Category Archives: Chocolate

20th Century Cafe’s Sacher Torte

It's every bit as rich and wonderful as it looks -- Sacher Torte, a Viennese classic.
It’s every bit as rich and wonderful as it looks — Sacher Torte, a Viennese classic.

My introduction to this magnificent chocolate creation known as Sacher torte came not in Vienna, where it originated, but if memory serves me, in San Francisco — at Alice Medrich’s legendary Cocolat bakery.

Sitting down to a dark, dense, chocolately slice with a glass in which equally dark filtered coffee was slowly dripping into it was the epitome of elegant adulthood. I almost felt as if I had to hold my pinkies aloft to enjoy each and every bite.

One of the most famed European cakes around, it was first created in 1832 by 16-year-old Franz Sacher, then later gained an outsized following at the Hotel Sacher, established by his son Eduard.

It looks so fancy. And it tastes so fancy. But at its heart, it’s really just a double-layer chocolate cake that’s covered entirely in a dark chocolate glaze and hiding a filling of apricot preserves.

So, if you can make a chocolate cake, you can definitely make a Sacher Torte. Especially if using the recipe from Baking at the 20th Century Cafe: Iconic European Desserts from Linzer Torte to Honey Cake (Artisan Books) by pastry chef extraordinaire Michelle Polzine with food writer Jessica Battilana.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 19

A Friday special at the Village Bakery.
A Friday special at the Village Bakery.

The Village Bakery, Woodside

The colonel’s got nothing on The Village Bakery, when it comes to a grand bucket of fried chicken.

The Woodside restaurant and bakery’s newest offering is “Fried Chicken Fridays.” And if last Friday’s experience was any indication, it’s already a hit. When I went to go pick up my order, the entire bar was covered with takeout bags, most for the chicken.

For $34, you get an actual bucket containing eight pieces of fried chicken, as well as containers of coleslaw, mac ‘n’ cheese, and two buttermilk cheddar-chive biscuits.

Oh, yes!
Oh, yes!

It’s designed to serve 2 to 4. The chicken alone is definitely more than two people can finish in one sitting. As such, you might want to order another biscuit or two ($5 each) to go with the leftovers the next day. Crunchy on top and fluffy inside, the buttery biscuits are definitely hard to resist.

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Three Things to Enliven Shelter In Place, Part 2

Celebrate the Year of the Ox by learning how to make banh chung. (Photo courtesy of the Banh Chung Collective).
Celebrate the Year of the Ox by learning how to make banh chung. (Photo courtesy of the Banh Chung Collective).

Celebrate Tet with A Banh Chung Online Cooking Class

Join in on the festivities for the Vietnamese New Year — from the comfort of your own kitchen — as Los Angeles chef Diep Tran instructs you virtually, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 6, with an ingredients kit you can pick up at participating restaurants in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, and New York.

At the end, you’ll have your own sticky rice dumplings to feast on, filled with pork belly, shallots, and mung beans — all wrapped snuggly in banana leaves.

Festive packages of sticky rice dumplings. (Photo courtesy of the Banh Chung Collective)
Festive packages of sticky rice dumplings. (Photo courtesy of the Banh Chung Collective)

The $46 kit with class also includes a signature New Year dish from the participating restaurant or bakery to enjoy.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the kits can be picked up prior to the class at: Buku Bakes, Little Window, and Noodle Girl.

Tran, who is also the research and development chef for Red Boat Fish Sauce, has been hosting her Banh Chung Collective for the past nine years. This time, she’ll be streaming from Alma Backyard Farms in Compton.

For tickets to this event, click here.

Luv’s Brownies Dessert Truck

South Bay chocoholics will be glad to know there’s a new dessert truck in town. Luv’s Brownies, known for its heart-shaped brownies, has launched its own food truck, which will be bringing sweet creations to the San Jose Rose Garden farmers market on Saturdays, and the Cupertino farmers market on Sundays.

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Time to Treat Yourself

Kokak Chocolates -- the tiny treats with huge flavor.
Kokak Chocolates — the tiny treats with huge flavor.

Kokak Chocolates

Carol Gancia gave up a gig as producer of KQED’s “Check, Please! Bay Area” for an even sweeter assignment — chocolate maker.

In June, she opened her Kokak Chocolates in San Francisco’s Castro District, specializing in small-batch, single-origin heirloom chocolates.

And what phenomenal chocolates they are — as I recently discovered when I received samples to try.

Gancia crafts her confections with a rare heirloom cacao variety in Ecuador, known as “Nacional,” which traces its origins to the earliest-known cacao trees 5,300 years ago. These old-grown trees are now protected by the Cacao Preservation Fund.

Complex and boasting a long buttery finish, the chocolate stars in truffles made with thin shells and incredibly silky fillings. The Mango Lemongrass, decorated with a Mondrian-inspired design, explodes with profound floral notes. The Passion Fruit made me think I was in Hawaii for a second with its taste of the tropics. The Hazelnut-Caramel tastes like a pound of hazelnuts was somehow squeezed inside a two-bite bonbon. Its flavor is that intense.

These are elegant truffles that will make your eyes and taste buds pop with surprise and delight.

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Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies

A load of chocolate plus a little espresso combine to take these cookies over the top.
A load of chocolate plus a little espresso combine to take these cookies over the top.

These cookies are truly, madly chockablock with chocolate.

And that’s never a bad thing, is it?

“Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies” is from the new cookbook, “100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen, with Classic Cookies, Novel Treats, Brownies, Bars, and More” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

This sweet collection is by Sarah Kieffer, celebrated creator of the award-winning, The Vanilla Bean Blog.

Among the 100 tantalizing recipes are “Chocolate Basil Brownies,” “Raspberry Rye Cookies,” and “Olive Oil Sugar Cookies with Blood Orange Glaze.” There’s even an entire chapter on “Pan Banging Cookies,” using the technique she perfected that went viral. It involves banging the tray of cookies periodically as they bake in the oven, flattening them and creating concentric ripples that leave them crisp on the edges with soft centers.

“Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies” don’t require that kind of work. They also don’t need an electric mixer to make.

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