Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Coffee and Chocolate

When my mom was pregnant with me, she cut out all the caffeine from her diet. Growing up, our house was caffeine free - from the coffee, to the caffeine-free diet coke. Because of this, I am very susceptible to caffeine. I tend to avoid it unless it becomes very necessary - like during finals, or the week of a show when sleep becomes "that thing other people do."

Senior year of high school I was on Senior Counsel. We were in charge of homecoming. The night before homecoming we pulled an all-nighter working on school decorations. Someone had the brilliant idea of pulling out chocolate chip cookies around 2AM. After that, I kept everyone entertained for HOURS until it was decided I should never be given sugar again. Yes folks, it is that scary when I get a shot of caffeine in my system.

Tonight, as I pulled yet another "chocolate" dish from the oven and Jon asked what was up with me and baking I decided that my body was trying to tell me something. See, I don't usually bake, and I hardly ever eat chocolate. So why was I suddenly obsessed with dishes involving chocolate and coffee? Could it be the lack of sleep is finally catching up with me? I tried taking a couple sleeping pills last night, even though Dr. Mom and Jon both vetoed the idea. Well, the pills didn't take - either that or I am far too stubborn for modern medicine. I got more sleep than the night before, but I'm still unable to sleep through the night. So it would seem like my body is literally begging for fuel. Fuel in the form of, yup, you guessed it. Chocolate and Coffee.


Much like the onlookers who gather around Punxsutawney Phil on February 2 hoping and praying for spring, Peabody is trying to coax fall along by making a hot chocolate cake. She combined the cake with spiked whipped cream, hot fudge, and candy canes to create a "cake sundae" (my words, not hers). I on the other hand decided this would make a great loaf cake. That way I could snack on it during the day to give me a little boost, or even have it for breakfast (Dad is great. Give us the chocolate cake!). My cake didn't look as brown as Peabody's cake did, and it didn't taste incredibly chocolaty, but the hot chocolate definitely made it sweet and yummy. And I kinda liked that it wasn't too chocolaty.


My favorite thing to make: Bread
My favorite dessert: Tiramisu
Now lets try a trick, my favorite dessert to make? Panna cotta. For the same reason I love to make bread. It is so fabulous because it is so impressive "Oh, you made that yourself?" but it is so easy. Yes, that's right folks, you heard it hear. I am a food poseur. I like to make things that only seem difficult.

Panna Cotta, or "cooked cream" is the Italian version of flan, or creme brulee, except it is plainer than both since it doesn't have the carmel of flan or carmelization of creme brulee. It doesn't need either. It tastes like ice cream, without being frozen. Because it is served "inverted" like the flan, it looks difficult to make, but really the gelatin does all the work. You just stir and put it in the fridge. I love it.

Most of the time I make regular, "unflavored", panna cotta and top it with seasonal fruit/liquor. But earlier this week when I saw the coffee panna cotta on Sarah's blog, I knew I would have to branch out a little. I think my favorite part was softening the gelatin over rum instead of water (tee hee!). Because TJ's didn't have instant espresso, and lately I'm too lazy to store hop, I used some instant vanilla coffee I had at home. I'm not sure if this made a huge difference or not - it probably added less caffeine...I also used light coconut milk instead of regular coconut milk (hey, even good fat is still fat). My last change was to use semi-sweet chocolate instead of bittersweet in an attempt to use up a bag I had. I grinned happily as the panna cotta slid from the cup - simple pleasures. Trying to "dress" the dessert with the chocolate sauce was a bit of a problem, the chocolate kept spilling off the top and pooling around the panna cotta instead of sitting and looking pretty like I told it to. Next time I would probably try to make it a bit thinner so its own weight didn't pull it down, more like a syrup than a sauce.

Peabody's Hot Chocolate Cake

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup prepared hot chocolate (I use my old family recipe, you can find it on your Hershey's
cocoa container)
1 TBSP butter
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used up my last AP flour last night making my pizza dough, so I subbed in Cake flour - 1 1/2 cups + 3 Tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325F.

1) In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until very thick; the batter should fall from the beaters in a thick ribbon. Beat in the vanilla.
2) While you’re beating the eggs and sugar, heat the hot chocolate and butter in a small saucepan to just simmering. Add the hot chocolate mixture to the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream as you continue beating.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring until they’re just combined.
4) Pour the batter into a lightly greased loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake is a deep golden brown and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove the cake from the oven and cool it in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the pan.

Costa Rican Coffee Panna Cotta with Bittersweet Chocolate Rum Sauce
(from Chomping the Big Apple)
1 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/8 cup dark rum
5/8 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
3/8 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoons dark colored corn syrup
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tablespoon dark rum

1) Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over 1/8 cup of dark rum and allow to soften for 5 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, stir together 5/8 cup of whipping cream, brown sugar, and espresso powder in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until brown sugar has dissolved.
3) Remove from heat, then whisk in gelatin mixture until dissolved.
4) Whisk in the coconut milk, vanilla extract, and sour cream until smooth. Evenly divide the mixture between four 3/4 cup custard cups or molds, cover each with plastic wrap, and chill at least 4 hours to overnight.
5) Bring 3/8 cup whipping cream and corn syrup to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once simmering, remove from heat, and stir in the chocolate until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon of rum and set aside.
6) To serve, run a knife around the edge of each mold, then set each cup into a shallow bowl of hot water for 10 seconds to loosen. Invert the mold over a serving plate and remove the panna cotta. Spoon chocolate sauce around each panna cotta.


  1. Yeah, my hot chocolate that I use is pretty chocolaty(probably why it is more brown). But even with that it still isn't super chocolate flavored, that's why I added the fudge to it :)

  2. Oh, man, I can't read your blog. It is filled with things I can't eat during my Diane-implemented diet challenge.