Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza… I know it’s really early, but I was in a department store over the weekend and I saw Christmas decorations going up in the middle of October. I am old enough to remember when people gave of themselves before they gave of Mr. Macy and Mr. Bloomingdale.
This was the time when gifts were very personal—things we made or freshly-baked with our own hands. It seems like America was quite a different place back then where it would have been unseemly to give a gift certificate instead of a tin of homemade chocolate fudge brownies or shop for a gift on Black Friday instead spending the day after Thanksgiving with family and friends.
Not only are home-baked chocolate gifts more personal than store bought ones, but they’re easier on your wallet, too. And, this year that’s very important for many people who are finding financial circumstances difficult. Why not share the joy of home-baked chocolate gifts with your friends around the holidays this year or any time of year? So, head for the kitchen, adorn one another with aprons, fire-up the mixer and light the oven, and begin to rediscover the fun of home baking.
I was baking well before I was making gourmet chocolate. My family has always given home-baked goodies not just as gifts to show good will, but to show our love during the holidays to those around us. So every year, I bake and bake and then deliver fresh-baked presents to family, neighbors, friends and co-workers. We make sure to bake a little extra for the postman, the doctor’s office, work, etc. This way everyone feels special and not forgotten and we haven’t burned a hole in our wallets.
Baking is really not difficult at all. If you can read and follow a recipe, you can bake. If using a mix makes you feel more comfortable, then by all means use a mix. You can always make small adjustments in what you are baking as long as you don’t disrupt the balance of the base ingredients.
Needless to say my four favorites all start with chocolate—Chocolate, Chocolate Brownies; Double Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Muffins, Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate Cupcakes. With or without a mix they’re easy to make, always delicious to eat, and you can’t go wrong with fine chocolate.
Here are a couple of my holiday chocolate baking secrets. It makes no difference if you’re baking from scratch or from a store-bought mix, you can make your holiday baking more chocolaty by adding a couple of tablespoons of chocolate syrup, chocolate ganache or 3 tablespoons of ground chocolate. With the latter, I like to use a ground chocolate that’s at least 60% cacao (Choclatique Private Reserve Dark (64%) is perfect)—not ground chocolate chips. Any of these three ingredients give your chocolate cake a richer, more chocolaty flavor.
If you’re looking for more of a dark “blackout-style” chocolate cake, add ¼ cup of dark alkalized cocoa in place of ¼ of flour. In the case of a mix add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water with the cocoa.
If a pre-measured, fool-proof mix is what you prefer for baking, then let me recommend one of Choclatique’s new baking mixes. You can bake them up yourself (we’ll never tell anyone they’re from a mix and they’ll never know) and bring them over as a fresh-baked gift or you can give a bag of our mix as a great gift and have the recipient bake them at their leisure.
If you like chocolate you will really love our rich, old-fashioned Double Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix. They are made with whole wheat flour and a blend of Choclatique’s Private Reserve 64% finely ground chocolate, Red (Rouge) Cocoa Powder, and dark, Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips. You will have fresh-baked Brownies with a crisp-baked crown with a chewy, fudgy center in just about 30 minutes that will leave your friends and family begging for more. Makes 8 to 12 brownies.
Fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven muffins are always a special treat, especially when they’re chocolate! Double Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Muffins are light and fluffy yet intensely rich with chocolate flavor, and they easily prepared and ready to eat in only 20 minutes. They’re great for Sunday brunch, school or church bake sales, or to add some “special love” to a take-along lunch. Makes 6 jumbo, 12 regular, or 24 mini-muffins.
This very special cookie recipe comes from my stash of favorite chocolate recipes. Ed’s Best Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix is a blend of whole wheat flour, ground chocolate, premium cocoa powders, brown sugar, and the secret ingredient—ground oatmeal. The finished cookies have a crispy outer crust and a cakey with a buttery texture center. Of course, they are loaded with Choclatique chocolate chips. Makes 24 cookies.
If you’re looking for a fun, informal and easy way to serve a special dessert for any occasion, then you’ll absolutely love our Almost Famous Chocolate Cupcakes. They’re superior to any store-bought cupcakes, and are super-easy to bake, frost and decorate at home. Almost Famous Chocolate Cupcakes are light in texture with a strong chocolate intensity. They are perfect any time, for any occasion. Almost Famous Chocolate Cupcake Mix is made with a blend of premium cocoa powders and ground chocolate. Makes 12 regular cupcakes.
Top them all off with our Chocolate Ganache Frosting. Our Chocolate Ganache frosting is rich and luscious and perfect for topping brownies, muffins and cupcakes. It is even perfect for making a chocolate chip cookie sandwich filling. It just takes minutes to make.
All 5 Choclatique Baking Mixes are packaged in gold bags (great for chocolate gift giving). Buy one or all five and keep them handy for those “just-gotta-have-a-fresh-baked-chocolate-something” moments. Choclatique baking mixes also make great housewarming, shower and birthday gifts, or a not-so-subtle hint that you’d love some fresh-baked chocolate goodies tonight.
So make the time in your schedule and open up your heart to home-baked chocolate gifts this year. Everyone will be talking about your great freshly-baked goods for months to come and asking for more.