Saturday, October 20, 2012

Strawberry Hot Chocolate

To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”
- Elbert Hubbard

I love me some hot chocolate when the weather is chilly. At night I usually drink some hot tea or hot chocolate since it warms me up from the inside as well as satisfies my sweet tooth.

I used white chocolate chips - 4 heaping Tablespoons

I thought of mixing it up by making some strawberry hot chocolate. I always have frozen strawberries in the freezer, and white chocolate chips on hand, so it was a cinch to put together.

Melting the chocolate chips in the milk

I think this is a drink that adults as well as children would love!

Pureeing strawberries for my strawberry puree (these were previously frozen since strawberries aren't in season.)
So make up some strawberry hot chocolate, start a fire and play some board games as a family. Doesn't that sound fun? 

My strawberry puree

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Vintage Mikado Teacups available at my Etsy Shop, House of Lucien.

Strawberry Hot Chocolate

Makes 2 servings


1 1/2 cups (355 ml) milk - I used whole milk

4 Heaping Tablespoons white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate - I used Guittard

3 Tablespoons sugar - or more to taste

1/2 cup (118 ml) strawberry puree - From pureeing strawberries (unsweetened, fresh or frozen, if frozen, thawed first) in a blender or food processor - if you are using sweetened strawberry puree you probably don't need the added sugar above

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract -optional

Pink food coloring - optional - fyi - strawberries alone don't get milk very pink - I added it

Whipped cream for topping - optional

Sprinkles for topping - optional


In a small saucepan add the milk, white chocolate chips and sugar. Cook it on medium high heat stirring frequently until the white chocolate is melted. Add the strawberry puree and cook until it is your desired temperature (very warm or hot.) Taste it and see if you think it needs more sugar, if so, add some, taste, adjust to your liking. Add vanilla extract if using. If you are using food coloring add a little at a time until it becomes a color you like.

Note: there will be strawberry seeds in the bottom of your cup. If that bothers you, then pour it through a fine mesh strainer before serving.

Pour into cups and top with whipped cream and sprinkles if desired.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Cookies

 ”Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

- Will Rogers 

I need to have something already ready for me for breakfast every morning. I am hungry when I wake up. If I don't have something healthy to eat ready to go, I'll just eat whatever sounds delicious to me right then in the moment. For instance, if there is a cupcake laying around, I'll eat a cupcake. Not exactly a breakfast of champions, and not even filling, and not even what I'm really craving.
Make sure you buy Aluminum free baking powder next time you purchase it. Too much aluminum leads to Alzheimer's disease. I have this great natural vet, and she knows I bake treats for my dogs, she told me I better be using aluminum free baking powder since the aluminum isn't good for anyone including dogs. She told me, "I don't care if you use it for yourself, but I do care if you feed it to your dog." I love that she cares so much about my dogs.

That's why I like these breakfast cookies. Long ago, I made some banana breakfast cookies. They are healthy, filling, and ready for eating when you wake up.

The dry ingredients

This pumpkin spice version is just as delicious. Pumpkin is even a vegetable! I never thought I would be eating a vegetable for breakfast. These cookies are healthy and gluten free.

This is the dried milk I used. One pouch is one cup, the amount called for in this recipe. Make sure you check the expiration on you dried milk, if it smells bad, it probably is. Dried milk doesn't last forever.
Full of pumpkin, dried milk, oats, flax seeds, walnuts and raisins. It's like eating a healthy bowl of cereal in a cookie! But even better because you know exactly what's in it since you made it. Speaking of making them, it's easy. A one bowl, stir it up, pop in the oven kind of recipe.
I buy whole flax seeds and store them in the fridge. If I need ground flax seeds I grind them in the Vita Mix or a food processor. Whole flax seeds last longer than ground.
I like to use flax seeds because they are filled with Omega 3 fatty acids. But you don't have to use them if you don't keep them in the house. You can use oat flour or whole wheat flour instead. (If you use whole wheat flour they won't be gluten free, FYI.)

Scoop out the dough with a scoop

These are so great because you can freeze them individually and take one out when you need it. So bake once and eat a healthy breakfast everyday for days.

Flatten them out a bit, they don't spread much
With these in the house I won't have to eat a cupcake for breakfast unless I really want to.

I added raisins and nuts to the top of my cookies

English Ironstone Transferware Plates and Tablecloth available at my Etsy shop,
House of Lucien.

Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Cookies

an original recipe by me, Melissa aka The Alchemist
Makes 9 or 10 Cookies, recipe can easily be doubled and cookies can be frozen, wrapped individually then placed in a zip top bag, for at least 6 months.
1 1/2 cups (130 g.) oats - gluten free, (if you want to make these GF)- old fashioned or quick, but not instant
5 Tablespoons ground flax seeds or oat flour (oats ground in the blender or food processor till a powder) or whole wheat flour - if you use whole wheat flour they won't be gluten free
1 cup (3.2 oz.) (90.7 g.) powdered nonfat milk (make sure it's not expired, it does go bad)
1/4 cup (38 g.) brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tablespoon plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 heaping Tablespoons raisins, plus more for topping cookies (if desired)
3 heaping Tablespoons chopped walnuts plus more for topping cookies (if desired)
1 can (15 oz) (425 g.) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 egg
1/3 cup (79 ml) honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 Degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4.
In a large bowl add all of the dry ingredients and whisk together. Then add the walnuts and raisins and whisk again. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a large spoon until well combined.
Scoop out dough with an ice cream scoop onto parchment paper lined (or silpat lined) cookie sheets. With the back of a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon pat the scoops down just a bit. They don't spread out much.
Add raisins and walnuts to each individual cookie if you wish.
Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.
Let cool on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in the fridge for 5 days covered in an airtight container. You can also freeze these. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap, then place them all in a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Take one out when you wake up and by the time you want to eat it it should be defrosted. (about an hour or less.) Or you can always take one or two out the night before.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Best Moist Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit."

-Nelson Henderson

The recipe on my site that gets the most action is my Super Moist Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe. People often write me and ask if I have a regular chocolate cupcake recipe, so here it is!
This recipe has coffee in it, you melt the chocolate into the hot coffee. You cannot , I repeat, you absolutely can't taste it. I use the pour over method to make single cups of coffee.

In fact the reason that my blog is named, The Alchemist, is because of cupcakes. You see I used to bake for a small local coffee shop. I baked a lot of cupcakes. I baked many recipes of cupcakes looking for the best ones. One day I had baked too many for the shop, (these chocolate cupcakes were included as well as a few other varieties) so I gave the leftovers to my chiropractor at the time, since I had an appointment that day. He in turn took them home to his family. The next day his wife called me on the phone. She told me, "Melissa, you're an alchemist! These cupcakes are the best cupcakes I've ever had."

The chocolate melted into the coffee, before adding it to the batter
That was high praise coming from her. She is a successful and well traveled lady. That comment meant a lot to me.
I use this high fat cocoa from Penzey's, if you have a store near you I recommend it, if not another brand is fine.

That was probably 5 years ago and I haven't made another chocolate cake recipe since. This is my absolute 'go to' chocolate cake and chocolate cupcake recipe.

Before that, I went through a lot of trial and error. I made many chocolate cupcake recipes. I've never had a chocolate cake with as great as a texture as this one, or as moist without being heavy.

Whisking the dry ingredients together

These cupcakes are so amazing. The original recipe comes from a cake recipe from Epicurious. (I've tweaked it a little over time to suit my taste.) These cupcakes are super moist and light at the same time. It's like they melt in your mouth.

 They have a wonderful chocolate flavor. There is melted chocolate as well as cocoa powder in this recipe. The chocolate is melted into hot coffee.

For this recipe I like to use buttermilk (instead of sour milk I  sometimes recommend in cake recipes) I like this Bulgarian buttermilk due to it's higher fat content. It's rich and has more fat than low fat buttermilk.

I know that will worry some people. Don't worry. You cannot taste it at all. I mean it, at all. I promise. However, if it worries you, then don't use it. Just use hot water instead. But I believe it provides a depth of flavor you won't get otherwise.

I weigh the dry ingredients as I go, and note the weight for dry ingredients in recipes, for those of you who live in countries that don't use cups. Sometimes I'm asked why the weight measurements differ slightly sometimes in my recipes, this is why. A cup of flour weighs more or less dependent on the weather, moisture in the air etc.
Some people will want to leave out the coffee, if you are making them for children or if you don't consume caffeine.
Mixing up the batter

I've frosted these with a chocolate buttercream that comes from Cooks Illustrated. It's their Foolproof Chocolate frosting recipe.

The batter is on the thin side, so it's easier to pour it into the cupcake papers

I like it because it's satiny smooth with a great chocolate flavor. It's easy to make too. You can make it in a mixer or a food processor. I've noted both ways below in the recipe.

I used these fancy cupcake papers I purchased when traveling to Vancouver, B.C. There are so many beautiful cupcake papers out there these days, but beware. Don't buy cupcake papers from the dollar store or from a cheap no name brand. The grease bleeds through the paper and sometimes you can't even see the design. Make sure they say "greaseproof" or are from a brand you trust. Or you can use foil liners, those work great as well and are widely available in most stores, but they are usually located by the foil, and not in the usual baking aisle in most large grocery stores here in the U.S.

Right out of the oven

If you like your cupcakes moist like I do, look no further. I think you will love this recipe as much as I do!

The frosting recipe has corn syrup in it, if you spray the measuring cup with cooking spray first, it will come out of the measuring cup easier.

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I took a picture of the middle of the cupcake to try to capture the fabulous texture of these. They are super moist, as well as being light and fluffy. They just melt in your mouth.
If you are looking for a different flavor of frosting, try one of these other great frosting recipes.
Cream Cheese Frosting from my Super Moist Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe you could also make Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting by adding some cocoa in place of some of the powdered sugar
Caramel Buttercream (or make it salted caramel) that goes with my Apple Cupcakes
Antique Electra Pink Teacup available at my Etsy shop, House of Lucien.

The Best Moist Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
This recipe makes more than a standard cake recipe, about 30-34 standard size cupcakes
3 oz. (85 g.) semi sweet chocolate - I usually use semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) hot brewed coffee - or if you absolutely cannot have coffee, substitute hot water, or decaf coffee - but the coffee does bring a depth of flavor that water alone won't
3 cups (620 g.) sugar
2 1/2 cups (337 g.) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (172 g.) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs

3/4 cup (177 ml) - 1 cup (236 ml) vegetable oil ( I use 1 cup, but the original recipe calls for the lesser amount) the higher amount makes them even more moist, (the lesser amount is also moist)
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) well-shaken full fat buttermilk (if you can find it, if not use low fat buttermilk)
2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, 150 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 2.
Finely chop chocolate (if using chocolate chips you don't have to chop it) and add it to the hot coffee to let it melt. Meanwhile, Into a large bowl whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs until thickened slightly, and lemon colored, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer, or 5 minutes with a hand mixer. Stir the chocolate mixture until all the chocolate is melted and combined. Slowly add the oil, vanilla, buttermilk and chocolate mixture, beating until combined well. Add a quarter of the dry mixture then blend until incorporated, then add another 1/4 and combine, and repeat until all of the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and blend again just until that is all incorporated.
Mixture will be like a thick liquid. Prepare cupcake tins with liners. Pour batter into a measuring cup with a pouring spout. Pour batter into cupcake liners filling about half to 2/3rds of the way full. Don't overfill. These rise quite a bit. Bake for about 28-32 minutes. If the center still looks caved in, or wet in the middle, they are not done. The top should look slightly rounded. They are done when they pass a toothpick test. But don't test them until they look rounded. If you do, they could cave in or fall and never rise again. For this recipe, I don't open the oven till they have been in for 28 minutes or so, or until they look done. Keep in mind the oven temperature is lower than in most recipes, so they take longer. This is especially true when using the higher amount of oil. Also when you prepare the batter, use it right away. While cupcakes are baking, prepare frosting below.
Cool on wire racks, and frost when they are completely cool.
Chocolate Buttercream
NOTE - If you are piping on frosting like I did, you will need to double this recipe. If you are just spreading it on, this amount will probably work.
Note: I made this frosting in a stand mixer, but the original recipe was written to be made in a food processor, I noted both instructions below.
20 TBS (2 1/2 sticks or about 10 oz) (283 g.) unsalted butter, softened

4 oz. (about 1 cup) (115 g.) confectioner’s sugar

3/4 cup (80 g,) dutch-processed or natural cocoa powder - I used natural

pinch of fine table salt

3/4 cup (177 ml) light corn syrup or (Lyles Golden Refiner’s Syrup and 1 TBS of water)

1 tsp vanilla extract

8 oz (227 g.) chocolate - milk, semisweet, or bittersweet - melted and cooled to 85-100 degrees Fahrenheit, (29-38 degrees Celsius) I used semisweet chocolate chips
In a stand mixer: Cut butter into about 5 pieces per stick, and add to bowl of mixer. Add confectioners sugar, cocoa powder, salt and blend on low. Slowly add the corn syrup while mixer is going on low. After it's all added, turn it up to mix it until it's incorporated, then add the vanilla and the melted chocolate. Mix well until completely blended. You can make this up to 3 hours in advance. For longer storage, refrigerate the frosting, covered, and let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.
In a Food Processor: In a food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl as needed. Add the syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, about 5-10 seconds. Scrape down the bowl, and then add the chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, about 10-15 seconds. The big key to this recipe is using a light hand with the processor and not over mixing it. You can make this up to 3 hours in advance. For longer storage, refrigerate the frosting, covered, and let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble

"The first and greatest commandment is,
Don't let them scare you."
- Elmer Davis
I love bananas, I mean what's not to like? They're always in season. You can tell just by looking at them if they're ripe. They come in a smart little package. You can store them in the freezer to use later if they're about to go bad. They're also full of nutrition. And they're cheap to boot. What more could you ask for?
Whisking up the yolks, sugar and cornstarch. My yolks are bright orange since they come from my own free range chickens. This resulted in my pudding being bright yellow. If you use store bought eggs your pudding will be much lighter in color.

 I love the things, so we always have some on hand. When I saw this recipe on Food and Wine, I knew I needed to make it. I was attracted to the fact that unlike a traditional banana pudding served from a large dish, these can be made individually. I also loved the crumble to give a different texture. Pudding is such a great dessert to make for guests at a casual dinner party, since it needs to be made in advance.

This banana pudding is just scrumptious. Creamy and rich and not too sweet, topped with a crunchy vanilla wafer crumble. It's easy and simple to put together. A great dessert to have in your back pocket for any occasion.

Scraping the seeds from the vanilla bean. I buy vanilla beans in bulk from a vanilla company on EBay. The seeds are fresh, and much cheaper than from the grocery store.

I am having a dinner party soon and some of the guests are gluten free. This is a great gluten free dessert, if you use some gluten free cookies for the crumble, of course.

Spooning the pudding into individual vessels, makes serving at the end of dinner even easier. I used teacups, but if teacups aren't your thing, you can use some champagne glasses, or martini glasses. Or you could spoon them into little mason jars. 

If you own some demitasse or espresso cups, you could use them for the pudding on a dessert buffet. Their small size won't fill guests up, if there is more than one dessert option.

Crumble ready for toasting in the oven.

A heartwarming, comforting cup full of goodness.


Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble

adapted from David Guas for Food and Wine

Makes 5 servings


For the pudding

5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (100 g.) sugar
1/4 cup (32 g.) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (177 ml) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped out, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, sliced

For the crumble

1 cup vanilla wafers (about 15 cookies) coarsely ground - If you are making this gluten free, make sure to use a type of cookie that is GF. You can use any type of vanilla cookie, or even animal crackers.
2 teaspoons sugar
Pinch salt
2 Tablespoon butter, melted
To make the pudding
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Add the milk, cream and the vanilla bean seeds as well as the pod, to a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk a little at a time into the egg mixture. Once the bottom of the bowl is warm, slowly whisk in the remaining hot milk. Pour the mixture back into a clean medium saucepan (cleaning the saucepan prevents the pudding from scorching), whisk over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Cook while constantly whisking until the pudding is glossy and quite thick, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes longer. Remove the vanilla bean pod (or if you are using vanilla extract, add it now.) Stir in the sliced bananas.Transfer the pudding to individual dishes. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the puddings to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.         

To make the crumble:
While the pudding sets, heat the oven to 325 Fahrenheit, 160/170 Celsius Gas Mark 3.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat, and set aside.Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl and stir in the sugar and salt. Use a spoon to evenly stir in the melted butter, transfer to the prepared baking sheet, and toast in the oven until brown and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. (The crumbs can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days at room temperature or frozen for up to 2 months; re-crisp in a 325°F oven for 6 to 7 minutes if necessary.)
Just before serving, add crumbs to each portion and serve.