Chocolate topped ice cream treats

For those of you who love an ice cream treat, but just can’t have a whole bowl, here is a great way to portion out a delicious dessert.  I scoop out Edy’s Vanilla ice cream into eight large cookie balls with my cookie scoop.  Freeze them on a tray and then make a quick ganache topping.  This time I melted 6 ounces of semi sweet chocolate with 4 ounces unsalted butter (or 6 ounces to be able to dip the ice cream balls) and 1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup in a double boiler on the stove top.  When the ganache is melted and ready, working quickly, pour over the ice cream balls or dip the ice cream into the ganache.

The treats could be topped with sea salt, sprinkles, or chopped nuts.  Return to the freezer immediately until just ready to serve.  They must chill at least 30 minutes to set for presentation.

Mocha Chip Meringues

One of my favorite cookies happens to be a meringue.  We loved the taste of these cookies over the Christmas holiday this year.  I used a Martha Stewart recipe and as every one of her recipes, it worked perfectly. These cookies were crispy, but soft inside the center of the cookie.  The chocolate taste was just perfect and not overpowering.  I opted to use mini chocolate chips in the recipe, instead of the full size chips.  I found the substitute to be perfect and a nice improvement to her recommendations.

How to make the mocha chip meringues–gather these ingredients: 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 3 egg whites at room temperature, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon espresso powder, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees with two racks divided within the oven.  Add parchment paper or silpat mats to the cookie sheets.  In a small bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch.

In an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until frothy on medium speed.  Then add sugar mixture slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat about 6-8 minutes until very stiff. I used my stand mixer with the whipping whisk.  Add espresso powder and cocoa next.  Fold in chocolate chips at the end with a spatula.

Drop onto cookie sheets, one tablespoon at a time.  Bake 40 minutes.  Cool for 20 minutes before removing from cookies sheets.  Great recipe and these cookies are light and delicious.

Snowman Chocolate Bark

From another food blogger (theDecoratedCookie.com) comes this great idea for snowman chocolate bark.  The directions were very easy to follow.  And, the result is very cute. Just perfect for the winter season, especially for children of all ages.

Very few ingredients are needed. To make the bark, I used these ingredients: 16 ounces of Ghirardelli dark chocolate melts, 1 tablespoon shortening, Ghirardelli white candy melts, pretzel sticks, white sprinkles and decors, black and orange icing.

Place a silpat mat on a baking sheet.  Melt dark chocolate chips and shortening in the microwave following the directions on the candy bag.  Spread on the silpat mat to fill as much of the tray as possible.  Arrange the white candy melts into snowmen.  Add the broken pretzel sticks for the arms.  Sprinkle the white sprinkles and decor around the bark.  Decorate the snowman heads with the black and orange icing.

Place the baking tray in the refrigerator to set the bark for at least 30-45 minutes.  At that time, the bark can be removed and broken into segments for serving.  Individual bark pieces could be used as a garnish alongside an ice cream dessert.

Chocolate nut candy

After shopping the chocolate shops up North, I decided to try to make my own chocolate candy.  The key to this recipe is buying upscale dark chocolate. I used Ghirardelli chocolate for this recipe.  I used my smaller slow cooker to melt the chocolate, so I would not have to monitor the temperature as closely.  It was a very easy process.

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I used one 16 ounce jar of unsalted dry roasted peanuts, but any type of nut would work with this technique.  I used 24 ounces of Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate baking chips and mixed both together in the cooker.  The mixture cooked on low for 1 1/2 hours. I turned off the cooker and allowed to cool for 20 minutes.  Drop by spoonful onto waxed paper.

I allowed the candy to harden for several hours, packed in a covered container separated by waxed paper and stored in the refrigerator until serving time.  Perfect.

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Sugarfina: gourmet candy

Now expanding their range of stores and sales locations, Sugarfina is easier to come by these days.  Sold now at many Nordstrom stores, the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons hotels among many other boutiques, their stand-alone stores are not the only place to find this delicious sugar candy.  Imported from France, Germany, Holland, and Greece with many flavors made in the USA as well, these treats are super tasty.  The packaging is also upscale and really perfect for gifts.  The wall of candy we found in Chicago was so beautiful and perfectly displayed. Advertised as candy for adults, some of their flavors have alcohol based treats with cocktails as a sub-category of selection. They also have licorice, chocolate, gummys and marshmallows.

Sugarfina has been in the public eye for at least four years, but it was the first time I had been to a shop where there was more than a few boxes.  The Chicago Nordstrom’s has a large lower level space devoted to the shop with the ability of choosing almost every flavor of the brand.

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With flavors of champagne bubbles, baby champagne bears, and peach Bellini, the store has been more than successful. Some flavors are wait-listed and others are so popular, it is difficult to keep them in stock.  We found that many types of candy and chocolate were celebrated in Chicago with a variety of stand alone shops filled with customers every day we visited. I will feature some others in the coming days on this blog.

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This brand by far was my favorite. And, one that I recommend to try when you see it.

Chicago’s French Market

We ventured over to the West Loop of Chicago to visit Chicago’s French Market one morning a few weeks ago.  The market earned a Zagat spot for markets to visit; along with the Melrose Market in Seattle, the St. Roch Market in New Orleans, and the Krog Street Market in Atlanta–so, it deserved a look see.  As a true foodie, I wanted to investigate what this European market could offer the shopper.

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We found a diverse selection of fresh food to order from 30 booths, along with fresh flowers, classic chocolates, cheese, pastries, macaroons, and grocery items. I would say that late morning to lunch would be the best time to visit, as many of the offerings were best taken at lunch or late afternoon for dinner.

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There was an ample selection of items, including something for everyone. We sampled some breakfast beignets at the table space in the front of the market.  There is additional seating within the market which has a Parisian design, as well as seating within the lobby area of the building.  The striking yellow umbrellas and red awning over the main door can’t be missed. When in town, do visit if in the neighborhood.

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Sweet treats at Eataly in Chicago

And now the best part of our visit to Eataly.  In fact, we visited the market twice during our stay in Chicago, as there is just that much to experience.  On the first level of the store, besides the aisles being filled with candies and chocolates, the counters are also filled with delicious freshly made sweet treats.

There is even an Nutella stand where fresh crepes are being prepared and served to customers. A fresh gelato bar offers a large selection of flavors and quite the line to match on a Saturday afternoon. Everything being offered looked amazing and if only we lived in town to really have a chance to truly experience it all.  Here are some photos of the products and the environment:

 

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And even cookbooks to make everything at home!

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