Category: chocolate

Chocolate Granola (Vegan, Nut-Free & Gluten-Free)

Ah, mornings. While many of you may groan at the thought of getting out of a warm cozy bed, mornings are actually my most productive time of day. My predicament? Mornings are just not long enough! No matter how early I set that alarm, I can never seem to find enough time to do all of the things that I’d like to get done before heading off to work. While I have good, healthy intentions, my breakfast ritual often involves me standing over the kitchen sink, scoffing down handfuls of Mini Wheats & drinking almond milk out of the jug. That is, until recently.

My Pinterest addiction inspired me to create grab-and-go breakfasts, packed into mason jars, prepared the night before. These often involve yoghurt or a smoothie, and a little bit of homemade granola. If you haven’t made your own granola yet, this is definitely the recipe to try. Sweet cherries, a hint of chocolate, and a tart, tangy cherries, with a wonderful buckwheat crunch.

I am a big fan of honey in my granola, but if you’re looking for a vegan alternative, maple syrup or agave both work equally well.

Chocolate Cherry Granola
gluten free, vegan

2 cups rolled oats*
1/2 cup buckwheat groats
1 cup unsulphured unsweetened shredded coconut**
2 tbsp brown sugar
70g agave nectar OR maple syrup OR honey
70g coconut oil
1/2 cup dried cherries

Combine all dry ingredients except cherries. Melt coconut oil and syrup/honey together in a microwave-safe bowl. Toss with dry ingredients. Lay out on parchment sheet and bake at 300F for about 15 minutes. Mix, add cherries, and return to oven for another 10 minutes. Let cool completely before breaking into pieces. Enjoy!

*If you’re in the U.S., most commercial oats are naturally GF. In Canada however, if you are cooking for someone with celiac and you need to be certain, look for the GF certification. Bob’s Red Mill sells certified GF oats, usually found in the organic section of most grocery chains.

** I get mine from Bulk Barn – the size of the shreds work perfectly for this recipe!

You Want This

I proudly present to you my latest creation obsession, Spiced Pepita Cake! Now, you may be wondering, “Pepita cake? Why would I want that?” Trust me, you want this. Just imagine ooey gooey chocolate that melts in your mouth with every bite. Now, imagine that chocolate wrapped in fluffy cake that’s sweet and salty and the slightest bit savoury. I’m telling you, you want this. 
Not quite sold? Let me ask you a few questions. 
1. Do you like cake?

2. Do you like chocolate?

3. Do you like easy recipes?
4. Do you like things that are delicious?
If you’ve answered yes to any of the above,  you want this.
This recipe is a heavily adapted version of chef Rick Bayless’ Mexican Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Seed Cake. While Rick uses Mexican chocolate, I used dark baking chocolate and I added some of my own spices into the batter. I also subbed out the butter for Earth Balance Spread, and I added in some sunflower seeds to the mix. Now, without further adieu… The one, the only…
Spiced Pepita Cake with Chocolate
makes one 8″ cake, recipe adapted from Food and Wine

ingredients
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
3/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
250ml Earth Balance Spread (or butter)
3 eggs
1 tbsp tequila
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate 
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground anise (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper 
pinch black pepper
pinch salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter & flour an 8″ round cake pan. (I also like to put a parchment circle at the bottom of mine!) Sprinkle 1/4 cup of seeds + 2 tbsp of sugar directly into pan. In food processor (Robot Coupe), pulse the remaining seeds with sugar until sandy. Add eggs, shortening, tequila and pulse until homogenous. Add dark chocolate and pulse until incorporated. Add all dry ingredients and pulse again slowly, but do not overmix! Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until golden and cake tester (toothpick) inserted in centre comes out clean. 
Once cake is slightly cooled, invert to serve. 
Dust with powdered sugar and more cinnamon if desired. 

Worth Your Salt (Salted Chocolate Toffee Bites)

Confession: this recipe was the result of a happy accident. I was originally making a simple caramel sauce for brunch this weekend when I absentmindedly let the caramel cook on the stove much longer than anticipated. Even though i had shut the burner off, I forgot to take the caramel out of the pot. So, doing as caramel does, it continued to cook, until it reached a much harder stage, and then it cooled.  Lo and behold, when I went to serve the sauce, all I had was a pot with a brick of toffee at the bottom. I was in a panic. This was supposed to be the star of my brunch! “No problem,” said my easygoing guest. “Just dip it in chocolate and we’ll eat it later!”

Making chocolate is quick and simple, if you follow two rules: 1 – use good quality chocolate pastilles. Poor quality (cheap) chocolate will yield poor results. Uneven melting, poor taste, poor texture, etc.
2. Temper. Always, always temper. If your chocolate reaches a temperature above 50 degrees C, it burns, and though you might not see it, you’ll definitely taste it. The texture will change once it hardens, and it will have an unpleasantly bitter, charred taste.

To make these, all you really have to do is make caramel, pour it out onto a tray, let it cool & break it up into chunks. Then, you melt the chocolate, pour it on top, and let it harden. Hit it a few times with a blunt knife and voila! Salty caramel chocolate brittle.

I hear brittle and I usually think “Christmas,” but you don’t really need an occasion to make this.  It keeps for a few weeks in the fridge, so you can put some in a mason jar, wrap a piece of twine around it and you’ve got a pretty last-minute hostess gift. You can also just save it all for yourself – it makes a great snack when you’re torn between salty and sweet – that is, if you have the willpower not to eat it all in one sitting. Seriously. Make this. This stuff is delicious and dangerous and addictive and full of unadulterated happiness.

Salted Chocolate Toffee Bites
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need

caramel sauce
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch sea salt

chocolate
1 cup good quality dark or milk chocolate pastilles (I used 70%)
pinch sea salt


In a heavy bottomed saucepan, warm butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cream. Stir with a heatproof spatula in figure 8 motion, until sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking, stirring slowly but constantly, until mixture begins to thicken, about 6 minutes. Turn heat to low and continue cooking until mixture reaches 155C, about 10 more minutes. Add salt. Pour onto parchment lined baking sheet. Mixture will spread out and harden as it cools.

Once it is cool, break up the caramel into small chunks, leaving it on the parchment.  

Melt chocolate over a Bain Marie (A Bain Marie is a bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. The steam will heat the bowl and the chocolate will slowly melt. Do not place chocolate directly on the stove, or it will heat too quickly and you’ll have a burnt, uneven result.)

Pour chocolate over caramel chunks. Place in fridge or freezer to cool about 5 minutes. Sprinkle sea salt on top only once chocolate begins to cool. You want the salt to stick to the top, not to melt in.

Once the chocolate has fully hardened, break it into brittle-sized chunks & serve. 




Raw! Raw! Raw! (Raw Vegan Chocolate Torte with Berries & Cashew Cream)


I received some delicious homework this week: 

Make a pie. 
Rules? Carte blanche. Do as you wish. Make it interesting.

Challenge accepted!

I decided to take this opportunity to make a raw, vegan, gluten-free dessert. I’ve seen the raw food movement really begin to shine in the past couple of years with the appearance of raw vegan restaurants, quite a few beautiful food blogs, and raw cookbooks. Though it hasn’t gone mainstream just yet (many of my peers had never heard of it), popularity has grown among the foodie community. Search #raw or #rawfood on Instagram or Pinterest, and you’ll see what I mean.

Why raw? Why not! The first thing that attracted me to raw food – the simple fact that it’s a new type of cuisine – which means a whole new world of meals and desserts to try. As an added bonus, the health benefits of adding raw plant-based foods to your diet are countless. The dishes themselves, when prepared properly, can satisfy any craving, from light to hearty, savory to sweet. The majority of the recipes that I’ve seen have been vegan – perfect for me – and are chock full of veggies and fruits. And, if you’re wondering, “what about protein?” Trust me, there is a ton of it. As with many vegan dishes, protein comes from nuts and seeds, and soaked and sprouted grains.

In many raw recipes, nuts and seeds are used in ways that I’d never thought of before, and this really intrigued me. For instance, I’ve seen recipes that involved fermenting wheatberries to create rejeuvelac, then combining them with blended raw cashews to make a savory cheese-type spread. Sunflower seeds and pepitas are ground and pressed together and then dried out to create crackers. My ultimate WOW moment? When I discovered that I could make a whipped cream out of cashews.

Sold.
I decided that I needed to try it out asap.

So I experimented, and then experimented some more. And I came up with the creamiest non-dairy cream I’ve ever had. My favorite part was that it didn’t have that dreaded soy-aftertaste, unlike most of the non-dairy “cream” products that I’ve tried in the past.

Oh, and the WOW factor of this pie is off the charts. 
Seriously. I brought this to my pastry student friends and it disappeared in seconds. In a room full of pies, the raw vegan one disappeared first.

You want to impress (insert name of anyone here)? Make this. 
Don’t tell them what it is right away. Just tell them it’s pie. 
Let them taste it.
Then tell them how there’s no processed sugar in it. 
Then tell them that it’s vegan.
Then tell them that it’s gluten-free. 
Then tell them that it’s raw. 
Then tell them yes, they can have seconds. 

Chocolate Torte
with Cashew Coconut Cream & Berries
raw, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need

crust
2 cups gluten-free oats
12 dates, chopped
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
filling
2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup water
1 vanilla bean, scraped
2 tbsp raw agave nectar
how to do it
Pulse oats and cocoa powder in blender until flour consistency is reached. Add dates and coconut oil. Pulse until mixture comes together. Press into bottom of 10″ springform pan. Refrigerate.
Clean out blender.
Blend cashews and water. Add a little bit more water if cashews are too stiff to turn. Add oil, blend again for about a minute. Mixture will be warm from blades. Add vanilla and agave. Pulse until combined. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours. 
Note: if your cream is too watery to pipe, add more coconut oil and blend. 
Pipe cashew cream onto crust. Top with berries. 
Refrigerate until ready to serve. 
Enjoy. Every. Single. Bite. 



Weekend Treat (Peanut Butter and Toffee Blondies)

How does a single 20-something spend a long weekend? Start it out right with a good workout. Have a healthy dinner (with 2 glasses of wine, good for the heart, right?) Note to self: apply makeup before wine next time. Sing out loud to your iPod on the metro. Arrive at party. Continue to drink, because it’s such a summery wine, and such a nice evening! Flurry of events occur. Wake up. Apply new makeup over old makeup. You’re going for the smudged look. It’s a thing. Slowly stumble, in your party dress and heels, to find the greasiest breakfast possible. Eat sausages. Forgetting you’re a vegetarian. Sleep on the metro. Get back to your own bed. Watch some bizarre indie films on Netflix. Roll in and out of sleep for 24 hours. Wake up and wonder why drinking your early 20s didn’t feel this painful. Is it Sunday already? Where did Saturday go? Vow to yourself to drink less, be healthier. Spoonful of peanut butter. Baking inspiration! Bake some ridiculously delicious, portion-controlled blondies.

I can be healthy on Monday.
It’s still the weekend.

Two-Bite PB Blondies
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
½ cup margarine or softened butter

½ cup peanut butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
¾ tsp baking powder

1/4 cup Skor toffee bits*
handful of chocolate chips
*1 crushed Skor (or Heath or other crunchy toffee) bar would work just as well

how to do it
Fit stand mixer with paddle attachment. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine margarine, sugar, peanut butter and vanilla. Beat until  smooth, about a minute. Add eggs, beating another 30 seconds. Add flour and baking powder, mix until just combined. Grease and flour mini muffin tins. Fill about 3/4 of the way to the top with mixture. Top with chocolate chips and sprinkle with Skor bits. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool before eating.

Crunch Time (Toffee Cookie Bars)

I’ve gone and done it.
I’ve made the most addictive dessert in the world.

Are you familiar with the crispy perimeter of a home-baked chocolate chip cookie? You know, I’m talking about that little crunchy bit that surrounds the cookie, the part that kinda taste like toffee? Alright, well even if you don’t know what I’m going on about, you should know that it’s some extremely delicious stuff. So, what if I told you that you can (easily) make this crunchy toffee deliciousness into it’s very own thing? Yeah, well you can. And I’m going to show you how!

This dessert is a gigantic winner in my books for a handful of reasons. For one, it’s super fast to prepare, and even faster to clean up. Second, this treat satisfies my cookie craving without the whole lengthy rolling-dough-into-balls part of the process. Third, this sweet stuff tastes like heaven! This recipe yields a large quantity but requires little effort, making it a great option for a bakesale, or to give as an edible gift to someone special. 

Disclaimer: this recipe is not recommended for those with weak self-control.

Toffee Cookie Bars
an original recipe, inspired by piece of cake blog

what you’ll need
1 cup white sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup desiccated coconut (very finely shredded)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp coarse ground sea salt
1/2 cup add-ins (chocolate chips or nuts of your choice)

how to do it
Preheat your oven to 350F. (My oven is hardcore, so I heat mine to only 340. Adjust yours as necessary. These burn easily.)

Melt butter with sugar in microwave, for about one minute. Stir until well blended. Mixture should be shiny and smooth. Stir in vanilla and coconut. Slowly stir in flour and salt. Toss with your add-ins.
Pour onto parchment-lined 9×13 cookie sheet and spread out evenly. (The mixture should be spread quite thin, that’s the idea!) Bake for 20 minutes, or until top begins to be golden brown.

Remove from oven, and slice into rectangles while still hot – this is important, as once these cool, they are no longer easy to slice!

Let cool completely (this will allow them to harden and become even more delicious!)
Enjoy… over and over and over again.

Move Over, Martha!

I’ve had the most splendid week in the kitchen and I must tell you ALL about it! I began my cooking extravaganza by making my very first buttercream icing. Fun to work with, easy to make, lovely to look at, but unfortunately, not so lovely to eat. I just don’t see the appeal of eating something that tastes like a stick of butter. Deciding then to stick with familiar classics, I made the absolute best banana cake in the history of the world. Marie Antoinette, eat your heart out. My friend Lisa, an equally exuberant foodie, suggested that I pipe some butter down the centre of the cake to create a perfect “crack.” Simple trick, fabulous results. Not only did the cake look fantastic, it had an extra hint of buttery flavour throughout. Perfection. However, my ultimate kitchen success came last night when I stirred up a delightfully velvety vodka sauce – caramelized onions, crushed garlic, plum tomatoes, fresh basil and a splash of vodka to enhance all of the flavours. By special request, I served a baked brie wheel as an appetizer, smothered in a slow-cooked peppered cranberry sauce. But the ultimate show stopper was the dessert – a layered vanilla, chocolate and salted caramel mousse, as pleasing to the eyes as it was to the palate! Two things about this mousse were most exciting: the first was the creation of the caramel. As simple as you can get, this rich caramel was created by simmering sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water over HIGH heat. Yes, high heat surprised me, and scared me, as I do not own a “heavy bottom” saucepan, so I decided to put my lovely Lagostina’s life on the line. It worked like magic! As the sugar began to dissolve, a lovely cotton-candy aroma filled the air, and then, almost instantly, the colour morphed from a silvery white to an amber yellow. At this point, I poured in the heavy cream and WHISH! An unexpected bubbling and sizzling happened, and the amber yellow transformed to a deep perfect caramel colour. While I waited for that to cool, I prepared my mousse base, which consisted solely of egg yolk, vanilla, sugar and milk. Gently folding whipped cream into the base and slowly adding the flavourings created sweet toothed bliss.

Vanilla, Chocolate and Salted Caramel Mousse Cups
recipe adapted from Tartelette

What you’ll need:
for the caramel
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp water
½ tsp kosher or sea salt
¼ cup heavy/whipping cream (35%)
2 tsp unsalted butter

for the vanilla mousse base:
4 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
½ vanilla bean, or 2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp powdered gelatin dissolved in 3 tbsp water
1 cup heavy/whipping cream (35%)

for the chocolate:
¼  cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips

How to do it:
Prepare the caramel first, as it will need to cool to room temp.
Place the sugar and water in a small/medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to cook just until light amber color.  Watch it the entire time, the colour changing process happens VERY quickly and you must remove it from the heat immediately at this point. Once it it removed slowly stir in the heavy cream (watch it bubble!) and then add butter, stirring constantly.

Prepare the mousse base as the caramel is cooling:
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until very pale. In the meantime, in a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk and the vanilla bean (split open and scraped over the milk) to a boil. Slowly pour the milk over the yolks, whisking constantly. Make sure you do not pour too quickly, as this will cook the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over medium low heat and cook until the cream coats the back of a spoon. Add the softened gelatin and stir until melted completely into the cream. Let cool to room temperature.

Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and fold it into the cooled cream base. Divide the base into three equal portions. One portion is the vanilla mousse.

For the caramel mousse: fold a little bit of one portion of the mousse base into the caramel. Slowly add the rest of the base, folding lightly. If you find the mousse is too watery (as mine was), whip a little more cream and fold it in until you reach your desired texture.
For the chocolate mousse: melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for one to two minutes on high. Add the allotted mousse base to the melted chocolate chips and fold.

Layer the three mousses into glass serving dishes as demonstrated in the photo. The caramel mousse should be on the top as it is the lightest. Garnish with a sprinkling of cocoa or chocolate shavings. Freeze for an hour, then serve, and succumb to heaven in your mouth. (Can also be frozen for future use, just remove from freezer and thaw for 15-20 minutes before you serve it.)