Peppermint Chocolate Cherry Almond Bark

Who doesn't love chocolate.. and what better, than to make it and give it away as gifts! In 
my home it's a tradition to start our baking when the kids have Thanksgiving break. This week
our youngest was off earlier than usual so here we are, celebrating mom and daughter time and looking forward to the holidays with Peppermint Chocolate Cherry Almond Bark. 

This is the easiest candy to make.. you don't even need a candy thermometer, which I love. Every year when I pull mine out to use, it's either broken or just not calculating the correct temperature. So voila!! No stress about running out to grab a thermometer.. this time! While I have a link to Callebaut chocolates, you can use another good quality chocolate, I think Ghirardelli Chocolates are yummy too. Quite a few years ago I was fortunate enough to find this chocolate in a local candy making store and I fell in love with the taste and texture. Oh my.. it's so buttery and smooth! I hope you enjoy.. Buon Appetito and Happy Holidays!!

1 block good quality dark chocolate (minus a few extra squares)
1 block good quality milk chocolate (minus a few extra squares)
* a few extra squares of chocolate for tempering
1 cup white chocolate nibs or chips
2 tsp. solid coconut oil (you can use vegetable oil also)
1 cup crushed peppermint candies
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup dried cherries
Offset spatula
Baking sheet covered with parchment paper
Wooden skewer or knife

1. In a heat proof bowl, add your white chocolate nibs and 1 tsp. of coconut oil. Heat for 1 minute in microwave oven. Stir and heat again for 30 seconds. Stir again and it should be ready.
2. On the stove top in a heavy duty pan, add 1 tsp. of coconut oil and all but a few blocks of the dark and milk chocolate. *The saved chocolate will be used for tempering. Heat on medium low heat so the chocolate melts slowly without it scorching.
3. When chocolate is melted, take it off the heat and add a few of the extra chocolate squares.
Stir till incorporated.
4. On prepared baking sheet, pour your dark/milk chocolate blend onto the paper. With the offset spatula smooth it out across the paper to fill the parchment.
5. With a spoon, drizzle the white chocolate horizontally across the dark chocolate to create lines.
((Pictured below))
6. With your skewer or knife, run up and down through the white and dark chocolates to create the swirl pattern. ((Pictured below))
7. Sprinkle Peppermint candies, dried cherries and chopped almonds on top.
8. Chill in refrigerator till firm. Cut diagonally or in long strips, or for a rough look, break into pieces. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator. 

Quite a few years ago I was fortunate enough to find Callebaut Chocolate in a local candy 
making store, and I fell in love with the taste and texture. 

   Pour the white chocolate horizontally across the dark chocolate to create lines. 
   With your skewer or knife, run up and down through the white and dark chocolates to       create the swirl pattern.

A Roasted Vegetable and Fontina Cheese Terrine
in a Savory Basil Pastry

This is one of those recipes that rarely leaves my mind but hardly ever makes an appearance to the table. It is so delicious, not to difficult to make, a family favorite and can be made ahead and served for a weekend brunch or a light dinner with a salad. I brought it out of my memory banks because of the esthetic beauty of this dish and how lovely I think it will be, placed on a holiday table with all the other wonderful side dishes, whether your making a home style turkey or an elegant prime rib.

I have been making pastry dough's for years. I've tried every recipe possible and have never had just one that I could say was my absolutely favorite.. until now. The combination of ice water and cold cream blended with very cold butter that is rubbed into a savory basil laced flour made for one of the most flaky aromatic dough's I have ever had. The trick always with pastry dough is keeping it cold. For this, I have two sets of flour at home. I have my cold flour for pastries kept in it's original bag and then placed in a tightly sealed freezer bag in my freezer and then I have my bread flour kept at room temperature in my pantry. When making pastry you will hear time and time again how important it is to use cold ingredients.. THIS IS KEY!

While preparing this recipe, after I rolled out my terrine layers I put them back into the freezer and covered them for 15 minutes while I did some clean up.

The other element to this dough that made it so flavorful was the incorporation of the julienne slices of basil mixed with the flour before the rest of the ingredients were combined.

This dough was a winner and it will find a comfy home in my tried and true recipe spot that will be handed down to the next generation of happy homemakers! :)

Roasted Vegetables & Fontina Cheese

2 Zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 -inch slices
2 red bell peppers cored, seeded & sliced
5 Roma Tomatoes Sliced ¼ inch thickness
1 Sweet Onion, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1 Cipolini Onion
5 carrots sliced
1 garlic, top cut off for roasting
3 Fresh Rosemary Sprigs finely chopped
3 Fresh Thyme Sprigs finely chopped
10 – 12 large basil leaves cleaned and dried left whole
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

*Fontina Cheese 8 – 10 ¼ inch slices

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Lay all sliced vegetables except herbs on baking sheets. You will probably need 4 large baking/cookie sheets. Sprinkle half of the vegetables with chopped rosemary and the other half with chopped thyme. Reserve some chopped thyme for roasting garlic. Place garlic with top cut off in a foil pouch. Sprinkle with kosher salt, fresh thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. Close and seal pouch and place on one of the cookie sheets with vegetables surrounding. Drizzle all vegetables with olive oil, season with cracked black pepper and kosher salt.
Bake for 35- 45 minutes. Vegetables should be browned and caramelized. The tomatoes at this point will be beautifully sweet and almost dry.

(Makes Enough For 1 (9-INCH) Double Crust Pie)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 basil leaves clean and dried julienned
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2-teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons ice water
5 tablespoons cream or half and half

Add julienned basil to flour. Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
Stir together cold water and cream.
Drizzle 5 to 6 Tbsp ice cold liquids evenly over mixture. Gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful of dough: if it doesn't hold together, add more liquid, 1/2 Tbsp at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough. Turn out onto a work surface and divide into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one. Press into a ball, then flatten into 2 (5-inch) disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, as least 1 hour.

I used my ravioli cutter to slice up the dough to fit perfectly in the terrine. Then I layered the vegetable ingredients and applied a good amount of weight to form good compression. The layering of this dish is really to your own liking. All you need to do is repeat your layering pattern with the vegetables and cheese. When all ingredients are used up, lay the last piece of dough on top and fold over edges and pinch to seal. Prick all over with fork. Brush an egg/milk wash on top and bake in a 400 degree oven till pastry is cooked through, 40 - 45 minutes.
(If pastry is browning to quickly cover with a foil tent)
When cool remove from terrine. Slice in 1/2 inch thicknesses.
Buon Appetito!

Two Toned Cocoa and Amaretto Pizzelles

Pizzelles.. they are the quintessential Italian treat that look wonderful plated at an elegant dessert table with it's beautiful floral lace pattern and it's crisp texture. It is a quick an easy cookie to prepare that is the talk of the room at many school parties or family get-together's.

The traditional recipe calls for anise and anise seeds..yes, like my Spungna Di Biscotti Cake.. but also like the Biscotti, it works well with many flavorings. During the holidays I'll give Pizzelle cookies as gift's, side-dipped in a chocolate coating and for more of a festive look sometimes sprinkled with fine glittery candies.

Here I made a two toned pizzelle with cocoa on one side and a dousing of Amaretto in the lighter version. Oh so yummy and flavorful,
and according to my husband, addictive.
Amaretto Pizzelles
(Makes about 2-3 dozen)

3 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon amaretto liqueur
1-3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar.
Add the butter, vanilla, and amaretto.
Add the flour and baking powder and mix well.
The batter should be stiff enough to be dropped by spoon.
The batter can also be refrigerated for later use.

Cocoa Pizzelles
(Makes about 30)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa together in a bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Whisk until combined.
Add the flour mixture and blend until smooth.

*Heat the pizzelle baker and follow the directions for How to Make a Pizzelle.
Put half a teaspoon of each, cocoa and amaretto, side by side onto the iron to achieve the two toned affect. It takes practice.. but the result is beautiful and delicious!