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Chocolate Magic (February 20, 2002)


You've got the flu, it's cold and miserable, and no one seemed to remember that Valentine's Day was last week. Sob...

Chocolate is clearly the answer, and help is truly at hand with two fabulous dessert cookbooks that promise divine rewards in a really short time... it is true, you know: "Life is too short; eat dessert first!" So let's get started.

Who else but Duncan Hines and Professional Home Economist Jill Snider could produce Cake Mix Magic, 125 good as homemade, scrumptious, sinful and decadent desserts all starting with a mix in a box! One glance at the cover said we simply had to own this book; just thumbing through trying not to drool on the gorgeous colour photographs was simply not enough. Snider, who is a very talented baker, gives excellent information about ingredients as well as a multitude of baking tips for making everything from single layer cakes to multi-layer concoctions, bundt and coffee cakes, muffins, cookies, bars and squares plus loads of frostings, fillings and glazes.

And not to be outdone, another giant in the baking business has given us Baker's Best Chocolate Cookbook. From the enthusiastic staff of food professionals in the Baker's Kitchens come 125 mouth-watering, triple tested chocolate recipes from Kid's treats and brownies to anytime, everyday desserts to celebration and dinner party creations. You'll find excellent step-by-step advice throughout the book, plus important tips on working with chocolate, and, of course, all those luscious colour photographs.

So? No valentines? No dinner and champagne? Ha, have them all over for desserts at your place, and we guarantee your message box will never be empty again!

Accompanying wine?
Tony Recommends...

a look at my article on wine and chocolate for details on how to combine the two.

On today's menu:

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe PDF (131 KB)

White Chocolate Apricot Biscotti

  From Baker's Best Chocolate Cookbook comes a lovely variation on the basic biscotti, this one with white chocolate and apricots. Biscotti are much easier than you think, and once you've done them from scratch, you won't ever go back to store-bought! These are perfect for coffee with best friends or as a light, elegant dessert after dinner.

Makes about 40 cookies

½ cup butter or margarine (125 mL)
1½ cups sugar (375 mL)
2 eggs
3 squares white chocolate, melted and cooled
2¾ cups all-purpose flour (675 mL)
2½ tsp. baking powder (12 mL)
1 tsp. salt (5 mL)
¼ cup orange juice (50 mL)
1 tsp. almond extract (5 mL)
3 squares white chocolate, shopped
¾ cup each coarsely chopped, toasted whole almonds and dried apricots (175 mL)
white and bittersweet chocolate (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and flour two cookie sheets.

Beat butter with sugar and eggs. Beat in melted chocolate. Add remaining ingredients, beating until well blended. Dough will be sticky.

Spoon half of the dough onto each cookie sheet, shaping each into a long log, about 2 inches (5cm) wide.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden. Cool 10 minutes. Cut longs into ¾ inch (2cm) wide slices.

Place slices onto cookie sheets. Return to oven and bake 20 minutes longer, turning cookies over once during baking. Cool completely. If desired, dip cookies in melted white and or bittersweet chocolate.

Store in airtight container.

Note: Can be prepared two weeks ahead. Cookies will keep for 3 months in freezer.

Chunky Chocolate Pecan Cookies

  Great big fat cookies from a cake mix? Ohhhhh yes, and in a hurry too, from Cake Mix Magic. While we love chocolate chips and pecans, you can vary the type of nuts and chocolate to suit your own taste buds! An ultimate? Macadamia nuts and white chocolate chunks…bliss!

Makes about 4½ dozen cookies

1 pkg. (18.25 oz/515 g) white cake mix
½ cup butter, melted (125 mL)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract (5 mL)

1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips (375 mL)
1¼ cups coarsely chopped pecans (300 mL)

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

In a large mixer bowl, combine cake mix, melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Beat on low speed for 1 minute or just until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until light golden. Cool 1 minute or until firm on baking sheets, then remove to racks and cool completely.

Crunch 'n' Cream Chocolate Torte

  Is your idea of an ultimate dessert your favourite candy bar and cake, too? We thought so, it's ours too! This "crunch" torte uses 4 bars (Jill and Ron both favour Skor) plus the cake, plus the whipped cream filling. No wonder this one is on the cover of Cake Mix Magic!

Serves 10 to 12

1 pkg. (18.25 oz/515 g) devil's food cake mix
Chocolate whipped cream filling (recipe follows)
4 toffee-crunch chocolate bars (each 1.4 oz/39 g), crushed

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Prepare and bake cake according to package directions to make two 9-inch (23 cm) greased and floured round cake layers. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes, then remove layers and cool completely. With a long, sharp knife, cut each layer horizontally in half to make 4 layers.

Prepare chocolate whipped cream filling:

2 cups whipping cream 35% b.f. (500 mL)
½ cup granulated sugar (125 mL)
1/3 cup cocoa, sifted (75 mL)
1 cup crushed chocolate toffee bars (Skor, Heath, Butterfinger) (250 mL)

In a small mixer bowl, combine cream, sugar and cocoa. Chill 15 minutes. Beat mixture to stiff peaks. Fold in ¾ cup crushed chocolate bars.

To assemble:
Place 1 halved cake layer on a serving plate. Spread with one-quarter of the filling. Repeat layering with remaining cake layers and filling. Sprinkle remaining crushed chocolate bar on top. Chill until serving. Store leftover cake in refrigerator.

An excellent tip from the book: Prepare the cake layers ahead and freeze; dessert can then be assembled as needed in just a few minutes.

Decadent Chocolate Bundt Cake

  Cake Mix Magic gives us this easy, moist and loaded-with-chocolate cake! It's baked in a bundt pan and, to us, looks all the more special. You can make a sweeter variation by using all the chips for the cake and then frosting with a ready-to-serve version, or try replacing the milk chocolate chips with semi-sweet or white. Any combo will do here!

Serves 12 to 16

1 pkg. (18.25 oz/515 g) devil's food cake mix
1 pkg. (4 serving size) chocolate instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream (250 mL)
½ cup water (125 mL)
1 cup milk chocolate chips (250 mL)

2/3 cup milk chocolate chips, melted (150 mL)
1/3 cup sour cream (75 mL)

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

In a large mixer bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream and water. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 25 minutes in pan on a wire rack, then remove cake and cool completely.

Combine melted chocolate chips and sour cream, stirring until smooth. Spread over to of cake. Cool to let frosting set.

Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake

  Baker's Best Chocolate Cookbook features this ultimate "wow" dinner party dessert. While you will want to plan ahead to make and assemble all the parts, trust us, its much easier than it looks! We loved it all, especially the garnish of chocolate-dipped almonds; it's that sort of touch from the Baker's Home Economists that makes all these recipes so beautiful and professional.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Cookie ring
32 chocolate-dipped round wafer cookie rolls

2 8-oz. (each) pkgs. cream cheese (250 g each)
¾ cup packed brown sugar (175 mL)
1 envelope unflavoured gelatin (7 g)
½ cup almond liqueur (125 mL)
1 cup whipping cream, whipped (250 mL)
6 squares semi-sweet chocolate

1 square semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
whole unblanched almonds

Cookie ring:
Line sides of 8½ inch (22 cm) springform pan with cookies.


Beat cream cheese and sugar with electric mixer until smooth. Sprinkle gelatin over liqueur in saucepan. Let stand 5 minutes to soften. Stir over low heat until gelatin dissolves. Blend warm gelatin into cheese mixture. Fold whipped cream into cheese mixture. Set aside 1 cup (250 mL) of this mixture.

Melt chocolate; cool. Fold into remaining cheese mixture. Spread all but ½ cup (125mL) chocolate mixture into prepared pan; spread plain mixture evenly on top. Top with remaining chocolate mixture; swirl with knife to marble (see pictures at right). Chill at least 3 hours.

Partially melt chocolate over hot water. Remove from heat and continue stirring until completely melted. Dip almonds into chocolate. Chill. Place on top of cookies.

We wish to thank the following:

Bob Dees and Robert Rose Publishing, Toronto, for permission to use recipes and photographs from Duncan Hines Cake Mix Magic by Jill Snider.
Photography: Mark T. Shapiro

Kraft Canada and Baker's Kitchens, and Brimar Publishing, Montreal, for permission to use recipes and photographs from Baker's Best Chocolate Cookbook.
Photography: Nathalie Dumouchel

For more information and to order a cookbook, call the Baker's Hotline at:
Canada: 1-800-268-6450
United States: 1800-431-1001


Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe PDF (131 KB)




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