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bittersweet chocolate

Snacks & Candies

Cinnamon S’mores Bark

If you ever went camping as a kid, you probably made s’mores with the classic Hershey’s milk chocolate bars, graham crackers and toasted marshmallows. And if you did, you probably became (like me) addicted to the iconic flavor combination. So much so that anytime you can recapture that flavor, that special feeling in a recipe you can make in your own kitchen that you jump at the chance. Am I right?

S’mores remind any of us over the age of 35 of a simpler time. Food manufacturers know that, which is why you see so many s’mores flavored versions of products and those gigantic store displays that put all three key ingredients together conveniently. I know I immediately reach for them, even though I haven’t been camping in decades! And I doubt many of us are still going camping, so I’m assuming we’re all just toasting the marshmallows in the fireplace or over the top of our gas cook tops – quietly enjoying s’mores in the “virtual campgrounds” inside our homes.

This recipe for cinnamon s’mores bark captures the core ingredients of a traditional s’more and adds a pinch of cinnamon for a modern twist. I will admit that using un-toasted marshmallows means that it cannot truly capture the smoky flavor of a burnt marshmallow inside a gooey, sticky s’more that you remember eating in front of the camp fire. But it’s still quite delicious. And if I can figure out how to toast the marshmallows without melting the chocolate bark holding it all together, I will share that with all of you. Or if you discover a way, please share as well. Until then, we’ll just have to bear the burden (not!) of un-toasted marshmallows in our s’mores bark.

smores bark with cinnamon body image

Cinnamon S’mores Bark

Yield: about 20 pieces


2 2/3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon


Gently melt the bittersweet chocolate over very low heat, just until it barely melts. You can do this over a hot water bath or in a skillet. I prefer the microwave, heating the chocolate in 30-second intervals just until it starts melting. Then stir with spatula (chocolate will continue to melt as you stir) until completely smooth.

Spread the chocolate on a parchment-lined baking sheet into (approximately) an 8' by 12' rectangle. Allow the chocolate to set, but not harden completely.

Melt the milk chocolate in the same way. Then mix half of the crushed graham crackers thoroughly in the milk chocolate. Spread the chocolate-graham cracker mixture over the bittersweet chocolate layer.

Sprinkle marshmallows and remaining graham cracker crumbs on top, gently pressing them in before they set. Allow the candy to cool until hardened.

Break or cut into chunks. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week (or freeze for longer storage).


Adapted from a recipe on the King Arthur Flour website.


The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013: Soft-Baked Gingersnap Molasses Cookies, 3 Ways

cookie swapThis past year has been filled with many extraordinary experiences for the Baked Chicago blog, from publishing my first cookbook to winning grand prize in the State of Louisiana’s Sweet Potato Recipe Contest. And participating in the 3rd Annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap ranks right up there among them all because so many passionate food bloggers came together to support a great cause and to spread some baking love around the world.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap brings together food bloggers from all over the world in celebration of all things cookie. This is my first year participating; last year the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap had nearly 600 participants and raised $4,400. For 2013, there were 619 confirmed participants in 8 countries, and together with our phenomenal partners (OXO, Dixie Crystals, Gold Medal Flour and Grandma’s Molasses) we raised over $13,000 for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

The premise is simple: bake 3 dozen cookies using a new recipe that you’ve not tried before. You’re matched up with three other food bloggers to whom you’ll send one dozen cookies. The food bloggers get to stretch their creative muscles by trying out a new recipe and in return get one dozen cookies from three other food bloggers. In the process of learning and sharing, you also get to know (perhaps for the first time) three other incredible food bloggers who share you passion for baking and blogging.

I found my inspiration for my cookie recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Sally’s Baking Addiction. I’ve done crunchy gingersnap and molasses cookie recipes galore, but (to my surprise) I’ve never done a soft-based gingersnap molasses cookie. When I got Sally’s recipe for soft-baked gingersnap molasses cookies 4-ways, I had to try it – giving it my own stamp of individuality with some of my favorite cookie garnishes. I decided to do the recipe three ways:

gingersnap molasses original


gingersnap molasses with dark chocolate2

Topped with Bittersweet Chocolate

gingersnap molasses with dark chocolate and granola topping

Topped with Bittersweet Chocolate and Dark Chocolate-Cranberry Granola Clusters

This recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies. If you don’t need that many, simply halve all of the ingredients to get about 2 1/2 dozen cookies. I recommend getting all of your ingredients in place, measured first to make execution easy and seamless. You’ll want to work with the dough chilled to make it easier to shape and manipulate. And you’ll want to work quickly when adding toppings after the baking process because you want the heat of the cookies fresh out of the oven to melt the chocolate.

Start by whisking together all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. Cream the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer. Then add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla, beating well. Slowly add dry ingredients, on low-speed. DO NOT OVERMIX. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

use small cookie scoop

roll cookie ball in sugar

flatten cookie balls and slight indent

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Using a cookie scoop for consistent cookie sizing, shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll cookie balls in granulated sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets and flatten with your thumb, leaving a slight indentation.

Bake one sheet of cookies at a time for about 12 minutes, or until edges are brown. Cookies will be puffy and appear soft in the middle. Remove from the oven and immediately press four chocolate chips into the center of the cookie and allow them to melt.

After a few minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. With the back of a teaspoon, smooth out the melted chocolate. Add one heaping teaspoon of the granola on top of the melted chocolate. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Soft-Baked Gingersnap Molasses Cookies, 3 Ways

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Yield: 5 dozen cookies

Soft-Baked Gingersnap Molasses Cookies, 3 Ways


2 teaspoons baking soda
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup granulated sugar, for rolling


In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter for about 1 minute on medium speed. Add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Scrape down sides of the bowl, as needed. Add the molasses, egg and vanilla. Beat well.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, on low speed. Be careful not to overmix. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (and up to overnight).

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take cookie dough out of refrigerator. Shape the cookie dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. I use a cookie scoop for consistent cookie sizing. Roll the cookie balls in granulated sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Lightly flatten cookies with your thumb, leaving a slight indentation to hold topping (applied after baking).

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until edges are just turning brown. The cookies will be puffy and appear soft in the middle. Remove from the oven and immediately add topping(s), as desired. Press 4 chocolate chips into the center of the cookie and allow to melt.

After a few minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. At this point, take a teaspoon and use the back of the spoon to smooth out the melted chocolate. Add about 1 heaping teaspoon of the granola, if desired, on top of the melted chocolate.

Store in an airtight container for about one week at room temperature.


Adapted from a recipe by Sally's Baking Addiction

Award-Winning Recipes/ Desserts

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Orange-Chocolate Ganache

[December 23, 2013 Update: This recipe was a finalist in the BEST DESSERT category of Safeway’s Tastier Holiday Recipe Contest, 2013. Thank you, voters and judges!]

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Orange-Chocolate Ganache


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup solid pack pumpkin
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 teaspoons orange juice, room temperature


Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Coat a 6-cup Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine flours, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk to mix well. Combine butter and brown sugar in large bowl and beat at medium speed until mixed well. Beat in pumpkin and egg. Reduce to low speed and beat in flour mixture. Beat in buttermilk and 2 teaspoons vanilla, just until moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool the cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate slowly in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the juice, a teaspoon at a time, while mixing well with a whisk. Drizzle over the cooled cake.


Bourbon, Bacon & Pecan Brownies

bourbon bacon pecan brownies

Taking a bite out of National Bourbon Heritage Month

We’re at that time of year when late summer and fall do their dance of warm days and cool nights. Fall is my favorite season because I love that crisp coolness in the air – and no matter how much baking I do in the kitchen it never gets too hot. This season, I decided I can’t say goodbye to September (National Bourbon Heritage Month) without baking up a new concoction to mark the occasion.

I recently (and happily) discovered an organic bourbon made right here in Chicago at Koval Distillery. According to their website, Koval is the first craft distillery within Chicago’s city limits since Prohibition. You don’t have to be a history major to know that Chicago’s DNA has a strong influence that can be traced back to Prohibition. Wanting to incorporate Koval’s organic bourbon, I decided to update my Bourbon, Bacon & Pecan Brownies recipe, which was one of the top 5 most popular recipes in the Baked Chicago’s Simply Decadent Brownies Cookbook (the Kindle version is available on Amazon for free until October 2).

In addition to adding cinnamon to the recipe, I also adapted the dark chocolate ingredient by using Scharffen Berger’s 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate. Besides being decadently delicious, your kitchen will never smell better. Enjoy!


Bourbon, Bacon & Pecan Brownies

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 16

Bourbon, Bacon & Pecan Brownies


6 slices of bacon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar


In a medium skillet, cook the bacon until crispy. Reserve 1/4 cup of the bacon fat and set aside. Let the bacon cool and chop roughly. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9×9-inch baking pan with butter or shortening.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a large heatproof bowl set on top of a small saucepan of simmering water, melt the dark chocolate and butter. Stir constantly, until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until frothy (about 1 minute). Beat in the melted chocolate mixture, bourbon and reserved bacon fat. Fold in the flour mixture and pecans, just until combined.

Spread the batter in the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the chopped bacon on top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean. Cool the brownies completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows to make 16 brownies.


Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars


For shortbread crust:
1 stick butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
For chocolate dulce de leche:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup dulce de leche
4 large egg yolks
5 ounces 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped


Make shortbread crust by preheating oven to 375F degrees. Butter shallow 9x9.5 inch square baking pan. Line bottom and 2 sides with parchment paper, leaving overhang. Butter parchment. Blend together butter, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in bowl with fork. Sift in flour and blend with fork until soft dough forms. Spread dough evenly in baking pan using spatula, then prick all over with fork. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, then cool completely in pan (about 30 minutes).

To make chocolate dulce de leche, bring cream and dulce de leche to a simmer in small heavy saucepan, stirring with wooden spoon until dissolved. Whisk together yolks in bowl, then slowly whisk in hot cream mixture. Return to pan and cook over medium heart, stirring constantly, until thermometer registers 170F degrees.

Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until melted. Pour chocolate mixture over cooled shortbread and chill, uncovered, until set (about 2 hours). Run a small knife around edges to loosen, then transfer to cutting board. Cut with hot clean knife into bars. Chill until ready to serve.


Chocolate Orange Pots de Creme

Chocolate Orange Pots de Creme


1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
7 ounces orange-flavored bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
orange peel (optional)


Bring cream, milk and cinnamon to a simmer in saucepan. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until melted. Whisk together yolks, sugar and a pinch of kosher salt, and then whisk in the chocolate mixture. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 300F degrees. Line a roasting pan with a folded kitchen towel and put 6 to 8 ramekins on towel. Divide cream custard among ramekins and add enough boiling hot water to pan to reach halfway up the side. Cover pan tightly with foil and poke some holes to allow steam to escape. Carefully place pan in oven and bake until custards are set around the edge, but slightly wobbly in the center - approximately 30 minutes.

Cool custards on rack uncovered about 1 hour, then chill at least 3 hours. Serve with whipped cream and orange zest or orange peel for decoration.