Tag Archives: chocolate

Totally Homemade Smores

26 May


I am not a camper, but I can totally get down with s’mores, especially if they’re made with ooey-gooey homemade marshmallows and crispy from-scratch graham crackers! That’s right – mine are totally homemade smores and crazy delish! You don’t even need a campfire!

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Totally Homemade Smores
Graham Crackers
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup milk
1-1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add half of flour mixture and beat until partially combined. Add the wet ingredients and beat until fully combined. Add the rest of the flour and and beat until fully incorporated, scraping bottom and sides of bowl as needed. Divide the dough into 2 disks about 1 inch thick and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Dust the countertop generously with flour and roll one disk of dough at a time to 1/8 in. thickness. Cut into squares and pierce with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and chill for at least 20 minutes to help retain their shape. Bake for 14-18 minutes or just until the edges of the cookies darken slightly.

Toasted Coconut Marshmallows
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
Nonstick spray

Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 in. pan completely with shredded coconut, leaving no bald spots.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the gelatin with 1/2 cup of the cold water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
Combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then cover and cook for 3 more minutes. Uncover,the pot and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F (softball stage), approximately 7-8 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to low speed to break up the set gelatin. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. When all of he syrup has been added, increase the mixer speed to high and whip until the mixture cools to lukewarm, about 15 minutes. It will become more voluminous, thick, and very sticky. Add the vanilla and coconut extracts during the last minute of whipping. Pour the mixture into the coconut lined pan, using wet hands to spread it evenly. Sprinkle additional coconut over the top to cover the marshmallows completely. Let them sit uncovered for at least 4 hours to set up. To cut, gently loosen the sides of the marshmallows from the pan before removing the entire sheet. Spray a pizza wheel with nonstick cooking spray and cut into large squares. Dip the sticky sides into more shredded coconut. Store in an airtight container until ready to eat.


Cacao Husk Tea

17 Feb

A couple of weeks ago at this time, I was roasting, shelling, and grinding cacao beans to make my own chocolate bar. In Nicaragua. In 90°F, sunshine-filled bliss.


Xalli Beach Hotel, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Today, I’m staring out the window at horizontally flying snow in Chicago. Another 6 inches, and still going strong. The only source of sunshine is straight out of my Nicaraguan memories, so I’m going to live inside of them for a minute.

During our stay in Granada, we spent a couple of hours at ChocoMuseo, a small business dedicated to making chocolate where cacao beans actually grow. In addition to Nicaragua, they have shops in Dominican Republic, Peru, and Guatemala. They sell various kinds of chocolates and things, but they also offer a hands-on workshop that starts with fermented, unroasted cacao beans and finishes with full-blown chocolate bars. There are a few steps – roasting, cracking, grinding, conching, tempering, and molding.

Large chocolate manufacturers usually spend several days conching the chocolate, a process that mixes and refines the flavor of the chocolate, making it less bitter and smoother in the mouth. Tempering comes next, the tricky process of bringing chocolate to certain temperatures, up and down, so that when it is molded the fat molecules are perfectly in place, giving the hardened chocolate a pretty sheen and a nice snap.

At ChocoMuseo, the conching process is cut down to 15 hours, and they forgo tempering all together, recognizing that it is futile to try to control chocolate in an non-air conditioned room at 90°F. The end result is a chocolate that is grittier and drier than what I’m used to, with a marbleized, matte finish. The workshop itself was very fun, informational, and well worth the price of admission, even if the finished product wasn’t ethereal.


Frothing freshly ground cacao beans into hot milk with a molinillo. There was also some Spanish chanting and countertop banging going on at this point, led by our teacher. We sounded crazy, but it was fun. You should try it next time you make hot chocolate – spice it up a little!

I brought home a bag of Cacao Husk Tea after sampling it in the store. As the name says, it’s a bag of cocoa bean husks, packaged and re-purposed, instead of discarded after the cracking step of the chocolate-making process. Pretty brilliant, and pretty delicious, too. The husks get steeped in very hot water, just like tea. It delivers big cocoa flavor, and since it is made with water and not milk like most hot chocolates, the pure chocolate flavor isn’t masked by dairy notes.


Cacao husk tea. Note the pieces of untempered chocolate with almonds.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve done a bit of reading about cacao husk tea. Turns out it’s full of antioxidants, flavanoids, and vitamin D, as well as theobromine  which is a mild,ting mood booster. So let the snow fall just a little longer. A mug of steamy Cacao Husk Tea and the memory of sunny Nicaragua take the sting out of winter.


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