Thursday, December 10, 2009

Classes at Draeger's with Bissinger's Chocolate

I recently had the opportunity to teach two chocolate classes at Draeger's Markets, one in Blackhawk and one in San Mateo. I was featuring Bissinger's chocolate and holiday desserts from my book Unforgettable Desserts - with lots of do-ahead tips for the holidays. These stores are fabulous, from the very well-stocked book department
to the huge housewares department and their well-known, backlit gourmet section

Bissinger's display was complete with their exquisite chocolate dipped glaceed oranges (seen at the top of the blog entry), special holiday packaging, standards such as their caramel selection (you Have to try the Chardonnay Salt Caramel) and even a gigantic Santa.

Here is the display we arranged in the fabulous glass-walled teaching studio. On the left are the chocolate covered mints, the middle plate has bite-sized caramels and chocolate coconut clusters. The plate on the right has the amazing chocolate dipped oranges, which I can eat all day long.

The class was well attended and the teaching kitchen is the best I have worked in. There are the two screens showing my handiwork up close and with a maximum of about 30 people, everyone can see and hear easily.

I taught Easy-to-Make Holiday Desserts, all from my new book, Unforgettable Desserts. I strive to always point out where you can make components ahead. Especially at the holidays, anything that helps the host/baker save time is a boon! We made Florentine Bars with Candied Orange and Cherries, Blackout Cake, Spiced Pear and White Chocolate Tiramisu Trifle and Pomegranate Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Chocolate Sauce. The trifle first appeared on the 2007 cover of Bon Appetit magazine and you can find the recipe HERE. The photo was taken by Con Poulos (please check out his work) and my desserts have never looked so good.
Below in the foreground you can see the Blackout Cake in its entirety. I am whisking the pudding component in the pic. This incredibly rich, moist cake is super easy. The pudding, which acts as filling and "frosting", is made in one pot on the stove. The cake component can be whisked together in a bowl - no mixer needed. I'm telling you this is the Best birthday cake for chocolate lovers.

In this next picture you can almost see that I am using an offset spatula to spread the florentine topping on top of the par-baked shortbread base. Whenever you are spreading something in a pan like this, an offset spatula makes it a breeze.

Here I am sampling out the Florentine Bars (drizzled with Bissinger's 60% bittersweet chocolate) along with bite-sized samples of the panna cotta, here chilled in Bissinger's chocolate cups.

Try the Florentines today. They are also wonderful with bright red dried cranberries and candied lemon peel.

Florentine Bars with Candied Orange and Cherries

Makes 40 squares


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Florentine filling:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons honey

1 cup sliced blanched almonds

1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

1/2 cup diced candied orange peel

1/4 cup all-purpose flour


2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (such as Bissinger's 60%), melted

For the Shortbread: Position rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9-inch pan with non-stick spray, line bottom with parchment cut to fit, then spray parchment.

Whisk flour and salt together in a small bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.

Beat butter until creamy with flat paddle on medium-high speed, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat, about 3 minutes at medium-high speed, until very light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Gradually add flour, mixing just until blended, scraping down bowl once or twice. Pat crust into an even layer in prepared pan.

Bake crust about 20 to 25 minutes or until just beginning to turn very light golden brown along the edges; it should be dry to the touch. Prepare filling while crust is baking.

For the Filling: Place butter, sugar cream and honey in a medium sized saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Turn heat to medium-high, bring to a boil and cook to 235 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in nuts, fruit and flour until well combined.

Pour filling over partially baked crust and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is bubbling all over and has turned light golden brown all over. Color might be darker around edges. Cool pan completely on rack.

For the Topping: Place melted chocolate in a parchment cone and make a free-form zigzag pattern all over the bars. Chill to set chocolate; cut into 40 bars (5x8). Refrigerate for up to 1 week in airtight container in single layers separated by parchment paper. Bring to room temperature before serving.

I could not have done it without the Draeger's staff. Check out their class schedule and sign up for classes if you can.

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