Chocolate Date Nut Bars

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Chocolate Date Nut Bars by twocarolines.com

These are the best breakfast treat/ energy bar/ snack your kids will actually eat / straight up chocolate dessert EVER!  You don’t officially bake them, however you do need to toast the oats and nuts, so there’s an oven involved, but they are conspicuously missing flour and sugar, which is something you’ll notice happens almost never times in my posts, and probably don’t get used to it.  But seriously, I love these too much not to share.   After I cut them into the above squares I cut many of those in half so I can have some smaller portions for when a little afternoon pick-me-up is needed, because an entire square is quite filling.  I especially love sharing these with Mom’s of new babies because I haven’t met a better nursing snack.  And who doesn’t love a treat of the chocolate variety that is still giving you fruity fiber from dates, whole grain oats, plus the satisfying protein of nuts?  I invite you to get creative with this recipe, my guess is they would taste great replacing pecans with cashews or even pistachios.

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 (heaping) cup pecans
1 cup slivered almonds (I usually use sliced which work great)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pitted dates chopped in half
1 1/3 cup dark chopped chocolate (chocolate chips work, but I love using decadent rich chocolate like this Scharffen Berger chocolate that has incredible flavor)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300 and line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil.  Toast pecans on one and oats on the other rotating them a time or two.  I do this for about 10 minutes on the oats and 7 or so with the nuts because you only want them fragrant, not burnt.  The original recipe says to toast the almonds as well, but mine always burn so if I do put almonds in it’s only for a few minutes – the bars are fantastic even if your almonds aren’t toasted.
  2. Put the oats and the nuts into a large capacity food processor (save parchment). Let cool about 20 minutes then add the dates and salt and mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Next add the chopped chocolate and vanilla and mix until all combined.  You may need to take a spatula and mix some of the dry into the chocolate here and there, but usually it all just comes together after a few long sessions in the food processor.
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    wrapped date nut bars by twocarolines.com

    Use the parchment from toasting nuts to line an 8×8 both ways so you can lift the ends up to easily deliver your bars.  If you don’t have parchment around it’s not that big a deal, just spray your 8×8 and they should come out pretty well.  Push your mixture into the pan pressing the top to make it all flat and uniform then put in the fridge for a good hour or so.  Once they are cold they are easy to cut into bars and I then wrap the bars individually with plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge until I need a perfect snack.  

 

Dense Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts

IMG_6852How many chocolate brownie recipes can two dessert bloggers named Caroline offer to you……more than you might think! If you click the “brownies and bars” category on the lower right column of our site you will get literally DOZENS of incredible square shaped treats.  There’s the super basic but practically perfect Kristin’s Brownies, my personal obsession Spelt Brownies and some extra fun layered bars like Buckeye Brownies, S’mores Brownies or Butterscotch Brownies – all of which I very enthusiastically recommend.  Some might think adding to this category is superfluous – those people just don’t understand the chocolatey magic of a perfect brownie!  I was in the mood for some really SERIOUS chocolate, like the dense, rich, dark and melty kind that urgently pleads for a large draw of milk with every bite.  These came from “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson.  I halved the recipe and baked them in an 8×8, which I recommend because this recipe is massive so double if you’re feeding a crowd or if your doctor told you to gain a lot of weight as fast as you can (I can’t imagine a more delicious way to do that) because I halved it some of my measurements look a little wompy, like if it’s 1 & 2/3 in the original recipe it’s 1/2 & 1/3 halved – but they worked out perfectly in an 8×8.  After a day, heat them in the microwave for 10 seconds to get maximum brownie gooeyness – that is, if they make it to day two (not likely~).  -CK 2.0

  1. 1/2 & 1/3 cups soft unsalted butter (1 stick and 5 1/2 tablespoons of another stick)
    6.5 ounces of dark bittersweet chocolate
    3 large eggs
    1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1/2 & 1/3 cups sugar
    3/4 cups all purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon (scant) coarse salt
    2/3 cups chopped walnuts (I used less than that because I only put walnuts in half – kids are so lame about nuts!)

    1.  Preheat oven to 350 and line your brownie pan with parchment.  I lined it both ways, but you can pull them out easy enough if you just line is one side, and you can even just spray it without parchment and cut them out of the pan too! Whatever works for you.

  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together – either in a double boiler over the stove or slowly in the microwave (20 second increments until they loose their shape and you can whisk it all smooth).  In a bowl beat the eggs with the vanilla and sugar.  Measure the flour and salt into another bowl.
  3. When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar, and then the nuts and flour.  (I added the nuts on 1/2 of the brownies last on top and just pushed them in and smoothed the top).  Beat to combine smoothly and then scrape out of the bowl into the lined brownie pan.
  4. Bake for about 23-25 minutes until the top looks dried to a paler brown speckle but the middle will still be dark dense and gooey.

Recipe adapted from “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” Nigella Lawson.

Chocolate Coconut Macaroon Birdnests

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Chocolate coconut macaroon bird nest by twocarolines.com

Coconut Macaroons are the little bit messy fun and tasty sister of the French Macaroon.  The French version is always put together with expensive accessories and fancy words but the coconut macaroon is more fun and tasty, a beautiful mess of chewy goodness which makes for an ideal bird nest to hold everyones favorite seasonal candy, Cadbury mini eggs.  I was inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe that used shredded wheat and melted chocolate for nests, which was cute, but a macaroon nest is yummier and more fun.  In my first batch I baked the eggs which made them really melty and good but they cracked so in my second I put the eggs into the nests when they were right out of the oven which worked perfectly because the hot cookies still made the eggs nice and creamy and with the chewy chocolatey cookie it’s like a little Easter miracle!

4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
3 large egg whites
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sweetened dried coconut shredded or flaked.
Cadbury Mini Eggs

  1.  In a heatproof bowl melt your chocolate.  I do this in a pyrex using the microwave on defrost until the chocolate looses it’s shape and I can whisk it smooth.  If you don’t have defrost only melt in 20 second increments or you will burn your chocolate.  You can also use a double boiler if you prefer.  Set aside to cool some while you assemble the rest of your cookie ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites.  Add cocoa powder, sugar, salt and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.  Stir in the coconut and melted chocolate, making sure the coconut is completely coated with the chocolate mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for about an hour or until firm (doesn’t have to be completely firm, but at least firmed up enough to handle and shape).
  3. Preheat oven to 325.  Line 2 baking sheets with sil-pats or parchment paper.
  4. Place small mounds – I used a cookie scoop – on to your lined baking sheet spacing about 2 inches apart.  Once they are on, shape them into nests using hands or dipping a spoon into the center.  I wore some gloves and shaped them by hand.
  5. Bake 13-15 minutes or until macaroons are shiny and just set.  Remove from oven then put your eggs in while the macaroons are still hot.  Wait about 15 minutes to serve and keep leftover cookies covered.

Macaroon recipe adapted from Joyofbaking.com 

 

Black Bottom Vanilla Cream Pie with Salted Caramel Sauce

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Black Bottom Vanilla Cream Pie with salted caramel sauce by twocarolines.com

As my loyal readers have noticed, I have a new habit of slapping a black bottom on every pie I make – it’s my new favorite party trick.  I put one on the incredibly delicious peanut butter chocolate pie, my nutella pie, and lately I’m throwing this down on all my cream pies like banana cream and coconut cream pie.  This cream pie recipe is one you’ve maybe seen here before, but not when it’s atop a decadent layer of ganache and dripping with salted caramel sauce.  This was an experiment that paid off MAJOR! I was so happy with it and it’s not very hard to make! On this pi day I give you this super winning equation of chocolate + vanilla + salted caramel = PIE that will rock your world!

Crust: Traditional pie crust – our recipe is awesome and easy.  I made this in a deep dish pie pan, but it would work in a standard 9″ – it would just be really full – you could save some ganache for later if it looks like you’re filling it too full before you get to your cream filling.
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup crisco
4 tablespoons ice water

Ganache:
1 cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips (I love it with a dark bittersweet chocolate)
1/3 cup heavy cream

Filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 (scant) teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cup whole milk
7 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons butter (cut into small pieces)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Salted Caramel: 
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

  1. To make the crust, mix your flour and salt, then add the Crisco and cut it into the flour with a pastry blender as you add the cold water.  It will start to come together at which point you can pull in all the dry parts with your hands and quickly knead it into a ball.  Flour your work surface and roll it into a thin circle.  Roll it onto your rolling pin and slowly into your (ungreased) pie pan.  Make a ridge around the outside and crimp as desired.  Poke all over with holes or put beans or pie weights into your crust with parchment before baking.  Blind bake at 450 7-9 minutes until lightly browned.
  2. While crust is cooking and cooling make your chocolate ganache.  You can melt your chocolate and cream in a double boiler on the stove, or with  my preferred method –  Place chocolate and cream in a glass pyrex in the microwave on defrost for a few minutes or in 20 second increments on full power until the chocolate loses it’s shape and you can whisk it all smooth.   You don’t want it to get too hot so the key is to heat is slowly.  Pour your ganache layer into your (mostly) cooled pie crust and put it into the freezer or fridge so it can harden while you make your filling.
  3. Put sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan with a thick bottom.  With your burner on medium/high (I keep mine just above medium) slowly pour in the milk and stir until combined then add your egg yolks one at a time, whisking after each until no yellow streaks remain.  Now switch to a heat proof rubber spatula and stirring constantly bring to a simmer.  Once the bubbles come up and you know it’s starting to boil scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk until smooth then return to the heat and stir constantly for 1 minute while your mixture slowly bubbles (wear an apron!).  Remove from the heat and stir in butter and vanilla until all is combined then pour into your prepared pie crust on top of your cooled ganache.

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    black bottom vanilla cream pie by twocarolines.com

  4. Put plastic wrap directly over the top before refrigerating.  Be sure to let it cool a solid 4 hours or so before you top it with whipped cream and salted caramel.
  5. For the Caramel whisk together sugar and water in a medium (heavy bottom) saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until sugar is just dissolved.  Add butter and bring to a slow boil without stirring.  Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture turns a deep golden brown, almost copper (DO NOT STIR).  Remove from heat and immediately but slowly add the heavy cream.  Be careful as your caramel will bubble and steam.  Add salt.  Whisk the final mixture together well and set aside to cool – it will get thicker as it cools.
  6. To make the cream, whip heavy cream in a cool bowl and add sugar as it starts to thicken to desired consistency.
  7. To serve, drizzle caramel over each slice then serve and store refrigerated…if there’s anything left!

Cream Pie recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking vanilla cream pie and Salted Caramel adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies by twocarolines.com

It’s kind of unbelievable that I’ve never made these before – I call them chocolate crinkle cookies, but I’ve heard loads of cute names for them, some call them crackles or my favorite “snow on the mountain cookies.  They are SOOOOO good, super chocolatey and just lovely with the way the sugar gently breaks when they bake – I’m pretty sure they are responsible for a solid 3 lbs of weight gain in just a few days – just be warned that control is difficult around this level of deliciousness.  I used a pretty traditional recipe, but I added chocolate chips because: obvious.  A cool bonus is that you can make the dough and keep it in the fridge and bust out hot cookies anytime!

5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

  1. Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl in the microwave on defrost or in 20 second increments until it looses it’s shape and you can whisk it smooth.  Set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.  Beat the butter on medium speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat until smooth.  Add the melted chocolate and beat until blended.  Add the egg, vanilla and chocolate chips until all combined.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in batches beating well after each addition so it’s all incorporated.
  3. Transfer dough to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, a few hours or as long as overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 and either grease or parchment line 2 baking sheets.
  5. Place the confectioners sugar in a small bowl.  Shape the dough into 1 inch balls (I use a small ice cream scoop for this and it works great).  Roll each ball in the confectioners sugar coating heavily.  Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake for about 7 minutes – until the sides bounce back when lightly touched but the middles still look a little doughy.
  6. Cool cookies on the baking sheets a few minutes – 4 or so, then move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe adapted from “chocolatiest crinkles” in Luscious Chocolate Desserts by Lori Longbotham.

Dark Chocolate Chunky Cookies

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dark chocolate chunky cookies by twocarolines.com

Like any rational human, I sometimes have a deep and urgent desire for something intensely chocolate.  At these times, a chocolate chip cookie is not going to cut it, not even a cake, I need a lightning bolt of chocolate flavor, and these cookies are the PERFECT remedy for intense chocolate emergencies of all kinds.  They are not only a super amazing chocolate experience, but they are the perfect texture, packed with chunky bits of nuts and chocolatey goodness.  I found the recipe years ago at my Mother-In-Law’s house, they had a very unappealing name in the book (chocolate chubbies) but I read the ingredients – which included a combined total of 24 ounces of chocolate! Plus, the intro bragged of the recipe being from a famous restaurant in SoHo so I copied it to make once I got home.  It took me forever to do it because there is some serious chocolate chopping involved, and the recipe has a few more steps than your average cookie, but don’t be intimidated, it’s easy to follow and so special when you’re done.  This makes 2 dozen cookies – next time I will half it, because having that many of these dark chocolate chunky cookies around is guaranteed to spell trouble, they are irresistible!

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
9 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate finely chopped
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs (room temperature if possible)
1 1/4 cups sugar (they called for superfine, but normal sugar worked fine for me)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans
1 1/4 cups (4 1/2 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (or silpat, or baking spray if you have neither of those)
  2. Melt the butter and chopped chocolate (semi-sweet and unsweetened) either in a double boiler or with my preferred method of melting them slowly in a microwave, either using defrost, or in 20-30 second intervals until the chocolate chunks start to lose their shape and you can whisk them to a smooth texture – melt SLOWLY or your chocolate will burn.  Let the melted chocolate mixture cool slightly, about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  3. Mix (or sift if your fancy) the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.  Whip the eggs in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until the eggs are foamy and lightly thickened, about 30 seconds.  Increase speed to high and gradually add the sugar, then the vanilla.  Whip until the eggs are very thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat in the tepid chocolate, making sure it is completely incorporated.  Change to the paddle attachment and reduce the mixer speed to low.  Gradually add the flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate chips, pecans and walnuts making sure the chunky ingredients are evenly distributed at the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Using a 2-inch diameter ice cream scoop, portion the batter onto the prepared pans, placing the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake the cookies immediately–if you wait, they won’t be shiny after baking.  Bake about 15-18 minutes.  You can check done-ness by seeing if the when you lift a cookie from the pan the edge release easily, if they do, they’re done, even if they still don’t look baked at the top.  Cool and enjoy!
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dark chocolate chunky cookies by twocarolines.com

I wish I could remember the book I copied these out of to give them credit, if this looks familiar and you know where they came from let me know!

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

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Chocolate Zucchini Muffins by twocarolines.com

For this Muffin Monday I want to share our families number one favorite muffins.  These Chocolate Zucchini Muffins are hearty, like a muffin should be, always moist because 2 cups of zucchini, but they taste like dessert because CHOCOLATE! And your friends named Caroline are always game for a day that starts with chocolate.  This recipe makes 24 muffins, which is awesome because they freeze really well and we usually end up eating them for weeks.  I honestly make them ALL THE TIME, because my kids are terrible at breakfast without these lovely gems.  I wrap each one with plastic wrap then defrost them in the microwave, it’s also nice to take a little plate of them to a friend or neighbor, and if you put some frosting or melted chocolate on top they double as a cupcake!

1 cup coconut oil (you can use vegetable oil of most any variety, or even butter if you want)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (you could use all white, but I’m healthing it up for you!)
(scant) 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line two 12 count muffin tins with liners or grease them.
  2. In a large bowl beat the oil and sugars for a few minutes than add the eggs beating after each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix well.
  3. These muffins work out for me even when I add the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients, but if you want to be sure everything is mixed you can pre-mix the dry ingredients.  Add flours and on top of that put your cocoa then add the baking soda and baking powder, salt, and spices.  Mix all of that in adding your zucchini once the dry ingredients are incorporated then put in your chocolate chips and make sure it’s all combined.
  4. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins filling about 3/4 full.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.  Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.  Store loosely covered and whatever you don’t eat after the first day or two wrap individually with plastic wrap and freeze to eat for weeks.