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salted maple walnut + vanilla bean chocolate cups


Chocolate has a serious hold on my heart all year, but lately it feels like a love for the ages. This is mostly to say that I can’t seem to stop it from being around me at all times. Snow flies, we’re in the thick of December, treats abound. Love has proven to be a dangerous and rather heady thing across the entirety of existence and yet, oh weird, there’s my fingers getting to work on another sparkly wrapper. Love and excess is perhaps a more relevant, still timeless, pairing that I’ll accept for the moment. It’s too real and never enough.

So to keep that whole gravely serious thing going I made a very seriously delicious thing. Chocolate cups with tasty fillings are nothing new, I realize. My little version here is pretty wholesome and crazy rich though. It’s vegan appropriate and a very simple gluten-free-friendly adjustment can be made. This combination was a bit of an experiment for me and it worked out so pleasantly. The vanilla, walnut + bourbon butter is a touch intense on its own, but in a sweet little chocolate case it’s perfect. Happy sparkles of vanilla bean-flecked fleur de sel grace the tops and the world feels right.

This recipe is easy and highly adjustable. You can swap the walnuts with any nut or seed you like. I use some graham cracker crumbs for body in the filling, but they aren’t necessary at all. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you could stir the maple syrup, coconut oil, bourbon etc into some store-bought nut butter for total ease. I’ll be toting these to any holiday gathering I find myself at for sure. Hope you’re all still enjoying this lovely season of warmth and togetherness. If anyone needs me, I’ll be listening to my favourite sort-of-Christmas-y-but-not-actually-a-Christmas-album and passing out on the couch from way too much chocolate/love :)

Oh, and another lovely thing: the holiday/winter issue of FoodieCrush Magazine is out! I have a recipe for a sticky and wonderful demerara sugar and vanilla breakfast bundt inside along with a little story on our holiday traditions. This beautiful publication is full to the brim with great recipes and content by some seriously talented bloggers (and it’s free!). Check it out here.

salted maple walnut + vanilla bean chocolate cups
serves: makes around 20 small/mini cups
notes: It’s good to grind up the walnuts and make a walnut butter base before you add the maple syrup and everything else. Nuts/seeds tend to zap the moisture out of everything around them when they’re getting ground into things. Also, I would make up the walnut butter right before you intend to assemble the cups to avoid any oil separating issues.

1.5 cups walnut halves, toasted
seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, divided
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of ground cinnamon
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (use a GF brand or leave them out if need be)
1 tbsp bourbon or other brown liquor of choice (very optional)
1 1/4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips/pieces
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp milk of your choice (I went with almond)
pinches of fleur de sel or other nice salt

Make the walnut filling:  Place the toasted walnut halves and half of the vanilla bean seeds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to chop the nuts up small. Turn the food processor on to high and process nuts and vanilla until a smooth paste begins to form, about one to two full minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl down and process again. Add the graham cracker crumbs and pulse a couple times. Then, add the coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, bourbon and a pinch of salt. Process on high until fully combined. Scrape walnut butter into a small bowl and set aside.

Mix 1-2 tablespoons of fleur de sel with the remaining vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl/vessel. Pinch the salt and seeds together until the little black flecks are evenly mixed up with the salt. Set aside.

Combine the semisweet chocolate chips and milk in a non-reactive bowl. Set the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water in the saucepan). Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is totally melted and you have a smooth, homogenous mixture.

Assemble: Set out 20 or so small paper cup liners (or 10 big ones). Divide half of the melted chocolate amongst the liners. Drop heaped teaspoons of the walnut butter into the center of the first layer of chocolate. If you have the cups in an actual muffin tin for assembling, bang and twist the pan on the table to settle the initial layers. Pour the remaining melted chocolate on top of the walnut butter layer. Sprinkle cups with vanilla bean fleur de sel. Place cups in the fridge to set.

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ana cooks12/12/2012 - 10:16 am

more than the recipe, i really love the photos! ;)

Kathryn12/12/2012 - 10:31 am

I know exactly what recipe I’m going to make first in my brand new food processor! These little bites of goodness sound incredibly addictive with that perfect salty/sweet combo and the hint of booze. Excellent festive fare.

Katie @ figgy & sprout12/12/2012 - 2:32 pm

Another gorgeous post, Laura! This recipe is definitely something I’ll be trying this weekend with my new food processor :)

Claudia12/12/2012 - 5:17 pm

I came upon your blog a week ago and I have to say you have beautiful photography that really displays your food quite well. These look and sound delicious, I might just give them a go!

Cheers and thank you for sharing :)

Claudia

Sophia13/12/2012 - 6:54 am

These look absolutely brilliant – lovely pictures too. I already love peanut butter cups (and definitely prefer the homemade ones) but lately I have become a huge fan of walnuts and now even prefer to smear some homemade walnut butter on a piece of toasted sourdough with a drizzle of honey and some fleur de sel to pb&jam, so this is right up my alley!

thelittleloaf13/12/2012 - 7:57 am

Maple walnut is one of my favourite combinations ever so throw in some delicious dark chocolate and I’m 100% sold. Love your two-tone nails in the photo by the way!

sara forte13/12/2012 - 7:51 pm

yes please. I’ve been wanting to make mini almond butter cups and I will totally take your addition of the maple. Sounds so perfect with that vanilla bean salt. Gorgeous photos, laura!!

Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes)14/12/2012 - 3:09 pm

These look incredibly delightful. And the photography is just gorgeous!

[…] Salted Maple Walnut & Vanilla Bean Chocolate Cups – Both rich and festive, this would be a great candy to wrap up and give as a gift to someone special on your list! […]

ana maria rodriguez17/12/2012 - 10:01 pm

Estan super estas preparaciones espero hacerlas pronto

Kathryne19/12/2012 - 6:58 pm

I sure do love the way you write, Laura. These little chocolatey treats look marvelous.

sarah20/12/2012 - 11:38 pm

Lovely lovely! I love everything about this post. And that photo with the hands and the vanilla bean is fantastic. xo

Erica22/12/2012 - 7:41 pm

Ohhh I love your nail color! I wish I could pull that off… I can only pull off reds and pinks. :(

Courtney24/12/2012 - 2:48 am

You totally had me with the vanilla bean fleur de sel. And let’s face it, I’m a sucker for anything with bourbon in it. YUM!

Heather Hands28/12/2012 - 12:50 pm

I love these pictures. The dark colors and moody lighting. Fabulous. A delicious recipe to-boot.

Zainab16/01/2013 - 2:00 am

I just found your food blog and I’m obsessed! The look delish, can’t wait to try them! :)

[…] by a number of recipes from around the interwebs (these stunning little Salted Maple Walnut Dark Chocolate Cups, this Raw Date Cocoa Nib Cookie recipe) this recipe came together based on what I had to hand and […]

oregano roasted brassicas with maple + dijon dressing

Brassicas = mustard-y cabbages, brussels, broccoli, cauliflower etc goodness. This hearty winter salad is one of the better things I’ve made as of late. As you can see, it’s unapologetically golden brown. I’ve tried before to roast these babies and keep some green intact for the sake of aesthetic presentation, but for real? The more brown edged bits abounding, the better. Embrace the brown.

It has the aforementioned winter vegetables, light sweetness, sharp dijon plus so many textures and things popping at once. It’s a bit of a riff on a brussels sprouts dish I was into last year–the roasting treatment, a strong acidic component, the crunchy hazelnuts and a heavy dusting of pomegranate arils (love that word). This time I invited some other brassica buddies to the party, changed up the vinaigrette and steeped the roasting oil with Mexican oregano and a smashed garlic clove before I slid the veg into a really hot oven. The sour and juicy hits of pomegranate burst on the palette just when you need something to tame the overall heft of it.

My mother tells a really good story about the first time she tried a pomegranate as a child.  A girl had brought one to school and shared it with her. Alight from the experience, she came home and told my Nana about it. The mysterious new fruit! So delicious, fun to eat and completely beautiful! Like any good mum, my Nana went right to the Italian market and splurged on one so that they could share it together at home. Maybe this isn’t so much a story as it is a nice way to remember my favourite ladies: a mini version of my mum picking out the little jewel-like seeds and showing them to my Nana for the first time and maybe a small amount of griping about how much work it was to actually eat the thing. Warm fuzzies are still pretty much guaranteed every time I cut into the fuschia holiday staple.

That sweet image was on my mind again when I was watching some morning news the day after we got back from a little time in Costa Rica. Young girls were full-on convulsing/crying at the hands of a Justin Bieber ticket giveaway gone awry. It was an instance of recognition that went along the lines of “Oh right, this continues to exist in the world.” I guess I wasn’t ready for it. Maybe someone should give those gals a pomegranate? Anyway. (No judgment–all love for Biebz) (But seriously, those young ladies would cry way too hard if someone gave them a pomegranate).

This could serve a lot of your peeps at a festive gathering for sure. If you’re like me, it MIGHT carry you over three lunches once you store it in the fridge. I couldn’t stop eating it, seriously. I went from tropical fruit breakfasts, ceviche all the time and 30+ Celsius beach days to some serious cold and gray Canadian winter vibes rather quickly. Pulling on the woolies, lots of hot tea, basking in some twinkle-lit glow, cozy music and giant (GIANT) bowls of cabbage-y darlings sprinkled with pomegranate and hazelnuts have all been pretty great things.

Hope you’re all easing into holiday time with lots of joy, gratefulness and cup-overflowing-levels of abundant health. Be kind, say thank you and eat some vegetables, friends. Big love to you all.

roasted brassica toss with pomegranate, hazelnuts + maple dijon dressing
serves: a crowd
notes: I meant to throw a handful of crumbled sheep’s milk feta into this, but completely forgot pre-photo. It’s delicious without it, certainly, but dang if it wasn’t on a whole other level afterward. If you got it, do it.

vegetables + roasting oil:
1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 clove of garlic, smashed and peeled (reserve after steeping)
1 tsp dried mexican orgeano
1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed + quartered
1 small head of cauliflower, trimmed + broken into bite-size florets
1 bunch of broccoli, stems trimmed + sliced, florets broken off
salt + pepper

dressing:
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp filtered water
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp dijon mustard
reserved garlic clove
salt + pepper
1/3 cup grapeseed oil

salad:
1 small pomegranate, seeds removed (a good guide can be found here)
1/4 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted + chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a very large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Make the roasting oil for the vegetables: in a small saucepan over low heat, combine the 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, garlic clove and oregano. Bring it to a very faint simmer, remove from the heat and let the mix steep for 10 minutes or so while you trim the veg. Fish out the garlic clove and reserve it for the dressing.

In a large bowl, combine the brussels sprouts, cauliflower florets, broccoli stems and florets with the oregano oil, salt and pepper. Toss until all vegetables are coated. Place vegetables on the parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Flip them around here and there.

Make the dressing: combine all dressing components in a blender and blitz a few times until a homogenous mix is achieved and the garlic clove is completely pureed. Check for seasoning and set aside.

Toss the roasted vegetables with the vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds and chopped hazelnuts. Place salad in your serving dish and garnish with a few more pomegranate seeds and nuts. Can be served warm or room temperature.

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Carrie | acookgrowsinbrooklyn05/12/2012 - 11:39 am

Giiirrl, you know I get down with the roasted brassicas. Pomegranates – not so much – but any friend of roasted cauliflower and brussels and broccoli is a friend of mine. And so, watch out pomegranates, I’m coming for you.

Eileen05/12/2012 - 3:15 pm

These sound great! And, lucky me, I have cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts just waiting in my crisper…

Lindsay05/12/2012 - 11:01 pm

I want to eat this right now! I think I would also throw in some beets. But mainly because I am craving roasted beets and goat cheese together. With the other brassica’s it would be simply divine. Thanks for sharing and glad to hear you had a lovely vacation :)

Hannah06/12/2012 - 12:00 am

Roasted veg with vinaigrette is a big favorite here – with pomegranate will be something new. Can’t wait to give it a go. Welcome back, stay warm, happy December …

Kathryne06/12/2012 - 12:18 am

I stocked up on brussels sprouts at the store today. Sprouts for days! Roasted really is the way to go and this dish sounds absolutely fantastic. “all love for Biebz.” You make me smile, Laura. :)

Kathryn06/12/2012 - 6:16 am

This salad sounds properly magical. All that sweetness from the roasted vegetables and the tartness of the dressing and the saltiness of the feta that you suggested. Perfect.

Big love to you too Laura.

Courtney06/12/2012 - 12:44 pm

This looks like the perfect combination of flavors and textures suited for this time of year. Yum!!

sarah07/12/2012 - 2:02 am

I can never not call him Biebz now. And yes, give those girls a pomegranate. That should be a t-shirt. But it could mean all kinds of things.

This looks delicious! I love your recipes. xo

Elizabeth09/12/2012 - 10:50 pm

I love every single thing about this. The food, the stories, even the poignant reminder that Bieber fever is no joke. Cheers to coziness, kindness, pomegranates and brassica love.

kelsey11/12/2012 - 2:20 pm

Brassica Buddy. NEW FAVORITE TERM OF ENDEARMENT.

Edna Silveira31/03/2013 - 9:47 am

Salada com romã… deve ficar muito boa!!!!

[…] Oregano Roasted Brassicas with Maple + Dijon Dressing […]

Sarune16/10/2013 - 6:28 am

Great recipe! I tryed it last night and it came out so well.

Eliza08/12/2013 - 5:35 pm

This recipe was a huge hit at thanksgiving! I I too couldn’t get enough of the leftovers. To my pleasant surprise, the pomegranate seeds even microwaved okay. My new go-to for pot lucks. Thanks!

spelt focaccia with seeds, thyme + caramelized onions


Everyone should learn how to make bread. I’m not being an idealist on this. It is a chief form of sustenance for many of course, but it is also a deeply meditative undertaking when you get yourself into it. There are repetitive motions to sink every strand of your awareness into, astute measures, risings to patiently wait for and monitor, that universally smile-inducing warm smell… Whole body, whole mind, loaves of bread. We all have the ability to bang it out; just a simple awakening to its powers is perhaps necessary. See where I’m going with this?

I’ve winded down to a bit of vacation time currently, it’s true —publishing this one from somewhere in Costa Rica, hopefully out in the surf at this point *waves hello*—, but deadlines, actual scheduled work, and loose ends abounded before an obligatory rum on the rocks found its way into my hot little hands by the ocean. I didn’t really know which of the umpteen-jillion things on my list I was supposed to finish first. So I did something that wasn’t on my list, or rather something that I didn’t know was on my list just yet. I made bread. (And listened to some 90s/early 2000s R&B).

Walking into any kitchen in any capacity to make bread with whatever equipment available is completely badass to me. Providing basic sustenance on a whim = a life skill supreme. Some of the coolest people I’ve met in my life were serious bread bakers and eventually I figured out why. I started to appreciate what the practice offered when I had to make it every day at a restaurant I worked at for a time. There is a slowness that you have to learn how to appreciate when you make it. It was such a non-stop-work-all-the-time period of my life (an aside: that is still actually a thing), but the small responsibility brought me some serious calm and quietude. So it was then, here I am now; hands in the flour working it all out.

This recipe from Kim Boyce is completely simple to remember. Focaccia is generally considered a good beginner’s bread undertaking. Equal amounts of whole grain and plain/softer flour, packet of quick yeast, fat pinch of salt, glugs of olive oil and whatever flavour/textural components you’re feeling at the moment. Easy.

I went very classic with this. Caramelized onions become the flavour salve of dreams in cool weather, going on everything to make it instantly better. Fresh thyme is easily my favourite herb, so it’s always poking out of some spot in the fridge, and I generally enjoy the crunch-surprise of seeds in almost everything bread-related (bagel memories, guys). Other ideas: dried figs, olives, roasted bits of squash, fried sage leaves, concord grapes if you still have them around, walnuts, a firm blue cheese (drizzle the whole thing with honey at the end-oooooh man), dabs of harissa and almonds etc etc.

spelt + seed focaccia with caramelized onions + thyme
very lightly adapted from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain
serves:
makes a large rectangular focaccia 
notes: 
If you want to age the dough a bit for a hint of sourness/more depth, tightly cover the dough after the first rising and place it in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake it, remove from the fridge well in advance so that the dough can come to room temperature and then follow through with the second rising and baking steps.

1 package quick rise yeast (2.25 teaspoons)
1 tsp raw honey (or natural sugar)
1.5 cups whole grain flour (I used spelt)
1.5 cups light spelt flour (or unbleached all purpose)
1 tbsp flaky/sort of coarse salt (I used Himalayan pink salt)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil + extra to grease the bowl
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
big handful of raw sunflower seeds
1 onion, peeled and cut into half moons
splash of sherry vinegar (optional)
coarse salt

Grease a medium-large bowl AND a large baking sheet with some olive oil. Pro tip: place a sheet of parchment on the baking sheet too to prevent heart-wrenching bread sticking (guess who forgot to do that..). Set both the bowl and the baking sheet aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the packet of yeast, honey/sugar and 1 1/4 cups warm water. Stir them together. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or so. The yeast should bubble a bit, seem foamy on the surface and bloom.

To the yeast mixture, add the flours, salt and 2 tbsp olive oil. Mix it all together to combine.

If you’re using a stand mixer: attach the dough hook and knead the mixture for 7-8 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to prevent sticking (I usually add around 1/4 cup extra). Mix until the dough is supple, stretchy and ever-so-slightly tacky. Scrape the dough into the greased bowl, coat it in the oil and cover. Let it rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

If you’re doing it by hand: start to knead the dough a bit in the bowl to get it going. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is supple and stretchy. There should be a slight tack to it when you poke your finger into it. Place the dough into the greased bowl and rotate the to cover in the oil. Cover and let it rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Make the caramelized onions: Place the half moons of onion in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Add a few thyme leaves at this point if you like. Stir them up here and there to promote even browning. The sizzling sound should be like a faint whisper. Keep stirring them here and there, adding splashes of water to prevent sticking if necessary. Once the onions are super soft, brown, juicy, delicious etc looking, add the splash of sherry vinegar, stir it around and remove pot from the heat. Set aside.

Second rise: Empty the dough out onto your prepared baking sheet. Stretch it out to fit the pan, dimpling it with your fingers (so fun). Once it’s all snug and fitted in the corners, cover the baking sheet and let it rise another hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pre-baking: scatter the thyme leaves, caramelized onions, sunflower seeds and pinches of coarse salt over the top of the dough. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil over the top as well. Dimple the dough very lightly, allowing the oil to sink into some bits of the dough and slosh around the edges for crisp end-results. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and allow the bread to slightly cool before serving.

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la domestique23/11/2012 - 8:19 pm

I am so with you on the bread thing. It’s easy + so, so rewarding + definitely badass. :) This focaccia looks real good.

jaime @ sweet road24/11/2012 - 9:55 am

All the ingredients here look delicious, I can only imagine how incredibly flavorful this bread might be!

Elizabeth A.24/11/2012 - 11:27 am

Thanks for the reminder, Laura. It’s one of my long term life goals to become a “real” bread baker. And I am so in need of a little “Whole body, whole mind, loaf of bread” right now. Off to the kitchen…

Kathryn25/11/2012 - 2:04 pm

This is just lovely – these flavours are perfect and I’m totally loving baking with spelt flour at the moment. That hint of nuttiness just makes me swoon.

Hope you’re having an awesome vacation!

Katie (The Muffin Myth)26/11/2012 - 3:39 am

Yummm! Isn’t Kim Boyce the best?! I love this version, and just so happen to have a bag of spelt flour sitting in my cupboard. Thanks for sharing another amazing recipe! And jealous of your time in Costa Rica! We’ve gone there several Decembers and had amazing times, but this year it’s rainy Vancouver and time with family instead. Enjoy the sunshine!

Sarah | offbeat & inspired26/11/2012 - 1:03 pm

I love the combination of caramelized onions and herbs. This looks delicious!

mince and type28/11/2012 - 9:24 am

I agree. Everyone should know how to make bread. I’m a big fan of Kim Boyce too! Using whole grain flours is not only healthier but it also tastes better. This looks amazing!

I’m jealous of your Costa Rica vacation!!

Kathryne29/11/2012 - 1:49 am

Hope you are clinkety-clinking some rum on the rocks now, Laura. Yeasted bread intimidates me. I should probably get over it.

sarah30/11/2012 - 12:57 am

Love! So many good things in this bread. I have been putting spelt into everything lately – I love it so much. And caramelized onions! My favorite. xo

Art & Lemons03/12/2012 - 5:46 pm

I’ve had this recipe marked in Good To The Grain for some time. Love that book! Thanks for reminding me I need to get back to my bread habit. I completely agree with you about making bread, it’s the one thing that always comforts and centers me in the kitchen. Cheers to you, enjoy the waves and your time away!

Kasey05/12/2012 - 2:25 pm

Kim Boyce is my baking goddess and I must say that I never baked so much as I have since acquiring her book. I hope you had a lovely time in the tropics! Strangely, I’m enjoying the gray days we’re having here…they sure give me lots of excuses to light my favorite candles, stay home and cuddle up with my cookbooks, and bake…a lot. xo