Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Flourless Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake Recipe

Do you love, LOVE, LOVE flourless chocolate cake as much as I do?  I was introduced to this uber-rich, chocolate truffle-like dessert when I spent a post-graduate year in France in 2005, and it changed my view of desserts forever more. I had never liked vanilla cake, nor did I like sponge cake or pound cake, even when they were called 'chocolate' simply because cocoa powder had been added to their recipe.  So when I had my first taste of flourless chocolate cake - made mostly with butter, real chocolate and eggs, I felt like it was the chocolate dessert that I had been waiting for my entire life. Why? Well, although it technically is a cake, it really is just a big slice of chocolate truffle on a plate.

And now I make flourless chocolate cake often.  Once you have the knowledge and the ingredients, it is actually quite simple to make. And I love to change up the ingredients of my flourless chocolate cakes to add just a little bit of a flavour twist.  My favourite is Raspberry Dark Chocolate, but I've even tried milk chocolate, white chocolate and a variety of fruit and nut flavours.

So today I thought I would share a festive holiday version that includes roasted hazelnuts and pure hazelnut butter.  This is a rich, savoury dark chocolate cake that is reminiscent of a large, bitter-sweet hazelnut chocolate truffle. Sweeten it up by topping it with a chopped hazelnut-milk chocolate bar and some hazelnut buttercream and you will have a luscious dessert.

Here is the recipe:

Flourless Hazelnut Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake

For the cake:
  • 8 ounces / 227 grams of 70% dark chocolate (I used organic and Fair Trade Camino brand of chocolate couverture), chopped in 1 inch pieces.
  • 1/2 lb butter / 250 grams (for a milk/dairy free version, use equivalent in Coconut Oil), chopped in cubes
  • 1 cup sugar (I have now made this cake with regular granulated sugar, organic golden cane sugar and a lower glycemic version with coconut sugar - they all worked out great)
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature (place in a bowl of warm water if cold)
  • 1 cup pure hazelnut butter or paste (Cacao Barry's Pure Hazelnut Paste is fantastic, but there is likely a small jar of another brand at your grocery store that you can also use)
  • 1 tsp sea salt

For the glaze:
  • 6 ounces of semi-sweet dark chocolate (56% to 65%)
  • 1/2 cup cream or 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup, honey or agave syrup

For the topping:
  • Whole Hazelnuts - roasted, OR
  • A 100 gram milk (or dark) chocolate with whole hazelnuts chocolate bar, chopped

Optional: Hazelnut Buttercream Icing
  • 1/2 pound butter, softened
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup pure hazelnut butter (to taste)

Prepare your pan and the oven:
  1. Prepare a 10" springform or regular baking pan with a piece of parchment paper and by greasing the paper and the sides of the pan with a tablespoon of softened butter (bake at 25 minutes). Alternately, you can prepare two 5" pans and make smaller cakes with 6 servings (bake at 17 minutes only).
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the cake:
  1. Place the chopped butter and chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a double boiler (a small pot with 1 inch of water in it at a low simmer) and stir constantly until melted. Remove from heat. You can use the stainless steel bowl from your stand mixer, if it does not have a thick-plated or rubber base.
  2. Add the sugar and stir well.  Let rest five minutes.
  3. Add all four eggs and mix with a hand mixer (or stand mixer) until well blended (do not over-beat, if it starts to get fluffy, stop mixing).
  4. If it was refrigerated, warm your hazelnut butter in the microwave for about 25 or 30 seconds. Then pour into the chocolate-egg mixture and mix with your hand mixer or stand mixer until mixed in.
  5. Toss in the salt and mix for about 10 seconds more with your hand mixer or with a spatula.
  6. Pour the entire mixture into your 10" baking pan, or if using two 5" pans, pour half the mixture into each. Spread around gently and tap on counter to even the cake mixture in the pan.
  7. Bake the 10" cake for 25 minutes in the centre of the oven, or 17 minutes for the small 5" cakes.  Turn off the oven when the time is up and gently pull out the oven rack and leave the door open for 5 minutes or more until cooled (this prevents the centre from falling too quickly, leaving the sides to crack).
  8. Take out of the oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack. Once cooled, refrigerate it for at least a 1/2 hour to 1 hour.
  9. Run a warm knife around the sides of the pan to ensure the cake does not stick. Remove the springform sides and flip upside down onto a serving plate (this is easier if you place your serving plate upside-down on top of the cake and flip over gently). Extract the parchment paper carefully, then decorate.

To make the glaze:
  1. Place your chopped chocolate in a stainless steel, glass or plastic bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the cream (or water, if using) just to a boil. 
  3. Immediately pour the liquid over the chocolate and stir slowly with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is melted and well blended.
  4. Add one tablespoon of corn syrup, honey or agave syrup to add a shine to the glaze.
  5. Pour the glaze over the cake slowly and let it run to the sides. You can either let it drip lightly over the sides, or use a small offset spatula to smooth out the sides.  You will need a paper-towel to clean around the edges of your serving plate if it spreads.
  6. Top with the chopped up hazelnut-chocolate bar or the roasted hazelnuts. Decorate with hazelnut buttercream, to add a little sweetness and more hazelnut flavour (see recipe below).

To make the Hazelnut Buttercream:
  1. Beat the butter in a stand mixer bowl (or mixing bowl with a hand mixer) until softened and slightly fluffy. 
  2. Add the icing sugar slowly while beating. Be sure to stir the bottom of the bowl with a spatula so no lumps form and beat again.
  3. Add the hazelnut butter and beat. 
  4. You can also add 1/4 cup cocoa powder for a chocolaty appearance and flavour or some melted milk or dark chocolate (not warmer than 82 to 86 degrees F).
  5. Place in a decorator bag and decorate all around the top and sides of your cake, or spread in the middle and decorate however you wish! Just remember that this cake does not need a lot of buttercream, as it is already fairly rich in flavour and, well, butter.
Enjoy and indulge happily!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What Comes After Eight?

Well, not 'nine' if that was what you were thinking.  Nope, I am talking about that delicious paper-thin minty treat that seems to be everywhere during the holiday season: the After Eight.  Despite my affinity for very fine chocolate and bean-to-bar craft chocolate, I still cannot resist the occasional box of After Eights.

The After Eight triggers many of my Christmas holiday memories from childhood.  There was nearly always a box in my stocking or put out on the coffee table for Christmas morning.  And as I grew older, it became my own tradition to buy a box (or two) at the start of every December and devour nearly the entire box while watching a holiday tv movie. And so my love for that refreshing little chocolate treat has never wavered, nor will it, I am sure.

But occasionally a new product has come on the market that threatens to pull ol' Eighty from his 'King of Mint' pedestal. And I always try these new products because I am always looking for a new way to enjoy mint chocolate.  But yet nothing ever seems to compare to the After Eight. So then I realised that I need not compare.  Instead I should simply appreciate the new product - even if it is clearly a knock-off - for what it is and treat it as an entirely new experience.

That is what I have done with the PC 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate MINT THINS.  When these came on the market several years ago, it was clear that President's Choice was attempting to compete directly with the After Eight brand on product and price.  The box is the same size (both have 300 grams of chocolate mint thins) and on product shape and format.  The difference though, is that PC's chocolate 'thins' are not quite as thin as After Eights. In fact, they are quite thick.  Which makes the tasting experience completely different.

Do not get me wrong: I LIKE President's Choice product.  I just like it in a different way.  I enjoy the thick layer of 70% dark chocolate.  Let's face it, when you eat an After Eight, you are not eating it because you can taste the chocolate. In fact, the layer of chocolate is so thin that you are really just enjoying the texture and the mint flavour within the chocolate shell. But the PC MINT THIN is all about the chocolate.  When you take a bite, the first thing you notice is dark chocolate. But it all seems to melt together in your mouth to create the effect of a mint-flavoured chocolate bar.

So I guess my point in all this is: keep an open mind.  Be loyal to your favourite brand of chocolate, but also learn to treat new brands and knock-offs of popular brands as their own unique product.  And you might just find something new to enjoy.  I know that I have.  Now, each year when the Christmas chocolate arrives on the grocery store shelves, I buy a box of After Eights and a box of PC MINT THINS....just because I can.

So what do you think?  Can you learn to love a knock-off product as much as the original? Is it possible to love two chocolates equally? Or is one love enough for a lifetime? Feel free to answer in the Comments below.  For now, Happy Chocolate Holidays!

And get ready, it is time for some blatant self-promotion:

If you are like me and love to try all kinds of mint-flavoured chocolates, you should try my newest product, the Peppermint Chocolate TOFFLE™. I LOVE it just as much as those mint thins I talked about above (which is why I created it).  It is a mint-flavoured chocolate truffle surrounded by a chewy dark chocolate toffee. If you are interested, check it out on FoodiePages.

Monday, November 18, 2013

S’mores Cheesecake Tart with a Rich Milk Chocolate Truffle Topping

This tasty recipe came about because I had a little extra cream cheese and graham cracker crumbs on hand one day in July. So I decided to make a rich dessert that was reminiscent of summer camp-out bonfires. But, of course, I used high quality organic milk chocolate and created something a little richer than the usual campfire experience. 

This little S'mores Cheesecake Tart was so tasty that I can still remember the flavour every time I see a picture of it.  I hope you will try it and love it as much as I do.
S’mores Cheesecake Tart Recipe:
You need:
For the crust (this one takes time but produces a reliably solid tart shell.  If you are pressed for time, see below for an alternate crust that is quick, but can be a little crumbly):
  • 1 box Graham Cracker Crumbs (about 300 grams)
  • 1/2 lb butter (2 sticks or 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (to be healthier, you can use organic, unbleached sugar or coconut sugar)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour, plus flour for dusting your work surface
For the filling:
  • 1 package (250 g) cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar (organic, unbleached preferably or coconut sugar)
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipping cream (reserve 1/4 cup, whip 3/4 cup)
  • 6 ounces of milk chocolate (you need about 2 100 gram chocolate bars)
For the topping:
  • 7 ounces of milk chocolate (two 100g chocolate bars)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 12 large marshmallows
  • reserved chopped chocolate 

To make the crust:
  1. Place the graham cracker crumbs, flour and sugar in a stand mixer bowl and using a paddle attachment, mix for about 10-20 seconds to disperse the ingredients. Or simply whisk together, if you do not have a stand mixer.
  2. Chop the butter.  Add the chopped butter to the flour/crumb mixture. Beat on low until the butter is emulsified and mixture appears to have small and coarse crumbs. Again, if no stand mixer, paddle attachment, use two knives or two clean hands to work in the butter until crumbs form).
  3. Stop the mixer and add the egg yolks and egg. Beat on high for 10 seconds or more until dough is completely mixed.
  4. Flour your hands and the counter.  Then roll dough on the floured surface into a long log.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Once chilled, flour your work surface, your rolling pin and the dough to prevent sticking.  Roll out the dough in a long strip (about 5 inches wide and 1/8 to 1/4 inches thick).
  6. Using a small bowl (about 4 inches across), cut circles of dough. Take leftover pieces and re-roll and cut. You should get about 12 circles.
  7. Flour one side of each circle and then press each flour-side down into each non-stick muffin cup on a muffin pan.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 for 15 minutes.  Check them at 12 minutes to ensure your crust edges are not burning.
  9. Let cool slightly and carefully turn out onto a cooling rack. Set aside to cool completely while you make the filling.
To make the filling:
  1. Reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid whipping cream and set aside. Then whip 3/4 cups of the whipping cream in a stand mixing bowl until stiff (do not over-whip - it is lumpy when over-whipped - stop the mixer when soft peaks form). Transfer the whipped cream to a mixing bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the cream cheese.
  2. Unwrap the cream cheese and place on a plate or paper towel.  Soften in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.  Place cream cheese in a stand mixer bowl and beat the cream cheese until softened and smooth. Stir with a spatula to ensure it is all softened.  Add 1/2 of the sugar and beat.  Stop mixer, stir and beat again. Then add the other 1/2 of the sugar.  Stir by scraping the bottom of the bowl and beat again.  Beat for another 30 seconds or so until fully mixed and slightly fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla and whip again for a few seconds.
  4. Take the whipped cream out of the refrigerator and fold into the cream cheese mixture until well mixed.
  5. Spoon or using a pastry bag, fill each cooked tart shell with cream cheese filling until about 1/4-inch from the top - this will leave room for the chocolate truffle topping. Place tarts in fridge to set while you prepare the truffle topping.
To make the chocolate truffle topping:
  1. Break up all the chocolate.  Reserve about a 1/4 cup to decorate your tarts. Place the remaining chocolate in a glass or microwave safe bowl.  
  2. On the stove top in a small sauce pan, heat the cream just to the boiling point, then pour over the milk chocolate.  Stir until smooth using a wooden spoon (alternately you can just place the cream and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and melt together for 1 minute and 20 seconds on HALF power.  Take out and stir until smooth). Optional: Add one tbsp. of corn syrup or agave syrup to add a shiny appearance to the truffle, but this is not necessary.
  3. Take the tarts out of the fridge and pour a little topping over each one.  It should naturally spread to the side, but if it doesn't, then use a spoon to spread it around to the edges of the tart crust to completely cover the cream cheese filling.
  4. Place the tarts in the fridge and let set for 1 hour.
Roasting the Marshmallows:
  1. Heavily butter a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  2. Cut each marshmallow in half crosswise and place sticky side down on the pan.
  3. Place the pan of marshmallow halves in the oven on top rack and broil for about 2 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Immediately chop the reserve chocolate in large chunks or shards and place one on each marshmallow. Let cool slightly then delicately lift each off with a knife or offset spatula and place one marshmallow on each tart.
Enjoy with 11 of your closest friends!
Alternate crust recipe to save time:
  • 1 box Graham Cracker Crumbs (about 300 grams)
  • 1/2 lb butter (2 sticks or 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (to be healthier, you can use organic, unbleached sugar or coconut sugar)

    1. Melt the butter in the microwave for 40 seconds.
    2. Using a pastry brush, prepare two muffin pans (or a cupcake pan if you do not have muffin ones, muffin molds are slightly larger) by brushing the sides and bottom of each cupcake or muffin mold with butter to prevent sticking.  Reserve the remaining melted butter for the crust.
    3. To make the crust, pour the graham cracker crumbs into a medium mixing bowl.  Add the sugar and stir to disperse the sugar. Pour the remaining melted butter over top and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until the crumbs are moistened. 
    4. Press about a 1/3 cup into each muffin cup on the prepared muffin pans.
    5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 12 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely before turning them out onto a pan or cooling rack.
    6. Fill with the cream cheese filling recipe that is outlined above.

    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    Loving that Tanzania chocolate! Except, of course, for the price.

    I am really enjoying the Italian brand Sorini and its Extra Dark Chocolate 75% chocolate bar. I purchased it in a little Italian and international food import shop in Ottawa, so needless to say, it was costly. 

    But there was just one thing that I noticed. The description of the origin of the cacao beans used to make the chocolate (Tanzania) and the percentage of cacao solids sounded familiar to me.  So I did a  little checking I realized that Cacao Barry, a popular chocolate supplier to the industry, has a Tanzania (or Tanzanie as they call it) origin chocolate with 75% cacao solids (see online here).  I actually had a box of it in the past and made all sorts of confections out of it. So we can guess who Sorini gets their chocolate couverture supply from!

    I could have purchased a box of Cacao Barry's Origin chocolate for less $ per gram and made myself all sorts of chocolate bars at a fraction of the cost!

    Oh well, for now I will just enjoy my Tanzanian tastiness.

    If you want to check out Sorini's other chocolate products, here is the link to the English version of their website:

    For information on Cacao Barry, go to: or visit the product page: for more information on their 'Tanzanie' Orirgin chocolate.

    Thursday, November 7, 2013

    Packaging Chocolate: So many choices, so little time!

    Having started and run a chocolate business for the last few years, I can tell you that the hardest part of my job is finding packaging for my products. Maybe if you live in New York, London, U.K. or any other large city, you might be thinking: "Seriously? The hardest part of your job?  There is so much available to choose from!" But I do not live in a large city.  I live in Canada.  On an Island.  In the north.

    With a seven-hour drive to Toronto and even longer to Ottawa and Montreal, it is tough to acquire competitively priced packaging, product labels or product ingredients for that matter. With every order, I face a huge shipping cost. And unlike a start-up manufacturer in Toronto, I cannot just pop over to a potential supplier to look at all their cool new chocolate boxes.  Instead, I rely on Google and a variety of other online search methods to find just the right boxes, bags and labels. And sometimes that can take hours, days and even weeks to sort out the best packaging at the right price.

    I see the wonderful articles about cacao bean husks being used to make paper for England!  And I wonder how I can get access to these new technologies inexpensively. Since my business is small, I do not have the buying power to purchase packaging at great prices.  So many times I have been quoted $2 for a label that is supposed to go on a product that has a retail price of $2. What is up with that?

    But despite the challenges that I have faced, I am learning more and more with each passing year. Now I want to share some of my findings with other chocolaty Canadian and American start-ups that may be in the same boat. So below is a list of a few wonderful sites that I have discovered along the way.  If you are just starting out, and need to buy inexpensive labels and packaging, here are a few starting points:

    • Uline - with rapid shipping, great low prices, small order quantities, and so many options with product packaging that is certified as safe for food contact, is a great starting place for a small business.  They also have several types of sealers and shrink wrap.  What's more, someone always answers the phone within seconds any time you have a question (and believe me, I have had many, many questions!) and they are helpful and pleasant every time.

    • is a great site with some fresh food packaging products, like cake and cupcake boxes, and also ribbons, bows, bags and more. Once an order is placed, it arrives here on my island within just a few days.

    • is a great Canadian business that brings together all the recycled, biodegradable and good-for-the-environment products for food producers and food service. Although you won't find boxes for confections, you will find some great containers to package pastries in, and they look like clear plastic but are actually biodegradable. They also have gloves, paper towels and anything else you need to green your food prep area.

    • Nashville Wraps - although I have not used this business yet, I do intend to.  They are American but do ship to Canada and they have a huge selection of confection and chocolate boxes with the candy trays to match! Also, they have seasonal boxes, like heart-shaped chocolate boxes for Valentine's Day. Check it out: 

    This was a poster I made quickly
    and easily on VistaPrint
    - at a great price too!
    • VistaPrint  - Product labels are a fraction of the cost and really easy to make.  Hire a designer to create them or easily use a template to create wonderful, stickable labels.  Also, you can inexpensively promote your business with matching product posters, post-cards, business cards, banners and more. And everything is saved so you can easily print more labels when you sell out!

    So now that my new products are packaged, I can finally start to promote them! Eventually they will end up on my website too: (Now THAT was blatant promotion!).

    If you have found any other food and chocolate packaging sites that have been helpful to you, feel free to share in the comments below!