Chocolate should really be declared the official food of February, since at some point long ago someone decided it defined love, or professed it, or otherwise made people feel as good as love does. It’s always chocolate season, of course – but in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day I tend to want it more. The power of suggestion is strong with me. Of course Valentine’s Day is all about sharing the things you love with the ones you love. The folks at Green & Black’s asked if I’d play around with some of their bars and make a fondue for two, and I was more than happy to oblige. You hardly need a recipe for chocolate fondue, but a little guidance helps, and the ratios of cream:chocolate vary from bar to bar. Once you get the formula down – heat cream, add chopped chocolate, stir – you can play around with it a bit, adding a shot of booze to the cream, orContinue reading

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It’s time for some chocolate babka, I think. To celebrate the time of year when you can turn the oven on to warm the house. If you’re only familiar with babka thanks to Seinfeld, it’s a sweet, rich yeasted dough that some call cake—but really it’s a loaf of sweet dough with the texture of a soft cinnamon bun, rippled through with so much chocolate (or cinnamon, which is considered a lesser babka, but it’s on my list to make next—who wouldn’t love a loaf-shaped cinnamon bun?) as to make slicing the rolled log (which you do lengthwise, before twisting it into the pan) a challenge. I took babka for a spin a few times to get a feel for it, in the name of research of course—the soft, rich dough is lovely to handle, and it’s like assembling a cinnamon bun, up until the dough is filled and rolled into a log. Some of the chocolate fillings out there are crumbly, others smooth, whichContinue reading

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I know it’s the height of spring and all thoughts are turning to strawberries and rhubarb (or should be), and I just harvested armloads of same to ensure baggies of frozen rhubarb will jam (pun totally not intended) all surplus freezer space for the foreseeable future, but because there were two 11 year olds in the house today, I decided to score some points with a chocolate marshmallow pie instead. (Spoiler: it worked.) It’s been on my to-do list to make something out of Renée’s new(ish) book, All the Sweet Things, since long before it hit the shelves. It’s a gorgeous book, so well photographed and designed by the talented crew at Touchwood (who also published In the Dog Kitchen and Out of the Orchard! ahem), but most importantly it’s filled with things I actually want to make (and eat).

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I realize I’ve been dishing up a lot of sweet stuff lately – I promise we do eat real food too on occasion. You know what a fan I am of those rainbow peanut butter marshmallow squares – last time I made a batch W loudly wished they had been chocolate peanut butter, only the very best flavour combination ever, and so of course I obliged. It’s easy – just swap the butterscotch chips for chocolate, which I’m far more likely to have around anyway. And ever since a friend singed hers on the stovetop last Christmas, creating these irresistibly tasty crispy bits, I’ve imagined them with a slight crunch from a handful of cereal. Which turned out to be a Very Good Idea.

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*I’ve partnered with Lindt to bring you this buttery shortbread, topped with squares of Lindt dark chocolate. Doesn’t it seem like a great idea? It really was. It’s perfectly reasonable to eat shortbread for breakfast with (Bailey’s-spiked) coffee at this time of year, right? And then to keep nibbling from a stash on your kitchen counter throughout the day, like a slow dose of butter and sugar and Christmas joy? It seems as if I’ve been on a bit of a cookie bender since the calendar struck December – two cookie exchanges in the first week, and two back to back cookie baking classes to raise money for the food bank. There’s no shortage of new ideas at this time of year, but what I really want is a good butter shortbread – and something chocolate. My dad has, for at least the past decade, kept a stash of Lindt Excellence 70% cacao bars on hand, and the stack rarely dips below half a dozen.Continue reading

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When there’s nothing else you can do, bake. I feel like baking the world a batch of cookies. Is Halloween far enough in the rear-view mirror to warrant a chewy peanut butter-chocolate chunk cookie? Related: If I add some oatmeal, does it classify more as lunchbox/afternoon snack than holiday cookie platter fare? We’re about to embark on cookie season, but although this is the very friendliest kind of cookie, it’s not particularly festive. (Or is it? For the record, a stack of these would be well received by me any time of year.) Peanut butter and chocolate are two of my favourite things, together even better. Chewy in the middle, with a crispy edge and big puddles of chocolate. This is the type of workhorse cookie I bake when I need a good stash of something to have on hand for the hungry and sad, for lunches (W’s school has no nut allergies), and to freeze for another day when we might need more ofContinue reading

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I thought I had figured out the ideal chocolate chip cookie, that the perfect formula had been squared away and would never need revisiting. I made a batch to bring to CBC earlier this week, and since we were discussing the science behind chocolate chip cookies, I decided to make a thinner, chewier batch to contrast my thick, chewy portraits of perfection. For the sake of radio conversation. Guess which plate most everyone in the studio and newsroom went for? The thin ones with the rumpled edge. It’s like everyone had been replaced by thin cookie loving aliens who just didn’t know any better. It turns out there is no one true chocolate chip cookie – just a few favourites you can keep tucked away in your wardrobe of chocolate chip cookies. My current favourite, a mash-up of recipes (sometimes I just alternate) by Anna and Ashley, has been in such heavy rotation that it hasn’t occurred to me to this version in years. IContinue reading

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And then one night you realize it’s dark by 9. The next morning it’s cool and drizzly, so you use it as an excuse to turn the oven on and bake something simple enough to be ready by second coffee. I know I share a lot of scones here. Too many? Is there such a thing? Here’s one more. They’re full of blueberries and dark chocolate, but could be full of anything you like. Everyone tends to love the berry-chocolate combo in a scone – try raspberry (or blackberry, depending on where you are and what’s growing there) + white chocolate, or blueberries (which contain their own juices, making them easy to add and satisfying to slice through) with either, or chop up some tart, juicy apricots, nectarines or plums – the juicier they are, the more tenderly you’ll have to handle the dough. It’s OK – if they wind up too sticky, call them drop biscuits. And if they look a mess, remember thatContinue reading

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When we were kids, dessert wasn’t part of our weeknight routine – my parents tried to pass off fruit as dessert, the same MacIntosh apples we’d get in our lunches if you can believe it – but on nights when my dad went squirrely hunting through kitchen cupboards for something chocolate, she’d whisk up a pot of pudding on the stovetop. Cocoa-sugar-cornstarch-milk makes a simple pudding of the sort you can get in a box (only better), but I’ve come across a few formulas that call for pouring warmed milk over chopped chocolate in a blender, then whizzing it up to melt the chocolate and incorporate just enough air to give it a sort of mousselike consistency. As a kid, I obsessed over chocolate mousse – it was chocolate in its purest form, I thought, with its airy-smooth mouthfeel, knowing it was an emulsification of two of my favourite things – chocolate and cream. I can’t recall the last time I made chocolate mousse –Continue reading

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