chocolate cake slices

Brownie Dessert

These homemade brownies are rich, fudgy, and filled with a trio of decadent chocolate.

This is legit the best brownie ever! I know everyone who has ever posted a brownie recipe says that, but this is the one. Typically, I am not a fan of brownies. They are either too dry, or too gooey, leaving a chunk of chocolate to somehow swallow down. These brownies bake up almost cake-like. They are light and airy, packed with flavor, and keep their shape making them perfect for cutting into various shapes and dessert plating.

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Gingerbread Layer Cake

Nothing celebrates the holidays like Gingerbread and a festive cake brings the party to the table. This gingerbread cake combines the two, bakes up moist and delicious, and is frosted with a whipped cream frosting and topped with a gingerbread man. It is a dessert that will impress.


Candy canes, mistletoe, and gingerbread are all synonymous with Christmas and take on many forms during the holidays. Its unique flavor comes from ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and typically molasses. If you are not building with it, you are probably making cookies, loafs, or cake. Oddly enough, not bread.

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Chocolate Mint Tart

A decadent chocolate mint tart! A baked chocolate pie crust topped with layers of mint white chocolate and dark chocolate ganaches.

If you have been following my blog, you already know my garden is the inspiration for many of my recipes. You also know I adore my herbs. None more than my chocolate mint. Just working in the garden, a gentle bump against these fragrant beauties releases the most glorious aroma. You’ve heard the saying, stop and smell the roses. I rather stop and smell the chocolate mint which I do each time I get a whiff of them.

I’m bringing all those wonderful smells into this tart. The mint ganache layer incorporates fresh mint leaves in a homemade chocolate mint extract. This adds that extra freshness to the mint ganache layer which is so much better than an imitation extract that can taste a bit like chemicals. Using a dark chocolate balances the mint for that perfect balance between the layers.

*Chocolate Mint Extract:

Do you want to make your own extract? Cram a clean canning jar full of fresh chocolate mint herb and cover the herb with vodka. Let it age in the back of a cabinet that does not get any direct sunlight for a minimum of four months. The longer it ages the more intense and beautiful the extract will be. Once distilled drain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and discard the leaves. Store the extract in an airtight jar.

Secret Ingredient:

I actually do not like cocoa powder. I find it to be too bitter for my liking. My trick is to use a cocoa mix instead. It adds a creamier, slightly sweeter, flavor to the dough.

Chocolate Mint Tart

Cedar Oak Farms
This chocolate mint tart is wonderfully reminiscent of an after dinner Andes mint, tucked into a chocolate pastry shell. 
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Chill Time 5 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine French

Ingredients
  

Crust:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Mint Ganache Layer:

  • 9 ounces white chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon *chocolate mint extract
  • Green food coloring, optional

Chocolate Ganache Layer:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • Pinch of Salt

Garnish:

  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, melted
  • White chocolate shaves
  • Dark chocolate shaves
  • Mint Leaves

Instructions
 

Make Crust:

  • Place the butter into the bowl of a stand-up mixer. Sift in the powdered sugar through a fine-mesh sieve. Turn the mixture on medium and beat until smooth.
  • Beat the egg and add half at a time to the butter mixture, beating well to incorporate between additions.
  • In a medium bowl sift the flour and peppermint cocoa powder together. Add to the butter mixture.
  • Using a rubber spatula, mix the cocoa mixture into the dough until evenly distributed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerator for at least 30 minutes
  • Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
  • Grease a 9-inch tart pan and roll out the chilled dough to an 11-inch circle. Roll the dough around the rolling pin, then unroll the dough over the pan.
  • Press the dough against the bottom and sides of the pan, then use the rolling pin to roll over the top of the pan, cutting off any excess dough. Press the dough gently against the pan once more. Using a folk, prick some holes in the bottom of the crust so it doesn’t puff up.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the tart shell from the oven. Let cool completely.

Mint Ganache Layer:

  • Finely chop the white chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl. Place the cream in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in the chocolate mint extract. Pour over the pastry and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until set.

Chocolate Ganache Layer:

  • Finely chop the chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl. In a heavy saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Do not let it boil. Pour the whipping cream over the chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add in the vanilla and salt and stir well until evenly combined.
  • Pour the chocolate ganache on top of the set mint layer in the tart tin and gently tap the tin on your work surface to knock out any air bubbles. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring the tart to the fridge to set for 4 hours (or overnight).

Garnish:

  • Once set, remove the tart from the tart tin. Drizzle the melted dark chocolate over the tart. Garnish with the white and dark chocolate shaves and fresh mint leaves.

Notes

* This recipe assumes you are using a homemade extract. If you are using a store bought extract reduce the amount you use to 1 teaspoon.
Keyword Pies & Tarts

Ginger Panna Cotta

Ginger panna cotta, a cross between pudding and cheesecake, is topped with whip cream and a freshly pressed apple cider granita. All those wonderful Fall flavors we look forward to ever season.

I only recently found, and fell in love, with panna cotta. Just the name alone, panna cotta, sounded complicated enough for me to avoid it. I’m not much of a dessert person to start with and I defiantly am not a baker of any sort. Give me a stock pot and a garden I’ll come away with someone wonderful. Sit down some flour, baking soda, and a copious amount of randomness and I’m like, uhmmm, what am I supposed to do now? So, yes, panna cotta made me shiver in complicated fear. I was wrong!

What is Panna Cotta?

Panna Cotta is Italian Pudding. Basically, it is simmered sweetened dairy, in this recipe I used heavy cream, thickened with gelatin. That’s it! You can add flavors and spices to the dairy and let it simmer into the milk, but it couldn’t be easier. The only thing you want to watch out for is splitting the cream. I avoid that my dissolving the gelatin separately and adding it to the simmered dairy off the heat. Do not let the dairy come to a boil. Boiling destroys gelatin’s thickening power and will split the panna cotta for sure.

Since Fall is in the air I choose to bring all those wonderful fall spices and fruits into the dessert. What could be better than ginger, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and apple cider frozen into an apple cider granita.

What is Granita?

Granita is fresh fruit simmered in water, blended and frozen until icy, flaked with a fork and frozen again. By using apple cider, half the work is already completed. Since granita is basically flavored shaved iced I was generous with the spices to really boost those flavors.

Ginger Panna Cotta

Cedar Oak Farms
Ginger panna cotta, a cross between pudding and cheesecake, is topped with whip cream and a freshly pressed apple cider granita.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Freeze/Refrigerate 12 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

For the Panna Cotta:

  • 1 envelope Knox gelatin
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

For the granita:

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions
 

For the Panna Cotta:

  • Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and set aside. Place the rest of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Do not boil. Remove from heat and whisk in the gelatin milk. (This might look like a paste at this point, but not to worry. It is the perfect consistency.) Pour into 4 cocktail or wine glasses, filling halfway up. Place in the refrigerator until set, about 4 hours.

For the granita:

  • Mix all the ingredients together, and simmer for 15 minutes on low heat. Place in a bowl and freeze for 2 hours. After two hours, mix with a fork and freeze overnight. When ready to serve scrape with a fork to resemble graham cracker crumbs. Reserve any unused granita in the freezer.

To Serve:

  • Serve the panna cotta in the glass, top with some freshly made whipped cream. Add the granita. The granita will melt quickly; serve immediately.
Keyword Custard

Gingered Cantaloupe with Sage Honey.

Fresh fruit makes the simplest dessert and is that perfect sweet ending to any meal.

We always look forward to the early summer garden with fresh corn-on-the-cob and tomatoes bursting in bright vivid colors. But there’s really something to be said about the early fall garden. For us here in Central Illinois that’s when our “orange” fruits and vegetables ripen giving us big beautiful pumpkins, the sweetest sweet potatoes, plump carrots, and a personal favorite, juicy sweet fruits like redhaven peaches and cantaloupe. It’s the cantaloupe that is highlighted in this fruit dessert.

Cantaloupe is perfect sliced in wedges and eaten plain, but if you want to elevate the flavors cut the fruit into melon balls and mix them with freshly grated ginger and a drizzle of sage honey. That peppery tang in the fresh ginger just hits the tongue in the most delightful way and changes the cantaloupe giving it a more dynamic flavor. Then the sage honey comes in with a sweet, clover-like flavor and tames the ginger. But what really brings it all together is the floral undertones in all three of the ingredients. The flavors explode in your mouth and then come together in a gentle swaying dance.

Just use a light hand with both the ginger and honey. Fresh ginger can be very potent and can overtake the more mellow cantaloupe. You know the rule: you can always add more, but you cannot take it away.