Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Honeyed Rosemary-Lavender Shortbread

Sometimes, after work, and dinner, and doing the dishes, right as it gets to be late in the evening, around say ten thirty- I realize that I need something. Like desperately, anxiously, urgently, seriously- climb the tallest mountains, swim the longest oceans- I need a cookie. 

So, on Sunday night, when that craving set in, I headed into the kitchen, took stock of my supplies and considered my options. Then I made these. Buttery, toasty, melt in your mouth, the texture of these cookies is absolutely heavenly. They're simultaneously rich, and yet not too heavy, dense in texture but meltingly light on the tongue.  

Shortbread is one of those treats that is deceptively simple. A friend of ours tried these last night, and was blown away when I told him the short ingredient list. "That's all that's in here?!" He asked incredulously. Yep, that's all! 

One of my favorite things about shortbread is the consistency. I always want to call it sandy, but I know that doesn't bring up great connotations in most people's minds. Yum, a mouth full of beach sand. But that's really the best way to describe it, these cookies aren't crumbly to hold or transport or store, but when you take a bite they crumble apart in your mouth like packed sand would. The absolute best, non-gritty, softest, sweetest sand ever, of course. And then that impossibly soft and sweet sand melts in an incredible way on your tongue.

According to Wikipedia, the delightful sandy, crumbly texture of shortbread comes from the high fat content. The prevalence of butter keeps the gluten from forming long strands, and thus it crumbles instead. Just another reason to love and worship butter. 

When S first bit into one of these cookies he nodded happily and declared
"Just the right amount of sweet and savory."
The cookie is delicately sweet, the butter plays a starring role in the flavor and the sugar merely complements it, while the rosemary and lavender are a subtle but slightly surprising twist which matches wonderfully with the buttery, melty texture. The flavor of the herbs is light, certainly not overwhelming, but it is present. 

I've provided two variations on this recipe. One to make cookies like the ones I've photographed here-shaped, thin, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. And one variation to make shortbread bars, quicker to make, soft throughout, and a touch thicker. I've made both versions- the bars are wonderful when you want a dessert fix more immediately, while the cookies are great if you have a bit more time, or prefer a shaped cookie. Both versions are out-of-this-world delicious, enjoy!

Honeyed Rosemary-Lavender Shortbread
2 C flour
1 C butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp dried rosemary 
2 tsp lavender

In a medium bowl combine the flour, lavender, and rosemary. Mix with a fork until herbs are distributed evenly throughout.
Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the honey and almond extract and mix until creamy again. 

Mix the flour into the butter, mixing until the dough clumps up and all the flour has been thoroughly combined with the butter. The dough will be crumbly. 

Option 1: Shaped Cookies
Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and pour out half the dough. Form into roughly a log shape, then use the plastic wrap to help you form the dough into a log. Squeeze it together firmly and shape until you have a log 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and about 6 inches long. If you'd like round cookies, pop the log in the fridge now. If you'd like square cookies, place the log on the counter and use a cutting board to gently flatten the top and bottom, then turn on it's side and flatten the sides. Repeat until you have a long rectangular log, then place in the refrigerator. 
Let chill at least 1 hour (I chilled mine 2). Preheat oven to 325 F.  Remove dough from refrigerator, gently reshape a bit if needed, then use a sharp knife to cut dough into 1/3 inch slices. Place the slices 1 inch apart on a greased baking sheet. 
Bake 15-22 minutes, until edges are very lightly golden brown. Cool on a rack for 3 minutes, then enjoy!

Option 2: Bar Cookies
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. Dump the cookie dough into the baking pan, and use your hands to pack it down into one uniform layer about 1/2 inch thick.
Bake for 35-40 Minutes, until the edges are lightly golden brown. Remove and allow to cool at least ten minutes, then enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Spiced Toffee Date Cake

This cake is made for Autumn. The rich, dense crumb, the sweet caramel-y dates, the nutmeg-cinnamon-clove spice combination- this is a cake to eat curled up in front of a fireplace while orange and red leaves drift slowly down past your window. This is a cake to eat after you carve a pumpkin, rake your yard, or pick a bushel of apples.

I made this cake all the way back during last weekend, but I didn't get around to posting it until now because I have a very seasonal problem, a cold. This has been a big work week for me though, so I've been pushing through the sniffles and the sore throat and the foggy head. Slices of this cake have helped give me strength. 

I've been working assisting a wonderful food stylist here and there for the last few months, Frances Boswell. Her work is just incredible. She has done extensive work for Martha Stewart and Real Simple, as well as written a cookbook. I've accompanied her on several editorial shoots for various magazines, and this Tuesday I had the good fortune of helping cook for a Martha Stewart Living shoot. 

I even saw Martha herself. It was pretty wonderful. For obvious reasons, I can't spill what the story was or what we made, but everything was beautiful and delicious. The Martha offices are a wonderland of cooking and crafting, and the test kitchen was essentially Disney World to me- so many Kitchenaids! So many ovens! Stainless steel everything! So many sizes and types of every cooking tool you could ever need! 

The day after the shoot at Martha Stewart Living, I came down with this cold, and haven't been able to beat it since. I console myself that at least I wasn't a sneezy mess on a food shoot, but if things continue how they are I shall be a sneezy mess while working a wedding tomorrow. 

A few slices of this cake for breakfast would probably make me feel better, but S and I finished it off long ago. When I was a kid my mother used to make something called spice cake, which was a bit like gingerbread sans the ginger, and this is similar, as if it were a dense spice cake but with tons of dates. Or a gingerbread, without the ginger, and with fruit. 

This cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg give this cake a decidedly autumnal taste, and the spiced toffee sauce with it's notes of cinnamon and almond really rounds it out. I adapted the toffee sauce from a raw vegan caramel sauce I found on Nutrition Stripped, and amped up with extra dates and spices. 

This cake is gluten and refined sugar free, and could be called Paleo, depending on your personal Paleo standards. If you wanted, you could make the cake without the coconut sugar. It will be slightly less sweet, so perhaps add a few extra dates, or another tablespoon of maple. This an excellent dessert after an autumn dinner, or even as an ending for a decadent brunch. Enjoy!

Spiced Toffee Date Cake

12 oz dates, pitted
1/2 C butter, melted
3 tbsp maple syrup
5 eggs, separated
1/3 C coconut sugar
3/4 C ground almonds/almond meal
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
heaping 1/2 tsp clove
heaping 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 Cup milk (almond, cow, whatever you prefer)

Spiced Toffee
(adapted from Nutrition Stripped)
3 dates
1/2 C maple
1/2 C coconut oil
1/3 C + 2 tbsp almond butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
scant 1/2 tsp clove

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit, and grease a 9 inch springform pan, (if you don't have a springform line a pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper to make removing cake easy.) I also like to cut a circle of parchment paper to match the bottom of my springform pan, and line it with it, to make cake removal a snap.

Coarsely chop 4oz dates and set aside.

Place remaining 8oz of pitted dates to the bowl of a food processor, add the maple syrup, and blitz until a thick paste forms. Dump this out into a medium sized bowl, and add the melted butter to it. Mix until butter is well incorporated. 

In  a second medium sized bowl, combine the egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, sugar, and almond extract. Beat until pale and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
Stir egg yolk mixture into date mixture and mix until well combined. Mix in the ground almonds, milk, and the coarsely chopped dates. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter gently. Do not be over aggressive mixing in the egg whites quickly, take time and fold them in slowly. 

Pour batter into prepared springform pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost entirely clean. 

While cake is baking, prepare toffee sauce. Combine all toffee ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, or a high speed blender, and blend for 1-3 minutes, until sauce is smooth. 

After removing cake from oven, allow to cool a minimum of ten minutes before removing it from the springform. Serve with toffee sauce poured over top.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tropical Kale-Avocado Smoothie

First things first today, if you check out the upper right-hand part of this page you'll see a new link, called Recipes. It is exactly what it sounds like, a whole page devoted just to cataloging and organizing the recipes from this blog into different categories. There's something for everyone, from appetizers to desserts, bacon, chocolate, kale, there's even a paleo section. 

This smoothie recipe, for instance, would be found in the breakfast, beverage, fruit, kale, and Paleo sections. But don't feel your smoothie intake should be limited to breakfast, I love smoothie lunches, smoothie afternoon treats, and smoothies for dessert too. This one is packed with good things, including so many fruits and veggies they barely all fit in my blender.

This smoothie is my attempt at a copying the Solar Power smoothie from a lovely little cafe S and I sometimes walk to for brunch on the weekends, The Butchers Daughter. We originally discovered the Solar Power smoothie because the barista momentarily forgot about S's coffee order, so when he remembered he poured him a coffee, and whipped up a smoothie, I suppose as a bit of a liquid apology. We shared it and agreed it was heavenly, and very filling. 

Now the Solar Power is my go-to smoothie when I find myself hungry in that part of SoHo. This rendition of the smoothie is pretty darn spot on, flavor wise. Don't concern yourself about the uneven ratio of vegetable to fruit. When you pile it all in the blender a whole avocado and 4-5 stalks of kale may seem like a lot, but once it's all blended together you won't taste the kale at all (or at least, you won't realize you're tasting it), and the avocado will just be a silky, heavenly richness perfectly rounding out the tangy fruits. 

This smoothie is very filling, a perfect and very portable meal or snack. The original Solar Power doesn't call for banana but I find that a banana helps my 6-year-old blender really process everything more smoothly, and it added an extra bit of sweetness to the final product that I really appreciated. This smoothie makes an excellent breakfast or lunch, or a really healthy dessert! 

Tropical Kale-Avocado Smoothie
Makes 2 14oz smoothies

1 Avocado
1 Banana
1 Small bunch kale (about 4 stalks)
1/2 C Pineapple
1/2 C Mango
8 oz Coconut Water
Dried Coconut Flakes for topping (optional)

Pour the coconut water in your blender. 

Peel the banana and break it up into smaller pieces, add to the blender. Halve the avocado, remove the pit, and scoop out the flesh, add to the blender.

Rip up the kale leaves, add them to the blender. Top with the frozen pineapple and mango, put on the lid, then blend until smooth. 

If, like me, you do not have a high powered blender you may end up with some teeny tiny flecks of kale leaf. I could see mine, but couldn't discern them from the rest of the smoothie in my mouth. If you have a high powered blender, good for you. Your fancy-schmancy blender should make the kale totally smooth. Flavorwise there shouldn't be any difference though.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Pretzel Rolls

Happy October! Now is the month to obsess about cold snaps, crunchy leaves, warm tones, halloween shopping, and pumpkin flavored everything. It's also apple season. Before everyone became so enthralled with the idea of pumpkin and pumpkin smell and pumpkin spice, and consuming as many pumpkin products as possible, I seem to remember apple used to be the flavor of Autumn. 

Remember apples? Apple pies, apple crisps, apple cider, apple picking- apple used to be Autumn's signature food. Don't get me wrong, I like pumpkin, I buy a cute little sugar pumpkin every year and turn it into a pie at Thanksgiving. And I like pumpkin flavored things, too. I just think it's silly that we've all forgotten how lovely and Autumnal spiced apples are because these days by October 1st nearly all of  America seems to be afflicted with the plague of Pumpkin Spice Madness. 

This is apple season. There is no better time of year to crunch into a Gala, Pink Lady, Jazz, or Golden Delicious. My personal favorite, which I used in this recipe, are Honey Crisp. Sweet but also a bit tart, juicy, and super crisp- these are my favorite elements of a good apple, and most Honey Crisps have them all. 

These buns are delicious. They're made from my favorite dough- pretzel dough, and filled with cinnamon spiked caramel and diced apple bits. The sweet-salty dough pairs amazingly with the salted dark caramel and juicy, sweet little apple bites. 

These are hefty buns, and the recipe will make twelve, enough for a brunch, a bring-along to a party, or a large family gathering, but probably way too many for your immediate family on a Sunday morning, so feel free to cut it in half if needed. I would use two apples in a half recipe though, rather than 1 1/2. Nothing wrong with a bit of extra apple. Enjoy!

Apple Cinnamon Pretzel Rolls
Makes approx. 12 rolls

1/2 cup warm water
and additional 1 cup room temp water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 cups flour
2 ounces unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
Vegetable oil or butter, for pan
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp water

Apple Cinnamon Filling
2.5 tsp cinnamon
3 apples
3 tbsp half n half (or milk)
1 C brown sugar
7 tbsp butter 

Pour warm water into the bowl of your standmixer (or just a mixing bowl), sprinkle package of yeast over the water and let sit for 8-10 minutes, with the top of the bowl covered with a towel.
combine flour, sugar, and salt in a separate bowl, mix until well combined. Melt 2 oz butter in small saucepan over low heat or in microwave.

Once yeast has foamed up like the head of a beer add the flour to the bowl followed by the melted butter and 1 Cup water. Using stand mixer, or wooden spoon mix until a dough forms, adding more flour if the dough is too wet, more water if it is too dry. 
Once dough comes together, give it a couple of kneads, maybe five or so, then form into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. I also rubbed my dough ball down with a bit of melted butter, but this is optional.
Allow to rise 1 hour, or until dough doubles in size. I like to cover my bowl with a towel and put it in a warm place.

While dough is rising, chop the apples into 1/2" cubes. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a frying pan and add the apples. Cook about about 5-7 minutes, until apples are soft. Remove the apples from the pan and place in a bowl. Add to the pan the remaining 5 tbsp butter and the brown sugar and cinnamon, cook together until the sugar is totally melted. Cook an additional 3 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken, then add the half and half, (warning, it will bubble up when added), and mix in well. Cook another 5 minutes, or until sauce is fairly thick. Remove from heat. Pour half the sauce into a measuring cup and set aside to be your glaze. Add the cooked apples to the frying pan with the other half the sauce and stir them together.

Butter a 1/2 sheet cake pan, or other large rectangular pan, or 3 pie pans.

Once dough has risen, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove the dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured counter top. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out to be about 3/4" thickness, in a large rectangle. 
Spread the apple/caramel mixture over the rolled out dough in an even layer. 

Beginning with a long edge, gently roll the dough into a log. Some caramel will probably escape, don't let this worry you, there's plenty inside. Once you have a long dough log, slice it into 1 1/2 inch segments, and place each one in the buttered roasting pan. Brush down the tops and sides of the rolls with the egg yolk/water mixture, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the outside and cooked through. 
Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before drizzling the rest of the caramel glaze over top of the buns, and enjoy! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese Orecchiette

About a month ago, the first time the temperature dipped below 80 since June, everyone here in New York started talking about Autumn. How it was coming, how it was almost here, how you could feel the cold snap in the air and I, for one, was annoyed. 

I don't like words like Autumn, Fall, or Cold Snap in August. Not even late August. In my opinion, until labor day, summer is still in full swing. And in summer I don't want to talk about cold snaps, I want to talk about swimming, and farmers markets, and trips to the beach. Everyone is far too eager to speed August along into Fall. Meanwhile, I want to shout Stop! Slow down! Don't forget that Winter is Coming! BRRRRR! I said the words Indian Summer to S too many times this year, as if by hoping I could will one into existence.

But now it's mid-September, yesterday was the first actual day of Fall, the cold snap has settled in as a nice pleasant cool front, and I am ready to accept that it is Autumn. And Autumn calls for gourds, hearty foods, and cheese. This pasta has all three. 

I'm not quite sure what it is about the marriage of butternut squash and blue cheese, but the combination is divine. The blue cheese adds just the right amount of cheesy tang and earthy funk to the mild, sweet gourd. And of course heaping the squash on top of an herb and olive oil covered pasta can only serve to improve the flavor further. 

There's almost nothing more autumnal than roasted squash. The bright orange color, the earthy-sweet flavor, the caramelized, lightly blackened bits devoured straight out of the roasting pan beside the warm oven. Just looking at these photos makes me want to find a pile of leaves to jump in! Enjoy!

Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese Orcchiette

Butternut Squash
1 1/4 lb butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
2 tsp finely chopped rosemary

1 lb orecchiette (or little shell pasta)
4 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tbsp chopped rosemary
3-4 oz blue cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the butternut squash in half, and use a spoon to scoop out the stringy, seedy insides and discard them. Peel the squash and cut into cubes a bit smaller than 1" per side. 
Place squash cubes in a bowl and toss with a pinch of salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary. Spread squash in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast 15-20 minutes, until cooked through but still holding their shape. 

While squash roasts, boil a large pot of water, and add the orecchiette. Cook 8-10 minutes, until al dente. Drain and return to the empty pot.

While the pasta boils, mince 3 garlic cloves and 1 heaping tablespoon rosemary, add to a small frying pan with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and cook over low heat until the garlic is soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes.

Crumble the blue cheese and set aside.

Pour garlic-rosemary infused olive oil over the drained pot of pasta and mix well. Gently mix in the butternut squash cubes and 1/2 the crumbled blue cheese. 
Serve topped with additional blue cheese and enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

IPA Pretzel Bread

I have seasonal food habits.  In winter I make pot after pot of hearty soup, I roast winter squash nearly nightly, and apple crisps rule the dessert rotation, in the spring I relish in making salads with the first fruits and greens of the season. In the summer I juice, and juice, and juice, and produce copious amounts of popsicles.

But in the fall it's all about baking. Specifically pretzel baking. It seems like every fall I get this nagging little voice whispering about salty, deep golden brown crusts and soft, pillowy insides. Pretzels it whispers in my ear, soft, salty, addicting pretzels. And I cannot resist it. 

This weekend I fed my pretzel urges twice. Once with this beautiful luscious bread, and once with a pretzel sweet roll that I'll share with you soon. This bread though. This bread is incredible. Quite possibly the best bread I have ever baked. I used my go-to pretzel recipe, which I have previously presented to you covered in cheese. It has all the best elements of a pretzel- the salty sweetness, the unbelievably soft insides, the glossy, thin deep brown crust, but in sliceable form! Plus, it stays fresh and soft days longer than a soft pretzel.

I cannot even convey to you how wonderfully soft, pillowy, and perfectly textured the inside of this bread is. It's unbelievable. The salty edges of the slice are lovely but the real treat is the middle. It manages to be substantial and hearty, yet light on the tongue. 

I ate the heal of the bread plain, savoring every perfect bite, and then quickly followed it up with two pieces, spread with a thin layer of dijon mustard and topped with skinny slices of avocado. This is what lunch in heaven must taste like. I followed those up with most of the rest of the loaf.

This bread is wonderful as it only has to rise once, and only for one hour, and if you end up allowing it to rise for two or three hours, it's just as good, so you can easily throw together the dough, run some errands, and then come home and boil and bake it up before dinner. I think you could even let it rise in the fridge over night, if you wanted, though this would likely lead to denser bread. Boiling a loaf of bread before baking may seem like a strange move, but trust me on this one, it's the boiling that creates the deep brown pretzel crust and helps perfect the fluffy-yet-hearty pretzel texture inside. 

IPA Pretzel Bread

1/2 C warm water
1 1/2 C IPA beer divided into 1 C and 1/2 C 
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 cups flour
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter + extra for greasing
10 C water
1/2 C baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Coarse salt

Pour warm water into the bowl of your standmixer (or just a mixing bowl), sprinkle package of yeast over the water and let sit for 8-10 minutes, with the top of the bowl covered with a towel.
combine flour, sugar, and salt, mix until well combined. Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat or in microwave.

Measure out beer and bring to room temp- I just placed mine near my little pot of melting butter.

Once yeast has foamed up like the head of a beer add the flour to the bowl followed by the melted butter and 1 Cup beer. Using your stand mixer, or wooden spoon, mix until a dough forms, adding more flour if the dough is too wet, more water or beer if it is too dry. 
Once dough comes together, give it a couple of kneads  then form into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. 
Allow to rise 1 hour, or until dough doubles in size. I like to cover my bowl with a towel and put it in a warm place like inside a slightly warmed (then turned off) oven, or on top of a running radiator. 

Once dough has risen, combine the remaining 1/2 Cup beer, the 10 Cups water, and the baking soda and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces and shape into loaves. Once water/baking soda combination is boiling, lower 1 loaf into the water, and boil for about 30 seconds, turning it over once or twice while boiling, then remove from the water and place on the parchment paper lined baking sheet. I used a large mesh strainer with a handle to lower my bread and fish it back out, but a large spatula would also do the trick. Repeat process with second loaf. Brush each loaf down with the egg/water mixture, sprinkle with the coarse salt and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust is a rich deep golden brown. Allow to cool for about five minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ginger Chocolate Bark and Lavender Chocolate Bark

I am fairly picky about my sweets. If I'm going to eat a cupcake it better be a great, moist, dense cake with a lot of flavor topped in a buttercream that tastes more of butter than confectioners sugar, and even then, I usually remove most of the frosting. I'm not one for grocery store cupcakes, or sugary sheet cakes, and you won't find me eating a plain Hershey's bar any time soon.

When I was a young teen, growing up in Ohio supping on dry sheet cakes and overly sweet candy bars at birthday parties, I believed that I didn't really like cake or candy bars very much at all. It took me a while to understand that there was a difference between a Giant Eagle brand rainbow-frosted sheet cake, and a rich, moist, triple chocolate cake with chocolate ganache between the layers. Or, that there were Hershey's bars and Snickers bars, and then there were 70% cocoa dark chocolate bars with candied orange peel on top. I didn't dislike desserts, I disliked overly sweetened, poorly made desserts. 

When I first moved to the city, I lived on campus at the Fashion Institute, and during my second year I had a small kitchen in my dorm, which had a small refrigerator, in which I always had at least one exciting bit of chocolate. My favorites were a dark bar with cinnamon and spicy peppers, and a sweet-n-salty bar spiked with goji berries and pink sea salt. I preferred Vosges chocolates, which is not cheap stuff, so I would limit myself to two 1" squares of chocolate a night, taking tiny nibbles and letting the complex, spicy-sweet-salty-fruity bars melt in my mouth in chocolatey bliss. 

When I moved to a small city in Washington state to finish school all the convenience foods of Manhattan, bagel shops, juice places, fast food korean, boba, fancy chocolates, french macarons, were much harder to come by. Or, at least, they weren't within walking distance of my little house next to a goat and chicken farm and across the street from a forest. So I began to make desserts instead.

It started with cookies, but quickly evolved into lemon cakes and pineapple upside down cakes, to chocolate pies and blueberry crumble bars, coconut custard, lime squares, and foraged fruit crisps of every kind. But it wasn't until very recently that I started making chocolate bars. 

I can't believe how simple they are to make! I call these refrigerator chocolates, because you need to store them in the fridge to keep them from being as melty as a Reeses cup left in the car in July. They make a fantastic late night dessert nibble, every time I walk by the fridge I want to stop and grab another! I added cardamom to the cocoa powder to make a more complex bar base, and the little note of spice in the bar is absolutely lovely, and has a bit of an exotic taste.

I'm suggesting two different toppings for these slightly-healthier-than-most chocolate bars. One Paleo friendly option of dried lavender (which was absolutely lovely, if you've never tried lavender chocolate, now is the time!), and one slightly more sugary option of candied ginger, but you could top these in any number of things. Dried orange peel, slivered almonds, broken pretzel bits…. oh gosh, broken pretzel bits just sounds heavenly. I think I have to run out and get pretzels and make those asap! 

Chocolate Bark with Lavender or Ginger

Chocolate Bark:

1 C cocoa powder
1/2 C coconut oil
5 tbsp maple or honey
1.5 tsp cardamom


4 oz candied ginger
1tbsp lavender flowers

Line a small 6X6 or 6x8 pan with parchment paper or a silpat, set aside. Allow paper to come a bit up the sides, about 1 inch on each side.

Add coconut oil to a small sauce pan, over very low heat, and melt, then warm for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in honey or maple until well combined. Mix in the cocoa powder and cardamom, then whisk until mixture is glossy and shiny and cocoa powder is fully mixed in. Remove from heat.

Pour mixture into parchment lined pan and spread out into an even layer. Place entire pan into the freezer for 5-8 minutes.

Remove pan from freezer and top chocolate with a sprinkling of lavender flowers or candied ginger. Return pan to freezer for 45 minutes. 
After these have solidified, break or cut into desired sizes. Store in refrigerator.