Dear Cold Brewed Chocolate, You Are Like Hot Chocolate’s Older, More Sophisticated Sibling

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Many moons ago, I learned of cold brewed coffee, a wonderful concoction in which coffee is brewed in cold water over the course of 10 or 12 hours, when it was mentioned in Cory Doctorow’s fantastic novel Homeland. Of course, I immediately had to put the book down, grind up half a cup’s worth of coffee beans and immerse them in two cups of water. As these were the days I worked night shift, I brought my brew with me and downed the whole thing 10 hours later… which was approximately 12:00 at night.

Those who have drank undiluted cold brew know what’s coming next. Little did I know, cold brewed coffee is highly concentrated. I wound up drinking an entire pot’s worth of caffeine in those two cups and then wondered why I was shaking when I went home an hour later. I, uh, don’t always think things through.

Nonetheless, cold brewed coffee is delicious (in moderation)–it’s stronger and less acidic than its traditionally brewed counterpart. I can thank Cory Doctorow for teaching me about it, which is why, when he posted an article about cold brewed chocolate on his blog the other day, I knew I had to try it.

Dear National Chocolate Cake Day,

National Chocolate Cake Day, it's on. Flickr / gail_thepinkpeppercorn

National Chocolate Cake Day, it’s on. Flickr / gail_thepinkpeppercorn

There’s not much to love about January. There’s the occasional birthday celebration, but other than that there’s no fun excuse to eat and drink with reckless abandon. It’s cold and you find yourself recovering from Christmas and New Year’s—emotionally, physically and financially—at the gym with a million other sweaty people who are also pounding guiltily on the treadmills.

But just as you start to lose hope… there’s a flicker of light. January 27 is National Chocolate Cake Day! The origin of this glorious day seems to be a mystery (but if you know, tell us!). But even if you describe yourself as “not a chocolate person,” you still have an appreciation for this classic dessert.

From the delicate flourless chocolate cake, to Betty Crocker cake mix, to the rich, moist, buried-in-frosting monstrosities you find at chain restaurants, we honor this staple in dessert history with five lovely recipes. Pick one. Make it. And make it your own (and don’t forget to share the recipe).

Food Network: Flourless Chocolate Cake
Bon Appetit: Chocolate Cake with Caramel-Milk Frosting
Epicurious: Chocolate Stout Cake
Barefoot Contessa: Beatty’s Chocolate Cake
Food and Wine: Mom’s Chocolate Cake

Forever in cake,
A

Dear Wafel,

About a month ago, I wandered in to your shop. I saw you on a stroll through the West Loop and wondered, ‘Hm, waffles?’ But you’re so much more than just mere waffles. You’re breakfast, all day. You’re lunch, with chicken sandwiches but instead of bread—you guessed it—it’s a waffle!

And all the coffee. I mean, serious coffee.

I don’t always like waffles for breakfast. But when you combine such delicious food options, how can one not fall in love?

Wafel, please stay.

Love,
A

Dear chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting,

I have to say that making these cupcakes meant more than a treat. This adventure ended with a true appreciation of the ease of baking.

Much of my life, I avoided baking things because it  seemed so difficult. Maybe you’ve been there: You’re on your own for the first time and your only objective is to save all the dollars you can. So whatever is considered ‘excessive’ is immediately off the list (granted, the concept of excessive is wildly subjective). For me, anything beyond basic nutrition was not in the realm of possibility. That meant any baking adventure came with a high bill: Buying pans, aluminum foil, parchment paper, flour, eggs, milk and so on really adds up if you buy it all at once.

That translated to baking = expensive, so I won’t do it often. It’s just not my thing. After spending a few more years on the planet (and slowly accumulating baking tools), the habit of ‘every day items’ finally manifested. And as I pulled out ingredients from my pantry this weekend, I began to muse on this: I smiled at the idea that I decided to make cupcakes on a whim. I was excited that I didn’t need to go to the store for anything (even the frosting!). I thought about each baking tool I used and when I bought it, why I bought it, who I bought it with.

So really, the chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting represented more than just a desire to devour delicious, chocolatey goodness: It’s a milestone in my budding baking life. The foundation has been laid, now it’s time to build the house.

Thanks cupcakes, you’re the best.

Love,
A

Chocolate cupcakes!

Chocolate cupcakes!

Peanut butter frosting makes everything better.

Peanut butter frosting makes everything better.

Dear thin mints,

Let’s put aside our differences for just a moment: Yes, I have a favorite but that doesn’t mean that you should feel bad. Comparing cookies is like apples and oranges. But falling under the cookie umbrella at all gives you a significant advantage in my cookie-loving life.

Thin mints, you are positively beautiful: Covered in chocolate, crunchy chocolate cookie on the inside with a fresh, minty burst. And the secret step of storing you in the freezer? It’s better than ice cream (but of course, frozen thin mints on top of ice cream is even better).

So stick around, thin mints. I like you.

Love,

A

Hello thin mints. I've missed you.

Hello thin mints. I’ve missed you.

Dear caramel delites,

It’s like Christmas every time you come around. I could curl up in a blanket with a hot cuppa anything, grab an entire box and chow down. And had I never tried one, I would never have known that I like the flavor of coconut (yeah sorry, I’m one of those “like the taste, not the texture” people, but something’s better than nothing).

To be honest, it’s a good thing you’re around only once a year. If I could get you whenever I wanted, I’d spend my life buried in a blanket with cookie crumbs all over the place. So thanks, but no thanks, Girl Scouts (but really, give me four boxes)!

Regardless of my expanding waistline, I’m glad you’re here. It’s a delight.

Love,
A

The deceptively addicting Girl Scout Cookie known as the caramel delite.

The deceptively addicting Girl Scout Cookie known as the caramel delite.

Dear chocolate ale,

So this chocolate ale thing is a really big deal. It’s seasonal, but last year, they didn’t release it. But yay 2014! I love beer and I love this beer.

When I heard about it, I imagined it would taste like a chocolate stout (which is silly because ‘ale’ is in the name), but its chocolatey taste is delightfully luxe and refreshing. It’s probably gone now, but I need to get my hands on a bottle. I need it.

Love,
A

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Dear flourless chocolate cake,

The only proper way to end 2013 is with chocolate cake from Pachamama's.

The only proper way to end 2013 is with chocolate cake from Pachamama’s.

When it comes to dessert, I say go big or go home. Don’t bother with Stevia or sugar substitutes, using gluten-free anything, low-fat whatever or anything with the word “skim” on it. Bring on the full-fat, full-sugar madness and don’t leave anything out.

But at a New Year’s Eve dinner at Pachamama’s, I had a flourless chocolate cake. As a novice baker, I thought, ‘How could this be?’ Turns out, it doesn’t matter: This cake was the cake of all cakes in all its cakey, cool, almost fudge-like texture and I don’t care why or how this decision was made (though not to mislead, leaving out flour isn’t always for health reasons). I can’t think of a better way to end 2013 than with the best chocolate cake.

Love,
A