Chocolate Tarts

I love movies. I can sit and watch them back to back with no problem, especially if I’m working in the kitchen. I usually go for a comedy, or even an action movie. A scary movie needs to be watched preferably in the morning so that it’s not fresh on my mind when I go to bed. Chicken Little is afraid of the dark, don’t you know.

The one type of movie I try to stay away from is a romance. I don’t like to cry…and…. romantic movies make me cry.

Sometimes I wish I’d follow my own rules.

Before I started preparing the dough for this little tarts, I flipped through the channels on TV, and found a movie called P.S. I Love You. I’d never heard of this movie before, but I thought why not? I’ll give it a try.

I don’t know what came over me.
I went there.
I watched the movie.

I might as well call these tarts The Crying Tart, because I cried through the whole darn movie while I made them, but would you like to know what’s worse? I watched it the second time around, and cried all over again! Craziness. Why I would subject myself to this type of movie is beyond me.

And now? Well, I need to own this movie.
I loved it!

If you asked me what I love more…that movie, or these chocolate tarts, I wouldn’t even hesitate in my answer, because chocolate takes precedence every single time! And these little tarts? Delicious. Rich and creamy, this filling is much easier to make than you’d think! I used The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for the filling, and she calls for bittersweet for a deep chocolate flavor,  I used semi-sweet chocolate, but I think you could use a mixture of semisweet and milk chocolate to make it creamy and light. Served with whipped cream, they are a simple dessert to enjoy while watching your favorite movie!

Life is good. It’s a “Hand me the box of tissues, I’ve been reduced to a sappy mush, and sometimes that’s okay…” kind of good.


Chocolate Tarts
 
This recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Author:
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
The Chocolate Filling
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tbsp butter
The Crust
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup shortening
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
Instructions
The Chocolate Filling
  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk, and eggs. Stir over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil, and thickens. The custard is ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  2. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, vanilla, and butter. Stir until the chocolate has melted, and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Pour into prepared tartlet shells, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove from the pan, and serve with whipped cream. The tarts will keep for a couple of days in a covered container in the refrigerator.
The Crust
  1. In a small bowl, mix the milk and vinegar together. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, shortening, and salt together until mixture is in pea size crumbles. Pour the milk and vinegar mixture into the flour mixture and stir. The dough will be sticky.
  2. Use plenty of flour, and roll the dough into a ball. Cut the dough ball in half (each half makes three tart crusts) and again, using plenty of flour on your rolling board, roll the first half to ⅛ inch thick. Take the bottom of one of the tartlet pans, and place it on the dough. Using a paring knife, cut a circle out of the dough about a ½” wider in diameter than the bottom of the tartlet pan. Press the circle of dough into a tartlet pan, and fold the overlapping dough back down the inside of the pan to make the sides of the tartlet sturdy. Place a pie weight onto the dough. Repeat with the remaining dough. To make it easier to handle the tartlet pans, place them on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the pie weights and let the crust cool in the pans. Set aside. Do not remove the crust from the pans at this point!
Notes
A quick note; I keep a bag of dried beans in the freezer to use as weights for the pie crust. Place a piece of parchment paper over the crust, and then pour a fair amount of beans on top. This will help the crust from bubbling up while baking.

 

Raspberry Cream Puffs

A simple Raspberry Cream Puff is the perfect Valentine’s Day treat…

I think as the years go by, my opinion of Valentine’s Day is changing. Most of you know that I’ve never been a fan. I just have always found it to be a day of disappointment and hurt for so many people, myself included at times. But you know, the older I get, the more I realize that Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about “Boy buying flowers for Girl”.

Before I get into it, I should say that, Yes, I do know that Valentine’s Day is about romance and love. But maybe, just maybe it can go a little deeper than that…

Think about St. Valentine, and his selfless act of marrying young couples who were in love, even after the Emperor Claudius banned marriage because of his belief that young men made better soldiers if they were single. And Valentine’s ability to recognize that injustice, along with his concern and compassion for those young people, gave him the courage to spread his kindness and goodwill in marrying them, even knowing that it could mean an end to his life. And it did. He was caught, and sentenced to death for committing that so called crime.

You see? There was nothing in it for Valentine. He was righting a wrong, and giving love to those in need. A selfless act of kindness for total strangers.

Maybe Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to celebrate your love. To know that life isn’t easy, but to still have a peace in your heart, gratitude and appreciation toward those people in your life who mean so much to you… and yet, compassion and goodwill toward the people you don’t know.

Showing how much you care is such a simple thing, and aren’t the simple things in life the ones that make us the happiest? Like this simple raspberry cream puff, a perfect gesture that will go a very long way…

You can easily prepare this light pastry (called Pate a Choux) in minutes, and have it baked in a half hour. This light and airy pastry is the perfect backdrop for the whipped cream and sweet raspberries to make a simple, yet memorable dessert. I think it has “I love you” written all over it!

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!

Raspberry Cream Puffs
 
This pastry recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.
Author:
Serves: 12
Ingredients
The Pastry
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup butter
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
The Whipped Cream
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 quart raspberries
  • Powdered sugar for garnish
Instructions
The Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil. Add the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Add one egg at a time, stirring after each addition until the eggs are fully incorporated.
  4. Drop by heaping tablespoons of batter onto the prepared baking sheet. You should get 12 nice sized cream puffs from this batter.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and let cool.
  6. Slice the tops from each puff, and pipe whipped cream around the edges and into the center of the puff. Layer with raspberries. Pipe another layer of whipped cream over the raspberries. Place the top of the puff on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
The Whipped Cream
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla bean. Beat on low for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture becomes thickened. Increase the mixer speed to high, and continue to beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  2. These cream puffs are best eaten the same day, but will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for a day or two.

 

Chocolate Loaf Cake

Looking for something really chocolatey? This quick and easy Chocolate Loaf Cake recipe is exactly what you need!

I think you know me. I think you know my love for cake. At least I think you do, because I announce it pretty much on a daily basis! And, by now, I think you know that I’m all about quick and easy too. Not because I want to be in and out of my kitchen quickly, but I am so strapped for time lately that “quick and easy” has become my own personal repertoire. And that’s with everything, especially cake.

So, this moist, rich, chocolatey perfection is the cake to make when you want something delicious, but are limited on time and/or motivation to bake a full on chocolate cake.

I know. This cake isn’t loaded with frosting and sprinkles like I normally require, but I promise it fulfills everything that I believe in when it comes to cake! It’s filled with chocolate chips that melt throughout the whole cake and make so very very moist, that honestly? You won’t miss the frosting. And sprinkles? Well, the chopped pecans bring a perfect nuttiness, that helps to balance out the deep chocolate flavor of this cake.

I promise. You will love this one!

Life is good. It’s a “A tall glass of cold milk and a warm slice of chocolate cake, makes a good day even better…” kind of good.

Chocolate Loaf Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 softened stick butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans.
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.
  2. Combine the sour cream, butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Beat on high until light and fluffy.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking soda, salt, flour and cocoa powder, and add to the sour cream mixture, beating on low until fully incorporated, and increase the speed to high, and beat for about three minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Stir the chocolate chips into the batter.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, top with the chopped pecans. Bake for about one hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Run a knife around the sides of the pan, and remove the loaf.
  5. Eat warm, or enjoy cooled!

 

Hot Cocoa with Homemade Marshmallows

Have you ever dreamed of diving into a vat of chocolate?  This foamy hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows comes close to making that dream come true! 
You know, as I’m typing this, I know that I have no right to complain about the weather. This hasn’t been a horrible winter. I can’t even say that it has been all that cold. If we’ve made it into the negatives, it’s only been a couple of times… but having said that, the last couple of days have been cold…cold enough for me to want to snuggle under a blanket with a hot cup of cocoa. And after an afternoon of snowshoeing yesterday, there was no doubt that this hot cocoa was going to happen!

Rich and creamy with a deep chocolate flavor, this cocoa satisfies. It satisfies that craving for chocolate that makes you dream of diving into a vat of chocolate. And the best part? You get to decide just how sweet you want it to be!

Personally, I like it a little less sweet because then I can add a marshmallow to top it off. You will need a spoon, because it’s going to melt into that stringy goodness that we all love, and it adds that perfect amount of sweetness that this rich cocoa needs!

If you’ve never made your own marshmallows, well it’s time that you do! It takes just a few minutes to throw them together, and just a couple hours to set, and then you will know what a marshmallow is truly supposed to taste like!

Life is good. It’s a “You’re never too old for stringy marshmallows..” kind of good.

Hot Cocoa with Homemade Marshmallows
 
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
Hot Cocoa
  • 1 - 12oz can evaporated milk
  • 3-1/2 cups whole milk
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ⅓ - ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Marshmallows
  • 3 - ¼oz packages unflavored gelatin
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • Powdered sugar
Instructions
Hot Cocoa
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the evaporated milk, whole milk, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, and salt over. Whisk until combined. Over medium heat, continue to stir until it begins to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Serve hot with a homemade marshmallow!
Marshmallows
  1. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper, so that the paper overlaps the sides of the pan. You will be able to pull the marshmallows out of the pan by pulling the sides of the paper. Sprinkle the lined pan generously with powdered sugar, making sure that the powdered sugar goes up over the sides of the parchment paper. This will make removing the marshmallow from the paper that much easier.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the gelatin and ½ cup cold water. Stir until just combined, and let sit.
  3. In a large saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, water, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla bean paste. Over medium heat, stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for two minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, and with your mixer on it's lowest setting, carefully pour a thin stream of the hot sugar mixture into the mixing bowl that contains the gelatin mixture. Keep pouring slowly until all of the sugar mixture has been poured into the bowl. Continue to beat on low until the gelatin and sugar mixtures are combined.
  5. Turn the mixer to the highest setting, and beat for about 15 minutes. It will turn into a light fluffy gooey mixture.
  6. Using a buttered spatula, pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan. Spread the mixture until it is even throughout the pan. Refrigerate for about 2-3 hours. Sprinkle with more powdered sugar.
  7. Grabbing the sides of the parchment paper, remove the marshmallow from the pan to a flat surface. Using a sharp buttered knife, cut the marshmallows into squares. (You can cut the marshmallows while they are still on the parchment paper. They will peel right off the paper.)
  8. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. (They won't last that long!)
  9. Serve with the hot cocoa!

 

Chocolate Fudge Cookies

Life is most definitely better with a fresh baked cookie, especially if it’s a fresh baked chocolate fudge cookie… 

Are you starting to feel the stir-crazy, mid-winter blues? It’s about that time when I’ve had just about enough of winter…even though it hasn’t been that bad, weather wise…but it’s still winter, and as far as I’m concerned, it can end at any time now. Spending time in my kitchen is a sure fire way to make those blues go away, and with chocolate fudge cookies baking in the oven, well that just seals the deal!

The rich fudge flavor of this delicious little cookie combines beautifully with the buttery frosting. They’re so softy and chewy, and they stay that way for days, if they even last that long!

Life is good. It’s a “To Chelsea and her Mom, From Me, With Love…” kind of good.

Chocolate Fudge Cookies
 
Author:
Ingredients
The Cookie
  • 1-1/3 cups butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2-1/4 cups flour
The Buttery Frosting
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt
Instructions
The Cookie
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the baking soda, cocoa powder, and flour. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until completely blended after each egg.
  6. Add the vanilla and salt, and mix until blended.
  7. Add the flour mixture one cup at a time until well blended.
  8. Roll the dough into walnut size balls, and place on baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on your oven, until the cookie is fully baked.
  10. Cool completely.
The Buttery Frosting
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, powdered sugar, water, vanilla, and salt. Mix on low until fully combined. Increase the mixer speed to high, and beat for about five minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add a little more water if necessary to meet your desired consistency. Pipe or frost the cooled chocolate cookies. Top with sprinkles.

 

Vanilla Bean Muffins

Never underestimate the vanilla bean. It might look like a wallflower, but truth be told, it’s the belle of the ball! The proof is in these super moist Vanilla Bean Muffins!

You know, I’m a chocolate kind of girl. I always have been, and probably always will be. But once in a while, the vanilla side of me comes out, and I have to satisfy that hunger. My younger self would recoil in horror if I would have known that someday I would love vanilla, but my older self has no qualms in indulging in the world of the vanilla bean, especially when it comes to these Vanilla Bean muffins!

I know. Vanilla. You might be thinking “boring”.. but honestly, it’s good to have a quick go-to recipe for when you’re thinking of something sweet, yet easy to throw together with simple ingredients that most likely are in your pantry right now! These muffins are so moist and buttery, with vanilla seeds sprinkled throughout each crumb. A simple glaze adds just a little sweetness, and keeps the muffins soft for days!

Life is good. It’s a “It just doesn’t get any more vanilla than this!” kind of good.

Vanilla Bean Muffins
 
Author:
Ingredients
The Muffin
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ stick butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
The Glaze
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Seeds from ½ vanilla bean
Instructions
The Muffin
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the granulated sugar and egg until light and fluffy. Add the milk, butter, vanilla, and seeds from the vanilla bean. Mix until thoroughly combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour to the sugar mixture, and beat on high for about three minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl every minute or so.
  2. Pour ¼ cup of batter into prepared cupcake tins. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Let cool for about ½ hour, but glaze them when they are still semi warm.
  3. These will keep in a covered container for about three days out on the counter, or for about a week in the refrigerator.
The Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, water, vanilla extract, and vanilla seeds. Stir until smooth.

 

 

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