Food and Fiction: Mercy’s Trouble Chocolate

Alright, it’s chocolate-centric week, because I’m most likely in Belgium right now, gallivanting about and visiting chocolate shops. However, that is something I’ll probably be blogging about much later in the week when I get back from vacation, and instead, this is more along the lines of “Oh, hey, I finally finished Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs and I want to talk about chocolate chip cookies!”

Or chocolate in general.

So just a quick summary of the book and the Mercy Thompson universe: Silence Fallen is the tenth installation of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, and revolves around Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman, now the mate of the Columbia Basin’s Alpha werewolf. For those who are a fan of–or who have read–the series, you’ll know at this point that Mercy is living a rather eclectic life as a mechanic and non-werewolf wife. She’s also a shape-shifting coyote, is friends with a powerful fae, is bonded to an equally powerful vampire, and has adopted a fire-generating fae spirit. Mercy can also see and command ghosts. So. Yeah. Not a normal life by any means, and things just escalate from there.

One of my favorite things about Mercy is the fact that she bakes cookies. You laugh at this minute detail, but seriously, she does a lot of baking in the books. I admire her for that, because honestly, how does she find the time between being kidnapped by vampires and having to fend for herself against the Gray Lords and coyote-hating pack members? But she does, and in the beginning of Silence Fallen legit starts with her trying to bake cookies.

Of course, everything goes horribly wrong afterwards, but that’s besides the point.

The point is, I ended up with a craving for chocolate chip cookies. So I made them.

Thankfully, I wasn’t making cookies for a pack of werewolves, so I didn’t have to worry about lack of ingredients! So no vampire-induced car accidents here!

I was, however, baking these cookies for a get-together, so I decided to add a bit of extra into it. Mmm…coffee chocolate chip cookies here we come!

I used the recipe from Cathy at Lemon Tree Dwelling. And they came out delicious, by the way!

The coffee flavor came out, and the cookies themselves were seriously disappearing pretty quickly! I’d definitely make them again.

Anyway, I’ll end it there. Gotta run and frolic!

This post counts as #3 of my Food and Fiction Challenge.

Food and Fandom: Hodor

The fall season is practically the funnest and busiest time for me, and honestly, most of the “busy” bit tends to fall on October and November, especially since I’m spending half that time baking goodies for relatives and friends. I also have two siblings sharing the same birthday month, so I definitely had to step it up and make them something extra creative. My sister already got a Nyan Cake, so at this point, I was all caked out.

Which meant when my brother’s turn came, I wanted to do something else.

Cue the brownies. And the zombies. And the Game of Thrones reference.

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Thank you, Erin Browne, for the Ooey Gooey Fudge Brownies Recipe! I’ve made these brownies a few times now, and they’ve always been real delicious (although, yes, again, I made alterations according to my semi-sweet vs. dark chocolate taste buds).

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 Tbsp flour for coating chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven 350 F. Coat 8×8 baking dish with light layer of cooking spray (or, well, if you want to take the brownies easily out of the dish, line the dish with parchment paper).

Combine sugar, butter, vanilla until smooth and fluffy. Sift dry ingredients in different bowl. Beat eggs slowly into sugar mixture until combined. Add flour mixture 1-2 cups at a time, mix until combined.

Coat chocolate chips into 1 Tbsp flour, then fold into brownie batter. Pour into pan, level with rubber spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Some Changes: I actually like adding a bit of a dark chocolate glaze to smooth out the top of the brownie, but for this particular case, I didn’t, because my sister wanted a rougher look to our “brownie door.” I also didn’t have any dark chocolate chips in my cupboard at the time, but I did use my last batch of Jacques Torres dark chocolate (which is AMAZING, by the way), so I just broke that up into pieces and tossed it into the Tbsp of flour. For pans that are larger than 8×8, I would suggest lessening the baking time, which I did. I think 20 minutes was my maximum, to be honest. The only other thing I would also point out is that I found this set of brownies was a little less gooey than the previous times I’d baked it. I’m thinking it’s because my eggs were medium-sized, so I’d probably go with larger eggs whenever I make these brownies again.

Hodor Brownies

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not watched the latest season of HBO’s Game of Thrones and don’t plan on getting a face-full of spoilers, you might want to skip the rest of this post altogether, because uh, yeah. For the brownie is dark and full of spoilers.

Onto the decorations…

My sister and I had already decided early on what we wanted to do for our brother on his birthday. In fact, it would have been PERFECT had we managed to get the Hodor Funko Pop doll, but it was already vaulted, and neither of us were too keen on paying an exorbitant amount of money just for a tiny decorative figure (even if it IS Hodor). So we decided on the next best thing:

A Hodor cake. Because my brother must always be taught that we respect men who hold doors.

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Too soon? Yeah, my brother thought so, too.

With my sister’s help–because she’s the more artistic one–we proceeded to gather up some colored melting chocolates to use as our brownie topping. Using this picture as reference, my sister began her awesome piping skillz and started sketching out the epic Hodor image that continues to haunt my siblings and me even now.

Alright, you can stop crying now, guys.

Food and Fandom: Dread Wolf’s Toffee

Alright, this may seem like the thinnest and most random connection to a fandom, but I swear there is a story to this. And it went mostly like this:

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So there I was, sittin’ all innocent-like, and the thought of toffee (and Dragon Age: Inquisition) became forever marked for me. AND IT’S ALL MY FRIEND’S FAULT, I TELL YA.

But enough about that, a little about the fandom (Also, SPOILER ALERT?):

Dragon Age Inquisition is the third installment of Bioware’s ever-popular epic fantasy RPG: Dragon Age. It has dragons (duh). It has kickass women holding all sorts of power (including my own lovely Inquisitor). It has witty party banter and mind-blowingly beautiful scenery. It has all the magicky goodness I could ever ask for.

And most of all: it has men. Elf-men, hu-men, qunari, dwarf. It’s just thriving with romanceable characters of hetero, homo, and bi-sexualities, and honestly, the game brooks no apologies in dashing your heart to pieces or elevating your character’s relationship goals to a higher plane. Which is probably why I keep playing the game over and over and over again. It’s my umpteenth time starting it right now (as a male dwarf warrior, of all things…).

Anyway, there’s this character that wouldn’t have been my typical go-to character, only I’m a pervy elf fancier for the most part (this seems to be true for several games I’ve played that have elf-characters…), and he’s got swag:

Hem hem. Anyway, the toffee conversation happened. I will say this: I can see chocolate almond toffee as a type of food that could describe Solas in a sense. The elf-man runs a particularly massive deception throughout the entire game, and it isn’t until the very end of DAI where the player even sees the extent of Solas’ role in the story. Kind of like my toffee. The entire time my sister thought it was a brownie, up until she bit into it and realized it had the texture of a cookie. A caramelized cookie filled with complication after complication.

But now I’m waxing profundity. So I’ll just go straight to the toffee now…

Chocolate Almond Toffee

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The recipe comes from Chungah @ Damn Delicious, though since I didn’t have pecans or whole almonds at the time, I did, as usual, improvise a bit.

Altered Ingredients

  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks (for easier melting)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I used a mixture of semi-sweet and dark choco chips)

Spread almonds on baking sheet (I used a silicon mat). Toast almonds at 350 F for 10 minutes in oven. Set aside. (I separated 1/3 cup of the toasted almonds to replace the pecans).

In saucepan, combine butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk constantly until mixture turns a light caramel brown color. It took me about 15 minutes to get the color I wanted.

Spread mixture over the almonds evenly. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips and wait 1-2 minutes. Use rubber spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the caramel mixture.

Sprinkle the 1/3 cup of toasted almonds on top.

Verdict: They’re actually very good, albeit on the sweet side. I might actually take Chungah’s advice about using whole almonds instead of sliced ones at the bottom, though I didn’t actually mind using the sliced almonds on top. Maybe walnuts might cut in the sweetness even more. Also, I’m not a big fan of semi-sweet chocolate for anything, so I might just use dark chocolate chips if I ever make toffee next time.

So yes. I’m sure the Dread Wolf would approve.

Food and Fandom: Shades of Magic

It’s also been a while since I’ve actually done a Food and Fandom post, hasn’t it? Yeah, I’ve been real bad at keeping that going. (To be fair, the Mediterranean feast I had planned kind of went out the window when someone else broiled my lamb steaks, lol! Not that I minded too much…it was cooked really well that I had no complaints.)

However, time to get back to getting my feet wet, as it were.

So one of my birthday presents was this structure of loveliness:

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This, my friends, is a wafflemaker. Isn’t it glorious?

Anyway, fast forward a month and a half later, and I still hadn’t made my own waffles. I mean, my sister’s utilized it at least four or five times since, but me? Nope. Hadn’t been compelled to experiment just yet.

Until the other day, when I decided, welp, might as well try something! (It might also have helped that we had fresh strawberries in the fridge…)

Shades of Magic

“Sure I do,” countered Lila cheerfully. “There’s Dull London, Kell London, Creepy London, and Dead London,” she recited, ticking them off on her fingers. “See? I’m a fast learner.”

I cannot gush about this series enough. I am terribly excited over the third book coming out next year. (“Terribly excited” is putting it lightly, considering I practically garbled my squeeing whenever I hear news about A Conjuring of Light on Schwab’s Instagram.) I have done an interpretation of A Darker Shade of Magic a ways back after I’d read the book, but honestly, I could have gone about it more elegantly.

For those who’ve not heard of the series yet…

So there’s this author named Victoria Schwab. She goes by V.E. Schwab for her adult novels, and she’s written the Shades of Magic series under this name. So far, A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows are out. They are absolutely fantastic books, and there are not enough words for me to tell you how many feels I had for both books (mostly for AGoS, because HOLY HELL THE KISSING ALONE). Come 2017, A Conjuring of Light will be released.

The series takes place in a world with four Londons. It’s about magic and of magicians long-thought to be extinct. It’s about a darkness seeping out of Black London and corrupting its parallel counterparts. It’s about a boy and his coat, a girl and her hat, and a prince and his crown. It’s about freedom at the expense of sacrifice, and shackles at the expense of love. It’s a lot of things to a lot of people, and honestly, I could go on and gush about this series, but all I’m really trying to say is READ IT READ IT READ IT.

So. This waffle. I’m eventually getting there, I swear!

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I feel like it was the culmination of the first two books. And doesn’t the shape look like the cover for ADSoM? No? Not even when you squint?

Oh well.

In any case, as I sat there, eating away at the strawberry waffle, I thought: gee, this does sum up the loveliness of Shades of Magic in all its parts. There’s the strawberry waffle itself, which I’ve now decided is Red London. There’s the sprinkle of Black London in its attempt to take over in the form of melty chocolate chips. There’s White London with its magical syrupy goodness, also on the cusp, reaching into the depths of Red London in its attempts to make way for a lone powerful force. And then there’s Grey London, just chilling on the side.

Okay, maybe I am reaching for it. But this is totally what I saw when I was taking pictures of my waffles!

Strawberry Waffles

Making the batter itself wasn’t too hard. I got the recipe from Sprinkle Some Sugar, with only two changes, really.

1. I never really use actual buttermilk, because I hate storing that in the fridge. My grocery store always sells buttermilk in half-gallons, and I never use that much in a span of a month. So I substituted.

(In hindsight, I should have used whole milk to enable more fat to curdle, but my buttermilk substitute was the following: for every cup of 2 percent milk, stir in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.)

2. I added the strawberries. We had plenty in the fridge, and I do love myself some strawberry waffles, so I cut a bunch up and threw them in the batter.

And then I let the wafflemaker do its thing!

Verdict: Add a bit of maple syrup, scramble some eggs, and cook bacon, and holy hell, that is one breakfast you can food coma over!

The Ever-Green Oreo Matcha Cake

This is the story of a cake that went through various stages of indecisiveness. On my part, of course. Not so much the cake’s. Frankly, I think the cake didn’t really care what direction it went, so long as it was going somewhere. Mostly in everyone else’s tummies.

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So my brother graduated from college this week, and that in itself was cause for celebration. And baking. Lots of baking. When I asked him what flavor he was feeling cake-wise, he had easily responded with “cookies and cream” (with a wily smiley, may I add). No brainer. I was totally doing something Oreo-related in that case.

Matcha Oreo Cookie Cake

First off, the recipe itself was kind of a conglomeration of two recipes: the cake came from Lindsay’s Life, Love, and Sugar blog, while the frosting came from Sara’s Our Best Bites. Honestly, if I hadn’t been so averse to actually using shortening on my frosting, I probably would have stuck with Lindsay’s recipe from beginning to end. I’m still not sure how I feel about Sara’s buttercream icing, it was far too Magnolia Bakery buttery for me (and I’m not a big fan of Magnolia icing, to be honest). That said, I made the executive decision to add some matcha powder, so I went from having just a regular Oreo cake to a deliciously not-too-sweet matcha Oreo cake.

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Which, to be honest, worked in the frosting’s favor.

The Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (I substituted this with 1 cup whole milk and a teaspoon of lemon juice)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water

For the step-by-step instructions, visit Lindsay’s site.

The Frosting

12 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk (I used whole milk)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp matcha powder
13-14 diced Oreo cookies (I used 14 of the Birthday-filled Oreos)

For the step-by-step instructions, visit Sara’s site.

Some Changes

** Depending on the oven (and the size of your pan), the bake-time could very well vary. Because I’d broken my cake up to six small rounds (three circular cakes stacked in two), the cakes would be much higher and more baking time was required for both batches. This could also be attributed to my oven, which is old and who knows what temperature it was on when I set it to 300 F. My bakes took approximately 30 minutes for the first batch (which I’d divided into 1-cup batters) and 40 minutes for the second (which I’d divided into 1 1/2-cup batters).

** The only thing extra I added was the matcha powder in the frosting. This was mixed in BEFORE I folded in the Oreo cookie crumbs. Usually matcha-flavored things tend to turn the white bakes into a beautiful light green color, though it got much darker after the Oreo cookies went into the mix. Not a big deal, but given the option, I prefer matcha over Oreos any day. That said, it was my brother’s express wish for cookies and cream…

Some Assembly Necessary

As I said before, I wasn’t a big fan of the frosting. Because it didn’t rely on a powdered sugar base, it was difficult to work with; it was super soft, light, and it hadn’t reached my ideal kind of stiffness by the time I’d finished mixing it. As such, assembling the first of my cakes was borderline disastrous.

But I pulled through by throwing the frosting into the fridge to harden a bit, just so I could work with it.

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Verdict: Now, my piping skills aren’t great, but I liked how it came out! The frosting wasn’t as sweet and as buttery as I feared it would get, especially after the addition of the matcha. The chocolate cake itself was delicious and moist. And the family is quite happy with the results, which was the important part!