Cookies 'n' Cream Cupcakes

 



I have a little confession to make...






I used a boxed cake mix for this recipe.  (Gasp!)  I know, I know.  It's a shortcut, it's taking the easy way out, it's full of preservatives and hydrogenated oils...  Boxed mixes aren't something I use all that often - I like to bake from scratch - but it's a weeknight, I didn't have a lot of time, and I wanted to get these made to take to work tomorrow...  And let's face it.  Boxed cake mixes do taste pretty good.  Especially when you add a little of this and a little of that to make them even better.




I'm not even sure if I need to feel that guilty over it.  One of my favorite baking blogs almost always starts with a box mix and then "doctors it up" with other ingredients and flavors.  And her cupcakes are always decorated so beautifully, something I'm always trying to improve with my own baking.






However, once my mom shares her chocolate cake recipe with me, I will be baking that, and I'm sure it is as moist and dark and chocolatey as I remember.  In the meantime, though, I'm a busy working girl who just didn't have all night tonight.  So I hope my coworkers will forgive me.  

Hey, if someone handed me a pretty cupcake that's moist and chocolatey, covered in cream cheese butter cream, and with a little hidden cookie surprise in the bottom of the cupcake, I wouldn't complain.






As tempting as these were, I'm happy to say that I just ate one (to make sure it was safe for other people, of course).  The truth is, I love to bake, but I just can't have this many sweets sitting around the house.  And so I have to tempt my coworkers instead.  :)





Cookies 'n' Cream Cupcakes (yields 30 cupcakes)

for the cake:
  • 1 dark chocolate cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 30 Oreo cookies
 for the frosting:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 - 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • remaining Oreos left from the package

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, milk, sour cream, oil and vanilla.  Beat on low for 30 seconds until moistened, then on medium for 2 minutes.

Place 30 paper liners in your baking pans.  Place an Oreo cookie in the bottom of each cup, reserving the remainder of the Oreos for the frosting.

Spoon the cake batter on top of the Oreos, filling the cups 3/4 full.  Drop the pans on the counter a few times to settle the batter around the cookies.

Bake for 16-18 minutes.  Cool cupcakes completely on a wire rack.

Place the remaining Oreos in a food processor and crush until they are fine crumbs (if you leave the crumbs too big, they will clog the tip of your piping bag when you pipe the frosting on).

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth.  Gradually add the powdered sugar, adjusting until you have the desired consistency.  Stir the crushed Oreos (reserving 2 tablespoons) into the frosting.  Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle the tops with the remainder of the Oreo crumbs.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Turkey Bacon- a lightened up version




Tonight, I went to an engagement dinner for a couple of friends, and after 2 glasses of wine I'm a little sleepy, so I'll be heading to bed soon, but first I wanted to share this recipe for broccoli cheddar soup that I made Sunday night.






It's a little cooler out tonight, but still not the crisp fall weather I'm looking forward to.  I make a lot of soups in the fall and winter.  Not only is it easy, warming and nutritious, but a great way to use up ingredients in your fridge that are looking for a home.  My mom makes a wonderful Thanksgiving leftovers soup that has everything from turkey to stuffing to sweet potato casserole, and it's completely amazing!





Last week, I made a broccoli-cauliflower souffle topped with crispy bread crumbs one night - I didn't think it was bad, but Jamie wasn't that crazy about it (I admit, it was nowhere nearly as good as the carrot souffle he made...).  So I picked up a little more broccoli, and made broccoli soup Sunday night, using the rest of the uneaten souffle as a thickener for the soup.  Since I make soup so frequently when it's cold out, I try to keep my recipes nutritious with fresh, light ingredients.  I don't use butter or cream, reserving that mostly for desserts.

So this broccoli cheese soup is a lightened up version of what you may be used to, but just as good (in my opinion!).  Low sodium, fat-free chicken broth and skim milk replace the cream and butter found in most broccoli soups, and just a cup of grated cheddar and a few pieces of turkey bacon add flavor and richness.  Some leftover salad greens added more color and nutrients.






Since I'm sure you don't have a leftover broccoli souffle in your fridge, I've included in my recipe below the use of a little flour to thicken up the broth.  You can also add less liquid at the beginning, if you're not sure how thick or thin you want the broth, and then add more liquid later.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Turkey Bacon
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 slices turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 broccoli florets, chopped, including the stems
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups salad greens
  • salt and pepper
In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the bacon, onion and celery.  Add a pinch of salt, and cook for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the broccoli and chicken broth.  Whisk together the milk and flour, and add to the pot.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Once the soup is bubbling, add the cheese, a handful at a time.  Add the salad greens.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the soup for another 15-20 minutes until broccoli is tender and the broth has thickened.

Salade Nicoise and Breaking the Rules...




Salade Nicoise is a dish that's intrigued me for a while - it's a classic French dish which is basically the French version of a Cobb salad.  Jamie wasn't quite as intrigued as I was - he's not too excited when I suggest salad as a meal - but he does love tuna.  It seems everyone has their own way of making it, but there are some pretty strong opinions about what does and does not make an authentic Salade Nicoise.  Capers, anchovies, or both?  Canned tuna or seared tuna?  Are cooked potatoes acceptable, or is the salad supposed to be composed of only raw veggies?






This article by David Lebovitz was interesting, and it got me thinking.  Are there really finite rules in cooking, or not?  Certainly, there are rules in baking which must be followed or the cake won't rise, the bread will be doughy, the cupcakes will overflow the pan, etc...  Everyone knows that frosting slides off a warm cake.  I won't argue with chemistry.  But if someone tells me that I'm supposed to use canned tuna on a salad instead of a gorgeous tuna steak, seared on each side, nice and rare in the middle, then I have to ask why?  Jamie eats canned tuna every day for the lean protein before working out, and I wouldn't make him eat it for dinner, too.  Can't I add potatoes if I think they'd be good in the dish?  Do I have to use fava beans?  I'm not even sure what a fava bean is.






It bugs me when cooks say that you have to use shortening for a perfectly flaky pie crust, when I've made completely wonderful all-butter crusts that are flavorful and flaky (I think shortening is just a little icky).  Or that you should spray the bottom and sides of a cake pan - if you were cake batter, would you like to climb a slippery wall? 





Of course, there are rules everywhere, enforced on us, or ones we enforce on ourselves.  In high school, I read "The Rules", thinking it held all the secrets of how to get a boyfriend, and I did try my best to learn those secrets.  I wasn't very good at following those rules, though, combined with being incredibly shy and very insecure about my curly frizzy hair which I hadn't yet learned how to control.  Nicknames like "fountain head" come to mind for the way I used to wear the top half of my hair pulled to the top of my head in a brightly-colored scrunchie.  Then in my 20s, I read "The Art of Kissing", and I truly believed that there must be a perfect formula to the perfect kiss (trying to remember that formula in the moment, though, can be a little distracting).  Turns out the perfect formula for the perfect kiss is...  not trying to make it too perfect and appreciating the moment for what it is.






So maybe fish with cheese isn't such a great combination, and you should always wash your hands after handling raw chicken, but in general, don't worry about the "rules".  If the recipe says to use cinnamon and you prefer nutmeg, well go for it!  Slather your scrambled eggs with ketchup if that's the way you like them.  Wear white after Labor Day if it's still hot out.  Kiss someone you love with all your heart and don't worry about the fact that you just ate onions.  Drown a piece of cake in a bowl of milk (the way my dad likes it) or eat apple pie with chocolate ice cream (the way my mom likes it).  Don't be afraid of raw eggs.  Eat dessert first.  Or make your own version of a French classic dish.

Salade Nicoise with Seared Tuna
  • 1 tuna steak
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup baby potatoes, whole and unpeeled
  • 2 cups mixed salad greens
  • handful of fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup mixed Greek olives
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/2 shallot, finely minced
  • olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Season the tuna with salt and pepper.  Sear the tuna for 2 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a plate and cover with foil until ready to slice.

Meanwhile, place the whole baby potatoes in a medium saucepan, add a pinch of salt and cover with several inches of water.  Bring water to a boil and boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, until they can be easily pierced with a fork.  Drain and set aside to cool slightly, then cut each potato in half or into bite-sized pieces.

Arrange the salad greens on a platter.  Arrange the green beans, zucchini slices, cherry tomatoes, olives and potatoes on top of the greens.  Sprinkle the capers and minced shallots on top.  Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Slice the tuna and arrange slices on top of the salad.  Serve immediately with fresh bread and olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs for dipping the bread.

If eaten as a meal, this makes 2 generous servings.  If served with other food, it can serve 4 people.



Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies



Yesterday, I discovered the wonders of a Silpat baking mat.  Jamie bought me one last Christmas, and for some reason, I had yet to use it.  I don't know why I was so resistant - I think it's because I couldn't understand how the sticky texture of the Silpat was actually a completely non-stick surface for baking.  But after baking cookies on it yesterday and seeing how they slid off so effortlessly without any non-stick spray, I will now be changing my ways and using it every time I bake cookies.






I've had a yearning to start baking with pumpkin, even though Colorado weather is still stubbornly refusing to feel very much like fall.  My mom's pumpkin chocolate chip cookies have always been one of my favorites (a recipe I'll be sharing eventually).  I started wondering if I could combine that recipe with my Betty Crocker snickerdoodle recipe - should I try to convert the snickerdoodle recipe into a pumpkin cookie, or try to make the pumpkin cookies more snickerdoodley?  I think I just made that word up, but snickerdoodley is exactly what these cookies were.






I decided to adjust the pumpkin recipe, and it was really pretty simple.  Add cream of tartar to the dry ingredients, leave out the chocolate chips, and roll the cookie dough into balls to be rolled in cinnamon and sugar before baking.  Pumpkin Snickerdoodles!






These cookies are very soft and cakey, and although I love them on their own, I thought they would be a great cookie to turn into a whoopie pie.  So I whipped up some fluffy cream filling and sandwiched the cookies together to make pumpkin snickerdoodle whoopie pies - they were sweet, creamy, fun and very pretty cookies that are a wonderful holiday treat for parties, game nights, or cozy evenings of watching movies and drinking hot apple cider.






Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies
(makes about 3 dozen cookies / 18 whoopie pies)

pumpkin snickerdoodles:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
cream filling:
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1.  Make the cookies:
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat for 1 minute.  Add the pumpkin and beat until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cream of tartar.  Turn the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients by spoonfuls to the batter.  Mix just until combined.

Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for two hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar with 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon.  Form the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and roll in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Place the balls 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Slide the Silpat or parchment paper off the cookie sheet and cool cookies completely.

2.  Make the cream filling.
Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, beat the egg white for 2 minutes until foamy.  Add the milk and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.  Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and the butter and beat for several minutes to combine.  Add the remaining cup of powdered sugar and beat for 8-10 minutes until cream filling is very light and fluffy.

Spoon dollops of the filling onto the underside of half the cooled cookies and top with another cookie.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Balsamic Steak Wraps with Avocado, Spinach and Gorgonzola



We had a few days of chilly-toe fall weather, followed by more hot summery days, on which I wore my new boots to work to ward off the morning chill, only to be burning up by lunchtime.  I'm so confused how to dress for work right now!  Still, though, new boots make me happy, even if it was too hot for them.  Since it's not quite fall yet, but not summer anymore, I find myself torn between wanting to start poring over all my holiday recipes, while at the same time not wanting to heat up the kitchen too much with baking.  The urge to bake usually takes precedence, though, and I'm tempted to bake up all sorts of goodies, while at the same time feeling the need to get to the gym and work out more and get in better shape!  Oh, there are so many conflicts of interest when you love to cook and bake.

Ever since we bought our bottle of aged balsamic vinegar during my birthday weekend to the Colorado wine country of Paonia, I've been looking for ways to add it to all kinds of dishes.  It's so sweet and tangy, and yet savory at the same time, and complements such a variety of flavors.






I just loved the addition of the balsamic vinegar to these wraps as it really brought out the creaminess of the avocados and the tang of the Gorgonzola cheese.

These steak wraps are an easy weeknight dinner, and only took me about 20 minutes to prep and cook.  Although I would much prefer a nice cut of steak for these (tenderloin would be best, but that's pretty fancy for a weeknight dinner), seared medium rare and thinly sliced, I was trying to save money and went with the cheap packages of "stir-fry steak".  It cooks up very quickly, and worked really well for these wraps.






If you think about it the night before, go ahead and marinate your steak.  I forgot until the evening I was planning to make them, so only marinated the steak for about 2 hours.  This is also a great recipe for leftovers to take to work the next day - as long as you're patient enough to pack everything into individual zip-lock bags to assemble the wrap for lunch the next day - I'm not a fan of sandwiches or wraps made too far in advance since they tend to get soggy, so they are best assembled right before eating.





Balsamic Steak Wraps with Avocado, Spinach and Gorgonzola
  • 1 pound steak
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 4 tortilla wraps (I like the Mission brand spinach wraps)
First, marinate the steak in 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil, with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Place in a zip-lock bag and marinate for two hours or overnight.

Make a balsamic aioli by combining the mayonnaise with the other two tablespoons balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside, and prep the remaining vegetables.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and cook the steak (if using a cut such as tenderloin, strip, sirloin, etc, sear on each side for 4-5 minutes (for medium rare), then let rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board before slicing).  The pre-sliced stir-fry steak will cook very quickly - don't overcook.

Spread 2 tablespoons of the balsamic aioli on each wrap, and refrigerate any leftover aioli.  Divide the steak, avocado, spinach, tomatoes, onion and Gorgonzola between the wraps.  Roll up and secure with toothpicks.

Eat and enjoy - you'll love these!

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (with a Secret Ingredient), and a Carrot Souffle



Isn't it amazing how over-ripened fruit can make something as wonderful as banana bread?  It makes me wonder who the first person was to think of using some brown, mushy bananas that no one wanted to eat on their own, and turn it into such a well-known and loved treat.




Another great thing about banana bread ...  it's really just cake in disguise.  But if you call it bread, then you can eat it for breakfast, too, and not feel as guilty as if you ate a piece of leftover chocolate pie before it's even 10am and you haven't even had your second cup of coffee.






I have a few banana bread recipes that I've used over the years, but I wanted to try something new, and while doing some perusing of other recipes, found this one by What Katie's Baking, which in turn led me to this one by Smitten Kitchen.

What Katie's Baking adapted hers from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted hers from Simply Recipes ...  So whose recipe is it really?  I'm not exactly sure anymore.  I made some of my own adjustments, too, so this is an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation...

I love this recipe, though.  It was so moist and flavorful, full of sweet banana-y goodness, rich with chocolate chunks (I highly recommend chunks and not chips, so that you get bigger pockets of chocolate throughout), and of course, the addition of Kahlua and caramel are yet another reason to love this bread.  Originally, I was going to use Bourbon, like Smitten Kitchen did, but to my dismay, we had no bourbon in the cupboard, and when I'm on a mission to make something, the last thing I want to do is to get in my car and go to the store for one more ingredient.  We always have Kahlua since I love White Russians, and thought the flavor of the Kahlua, with some swirls of caramel throughout and brown sugar on top would complement the banana bread really well.






This makes a big loaf of bread, so be patient during the baking time - mine took a full hour and ten minutes to bake through so that a skewer came out cleanly.  During the last 20 minutes of baking, you can cover the top of the bread loosely with foil if you're worried about it over-browning.  This bread smelled so delicious and it was hard to wait until it cooled to slice into it.





Last Friday night, I made a pot roast in our crock pot, but instead of the typical potatoes and carrots to go along with the roast, I made a potato dish I came up with that I'm calling "Loaded Baked Potato Pie" which was my version of scalloped potatoes baked in a pie dish, but with all the toppings you'd load onto a baked potato such as sour cream, cheese, green onions and turkey bacon.  I need to tweak this recipe a little before I share it, though, since the potatoes didn't fully cook through.






That left the carrots, which I asked Jamie to do something with, and guess what he made?  A carrot souffle!  Have you ever had a carrot souffle?  Neither had I, and I think I fell in love!  With the souffle, and with him, too, of course.  :)






The souffle had a wonderful, sweet flavor similar to pumpkin or sweet potato pie, and the texture was moist but firm, sort of a cross between cornbread and polenta.  He baked the souffle in a square baking dish, which worked perfectly for cutting it into squares.  The next time we make this recipe, I might try baking it in individual ramekins.

With the scents of banana bread and carrot souffle in our house, it really is fall around here.





Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup (2/3 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar, plus 2 extra tablespoons
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons, all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks
  • 2 tablespoons caramel topping
Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spray a standard-size loaf pan (or two mini loaf pans) with non-stick baking spray.
In a large bowl, smash the bananas.  Add the butter, 1 cup brown sugar, egg, buttermilk and Kahlua and mix well with a wooden spoon.

In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda, salt and flour.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips and caramel (do not over-mix).  Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle the top of the batter with the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  If the top starts to over-brown, loosely cover with foil during the last 20 minutes of baking.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely before slicing.



Carrot Souffle
(adapted from All Recipes)
  • 1 pound carrots (3-4 carrots), coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spray a square baking dish with non-stick baking spray.
Place the carrots in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes.  Drain.

Using your food processor, puree the cooked carrots until smooth.  Add the butter, vanilla and eggs and pulse until smooth and creamy.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and combine well.  Pour mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

a Time for Chocolate ... Chocolate Indulgence Sour Cream Pie




It's sort of been one of those weeks.  I had three paragraphs all typed up, venting about work, my skin, my commute...  but I'm trying to complain less.  One of the first things I noticed about Jamie when he and I started spending more and more time together after we started dating was that he never says anything bad about anyone else.  Really, never.  Not about his family, not about his friends, not about his coworkers, not about me.  If he has a complaint, he keeps it to himself.  About the only people who really tick him off are the guys at the car dealer maintenance shop - not too long ago he dropped his car off for some routine maintenance, and when he picked it up, there was a two-foot crack in his windshield (which was not there before) that they feigned complete ignorance about.  Needless to say, they ended up replacing it.






Being with Jamie these two-plus years, seeing how kind and patient he is and how he treats others, continues to inspire me to be a better person myself.  And, it makes me want to make him chocolate pie.  Because every guy deserves a pie now and then.  :)






I seem to be "cupcake challenged" for some reason, but when it comes to pastries like pies and tarts, I hit the mark far more often.  Case in point, these S'mores Brownie Cupcakes.





Yes, they sure do look pretty, and although they were soft and gooey when they came out of the oven, they became strangely dry and hard very quickly.  I hate wasting ingredients, so I was able to repurpose these by crushing the brownies into crumbs and using them for the chocolate crust of my pie.





I'm especially proud of this pie since I made it just from ingredients I had on hand, and the creamy, rich chocolate filling turned out so much better, so much more decadent than I had dared to hope.  It's very thick and fudgey, almost like a flour-less chocolate cake, and you would never know it wasn't made with butter and cream.  Chocolate is the star here, and if you have any berries on hand, they would be fantastic served on the side.  I found a jar of cherries in red wine from the red wine cherry sauce I made a while back to serve with rack of lamb, and tonight we spooned a few of those on the pie.  Delicious!






Jamie was out for a while on Saturday when the idea for the pie came to me, and I was happy to present this to him for after dinner Saturday night.  There are other possibilities for this recipe, too.  After you've cooked the pudding, instead of chilling it in a pie, you can spoon it into bowls and eat it warm.  Or pour it into individual ramekins and chill, to serve as chocolate pots de creme.  This recipe makes 8 servings.






Chocolate Indulgence Sour Cream Pie
  • 1 no-bake chocolate cookie crust
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • extra cocoa powder and powdered sugar for dusting, and whipped cream for garnish

Place a pan of water on the stove and bring it to a simmer.  Prepare the chocolate crust and set aside.

In a heat-proof bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar.  Add the sour cream, vanilla,  and cocoa powder and whisk until well combined.  Add the chopped chocolate.

Place the bowl on top of the pan of water (the bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water and the water should not be boiling too rapidly).  Hold the end of an instant read thermometer in the mixture and whisk constantly as the chocolate melts and the mixture becomes smooth.  Continue whisking constantly and cook the pudding until it becomes thick and has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  (Why 165?  Because that's when it looked right to me.)  The total cooking time for me took 10 minutes exactly, but may take more or less time for you, which is why the thermometer will be your friend to judge when it's done.

Remove from the heat.  Pour immediately into the prepared crust and smooth out the top.  Take a piece of plastic wrap and cover the pie, so that the plastic is resting against the pudding (to prevent a "skin" from forming as it cools).  Chill in the fridge until firm, about 3-4 hours.

Just before serving, use a sifter or a small mesh strainer to dust the top of the pie with cocoa powder (which will also help to cover up any indentations left in the pudding by the plastic wrap).  Dust individual slices with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream and berries.

Makes 8 servings.