your own buttermilk from scratch!)
  3. (If desired, this recipe can also be made in a 9x13" pan. Follow recipe as described and pour batter into greased 9x13" pan. Bake at 325°F for 40 minutes. Enjoy!)
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/