Tag Archives: chocolate

Smitten Bars – aka a Healthy, Homemade, Delicious Granola Bar

I call these sinfully delicious bars “Smitten Bars,” 1) because I’m absolutely smitten with them, and 2) because I adapted them a smidge from the Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Chocolate Chunk Granola Bars.  They are so delicious (especially after being on Whole30 for a month) that you feel like you’re cheating… on something!  These would be perfect to make for your kids… or yourself.  They’re gluten-free, they can be nut-free (to take to schools with rules about nut allergies), and you can amend them to suit your own personal tastes and diets.  It’s basically the perfect recipe.

Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Chunk Healthy Granola Bars, Cat Tea Towel from Maiden South - oysters and pearls

You have cat to be kitten me right meow.  These snacks are healthy?  Tea towel from Maiden South.  #shamelessplug #catsonbikes

Smitten Bars - Healthy Delicious Chocolate Granola Bars - oysters and pearls

Smitten Bars - Healthy Delicious Chocolate Granola Bars adapted from Smitten Kitchen - oysters and pearls

Smitten Bars - Healthy Delicious Chocolate Granola Bars adapted from Smitten Kitchen - oysters and pearls

Let’s get down to recipe business, shall we?

Smitten Bars
recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s chocolate chunk granola bar recipe
yields 16-ish 2×2 granola bars

ingredients

– 1 1/2 heaping cups (100 grams) gluten-free rolled oats
– 1/4 cup (20 grams) rolled oats, finely ground, or 1/4 cup oat flour
– 3/4 cup (60 grams) dried unsweetened shredded coconut
– 1 tablespoon ground flax
– 1 tablespoon chia seeds
– 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
– 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
– 1 cup (about 140 grams) chopped dried fruit (I used unsweetened, unsulphured dried cherries from Trader Joe’s)
– 1 cup (170 grams) chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
– 1/4 cup (65 grams) almond butter (use sunflower seed butter to be nut-free)
– 1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed until liquefied (may sub olive oil)
– 1/4 cup (about 85 grams) maple raw local honey (may sub maple/cane syrup)

other supplies

– 8×8 inch square casserole dish or baking pan
– parchment paper

instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line casserole dish or baking pan with two sheets of parchment paper, cross-ways and extending up the sides, in order to form a non-stick “sling” for your bars to make them easy to remove from the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (oats, oat flour, coconut, cherries/dried fruit, chocolate, salt, cinnamon).  In a smaller, separate bowl, whisk together the “wet” ingredients (almond butter, coconut oil, and honey).  Pour wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until combined.

Transfer the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it out until flat, then using another square of parchment paper to protect your hand, use the heel of your palm to press the mixture as firmly as you can until you cannot press it any further.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees, until the tops are golden and the edges are light brown.  Let the bars cool COMPLETELY before cutting into them.  I recommend letting them cool to close to room temperature, then finish them off for a couple of hours in the fridge.  Then use the parchment paper “sling” to transfer the bars to a cutting board.  Using a sharp, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, carefully cut the bars into desired sizes.

According to Smitten Kitchen, these bars will keep for about a week in an air-tight container at room temperature… but I highly doubt they’ll last that long that way because you’ll eat them all.  So, I stick them a couple at a time in a snack-size freezer bag and pop them into the freezer.  That way, I can pull them out two at a time so Wheat and I don’t overindulge.  They only take about 30 minutes to an hour to fully defrost at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge. Perfect for packing in lunch boxes – for kids or working grown-ups. :)

Smitten Bars - Healthy Delicious Chocolate Granola Bars adapted from Smitten Kitchen - oysters and pearls

What’s your favorite healthy snack?  This has quickly moved to the top of my list, but I’m always on the look for more options!

Until Next Time

Torta Caprese (gluten free chocolate almond cake)

Good morning!  I hope y’all had a relaxing weekend.  I did!  Quick weekend recap: Friday night we went to happy hour at the Club (much, much less glamorous than it sounds) and dinner at Bonnie’s (basically our Friday night routine).  Saturday Wheat went duck hunting (of course) and I laid low, caught up on writing blogs and reading them, juiced a bunch of lemons, and generally just chilled out.  Sunday we went to visit my mom – or rather, Wheat quail hunted with my dad while Harold and I visited my mom.  She just had another surgery on her ankle last week, so she’s not up for hunting again just yet.  Send positive, healing thoughts her way, if you don’t mind me asking!

I also finished up a little project that I’ll share with you tomorrow, plus I swapped out the ribbon on my mini Oyster wreath (I know, big moves).

Updated Miniature Oyster Wreath | Oysters & Pearls

I think the brown satin looks infinitely better, don’t you?  I put cotton out in place of Christmas greenery, too.  Because what’s more southern than oysters and cotton?

Entry Wall | Oysters & Pearls

Oh, and mercury glass is my weakness.  Even if it’s faux mercury glass from Target.

I should probably get better at taking vignette pictures.  But anyway, you get the idea.  Improvements were made.

And I don’t have much else to share from the weekend!  Sometimes that’s a good thing.

I do, however, have the flour-less cake recipe that I made for my mother-in-law Nancy’s birthday last week, and some pretty (and not-so-pretty) pictures to go along with it.

I even set a real table!

Blue Place Settings with Vintage Napkins | Oysters & Pearls

In case anyone is wondering: Plates (Lenox French Perle), Napkins (Vintage, from an antique store in Port St. Joe, Florida), Vintage Water Glasses from my Grandmother, and I believe the stemless wine glasses are from Target.  The “runner” is just a piece of cream burlap leftover from my DIY Monogram project.  The gorgeous herb napkin rings were a wedding gift from Wheat’s cousin Darren and his wife, Mary Ellen.  Each one is a different herb, and I believe she picked them up at At Home in Thomasville.  Herb Napkin Rings from At Home in Thomasville, Georgia | Oysters & Pearls

Now, let’s get down to this cake.

Torta Caprese - Flourless (Gluten Free) Chocolate Almond Cake Recipe | Oysters & Pearls

As I mentioned last week, my in-laws have gone gluten-free.  They aren’t crazy strict about it, but I wanted to make them a cake they could enjoy without feeling guilty about it.  I knew I wanted something that was flourless, rather than a substitution for the wheat-flour.  I have seen multiple recipes for flourless Italian almond cakes, so I started skimming through the Southern Italian Desserts (<–affiliate link!)
cookbook my cousin Kristy gave me over Christmas.

It’s a gorgeous cookbook with lots of traditional Southern Italian desserts (but no pizzelle recipe!), and I was thrilled to find the recipe for Torta Caprese, which is a flourless chocolate almond cake.

Natural Almonds for Torta Caprese | Oysters & Pearls

Finely Ground Almonds for Gluten Free Chocolate Cake | Oysters & Pearls

The recipe calls for grinding your own almonds for the cake, so you’ll need a food processor.  I was happy to put the new one Nancy gave me to work!  I did this the day before to save time.  I also go to put my new mixer Nancy gave me for Christmas, as well as my older one I got for Christmas years ago from my parents, both to work for this cake.  I’d recommend having two before making this cake, or a stand mixer plus a hand mixer.  It will just make your life easier.

Two Mixers Going at Once | Oysters & Pearls

Torta Caprese
not even tweaked (except for the whipped cream) from Southern Italian Desserts: Rediscovering the Sweet Traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily
serves 12

ingredients

– 8 ounces (aka two bars or 226 grams) dark chocolate (55 to 60 percent cacao)
– 1 2/3 cups (250 grams) skin-on natural almonds
– 1 cup (226 grams or two sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
– 5 large eggs, at room temperature and separated
– 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua (optional)
– Pinch of kosher salt
– confectioner’s sugar or whipped cream, for serving

instructions

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the center.  Grease a 10-inch springform pan.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, then set aside until the bowl is cool to the touch.
Process the almonds in a food processor until they have the texture of coarse cornmeal, stopping before they are as fine as flour.
Mix the butter with about half of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment at medium speed until smooth.  Add the yolks, one at a time, beating and scraping the bowl between additions.  At low speed, mix in the liqueur and then the melted chocolate until well blended, then mix in the ground almonds.
Beat the egg whites and salt in a clean bowl using a clean whisk attachment at medium speed until they form soft peaks.  Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, a little at a time, then continue to beat at high speed until firm peaks form that are not at all dry.
Using a large spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 50 to 55 minutes.  Set the pan on a wire rack to cool.  Once cool, run a knife around the edge, then release and remove the ring.  Transfer the cake on the pan bottom to a serving plate, as the author prefers, or invert onto the serving plate as they do in Capri.
To serve, dust the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar, or top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Almond and Egg Yolk Mixture for Torta Caprese | Oysters & Pearls

Folding Chocolate Mixture into Egg Whites for Gluten Free Chocolate Cake | Oysters & Pearls

Gluten Free Chocolate Almond Cake Batter | Oysters & Pearls

Up until this point, the cake-making progressed without incident.  I, however, lost my nice spring-form pan years ago somehow and never replaced it.  So when I was purchasing the ingredients for this cake, I also purchased a cheapo springform pan at Winn Dixie.  I will soon be depositing said springform pan in the Goodwill donation pile.  I greased it and filled it with light, fluffy chocolate batter and proceeded to bake.  When I got my toothpick out to check at 50 minutes, my kitchen was promptly filled with smoke.  The cheapo pan leaked in the oven.  So I highly suggest either just greasing a regular old 10 inch cake pan and inverting the cake, or invest in a nice springform pan.

Torta Caprese Recipe  | Oysters & Pearls

Naturally, I disregarded the author and inverted the cake, basically ignoring her cautions and also rendering my purchase of a springform pan pointless.  And everything was okay, except for a small crack in my cake, as you can see below.  Oopsies.  But the rule related to ugly cakes is that if you mention that it’s an ugly cake, you don’t get to eat that ugly cake.

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake Recipe | Oysters & Pearls

Luckily, no one complained.

And I could have just sprinkled this cake with confectioners’ sugar and called it a (birth)day.  But that just wouldn’t do.  And neither would just a dollop of whipped cream.

Torta Caprese Topped with Kahlua Whipped Cream | Oysters & Pearls

I basically iced it with kahlua whipped cream.

Kahlua Whipped Cream

ingredients

– 2 tablespoons kahlua
– one half-pint heavy whipping cream
– 1 tablespoon sugar

instructions

Put all three ingredients in the bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.

Gluten Free Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake Topped with Kahlua Whipped Cream | Oysters & Pearls

This cake is awesome, but it also has an awesome story behind it.  So as not to mutilate the story, I’ll just copy it here verbatim:

“This rich cake takes its name from the island of Capri, where it originated.  Many tales are told of the way the cake came about, perhaps the most charming of which recounts a visit to Capri in the 1920s from a group of Mafia men on behalf of Al Capone.  Pastry chef Carmine Di Fiore was mortified when he realized he’d forgotten the flour in the cake, but the mobsters like the moist, chocolaty confection so much they asked for its name.  Di Fiore quickly replied, ‘Torta Caprese!’ and it has kept that name ever since.  The cake is renowned on the island and throughout the Amalfi Coast.”

I wonder if it actually was just a mistake though, because whipping the egg whites separately to lighten the batter is a characteristic of many flourless cakes.  Either way, it’s really good.

And…. here’s where my pictures get truly subpar.  There’s a time and place for my 50mm lens.  This was not one of those times and places.

Torta Caprese  |  Oysters & Pearls Slice of Torta Caprese Cake | Oysters & Pearls

However, this was a perfectly delicious cake, and no one even missed the flour.  The egg whites kept it from being too dense, but with no flour to absorb all the liquid, it was really moist.

Side note: how can I describe a cake as being moist without actually using that word??  I hate that word.  Ick.  So grodie.

Flourless Godiva Chocolate Almond Cake | Oysters & Pearls

Anyway, whether you’re gluten free or not, this is the perfect simple cake for a birthday or just a day.  Happy birthday again, Nancy!

Until Next Time

Black Magic Cake

Jim requested a chocolate birthday cake – actually he was being too nice and wouldn’t tell me his favorite cake, so I gave him an ultimatum: chocolate or vanilla? He chose chocolate.

When I make chocolate cake, since about a year ago I always make black magic cake. I mentioned it wayyyy back when {here}. It’s an old Hershey’s recipe I believe, and it’s moist and soft and rich and is essentially a Devil’s Food Cake. It’s delicious.

I’ll give you the cake recipe today, and we’ll do the icing tomorrow. I like keeping my recipes separate these days. You might want bakery style buttercream on vanilla cake, for instance. And this chocolate cake recipe might just totally throw you off your game. Plus, this post would be entirely too long if I don’t split it up. So here’s a refresher of what the cake looked like for you:

Jim's 30th Birthday Cake | Oysters & Pearls

I took a cake decorating class at the continuing education department at Bainbridge State College, so I have been practicing my decorating skills! :)

Anywho, here’s the recipe, including possible substitutions, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Black Magic Cake (adapted from Hershey’s)

ingredients

– 2 cups sugar
– 1 2/4 cups all purpose flour
– 3/4 cup Hershey’s natural cocoa
– 2 teaspoons baking soda
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 large eggs
– 1 cup buttermilk (can substitute sour cream or probably greek yogurt for buttermilk)
– 1 cup very strong black coffee
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour (or use baking spray) either: two 9″ round pans, three 8″ round pans, or one 13×9″ baking pan. The time you bake will vary by the type of pans you use.

Stir together sugar, cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs (after cracking into a small separate bowl in case you get egg shell in it, or worse, a bad egg) directly to the bowl full of dry ingredients. Then add buttermilk (or sour cream/yogurt, if using), coffee, oil, and vanilla. Transfer to a mixing bowl if using a stand mixer, or use a hand held electric mixer, and beat on medium speed for approximately 2 minutes. The batter will be really thin if you use buttermilk, so don’t be alarmed. Pour evenly into whichever pans you’re using.

13×9″ pan: bake for 35-40 minutes
two 9″ round pans: bake for 30-35 minutes
three 9″ round pans: bake for 25-30 minutes.
four 8″ round pans: back for 20 minutes

For all of these, start testing the cake with a toothpick about 5 minutes prior to the first time listed (aka at 15 minutes for four 8″ round pans). You don’t want to overcook this cake. Also, beware, as this batter rises a LOT. I recommend using bake even strips to keep them from rising too much in the middle. If you don’t, you’ll just end up having to cut the domes off the layers before you stack them.  I also don’t really recommend the two 9″ round pans, unless you have 2″ deep pans.

Cool the layers, then frost as desired. Most people put a chocolate icing on here. You could do a ganache between the layers, too. Really whatever you want!

I love this cake because it’s basically a one bowl dump cake. You mix the dry ingredients up from this:

Starting Black Magic Cake Batter | Oysters & Pearls

To this:

Dry Ingredients for Black Magic Cake | Oysters & Pearls

Using a whisk is important as it breaks up all the clumps and gets air into the dry mixture, making for a fluffier cake.

Add the wet ingredients and beat with an electric mixer.

Black Magic Cake Batter | Oysters & Pearls

The batter is crazy thin and drippy, which threw me off the first time I made it. If you use sour cream, that may thicken it up a bit. Martha Stewart’s Devil’s Food Cake uses sour cream, so that might be a good reference if you’d like to try another recipe.

I like for my cakes to be taller, so I like to use round pans so I can stack them up high! This cake would be awesome cooked in a 13×9″ pan with a ganache glaze though. Just sayin’.

Cut the Cake- Black Magic Cake with Buttercream Icing | Oysters & Pearls

Terrible late-night picture of the cut cake, but you can see how dark the cake turns out to be. It’s gorgeous!

I’ll be back tomorrow with bakery-style buttercream. I say bakery-style, in that I adapted (just barely) a recipe that copies a famously delicious Florida grocery store chain’s bakery buttercream icing…

It’s pretty awesome, and perfect for icing cakes. It’s much sturdier and heavier than my go-to Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing, which is delicious, but sometimes you just want that classic birthday cake kinda icing. And this, my friends, is it.

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