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“Make Yourself Happy” – Dark Sugars in East End, London

Dark Sugars Chocolates Bacon St. East End Truffles Watermark

Dark Sugars on Brick Lane is one of the coolest chocolate shops around. The sweet aromas hit your nose before you reach the door where you will find beautifully displayed truffles with flavors like flambéed cognac, ginger & honey and gin & lime, lots of samples and great West African music.

Chocolate With A Conscience – A Day With TCHO & Takito Kitchen

Takito Kitchen Powders

Life is good when you get invited to a chocolate tasting. I ventured over to my old neighborhood, Ukrainian Village, to Takito Kitchen for a  chocolate tasting hosted by TCHO Chocolate and Fortune Fish & Gourment . The whole event was inspiring from the restaurant space, friendly wait staff, incredible food and of course, amazing chocolate.

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Chocolate and Peppermint Candy Ice Cream Sandwiches

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This is my first time making ice cream sandwiches and I’m happy to report this is an easy and delicious recipe that is perfect for the winter/holidays. Don’t let “homemade” scare you off, there are only four ingredients:

1 pint premium vanilla ice cream, 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, 1 cup finely crushed peppermint hard candies, and chocolate wafers.

Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream Sandwiches Ingredients

Mix the first three ingredients together by crushing the peppermint candies and mixing 1/2 cup of them with softened ice cream and extract. Make sure you do not use more than 1/4 teaspoon per pint.

Peppermint Extract

Initially I tried to crush the candies by putting them in a ziplock bag and using the end of a rolling-pin. This will work but it will take a lot of time.

Crushing Peppermint Candies

Then I wised up and just threw them all in the blender and it took less than a 3 seconds.

Peppermints In Blender

See…crushed perfectly. Although it looks better to have bigger chunks of the peppermint candy it does make it hard to eat as the chunks can get chewy.

Crushed Peppermint Candies

Make sure the ice cream is slightly softened to make the mixing easier. I let mine get a bit too soft.

Mixing Ice Cream Peppermint Candies

Then scoop it back into the pint container and let it harden for about an hour or so in the freezer.

Peppermint Pint

The recipe says to work quickly when scooping the ice cream on each wafer, topping with another wafer and then wrapping in plastic wrap and freezing until firm.  I do not work quickly in the kitchen and given my relationship with plastic wrap I thought it would be a good idea to rip off the wrap for each cookie ahead of time.

Plastic Wrap

The recipe calls for using 1/4-cup ice cream scoop. However, I found this way too big for the wafer size and used a large spoon instead. This way you can also get a lot more sandwiches.

Open Face Peppermint Sandwich

Peppermint Sandwich

To help keep it cold I put the pint of ice cream back into the freezer every time I wrapped up each cookie. Then would take out the pint as I was putting in the wrapped sandwich.

Choco Peppermint Ice Cream Freezer

The sandwiches should stay in the freezer for about an hour. Then take them out, unwrap and roll in the crushed candy. Of note, the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of crushed candy for rolling but I did not even come close to using this amount. I definitely used 1/2 cup to mix in the ice cream.

Choco Peppermint Rolling Edges

Wrap them back up and put in the freezer at least an hour or until ready to serve. Voilà, you have just created deliciousness to share with lucky friends and family.

Chocolate Peppermint Candy Ice Cream Sandwiches Final

I will say that if you let the ice cream get too soft it will be a messy experience. When I make these again I will not let the ice cream get as soft and I will wrap the individual sandwiches very tightly so none of the ice cream seeps out of the sides and under the wrap. But even if you make a mess, it really doesn’t matter because these are so good no one will notice.

Original recipe is from Epicurious and can be found, here.

Private Cupcake Tasting At Swirlz

I met Pam (one of the owners of Swirlz) at a Glossed and Found event earlier this summer and naturally the conversation turned to food. When I found out she was apart of Swirlz I asked her a million questions about her cupcakes. The creative process that Swirlz goes through (over 500 flavors and counting) is very interesting. They encourage all their staff members to actively come up and share their ideas. I thought I was dreaming when Pam invited me to a private tasting for some new flavors they were putting together with Pinnacle Vodka!

I set up a time to come in with Jamie, manager of Social Media and Events, and anxiously awaited the tasting. I “managed” to find a friend to come with me and we headed to the Lincoln Park shop. Warm and inviting is how I would describe the vibe just like Pam and Jamie.

Jamie walked us through the Swirlz history (Chicago’s oldest “All Cupcake” shop) and how the day-to-day operations run. Over 90% of the ingredients are made in-house and on site fresh daily. They make morning deliveries to Whole Foods as well as catered events. Making the cupcakes fresh daily ensures you won’t get a dried out product that I am sure you have experienced before. Using quality ingredients keeps the cakes from tasting greasy or too heavy. They also have at least one gluten-free option every day.

Jamie gave us A LOT of cupcakes to try. They were all exceptionally good but I am going to focus on my favorites. Swirlz does the staples as well or better than everyone else: red velvet and vanilla. But they also do their unique creations even better so if you want something different this is your place.

Banana NutellaGluten-free banana cake, layer of Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut), Nutella buttercream (chocolate-hazelnut). What can I say, obviously anything with Nutella is going to be good but this exceeded my expectations. Luscious (I hate the word moist so I won’t be using that) and creamy. You won’t go wrong with this one.

Limoncello – This was my favorite cupcake of the bunch. I am a Limoncello fan but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a good cupcake. This was heaven. The lemon curd inside was mixed with the vodka and there was a hint of vodka in the frosting. After I took my first bite I said to my friend that it almost tasted light. The lemon was refreshing almost lemon zesty. I’m pretty sure I could have eaten about 5 of them (they were mini-cupcakes!). I still think about that cupcake to this day.

Cherry Chip – Pinnacle vodka creation, cherries soaked in vodka, need I say more? This was a veeery close second to the Limoncello. There was the perfect balance of vodka, sweetness and tartness of the cherries.

Drumstick – Malted buttermilk cake,  layer of chocolate peanut crunch, vanilla buttercream  dipped in praline chocolate glaze. This cupcake was not apart of the tasting but Jamie brought after he found out this was the first cupcake I had at Swirlz. When I am in the mood for chocolate this is the go-to cupcake. It’s the Swirlz take on the drumstick ice-cream cone and it just may be better than the real thing. Crunchy outside before you hit the buttercream and cake.

A huge thank you for their time and hospitality to Pam and Jamie. Swirlz hosts tastings so go and try for yourself, you won’t regret it!

Chocolate Meringue Tart from Floriole Cafe – Even Martha Stewart Loves It

My first trip to Floriole was for lunch, which you can read here.  I wanted to come back to try their sweets and I am glad I did. Perusing the many options the Chocolate Meringue Tart was a new item they are featuring and was told that it would be featured on the Martha Stewart show this week. My friend and I joked, well if it’s good enough for Martha it must be good.

This dessert is as good as it is cute. Don’t let the size fool you, it should be shared. The chocolate ganache inside is very rich (in the best way possible) and the meringue  was light, airy and crisp (yes, all three!). Pretty much a bite of heaven.

This is the perfect treat for anytime but is also a nice idea for Valentine’s Day. Pick up one up and bring it home to share. This is way better than a cliché box of chocolates. Trust.