Chocolate chocolate-chip pancakes

Yes, sometimes breakfast gets a little extra indulgent and borders on dessert.  I can think of no better excuse (though who needs one) to indulge than Valentine's Day so the weekend beforehand, we did just that as I served up these chocolate pancakes for breakfast.  
These chocolate pancakes are made with buttermilk - tender, fluffy, and light, chock full of chocolate flavor from cocoa powder as well as mini chocolate chips that I folded into the batter.  I substituted some of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour and I think these pancakes can really handle it.  In fact, I think chocolate and whole wheat flour work really well together in general, often giving the finished product a subtle nutty flavor and texture.  
It's a little like eating a light and fluffy chocolate cake.  Think of it as an alternative to chocolate muffins.  I'd like to think I showed some restraint in not topping the pancakes with chocolate sauce like you often see.  As tempting as that may be, some berries and a few extra sprinkles of mini chocolate chips does the trick.
Looking at these pancakes is helping me deal with Valentine's Day withdrawals.  I hope you had a lovely one, filled with love and plenty of chocolate!  Lucky for me, there's Chinese New Year to continue the celebrations and the feasting on sweets.  I can't complain at all!


Valentine "Kisses"

It's almost Valentine's Day!  I love this little holiday because I adore all the hearts, the pink & red, the treats, the chocolate, and symbols of love.  We can all use more expressions of love and we can all appreciate a little sweet treat!  
I've been in the Valentine spirit and trying to spread a little of it through food.  These cookies are an example of that.  I'm calling them "Valentine Kisses" - essentially, they're soft chocolate cookies with a Hershey's Kiss on top.  I first saw this recipe as rainbow kiss cookies from Sally of Sally's Baking Addiction; I spotted them around Christmas and the colorful nonpareil sprinkles caught my eye and I haven't stopped thinking about them.  
Since I didn't get a chance to make them over Christmas, I thought I'd make them as a Valentine treat, and simply swapped the rainbow nonpareil sprinkles with pink-and-white ones.  You can easily customize these cookies for any holiday/occasion.  Sprinkles are versatile and always, always smile-inducing!  These cookies are not only fun to look at but really tasty.  They are soft and a little fudgy inside, packed with plenty of deep chocolate flavor.  The little chocolate Kiss on top makes the cookies what they are (and they are so cute to look at) but they're frankly equally good without it.  You'd just have to rename them from "kisses" to "bon bons" or something.
I could not resist making them in their original rainbow version as well.  They really make me smile!
Whatever sprinkles you roll these kiss cookies in, I think they're bound to make you smile and remind you of the joy of chocolate (not that anyone needs a reminder of that)!



Easy English muffin recipe!

Here's another first for me and something else I didn't expect to be making myself at home: English muffins!  I can hardly believe I made these and how incredibly easy it was!  I'd already hit the jackpot recently with the easy bagel recipe but, believe it or not, these English muffins could well be even easier and just as good.  I'm floating on cloud nine in the kitchen lately.
English muffins are actually one of my favorite things.  Whether slathered with almond or peanut butter, or in breakfast sandwich form, they feature heavily in my breakfast routine.  I really never felt the urge to make them given how complicated and mysterious the process seemed - from the yeast dough to shaping them into tart rings and then cooking over a griddle rather than baking in the oven.  I was satisfied with the English muffin bread recipe I learned a couple years ago.

So what changed?  Well, I was watching Gesine Bullock-Prado's show (which is really terrific), Baked in Vermont, and she said making English muffins was as simple as making pancakes!  She said she wasn't kidding, and let me tell you...she really wasn't kidding!  
I was a little skeptical that it might be too good to be true but there was little risk to trying so I decided to make a half batch of 4.  I literally stirred the dough together right before I left to pick up my son from school and the dough was ready when I got home.  Using instant yeast, it only takes a half-hour rise before the dough is ready to be cooked over a griddle!
I did not use tart rings to cook these English muffins.  I simply shaped them with wet hands into a rough round; I don't know about you but the English muffins I buy are never perfectly round and I'm more than fine with that.  The dough is sticky and is firm and thick enough to handle and to hold its shape.  I cooked the first side for about 10-12 minutes under medium-low heat, then flipped it and let the other side cook for the same amount of time.  It was truly minimal work and I was shocked!

I was amazed to see English muffins in my kitchen in such a short time and almost equally surprised when I sliced it open for breakfast the next day and saw nooks & crannies accounted for!  I used an equal mix of all-purpose flour and white whole wheat flour.  Since these are made via a quick rise, I thought they would be quite bland but I think the whole wheat flour added a great nutty flavor to them that I always enjoy.  They were really terrific - just toasted and slathered with butter and whatnot.
Equally, they made excellent bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches!  My son actually said these English muffins are better than the regular ones that I buy.  That is a serious testimonial.  I just couldn't believe I made breakfast sandwiches using homemade English muffins.  It took me a few days to get over the wonder of that...



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