Beautiful Blood Orange

DSC_0660 A few years ago I planted a Moro Blood Orange tree, after making this gorgeous Blood Orange Upside Down Cake adapted from the March 2010 issue Bon Appetit. This recipe is simple to make, and calls for creating it in a skillet. Packed with flavor but not overly sweet, it is a perfect way to end a special meal this time of year.

From this recipe, I knew I needed to have fresh blood oranges from my garden every year. Besides the Moro Blood Orange there are two other blood orange varieties available, Sanguinelli and Tarocco.

For those of you in warm sunny climates that can grow citrus, citrus is ripe and readily available this time of year. Lush citrus, especially the blood orange, can awaken your senses and create instant festivity. Grapefruit, lemons, kumquats, and oranges to name a few citrus types can add surprise and zest appeal to many types of dishes and drinks.


Look how fabulous the Moro Blood Orange is as a juice, or perhaps a ruby garnish. What a great way to make winter vanish in a heartbeat. Blood oranges remind me too of this special time year--Mardi Gras Carnival with all of the hoopla and joyous celebration.

IMG_5298 Recently, my husband John, and I had the opportunity to experience first hand the fun and excitement surrounding the celebration of the evening Carnival Parade in the streets of downtown Oranjestad, Aruba in the Dutch Carribean.

Jim Dodge's Bourbon Chocolate-Pecan Cake

Jim Dodge Chocolate Pecan Cake

I'm a big fan of French author Mireille Guiliano who burst onto the publishing scene in 2005 with her book, French Women Don't Get Fat. She has gone on to write several more books, including French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, & Pleasure (Vintage) Mireille Guiliano (and as I also aspire to) lives her life by the seasons. In French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes, & Pleasure (Vintage), she writes chocolate isn't strictly seasonal, so it can be certainly be enjoyed year-round, but she emphasizes that chocolate lends itself much better to the fall and winter seasons. I agree, and therefore must share with you one of my favorite winter desserts, Jim Dodge's Bourbon Chocolate-Pecan Cake.

Jim Dodge's Bourbon Chocolate-Pecan Cake
I was given this rich dessert recipe from my dear friend, Janet Leutel, nearly a decade ago. Janet annually compiles a short softcover cookbook of her favorite recipes over the past year, and gives it as a special gift around the holidays.

This is a very rich, dense flour-less cake. Use good chocolate and cocoa powder. The "bourbon" ingredient is optional in this recipe. I generally make it without. Enjoy!

2 cups pecan halves
3/4 pound unsalted butter (divided)
12 oz. bitter or semi-sweet chocolate (divided)
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 eggs
1/3 cup bourbon (optional)

Spread pecan halves on a baking sheet and toast in 350 degree oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Set aside and cool. Separate out 1/2 cup for decorating top of cake layer. Grind until coarse, 1 and 1/2 cups pecans in food processor, which will be added to the cake mixture later.

Cut circle of parchment to fit bottom of 9" spring form pan. Butter pan well, and line with parchment circle.

Melt 1/2 pound butter and 8 oz. chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water. Stir until very smooth and set aside to cool.

Mix sugar, cocoa, and eggs just until well combined. Add melted chocolate, stirring to combine. Add coarsely chopped 1 and 1/2 cups pecans, and stir in. Add bourbon if you are using it, as this point.

Pour batter into prepared spring form pan and place this pan into a larger pan with simmering water. Water level should come to 1/2 of spring form cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees in oven until cake is firm to the touch, about 50 minutes.

Cool cake on wire rack, and remove side of the pan. Leave parchment paper on and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (I like to refrigerate cake in spring form pan overnight).

Remove cake from refrigerator, and place upside down on wire rack, or serving dish. Peel off parchment paper and drizzle with glaze. Drizzle the sides, and then the top. Smooth with a spreader. Decorate the top of cake with remaining pecans.

Glaze Recipe:
4 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 pound unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over simmering water. Stir until completely smooth. Cool about 5 minutes, before spreading on cake.

Please share if you have a traditional dessert you make every holiday. Please share if you are known for a signature gift you make for others each holiday.

Attention Chocolate Lovers!

Attention chocolate lovers!  Carole Bloom's latest cookbook is out, Intensely Chocolate, 100 scrumptious recipes for true chocolate lovers. (Wiley 2010)

Carole notches up the "chocolate factor" creating over 100 recipes with many different types and forms of chocolate.  Many of her recipes in her latest book, call for high cacao, high content chocolate, which intensifies chocolate flavor. Written for bakers of all levels, Carole graciously walks us through the different types of chocolate, equipment, and best techniques. Nine different chapters cover every one's chocolate favorite something.

I read Carole's new book, Intensely Chocolate, like a novel, gliding through each chapter, enjoying the fresh and upbeat easy format and size, and relishing all of the mouthwatering photographs.

It was hard to decide which recipe to make first. I decided on "Milk Chocolate-Dulce de Leche Bars" in Carole's Cookie Chapter. Coincidentally, she said it is one of her favorite recipes, too. Enjoy!

Milk Chocolate-Dulce de Leche Bars

Milk Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars

These potent bars have three layers, a coconut and brown sugar crust, a Dulce de Leche (caramel) filling, and a glaze of dark milk chocolate. You can cut these into smaller bite-size pieces, if you like.

Makes 2 ½ dozen 1 x 2 ½-inch bars Special equipment: 9 x 13-inch baking pan

Crust: 4 ounces (8 tablespoons, 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 1 cup (2 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut 1 cup (6 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar 1 cup (4 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon kosher or fine-grained sea salt

Dulce de Leche filling: 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Glaze: 13 ounces dark milk chocolate (38% to 42% cacao content), finely chopped

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the inside of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, pressing it into the pan, and letting it hang over the short edges.

For the crust, melt the butter in a 1-quart saucepan over low heat. Place the coconut, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a 2-quart mixing bowl and toss to blend thoroughly. Pour the melted butter into this mixture and use a rubber spatula to stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and press it in evenly, making sure it reaches into the corners.

Bake the crust for 15 to 18 minutes, until light golden and set. Remove the baking pan from the oven and cool it completely on a rack.

For the Dulce de Leche filling, combine the sweetened condensed milk, the unsalted butter, and the corn syrup in a 2-quart heavy-duty saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat until it thickens and turns a deep beige color. Pour the filling over the cooled crust, using an offset spatula to spread it evenly. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the filling begins to bubble. Remove the baking pan from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool completely.

For the glaze, melt the dark milk chocolate in the top of a double boiler over warm water, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula. Or melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on low power for 30 seconds bursts, stirring between each burst. Remove the top pan or bowl of the double boiler, if using, and wipe it dry.

Pour the melted chocolate over the top of the Dulce de Leche filling and use an offset spatula to quickly spread it evenly. Tap the pan gently on the counter top to release any air bubbles in the chocolate. Chill the pan for 10 minutes to begin to set the chocolate then let it set completely at room temperature.

Lift the bars from the pan by holding the edges of the parchment paper then peel the parchment paper away from the sides of the bars. Use a chef’s knife dipped in hot water and dried to trim off all of the edges. Use a ruler to help measure where to cut and cut into 1 x 2 ½-inch bars, cleaning the knife between each cut.

Serve the bars at room temperature.

Keeping Store the bars in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper at room temperature up to 3 days.

Streamlining The crust and the filling can be baked the day before adding the dark milk chocolate glaze.

Carole Bloom is a personal friend, and an accomplished European-trained pastry chef, confectioner, chocolatier, and best selling author, speaker, and teacher. For more information on Carole, please visit Carole Bloom.

Please share if you have a "chocolate lover" or "cookie monster" in your life.