How to Make a Chocolate Garnish

How to make a Chocolate Garnish

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon you may be looking for ways to gussy up your desserts and add a special finishing touch. These free-form chocolate garnishes allow a personalized message to be added to any dessert. They are ridiculously easy to make and lots of fun too.

Simply melt chocolate, add it to a piping bag or baggie with the tip cut off and pipe away. Hearts, flowers, names, xoxo’s, hugs and kisses, special messages – whatever your creative, little heart desires to say! Now you can say it with chocolate! What could be sweeter? Eating your own words has never been so delicious!

Free Form Chocolate Garnishes
How to make a Chocolate Garnish

1. Rough chop a chocolate bar* into pieces. Melt over a double boiler or using the microwave ‘melt chocolate’ setting. Stir or whisk until smooth. Allow chocolate to cool slightly. If its real hot it will pipe out too fast, it should be lukewarm to the touch.

2. Meanwhile line a sheet pan or a large cutting board with parchment or wax paper.

3. Fill a piping bag fitted with a small writing tip or a plastic baggie halfway, knot the top and cut a very small corner off the bag. A squeeze bottle with a small tip will also work.

4. Pipe free form shapes onto the parchment paper. Allow to set until firm in a cool place.

5. Peel shapes carefully from parchment and adorn your desserts. Store unused shapes in a cool, dry place, between pieces of parchment/wax paper.

I don’t recommend putting them in the refrigerator because chocolate bloom or white spots may develop over the chocolate.

*Chocolate chips are ok to use, but not my preference, if you find the chocolate too thick or it won’t harden, mix in a teaspoon or more of shortening until you get the consistency you like. This will also help it set up. Dark chocolate ones work the best.

Chocolate Garnish
A sneak peek at my next post!

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How to Make Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Cups

How to Make Peanut Butter Salted Caramel Cups

I have a longstanding love affair with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. One that time never forgets. Imposters have come and gone, hoping to replace them in my heart, but all paled in comparison.

No matter how long it’s been, when I hold that crinkly orange package in my hand the bond is still there. And my heart still gives a trill. Like a best friend you haven’t seen in years but it only feels like a day.

In all of their simplicity the satisfying combo of salty peanut butter and sweet milk chocolate holds a certain charm for me…. 

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Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes with a Tutorial on How to Fill Cupcakes

Chocolate Caramel Filled Cupcakes

I have a sweet treat of a recipe today for Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting and a short tutorial on how to fill a cupcake. Because everyone should know how. It’s important for getting the perfect ratio of frosting to cupcake with every bite. And for preventing ‘dry cake syndrome’ that cupcakes are notoriously known for.

While some focus their attention on the cake – mine is on the frosting. I don’t like running out before I get to that last bite. Cake without frosting holds no attraction for me.

This easy, classic chocolate cupcake recipe combines two forms of chocolate: cocoa powder and semi-sweet. It gives them a mild chocolate flavor and a very strong chocolate aroma that will drive your senses wild.

The caramel frosting melts in your mouth in a flurry of rich, buttery bliss. It’s delicious with a little sea salt sprinkled over top and helps cut some of the sweetness. Just like eating a salted caramel chocolate.  


Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Cocoa Powder, unsweetened
3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Butter, unsalted, at room temperature
1 + 1/3 cups Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
3 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup Milk, at room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the cupcake pans by greasing or placing paper liners in them.
2. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl; set aside.
3. In a large bowl with an electric hand mixer on medium beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down bowl occasionally. Beat in Vanilla Extract. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in cooled chocolate.
4. Beat in the flour mixture in 4 additions alternating with the milk. Begin and end with the flour mixture and beat briefly until smooth on low-medium.
5. Fill cupcake wells 3/4 of the way. Bake about 22 minutes or until a toothpick in middle shows a few moist crumbs.
6. Cool on wire racks ten minutes. Then remove cupcakes to racks to cool completely.
Caramel Frosting*
(adapted from Betty Crocker)
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup Packed Brown Suger
3/4 cup Milk, divided
3 cups Powdered Confectioners’ Sugar, plus a little extra if needed
1. In a 2-quart saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly, reduce heat to low.
2. Boil and stir 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup Milk. Heat to boiling, remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm, about 30 minutes.
3. Pour the caramel into a large mixing bowl gradually stir in powdered sugar and milk. Beat with an electric hand mixer on low about 6 minutes until light and fluffy. If too stiff add milk a teaspoon at a time to get the right consistency. If too watery add additional powdered sugar beating on low until it reaches the right consistency.
4. Store in refrigerator for 15 minutes before frosting to help it firm up.
*For salted caramel sprinkle sea salt on top or mix a 1/2 teaspoon right into the frosting towards the end.
(Makes 20)

How To Fill A Cupcake:

 Use a pastry bag with a large tip, poke it into the middle of the cupcake and give it a good squeeze.


Use a small sharp knife to cut out the center at an angle so the piece you cut out looks like a cone and is about an inch long.

How To Fill a Cupcake: Cut out a 'cone'

Put your filling in a ziploc bag or baggie and cut off the corner. Fill the ‘hole’ you made.

How to Fill a Cupcake

Cut off the end of the cone to make a ‘lid’ to hold the filling in. Save the part you cut off to crumble and sprinkle over top of the frosting.

How to Fill a Cupcake

Frost as usual.

Chocolate Caramel Filled Cupcakes

I like this second way better. You can get more filling in there. Plus it’s lots of fun!

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes on FoodistaChocolate Caramel Cupcakes
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How to Make the Perfect Pie Crust: A King Arthur Demo and a Pumpkin Mousse Pie

Look what I made for you:

Pumpkin Mousse Streusel Pie


But not just any pie!

Pumpkin Mousse Pie:

Pumpkin Mousse Streusel Pie

With an Oat Streusel topping:

101_2201 (Small)

But before I tell you more about the pie I first have to tell you about the King Arthur Pie Crust and Tart demo I went to and what prompted me to go.
It was all because of this:

Ugly Apple Pie

Ugly Pie!!
Is that not the ugliest pie you’ve ever laid eyes on? It’s an apple pie and the filling was delicious, that I can’t deny. The empty pie plate proved it. But the crust! Ugh. I don’t think I need to say more. I’m an excellent baker, but apparently pastry is not my forte. I haven’t baked a lot of pies, and when I do I almost always use a graham cracker crust.
Just a few days after the ugly pie incident there was a King Arthur Pie Demo that I desperately needed to attend!

King Arthur Pie Crust Demo

A lot of people had the same thought because the room was packed! I was surprised that some people had driven for hours to attend. I picked up a lot of useful tips and I won some door prizes – a cheese cutting board, a rubber ‘bench’ scraper, and a 20 dollar gift card to the King Arthur web site. With all the pie-baking that goes on for the upcoming holidays I thought I would share what I learned.
Tips before you get started:
-Refrigerate your rolling pin, mixing bowl and flour; especially during the summer.
-You can substitute whole wheat flour for up to half the amount of all-purpose in a recipe.
-Unsalted butter will give your crust a ‘fresher’ butter flavor.
-To measure flour use the “fluff, sprinkle, and sweep” method. Flour settles and can become compacted. Stir the flour to fluff it, sprinkle it into the measuring cup and sweep excess off the top with a straight edge like the back of a butter knife. Or use a scale. One cup of flour = 4 and 1/4 ounces.
Preparing the Dough:
-Never use your fingers. Use a fork, two knives, or a pastry blender. Your fingers will make too much gluten, make it warm and greasy, and over-tenderize.
-The degree that you combine the butter and flour will determine the texture of the crust. Barely will give you a flakier crust, thoroughly combining will give you a crisp non flaky crust.

-Form the dough into a disk, not a ball. If making a bottom and top crust, form into two discs, one just slightly larger for the bottom.

-Refrigerate the disk for 30 minutes. This will help the gluten to relax and it won’t shrink as much during cooking.
Rolling the Dough:
-Have your filling ready before rolling, or store the entire pie pan in fridge while preparing the filling.
-Roll from the center outward like the spokes on a wheel, or the sun’s rays. Rolling from one end to the other toughens it and will cause more shrinking during baking.
-Don’t roll off the edges, it pinches the dough.
-Measure an extra inch around the pie for crimping.
-Fold the crust in quarters before transferring to the pie dish. Fold in half, then in half again. Place the point in middle and unfold.
Filling and Baking:
-Brush the bottom crust with milk or beaten egg white before filling to help seal and to prevent sogginess.
-Brush the top with milk or an egg wash, only the middle, not around the edges, and sprinkle with sparkly sugar.
-Make sure to slit the top for steam to escape.
-If crust becomes too dark before the pie is finished baking tent the edges of the crust with aluminum foil, shape it before baking and set aside.
-Bake your pie on the lowest rack, it won’t cook quicker but will prevent the bottom from getting soggy. You can also bake the pie on a preheated baking stone.
-Freeze and save scraps for chicken pot pies.

Printable Tips

After the demo I put these tips to good use and made this Pumpkin Mousse pie with an Oat Streusel topping. You can see a big improvement with my crust – still nowhere near perfect – but getting closer. The pumpkin mousse was delicious! Both my Mom and I agreed that a chocolate graham cracker crust would taste better with it. But I needed the practice and it’s all ugly pie’s fault!

Pumpkin Mousse Streusel Pie

Basic Pie Crust
(adapted from King Arthur Flour)
2 and 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Butter(2 sticks)
1/4 to 1/2 cup Ice Water
Medium-Flake Method
Mix dry ingredients:
Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl.
Cut in half of the butter, combining thoroughly. You should have very small, very even crumbs.
Cut the remaining butter into small bits. Cut the stick into 4 lenghtwise slices one way, flip it on its side, cut 4 slices the other way, then cut across the strips into 1/4 inch pats.
Toss the tiny bits of butter into the flour mixture, mixing just enough to coat them with flour.
Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, and toss with a fork to moisten the dough evenly. To test for the right texture, squeeze a chunk of it together, it should stick together easily. If it falls apart add more water.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface, divide in half, pat into flat disks about an inch thick, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To roll out:
Flour your work surface. Roll out quickly from the center outward, adding an extra inch for crimping.
Transfer crust to pie pan by folding in quarters.
Add the pie filling.
Roll out top crust, and center over filling. Wet the edges with milk or beaten egg white to glue together and prevent the hot juices from bubbling out.
Pinch the edges together and flute it with your fingers by pressing inward with one finger and outward with two.
Shape an aluminum foil tent over the edges and set aside until needed.
Bake as directed.

Pumpkin Mousse Streusel Pie

Pumpkin Mousse Streusel Pie

(by Reeni)

8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1/3 cup packed Brown Sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Cloves
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
2 large Eggs, beaten
1 – 30 ounce can Pumpkin Pie Filling
1 – 9-inch deep dish Pie Crust or Graham Cracker Crust
Streusel topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 cup packed Brown Sugar
3/4 cup Oats
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup cold Butter
2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 30 squares)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the crust:
In a mixing bowl, combine the crust ingredients with a fork until evenly moistened. Spray a deep-dish 9-inch pie pan with baking spray. Pour the crumbs into the pan and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the smooth bottom of a glass, press the crumbs down into the base, use your fingers to press it to the sides. Refrigerate.
For the streusel:
In a medium bowl mix together the dry streusel ingredients. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
For the filling:
In a large bowl beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla extract. Beat in eggs. Add pumpkin pie filling, beat until just mixed.
Pour into prepared pie pan. Sprinkle streusel evenly over top.
Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate. 

Best served cold.

Pumpkin Mousse Streusel Pie

 Do you have any tips to share?

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Spicing up Italian-American Comfort Food

Spicing up comfort food with flavor is easy if you work a little magic in the kitchen. Knowing how to layer flavors using very basic ingredients to Italian cooking will have your food bursting with flavors and your family asking for seconds…

You can read the rest of this post here on the Key Ingredient companion blog, The Back Burner where I am guest posting for Sophia on her Tips and Tricks Friday edition. I am incredibly honored to be asked and happy to share some of my basic tips and tricks along with some of my favorite recipes.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Hope to see you there!