I am not a chocoholic…

NOTE: This post is not sponsored. I wasn’t given any free product. I just really had a lightbulb moment at this little shop. They were incredibly warm, welcoming, and generous with their time and knowledge, and I wanted to share my experience.

I have never considered myself a chocoholic. Therefore, beyond what little bit we learned during my semester in Latin Cuisine at culinary school, I’d never really had an overwhelming interest in learning more about it. After this week’s visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, however, I’ve realized that maybe I’ve just been eating the wrong chocolate. I’m hooked, you guys. I’m hooked on the good stuff… and I want to know more.

I think, in this age of Let’s All Get Educated About Food, most of us are aware of the differences in the Hershey bar you grab as you’re checking out at the grocery store and the stuff you might get from the Godiva store in the mall on Valentine’s Day. However, from the moment I entered Kakawa Chocolate House, or, well, let’s back up, from the moment I dove into Kakawa’s website, while doing research for my day trip to Santa Fe, my cluelessness about what really makes “next level” chocolate became painfully apparent. I’ve quickly learned since then that the good stuff (the BEST stuff) may not come from a big, expensive factory full of fancy pants machines, but rather, from the tiny kitchens where its made by hand, by small groups of chocolatiers who care more about each and every batch of chocolates they produce than you or I might ever care when we eat it. All we know is that it’s something special. But, if you want to know more, they’re happy to teach you.


Tony Bennett, the owner of Kakawa Chocolate House for the past five years, was in the fashion business when he bought the tiny shop nestled among the prolific art galleries along Paseo de Peralta. He was looking for a business opportunity, but hearing him talk about his team, and seeing his face light up when he looks around the shop, it’s clear he loves being there and he’s proud of every piece of chocolate produced.

“We don’t use any machines, other than the tempering machine… We blend all the chocolate in house.”


As I’m writing right now, though, I realize I’m burying the lead. Let’s talk about my “A-ha!” moment, which happened when I was handed a tiny mug of Zapoteca chocolate elixir topped with a generous dollop of house made whipped cream.

Swiss Miss Cocoa this is not. Made from 100% chocolate and a just a little coconut sugar, it’s bittersweet, fruity, and rich, and one sip tells you this is probably what chocolate is supposed to taste like.

Kakawa has over 18 different elixir blends that include a few more modern takes, as well as traditional Mesoamerican blends like the Zapoteca, European blends based on historic recipes from the Italian and French royal courts (try the Marie Antoinette blend!) and even one developed by Thomas Jefferson. Their selection spans the history of chocolate, and if you get the sense that its past is as full, rich, and complex as the chocolate itself, you’d be right. I highly recommend reading through the origin story provided on the website as a great primer. If you’d like to dig a little deeper, The History Channel website has a super informative section on the history of chocolate that takes the story even further.

If, after doing all that reading, you’re ready to have your own “A-ha!” moment about chocolate, Kakawa ships their granulated elixir blends all over the U.S. via website ordering, and internationally by calling the shop.

Wuv… twue Wuv

Valentine’s Day is around the corner. We all know this. When I was single, I was always very determined to ignore it completely. Now that I’m not, well, I’m not ignoring it completely because while I’m not a total mush monster, I do appreciate a well thought out romantic gesture, just not exclusively because Hallmark says so. What was my point? Oh yeah! I think this cake could definitely fall under the category of a not over-the-top but will definitely be appreciated Romantic Gesture. It’s a serious cake for people who really like it rich, but pretty easy to make, and combines three of my favorite things: beer, coffee, and chocolate.

I actually made it at work, for a party, so most of the pictures you’re about to see are what it looks like to make this recipe multiplied by… well, a lot. We needed to make 750 little cakes. The original recipe also includes a chocolate ganache topping, but you can pretty much decorate this cake however you like, and bake it in whatever shape and size you like. I’ll give you the directions as they’re written, because I’d like to imagine one of you making a three layered beauty dripping with chocolate. If you do, send me a picture, yeah?


hand mixer or stand mixer
large pot or saucepan
medium pot
two large mixing bowls
spatula or mixing spoon
knife and cutting board (if you’re chopping up the chocolate for the ganache)


For the cake:
1 1/2 cups stout (chocolate stout, milk stout, regular stout– whatever kind you like)
1/2 cup strong black coffee
2 cups unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup sour cream

For the ganache:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or just use semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Preheat your oven to 350º. Butter three 8 inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter the paper, too.

In the large pot, bring the stout, coffee, and butter to a simmer over medium heat.


Add the cocoa powder and whisk, whisk, whisk until everything smooths out. Allow the mixture to cool while you work on the rest of the recipe.

Whisk all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt) together in a large bowl. Set aside.


In your stand mixer or with your hand mixer, beat the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla together until well combined.  With the mixer running, slowly add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg mixture until it’s all incorporated.

NOTE: Make sure the chocolate is cooled off… it doesn’t have to be cold, by any means, but if it’s too hot, it’ll cook the eggs.

Add the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.

Divide the batter equally between the three baking pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool for at least 10 minutes in their pans, then turn them out onto a rack if you have one and let them finish cooling.

While the cakes are cooling, bring the heavy cream to a simmer in the 2nd pot. Take the pot off the heat, and add the chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Refrigerate it for awhile until the ganache is spreadable.

You can layer these with however much icing between the layers as you want. If it was me, I’d do a thin layer of icing on each of the first two layers, and then really slather it all over the top layer and around the sides. But, I’m one of those people who can’t resist sticking her finger in the icing on the outside of the cake, so I like to make sure there’s enough for the finger sticking/licking bit without damaging the cake to icing ratio too much.

I found some pink chocolate in our walk-in so I just used that to cover the whole cake and then did a little thing with some sprinkles and icing sugar and melted chocolate. Go crazy, though. This is a very rich, deep chocolate cake so it would pair well with just about anything, from fruit to something creamy like ice cream to, well, more chocolate.


Happy Baking!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Let’s get lucky.

Boy do I have a treat for you!

Last week, Sweet and Crumby attempted to make a lightened up version of this delicious Irish Whiskey Bread Pudding. It seems she has the same problem I do. We start out with the best of intentions, and then before we know it we’re adding all sorts of goodies that cause our recipes to take a bit of a detour. I’m not mad at her though, because the moment she admitted to throwing caution to the wind and simply focusing on making a really delicious dessert, I quite happily followed her lead.

I didn’t detour too much from her recipe, and I recommend that you click that link up there and go check out the original. I’ll walk you through it though, and include the very minor changes I made (some on purpose, and one completely accidental).  This recipe is easy enough to throw together that you still have time to make it in honor of today’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities, but I think once you’ve made this once, it’ll be a popular repeat in your dessert rotation.

9 x 11 baking pan of some sort
large sheet pan
measuring spoons and cups
large mixing bowl
mixing spoon

Ingredients for the Bread Pudding:
1 large loaf of Challah bread, torn into pieces
1/3 C Irish Whiskey (I used Jameson’s)
1 3/4 C 2% milk
one 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 T vanilla extract
2 lg eggs, beaten
3/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 C melted butter
1 1/2 T cinnamon/sugar blend (I’ll let you decide the ratio)

Preheat your oven to 350°.

I was prepared enough to buy the bread a few days in advance, but not prepared enough to get it torn up and air dried ahead of time, so I dried it out a bit in the oven. Dry/stale bread soaks up the custard much better, while still retaining its basic structure. Her recipe calls for the bread to be left in slices and drizzled on both sides with the melted butter then put into the oven to toast. I melted the butter but totally spaced actually putting it on the bread, so I ended up just pouring it into the custard. What the hell, right?

Anyhoots, it won’t take too long to get the bread just dried out enough to be more absorbent. Remember, you’re not really trying to brown the bread, just toast it up a bit to accept the custard.

While the bread is drying, you can mix up the custard.  In the original version, you’d put the raisins in the whiskey ahead of time to help plump them back up, but since I skipped the raisins I just poured it directly into the custard mixture, along with the milks, eggs, vanilla, and sugar. Dump your dried out bread into the custard and very gently fold it to combine. You don’t want to break those chunks of bread up too much. Add the chocolate chips and fold them in, too. Food Made Simply has a great explanation for the difference between stirring or mixing and folding here, if you’re a little confused about that. Basically, folding is much gentler and helps to ensure your pudding isn’t going to be over-mixed into mush.

Use cooking spray or butter to lightly grease your pan, then pour the mixture into it. Spread it out a bit to get it into an even layer, but don’t smoosh it down too much. Sprinkle your cinnamon/sugar mixture over the top and pop it into the oven for about 30 minutes.

While it’s baking, you can get the Whiskey sauce together.

small pot or saucepan
measuring spoons and cups
fine mesh sieve or some sort of strainer (you might not need this, but I did)

1/4 C butter
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 beaten egg yolk
2 T water
2 T whiskey/bourbon

Melt the butter in your sauce pan, then add the remaining ingredients. Cook and stir or whisk for about 5 minutes over medium heat, until the sugar is all dissolved and the sauce comes to a boil.

Here’s where the strainer comes in– My egg yolk started to cook a little. If I had been thinking about it, I probably would have tempered it a little to minimize the chances of that happening, but if the same thing happens to you don’t panic. Just let the sauce finish cooking and then strain out any bits of egg before you serve it.


I brought mine into work, so I just drizzled the sauce over the top of the whole thing, but if this is something you’re making to serve after dinner you can just serve it on the side.


If whiskey isn’t your thing, but you still want to get in on the St. Patty’s dessert parade, Sweet and Crumby’s blog post from March 12th has a recipe for Bailey’s Chocolate Devastation Cookies that might be a little more up your alley. Yum!

This post really takes the cake.

Note: I realize this is usually where we’d have a Kitchen 101, but I’m putting together something kinda comprehensive for you and it’s taking just a bit longer than I thought. It’ll be here next Tuesday! Here’s a little hint– it’s a basic kitchen skill that will save you money on chicken.

So, every month I get the new issue of Bon Appétit and I get all excited about it. I get big plans to read it through and try out at least five recipes and maybe even make the time to cook the cover. Does that happen? Noooooooooo. Because I have class, and work, and homework, and blah blah blah and while I do generally get the whole thing read while on the train and the bus, I don’t make the time to cook from it.

This month, I decided that was going to change. Baby steps are better than no steps at all, and I was determined to make at least one recipe from the March issue in March. Within the article on how to use buttermilk in desserts, I found this little gem. That’s right, it’s a Chocolate-Coconut Pound Cake. Nom nom nom.

Now, we all know I’m not much of a baker. I’m impatient. I don’t like having to follow recipes. But I already had most of the ingredients I needed, so after a quick trip to the store for coconut, I was ready to get down to business. Except, you know me, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly.

You can read the full, original recipe by clicking the link I gave you up yonder. I’ll give you my version, with the tweaks.

8 in x 4 in loaf pan
2 mixing bowls (One for dry ingredients, one for the wet. If they aren’t the same size, the wet ingredient bowl should be the bigger one.)
electric mixer
measuring spoons and cups

1/4 C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder (I used a combination of 1/4 C black onyx cocoa powder and 1/4 C regular dutch process cocoa)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (I used sea salt because that’s what I keep around)
1/2 C virgin coconut oil, room temperature
1 1/2 C sugar (I used 1 C white sugar and 1/2 C brown sugar)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 C buttermilk
1/4 C unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat your oven to 325°.

Spray your loaf pan generously with cooking spray. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

In the 2nd (largest) bowl, beat the butter, coconut oil, and sugars together until pale and fluffy.

Now you’re going to alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Add about a third of the dry mixture and mix on low to incorporate. Then 1/3 C of the buttermilk, then another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the dry ingredients.

If you’ve ever made a quick bread batter (like pumpkin or banana bread), your batter will be just a tiny bit thicker than that.

Pour the batter into your greased loaf pan. Make a little channel down the middle and sprinkle about a tablespoon more of white sugar into it. Then top the whole she-bang with the coconut flakes.

I wish I had a good picture of this for you, but I got shmutz on the camera phone lens (one day, I’ll be a grown up with a real camera) and I didn’t realize it until after. All the pictures are hazy, as though I dreamed that step, and dream sequences in the middle of recipes are just so hokey, right?

Hopefully you’ll get the idea from this picture of the final product:

Kinda pretty, no?

One word of caution. The BA recipe says this thing should bake for 70-80 minutes. I baked mine for 70, and I thought it came out just a little drier than I would have preferred. I think I probably could have pulled it out right at an hour and let the carry-over cooking take care of the rest, but that’s just me. I read a couple of comments on the BA site, and both of those folks said theirs were slightly underdone at 70 minutes and sunk a bit in the middle. Maybe it’s an altitude thing? I don’t claim to be  a food scientist, so I’ll just say stick a tester in around the hour mark, and if it’s not done enough for you give it the extra 10 or 20 minutes.

I will tell you that I’m the only one who felt the way I did about the the lack of moisture. I took it to work and got some pretty rave reviews. It was gobbled up well before lunch time, so maybe it’s just a personal preference thing. Other than that, I really liked the flavor of this cake. It was rich and very chocolaty, and that coconut oil really gives it that little something extra.

Just a little friendly reminder that the “An Edible Mosaic” cookbook giveaway is still going on until Saturday. All you need to do to enter is go like the I’m Gonna Cook That! Facebook page, OR follow me on Twitter, then come back over here and leave a comment on this post to let me know. Piece of cake, yeah?

Every Day I’m Trufflin’

Ok, maybe not every day. That’d be…well, wonderful, but fattening.


Of course, we’re talking about chocolate truffles, the kind that are so easy you could make them every day as long as you’re ok with the clean-up (which really isn’t that bad, to be honest). They make wonderful treats for yourself, a nice little dessert with coffee for guests after a dinner party, or a treat to wrap in some cute packaging as a gift.

I followed this recipe from Real Simple, pretty much to the letter. I didn’t add the coffee liqueur because these were going to co-workers and I wasn’t sure people would eat them if they were all boozy. However, if you’re making them for a holiday party, I say go for it. The rest of the ingredients: chocolate, cream, espresso powder, vanilla, and cocoa powder, you can pick up in the regular grocery store. The trickiest thing to find might be the espresso powder. I found this kind, hidden behind one of those giant cardboard displays for some other kind of coffee. This was under $5 for a jar, and trust me, it’ll last you awhile, especially if all you ever plan on using it for is to flavour desserts.


These chocolate truffles start out as ganache, a mixture of chocolate and cream. You’ll just warm the cream, add the espresso powder and make sure it’s dissolved well, then add your chocolate. Stir the chocolate until you get a thick, glossy ganache, letting the warm cream do the work of melting it, then add your vanilla and liqueur. 


Pour the ganache into a shallow bowl (as recommended in the recipe) or even a brownie pan will work. I used one of those disposable aluminum 13 x 9 pans from the grocery store and it worked just fine. The ganache will need to firm up in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. 

Don’t feel like you have to get fancy with the chocolate. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips and Lindt brand 70% cacao that was on sale (2 large bars for $5) at King Soopers. I’m sure chocolate connoisseurs would tell you it makes a difference, and they’re probably right, but unless you plan on giving these truffles to some friend who is a Giant Chocolate Snob, these will still be considered by most to be pretty effing delicioius.

Once your ganache has firmed up, you can scoop it out with a spoon, one of those tiny ice cream scoops, a melon baller, or whatever you have handy. I tried a little experiment of cutting the ganache into fairly even sized squares and then rolling it between my hands to get it into a ball. That was actually a lot more trouble because the ganache was pretty firm and I had to manhandle it a bit to get it to give up being a square.


I ultimately went with my scoop. It was a lot easier to roll the truffles when they were already in a basic ball shape. Duh, right? Anyhoots, you’ll just keep rolling your little truffle balls, and then tossing them in the cocoa powder until all the ganache is used up. If you keep them all fairly uniform in size, this recipe will yield 48 truffles.


If you’re not serving them right away, pop them in the fridge for awhile to firm back up. After that, they should be good to sit out for awhile, if they need to. Mine were out at room temperature for about 8 hours and they were fine.

If you wanted to infuse some other flavour into these, you can just replace the coffee liqueur with something different.  I think if you’re going to be a little snobby about an ingredient, it would be the flavour infusion you use. Don’t use those cheap flavourings from the baking aisle at the grocery store. If you’re going to use another booze, use good booze. I have some apricot brandy that I brought back from Glasgow that I might try next time.

You can also play around with the cocoa powder, if you want. I just used the regular Hershey’s baking cocoa for this batch, but I have some Mayan cocoa powder that has cinnamon in it that I think would play off of the apricot brandy quite nicely. 

Have fun with this one, folks! Instead of bringing cookies or pie to a holiday party, whip up a batch of these and watch them fly off the plate.