Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse Eclairs

When Amanda and I had this Distance Dishes date, Valentines Day was just around the corner so we wanted to make some recipes that were insanely decadent. To me, that meant something incredibly chocolatey. While an eclair might not seem like the logical first choice, I had some leftover raw cacao paste kicking around my pantry and I thought this might be the perfect vehicle to incorporate some.  I also wanted to do something a little different with the filling, so an avocado mousse seemed like a great experiment.

The result was this celebration of dark chocolate that was so rich, and had a chocolate flavor more pure than I’d experienced in a pastry before. The topping and the filling themselves seemed like they might be too much when combined in one bite, but the buttery pastry breaks it up perfectly and adds in another dimension of flavor. If you have some time to make these, I highly recommend it.

Pate a Choux

I used this recipe without the extra salt: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/sweet-or-savory-pate-a-choux-recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar plus 1/8 teaspoon salt (for sweet)
  • 5 3/4 ounces flour (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 4 large eggs and 2 whites

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, boil the water, butter, salt and sugar.
  3. Add the flour and remove from the heat. Stir until a ball forms and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the ball to a stand mixer and turn on to the lowest stir setting.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time making sure each one is fully incorporated before moving on to the next.
  6. Once all the eggs are added you can check to make sure your dough is the right consistency by checking if it falls off the paddle to your mixer in v-like sheets. If it is too thick, you may need an additional egg white.
  7. Transfer dough to a piping bag or a plastic zip top bag with a hole cut in one corner, and pipe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper into lines about 3-4 inches long, 2 inches apart.
  8. Turn the oven down to 35o and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Once they are cooked, upon removing them from the oven, pierce the sides with a small knife to release steam. This will help them not to collapse in on themselves.
  10. Allow to cool fully and they will be ready for assembly.

Avocado Mousse Filling

Ingredients: 

  • 3 Ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup of raw cacao paste broken into chunks or cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup of agave syrup or maple syrup (granulated sugar will also work)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions: 

  1. Peel and mash the avocados in a food processor or blender.
  2. If using cacao paste, heat it over low-medium heat until the chunks are melted. Be careful to keep stirring so that the chocolate does not burn. Add in your sweetener of choice and stir. If using cocoa powder add it and the sweetener directly to the food processor.
  3. Add the cacao mixture to the food processor along with the vanilla extract and salt and pulse until everything is blended.
  4. If the mousse is too bitter for you, feel free to add more sweetener as needed. This can be enjoyed by itself as a tasty dessert treat, or can be the delicious filling for our eclairs.

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Dark Chocolate Ganache Icing

Note: You can find a more traditional recipe for ganache from my previous Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie post–this is an alternative using raw cacao paste, but feel free to substitute the other recipe as it may be easier to acquire the ingredients. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2/3 cup of raw cacao paste, broken into chunks or cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup or maple syrup (granulated sugar will also work)
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions: 

  1. Heat the heavy cream over medium low heat so that it is close to but does not boil. Be sure to stir frequently to ensure that it does not burn.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add the cacao and sweetener to the pan and stir frequently until all the chunks are melted and the mixture is fully incorporated.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Keep warm for eclair assembly.

Assembly: 

  1. Transfer the avocado mousse to a piping bag or something with a piping tip.
  2. Using the side you pierced with a knife already, pipe the mousse into the end of the choux pastry. Be sure to full them as much as you can without overfilling them.
  3. Once all are filled with the mousse, dip the tops into the ganache and allow to cool in the fridge.
  4. After all your hard work, these are ready to be enjoyed! To save yourself one long stint in the kitchen, the choux shells freeze well when they are unfilled so you can make them in advance. In addition, the mousse can also be made one day in advance, but just make sure you don’t eat it all if you want to save some for piping. Enjoy!

 

Wine pairing: With this ode to dark chocolate, you definitely want something bold with notes of chocolate and cherry to go with this decadent dessert. I’d recommend a Zinfandel with those undertones if you can find one, but an Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon are good choices as well ( I mean it’s wine an chocolate–hard to go wrong right?) Happy snacking!

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Chocolate Cookie in a Cast Iron Pan

This started out as a red velvet cookie. Not wanting to buy a bunch of red food dye and trying to pass this off as healthy, I used beet juice! You can buy this at the store or, if like me you want to have beets with dinner, simmer peeled and quartered beets for approximately 40 minutes, reserving the dyed water. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite make the red velvet that I was looking for, but I was still left with a tasty, chocolate cookie that I could say had vegetables in it!

I also liked this recipe because it gave me yet another reason to love the cast iron pan that Merideth got me for Christmas! Previously using it for “steak Sundays”, I loved the pan’s versatility and the giant cookie it let me create. Next time, I think I’ll find an excuse to celebrate (Happy Tuesday?) and frost it.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup beet juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat over to 350F.
  2. Blend butter and sugars with mixer until well combined and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla until well combined and set aside.
  3. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Slowly stir into wet ingredients.
  4. Add chocolate chips and beet juice.
  5. Pour into cast iron skiller (flouring is not necessary) and smooth batter.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, or until toothpick or fork comes out clean when poked in the middle of the cookie.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie

As Halloween is nearly upon us, we wanted to mix things up a bit with deviation from our traditional “dinner” dishes. With this holiday inspiring stores to construct aisles upon aisles of sweets for the grabbing, we wanted to share a few sweets of our own. We wanted to share a few dishes so sinfully indulgent (while still accessible, no one has time for a souffle), that even any lingering spirits on this All Hallows Eve might be envious. While Amanda shared her deliciously tempting, and grown up milkshake last week, I wanted to share a tribute to my favorite dessert combination: peanut butter and chocolate.

A week long children’s pie baking class at the local upscale grocery store was one of my first real cooking experiences. This class ignited my love of baking which has now expanded as I’ve grown older to learning as many new cooking skills as I can. Thus, pie has always been special to me whether it be fruit, vegetable or custard based. Chocolate pies in particular have always been a favorite of mine and peanut butter cups were always the Halloween haul top prize in my candy bucket. Naturally, since these flavors all bring happy feelings, why not combine them into one unbelievably tasty dessert?

While this pie does not require any actual baking, can be a bit time consuming as you wait for the steps to chill. If you need to break into that wine pairing while you’re waiting, I won’t tell.

Peanut Butter Cookie Crust:

  • 16 peanut butter sandwich cookies
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (could use the chocolate darkness you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Peanut Butter Pie Filling:

  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream*
  • 1 tablespoon sugar*
  • Peanut Butter cups and melted chocolate for garnishing

*If you’re feeling lazy, frozen whipped topping will also work for this and might actually make for a more stable pie (because of processing). Remove these two ingredients in lieu of one 8 ounce tub; but if you walked past that aisle like me, we’ll make our own whipped cream below–and no hydrogenated oils here. 

Peanut Butter Cookie Crust:

  • Crush the peanut butter cookies into crumbs using either a food processor or putting the cookies in a zip top bag and going medieval on it with a meat tenderizer.
  • Dumb the crumbs into a 9″ pie pan and drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs. Mix with your hands to make sure the butter is incorporated (but, you know, don’t burn yourself so use a spoon if you prefer).
  • Press the crumbs into the sides and bottom of the pan to form a crust. I like to take a smaller pie pan and push it down on top for even coverage.
  • Chill the crust in the fridge while you make the ganache.
  • Also, I know this is a three step pie and if you don’t feel like doing this step and would prefer a store bought crumb crust, I’m not judging. However, I’m not sure if peanut butter cookie crusts are available so you might have to make some graham cracker or chocolate crumb compromises, but you do you–probably can’t go wrong with any kind of crumb crust.

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Chocolate Ganache

  • Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat until almost but not boiling.
  • Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and butter, stirring until the chocolate is melted and ingredients are well mixed.
  • Pour ganache into the bottom of the pie crust we made earlier and allow to chill in fridge for at least one hour.

Peanut Butter Pie Filling:

  • If you’re making your own whipped cream, you can make it before or after the rest of the ingredients are mixed together (I’ll let you decide on which logistics work for you). If you’re opting for store bought, skip this bullet and lets meet up in the next step. To make simple whipped cream: using a stand mixer bowl and the whisk attachment or a hand mixer and a large bowl, mix the sugar and heavy cream on medium to high speed for about 5-10 minutes until stiff peaks form. Make sure to not leave this unattended or you will quickly have butter on your hands instead of whipped cream. Set aside.
  • In a large stand mixer, mix together on low speed the peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk until all is incorporated (you can also stir together with a wooden spoon instead if you’re feeling strong).
  • Using a spatula, gently fold in the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture in 3-4 portions until incorporated, but be sure not to over mix and lose the lightness of the cream.
  • Gently spread the peanut butter filling over the top of the ganache and over the rest of the pie with the spatula.
  • Top with melted chocolate drizzled over the top and chopped peanut butter cups as desired.
  • Allow whole pie to chill for at least 1.5 hours before consuming (I know it’s going to be difficult).
  • Enjoy your sinful dessert and don’t feel the need to share if you don’t want 🙂

Wine Pairing: Since this dish is already so sweet, some boldness would match well with this so I think a nice Zinfandel with chocolate notes is a good match that would pair with the chocolate but not overload on sugar. Now go kick your feet up with a glass of wine and a slice of pie. You deserve it.

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Brandy Alexander Milkshake

Long training runs for our next half marathon has left me so hungry at the end of the day- and feeling like I’ve earned a treat (not that I ever need an excuse)! I bought some brandy a month or two ago for a braised chicken recipe, and have been looking around for more uses. Add a craving for some homemade ice cream, and I came up with a boozy, creamy milkshake! I chose to use a vanilla custard base for a richer flavor, but traditional ice cream will work too! 

Other cocktail combos I’m thinking of trying:

  • Pumpkin spice liqueur and cinnamon whiskey
  • Creme de menthe and white creme de cacao  (a grasshopper)
  • Bailey’s and creme de cacao
  • Horchata liqueur and cinnamon whiskey

Any other favorite drinks that might benefit from some added ice cream?

Instructions

  • 1 pint ice cream or custard
  • 1/2 cup milk (or to taste)
  • 1 shot (1-1.5 oz, to taste) of brandy or cognac 
  • 1 shot (1-1.5 oz, to taste) of creme de cacao 
  • Chocolate syrup, sprinkles or cacao nibs for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Blend ingredients in blender, adding milk last to desired consistency.
  2. Enjoy (responsibly)!

    French Toast Casserole

    Breakfast is my favorite meal! Add some mimosas and some good friends, and brunch is the highlight of any day. Merideth and I made this on our beach weekend, and I served it again for a rainy Netflix marathon when Hurricane Hermine pushed us inside on Labor Day Weekend. Both times, this was a hit! Quick prep means that you can get the casserole in the oven and, if you’re like us, push play on your Saturday morning cartoons!

    This recipe uses peanut butter, banana, and chocolate chips, but could allow for other combinations as long as the milk/egg mixture is maintained. Next time, I’m thinking blueberries, or maybe some seasonal pumpkin spice!

    Ingredients

    1 loaf day-old challah bread, cubed

    3 bananas, sliced

    3/4 cups chocolate chips

    Milk/Egg Mixture

    1/4-1/2 cup milk of your choice (I have used almond and traditional milk, both good!).

    1 tsp cinnamon

    3/4 cup peanut butter

    6-7 eggs

    Salt

    Depending on how large the loaf is, you may need additional milk/egg mixture to saturate the bread.

    Instructions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease 9×13 pan.
    2. Combine chocolate chips, bananas, and bread. Don’t worry if the chocolate chips settle on the bottom!
    3. Blend milk, peanut butter, eggs, and cinnamon until smooth. I recommend using a blender, but a whisk can work if one is unavailable.
    4. Pour egg and milk into bread, and fold until well coated.
    5. Bake all ingredients in 9×13 pan for approximately 35 minutes, and serve with powdered sugar or syrup, if desired.

     

    S’mores Popcorn

     

    Popcorn is such a wonderful snack. I have always said that even if I am completely full from a large meal, I still can’t resist a handful of popcorn if that buttery scent wafts my way. When Amanda and I have the rare chance to actually see one another in person, we usually like to have a lazy night in front of the television while having some long conversations solving the world’s problems and catching up on each other’s lives. It just so happens that this is also my favorite time to mindlessly munch on something savory. Amanda and I both have a love of chocolate and s’mores as well and so we knew we wanted to dress up popcorn in some way and s’mores are always a favorite.

    To make this yummy popcorn treat, you’ll need:

    6 cups popped popcorn, I prefer salted and buttered if not making it from a microwavable bag

    1 cup chocolate chips

    1 cup mini marshmallows

    4 graham crackers

    • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil (very important as we learned).
    • Spread out the popcorn on the baking sheet and try to remove any uncooked kernels if possible.
    • Crush the graham crackers into small pieces. I prefer to stick them in a zip top bag and pound with a mallet or crush with my hands.
    • In a micowaveable bowl, microwave the chocolate chips in 10-20 second intervals until chocolate is melted and smooth.
    • Drizzle chocolate over the popcorn, and try to avoid large globs. As you can see from our photo though, it’s not always possible.
    • Then, while chocolate is still liquefied, sprinkle the graham crackers and marshmallows over the popcorn.
    • Try to resist chowing down, and allow chocolate to harden. You could stick the pan in the fridge for fifteen minutes, and that usually does the trick.
    • To serve, you can eat straight off the baking sheet or break into smaller clumps and munch from a bowl. Enjoy!

     

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    Boston Creme Cake Balls

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    When I was getting ready for my wedding, I was worried we wouldn’t have enough cake. I wanted to find a solution that would feed everyone delicious sweets and add my personal touch. At the time, I was falling in love with a local Austin shop that specialized in Cake Balls.I meant to serve everyone a few cake balls to supplement the cake we had bought so I started practicing. I ended up having enough cake afterall, but now I love making these cake balls and have added my own twist on the filling.

    I’m sure we’ll look back on them as such a food fad, but I think they are the absolute perfect dessert. They are cake, frosting and chocolate all in one bite without the “I just ate a whole tub of sugar in that frosting” kind of feeling. It’s not too much, but just enough–although I have had days of eating these like candy too.

    This particular recipe I did because I was coming to visit Amanda for her birthday AND graduation from business school all in one day. Since she and I both have connections with Boston, I decided to do my version of Boston Creme Pie in a cake ball.

    I also wanted to celebrate her graduation so I tried to figure out a way to add little hats. They’re not the prettiest, but if you have square molds they might look a bit better. Hats are completely optional obviously, however I used melted chocolate cut into squares attached to a round caramel candy, but anything kind of cylindrical would work and a mini chocolate candy on the top. All of these were “glued” together with melted chocolate and then stuck on the top.

    To make these delicious treats you will need:

    1 box of cake mix baked with the ingredients and per the instructions on the box*

    1/2 to 1 cup of buttercream frosting  (canned is fine, but recipe is below)

    1 box of instant vanilla pudding mix & milk made per instructions on the box

    16 oz of melting chocolate  or chocolate chips of your preferred sweetness

    Your choice of sprinkles or graduation hat topping

    *you can make your own cake with your favorite homemade recipe if you’d like but dipping these guys in chocolate is time consuming enough for me–box all the way

    Makes : about 24

    First, bake the cake according to the box instructions or per your favorite recipe. Allow to cool completely–sometimes I make this the day before. This is also the easiest part because shape and flatness doesn’t matter!

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    First, make the vanilla pudding according to instructions on the box and chill until firm.

    Funnel the completed pudding into a zip top bag and cut one of the bottom corner tips off to create a hole for piping.

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pipe the pudding in little droplets onto the parchment paper so each one is about a 1/2 tablespoon of pudding.

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    You’ll only need 30 pudding droplets at the most so if you’d like to use the rest of the  pudding for something else, you should have some leftover. However, if you’re on a piping roll, these do make good snacks on their own.

    Put the baking sheet of pudding drops in the freezer and freeze until hardened.

    In the meantime, break the cake into chunks and stick in your mixer fitted with a paddle. S

    Spoon buttercream frosting into the cake and mix. The amount of frosting will depend on the kind of day and your preference, but it should make the cake moist enough to form ball that is not crumbly. I typically don’t use as much as other recipes recommend, but it is entirely up to you.

    Chill cake for about 2 hours in the fridge. This will firm everything up.

    Once everything is chilled, melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. If using microwave, I typically do this in 20 second increments, stir and repeat until smooth.

    Also, line a baking sheet or flat surface that is easily transported to the fridge with parchment paper to prepare for the cake balls.

    Then, use a disher or spoon to spoon out equal amounts of  the chilled cake/frosting dough and form into a ball the size of a golf ball.

    Take a pudding drop from the freezer and stick into the ball like you’re hiding a pill for your pet inside a treat.

    Roll the ball in your hands to smooth out and dip in the chocolate.

    I am still perfecting my dipping technique but I have had the most luck with a trusty fork and then shaking off excess chocolate on the side of the bowl. When I transfer to the parchment paper I can usually smooth out the chocolate that was disrupted by the fork and cover with sprinkles or the topping.

    As stated above, if you are using sprinkles as your topping, this is the time to add them while the chocolate is still wet. If doing graduation hats or something that needs to be “glued” into place, wait until everything is hardened.

    Repeat with the rest of the cake and transfer what you have to the fridge for the chocolate to harden.

    Keep in  fridge for 4-5 hours so the pudding inside can melt and then they are ready to consume!

    Enjoy!