Friday, February 4, 2011

Cocoa Blocks

Cocoa Blocks dusted in cocoa powder
This recipe comes from King Arthur Flour.  I thought they sounded like a good idea for a small Christmas gift for friends and kids' teachers.  I think most of them never made it to the cocoa stage; they were eaten just for the fun of it.  Some I coated in cocoa powder, others I coated in crushed peppermint candy canes.  Be warned, though, if you do the candy canes, you need to give them out and use them within a day or two because the candy starts to melt and look very unattractive.  

Cocoa Blocks
    --adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (1 1/4 cups)
  • 3 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (chopped chocolate bars or chips)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened baking chocolate
  • wooden sticks (I used corn skewers purchased at Smart & Final in SoCal)


    1) Line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
    2) Heat the cream and condensed milk over low heat until steaming. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate; allow it to gently melt.
    3) After about 10 minutes, return the chocolate mixture to low heat to completely melt the chocolate. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is thick and shiny. Add a few drops of flavoring oil if you like; hazelnut, coffee, or vanilla are popular flavors.
    4) Pour the chocolate mixture into the pan; shake the pan gently to level. Sprinkle with cocoa, if desired. Set aside overnight to slowly set up.
    5) Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn out onto a clean cutting surface.
    6) Slice into 1 ¼" cubes. Heat a knife in hot water and wipe dry before each cut, for smoothest cuts.
    7) Stick a wooden stick into the center of each block.
    8) Roll in cocoa or crushed peppermint candy, if desired.
    9) Wrap in waxed paper, parchment, or plastic wrap to store.
    Yield: about 3 dozen blocks.
    Bagged for Christmas gifts

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Orange Spice Oatmeal Cookies

    Orange Spice Oatmeal Cookies
    When you see these cookies, you just expect a crisp little oatmeal cookie, but when you bite into it and start to chew, you get a bright citrus burst that just makes your mouth happy. They really are worth the extra effort of making the candied orange zest.  If that sounds like too much work, they're a great cookie without the orange flavor. My favorite oatmeal cookie.
    I don't know why I don't make these cookies more often. They are delightful. One judge at the Iowa State Fair food competition said they were a perfect cookie to have with some tea.  If I drank tea much, I would have to agree. Oh, and just because a judge said something nice about them, don't think they won any awards. Apparently they're not THAT good. This judge even said they were supposed to receive an honorable mention, but they didn't, so I probably should not even mention it here.

    Orange Spice Oatmeal Cookies


    • 1 ½ cups KAF unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 3 cups quick cooking oats
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp Tone’s Ground Cinnamon
    • ¼ tsp Tone’s Ground Cloves
    • 1/8 tsp Tone’s Ground Nutmeg
    • ½ cup butter
    • ½ cup vegetable shortening

    • 1 cup light brown sugar
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • ½ tsp orange extract
    • ¼ cup candied orange zest, finely chopped*
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 2 tsp milk
    • ½ tsp orange extract
    • 1 T candied orange rind for garnish


    Sift flour, salt, soda, & spices together.  Stir in oats and candied ¼ cup orange zest.
    Cream butter, shortening, & sugars.  Beat in eggs and ½ tsp orange extract.  Stir in dry ingredients and blend well. Refrigerate dough for at least two hours or overnight. 
    Preheat oven to 350°.  Form dough into walnut-sized balls and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 350° for 12-15 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool on wire rack.
    Meanwhile, whisk powdered sugar, milk, and ½ tsp orange extract until smooth.  Drizzle over cookies and garnish with a piece of candied orange zest.
    Makes about 4 1/2 to 5 dozen cookies.

    *Candied Orange Zest

    • 2 oranges
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • additional sugar for dredging


    Wash oranges thoroughly.  Carefully trim zest (orange outer layer of peel) in wide strips using a small knife or vegetable peeler.  If zest strips have any pith (the bitter white layer of the peel) on them, carefully cut or scrape the pith off with a small knife. Cut zest strips lengthwise into thin julienne strips.
                      Place zest strips in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Cook over medium heat until water comes to a simmer.  Drain and repeat two more times.
                      Drain strips and then return to the saucepan and add 1/3 cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook over low heat for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, until strips turn translucent and the sugar and water begin to thicken.
    Remove from the heat, and using a fork, take the strips from the saucepan and place on a sheet of wax paper. Separate and spread out the strips on the wax paper and allow to cool slightly. Then roll the strips in sugar until well coated and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.