Chocolate needs to be re-tempered after melting to make sure you have a chocolate that doesn’t soften at room temperature or fall apart when filled or molded. There are several methods of tempering chocolate. I’m giving you the simplest.
To Temper Dark Chocolate: Chop the chocolate. Heat half of it in the top half of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Stirring until the chocolate’s temperature reads between 115 and 120 degrees on a candy thermometer (the chocolate will melt quickly, and the temperature may already be high enough, even before all the chocolate is melted). Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir until the chocolate is melted through and smooth. Add the rest of the chocolate in batches until it is all incorporated. Adding the chocolate in this method will “seed” the chocolate with crystals and make sure it tempers correctly. Stir continually. When the chocolate starts to thicken check the temperature again. You will want it to be cooler than 90 degrees before you stop stirring. At this point it is tempered and you can use it as such.
To test whether it’s tempered you can dip a knife into it and put it in the fridge for a few minutes. The sample should harden well.
Milk chocolate and white chocolate tempers at between 86 and 88 degrees.
Make sure you are using edible oils and flavorings (they should be labeled as such). Essential oils meant for bath products and crafting uses can be toxic if ingested.
Several people have asked for the truffle recipe Felicity makes in Grand Openings Can Be Murder. She’s all about creating meaning through flavor in the kitchen, and this truffle reflects her confusion over her two potential love interests, as there are elements here that represent each of them. Each chocolate will react a little differently, so you may need to adjust the chocolate to cream ratio in order to get a ganache that is solid enough to roll. The test for this recipe was done with a fairly average 70% chocolate. If you want to make different truffles, you can vary the flavoring oils.
1 c. heavy cream
1 sprig of tarragon
4 sprigs of thyme
6 basil leaves
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. white pepper
1 lb. dark chocolate, chopped
6 drops lemon flavoring oil or extract
4 drops bergamot flavoring oil or extract
4 drops rose flavoring oil or extract
Cocoa powder, for rolling
Cocoa nibs, for topping
Place the cream, tarragon, thyme and basil in a small pot, and bring just to a simmer over medium-low heat. Turn the heat off and allow the herbs to steep for 20 minutes. Strain out the herbs and add the lemon zest and white pepper. Discard herb solids. Return the cream to the pot and heat over medium-low until the cream starts to steam.
Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Pour the cream over it, and allow it to sit for several minutes, until the chocolate starts to melt. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Add the flavoring oils and whisk again. Place the ganache in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
Roll the ganache mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball into the cocoa powder, and then press a few cocoa nibs into the top.
As Felicity says in the book, there are a ton of ways to make gumbo, and everyone has their favorite. This is how we make it in our house. You can vary this with different proteins (shrimp and crab are a popular choice) depending on what’s on hand. Okra and filé powder are traditional ingredients in gumbo. But they are both thickeners, so I usually skip okra and add just a little filé, since I don’t like my gumbo super thick. If you don’t like the taste of file, you can easily omit it, since it is added to taste to each serving. If you prefer okra in your gumbo, add about half a pound of sliced okra to the mix. You can make your own roux, but there’s no shame in using the jarred variety (we’ve done both ways, and there’s not a noticeable difference). I grew up in Southeast Texas (the Beaumont/Port Arthur area), and Douget’s Rice Mill is local to Beaumont, so I grew up using their roux (still recommend), but since my husband and I moved to north of Dallas, we find Kary’s is easier to find (and is available on Amazon, if you can’t get it locally).
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ lbs. boneless chicken, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 Tbsp. roux
½ lb. andouille sausage
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
½ to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
¼ c. dried parsley
Filé powder, for serving
Cooked rice, for serving
Place olive oil in the bottom of a large pot over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add the diced chicken and brown, stirring frequently. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables are tender and the onion turns translucent. Add the roux and enough water to cover the chicken (around 2 quarts of water). Add the sausage. Bring to a boil. Add the salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Turn the heat down to achieve and active simmer. Cook for an hour or more. In the last few minutes add the parsley. Serve over rice, sprinkling a little filé powder over each serving (to taste).
One of my favorite chocolate shops is in Deep Ellum (a neighborhood in Dallas). CocoAndre isn’t just a chocolate maker – it’s also a horchateria and they do the BEST dirty horchata. When I designed my fictional chocolate shop, I wanted to include more than just chocolate, because that wouldn’t make for a shop where people would linger, to be a gathering place for my fictional community. CocoAndre was my model for Felicity’s shops coffee bar – so of course, her assistant Carmen’s specialty is dirty horchata. Horchata isn’t difficult to make – it just requires a bit of advance planning, since you’ll want the rice to infuse into the water overnight. Make sure to cool the espresso before adding it to the drink, because warm coffee will melt the ice and water it down. I tend to drink beverages with less sweetener, so I personally drop the sugar in this recipe to ¼ cup. You could bump it up to a whole cup if you like things really sweet. If you want a boozy version, you could add half a shot of Kahlua to each glass.
1 1/3 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
1 ½ c. milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ c. granulated sugar
chilled espresso or cold-brew concentrate (1 to 2 shots per serving)
Place the rice, crushed cinnamon sticks and 2 cups of water in a blender. Blend for 2 minutes. Add an additional 2 cups of water and blend for another two minutes. Transfer the rice and water mixture to a lidded pitcher and let sit out at room temperature for around 12 hours.
Pour the rice mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a second pitcher. Discard the solids. Stir in the milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar. Chill for at least half an hour.
For each drink, fil a glass with ice and fill ¾ of the way with horchata. Add 1 to 2 shots of chilled espresso.
When I started working on Grand Openings Can Be Murder, I impulsively had Carmen making cupcakes for the titular grand opening party. But I didn’t want them to be just any cupcakes – they were chocolate cinnamon cupcakes with lemongrass frosting – which is an actual recipe I had created for my cookbook, There are Herbs in My Chocolate. I decided that the herb and chocolate thing would be Carmen’s signature cooking style. So when she makes besos later in the book, they’re not just besos – they’re chocolate chunk besos, rolled in lavender coconut. In the second book, she makes spicy orange cookies and conchas with rosemary and cayenne. Here’s the recipe that sets the tone for Carmen’s character and establishes her cooking style. I hope you enjoy the combination of flavors as much as I do. The frosting for these cupcakes combines cinnamon whiskey with lemongrass-infused butter. The cinnamon hits you first – and then the lemon comes in as a back note. Lemongrass is too gritty/abrasive to mince into a baked good, and you don’t want to add too much liquid to a frosting, so do take the time to infuse the butter and cool it back to solid. For a non-alcoholic version, add two tsp. of cinnamon to the frosting, and add milk to make up the missing liquid.
1 c. cocoa powder
2 c. hot coffee
2 ⅔ c. all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 c. butter, room temperature
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 batch Lemongrass Buttercream Frosting
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper wrappers.
Combine the cocoa powder and the hot coffee in a medium bowl. Stir to dissolve. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Stir in the chocolate mixture and mix to a uniform color.
Scoop 2 Tbsp. of batter into each paper cup. Bake 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then frost with Lemongrass Buttercream Frosting.
Lemongrass Buttercream Frosting
1 batch Lemongrass-Infused butter
Shortening, as needed
4 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar
4 Tbsp. cinnamon whiskey
Measure the lemongrass butter, and add enough shortening to total one cup.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl frequently. Add the cinnamon whiskey and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
Lemongrass Infused Butter
2 stalks fresh lemon grass
1 c. butter
2 tsp. lemon zest
Trim and discard tough tops and root ends from lemon grass. Remove and discard tough outer layers.
Cut each stalk lengthwise in half, and cut into 2-inch pieces. Place the butter in a saucepan pan, and add the lemongrass pieces. Over high heat, melt the butter. When butter is melted, turn heat to low and stir often until flavors are blended, 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the butter into a bowl. Add the lemon zest. With a slotted spoon, lift out and discard lemon grass. Let cool, cover, and chill until solid.
In my book, Felicity’s aunt brings jambalaya to share with a grieving family. Some jambalaya recipes have you cook the rice in the sauce, but this tends to give you a drier result, as the rice sucks moisture out of the sauce. Serving the jambalaya over the rice also allows people to choose more or less rice to go with the dish. If, like Naomi, you’re taking the food somewhere to be part of a buffet, you can always toss the sauce together with the cooked rice just before you head out the door. The sausage has to be part of this dish, but you can substitute other proteins for the chicken. Popular choices include shrimp, duck, turkey, wild boar or alligator.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless chicken, cubed
1 ½ lb. smoked andouille sausage, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can peeled diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning blend
1 tsp. ground thyme.
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced, for serving
Cooked rice, for serving
Place the olive oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and brown through. Add the sausage and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Cook stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and the Cajun seasoning blend, thyme, and cayenne pepper, and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for an hour or more. Serve over rice, sprinkled with fresh parsley.
In Grand Openings Can Be Murder, Felicity Koerber makes bean to bar craft chocolate. To entice people new to bean to bar chocolate to try it out, she makes a whole line of truffles inspired by traditional Cajun desserts. Here, I’ve reversed the idea and given you a recipe for a dessert that incorporates single origin chocolate into the sauce. To counterpoint the pecans, choose a fruity-noted chocolate. This comforting dessert combines rustic bread pudding studded with raisins and pecans with an elevated version of a classic Cajun-style whiskey sauce. You can use whatever kind of whiskey you like. For a non-alcoholic version, omit whiskey and add a tablespoon of vanilla and several gratings of nutmeg for flavor.
butter, for greasing
3 1/2 to 4 c. day-old French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ c. heavy cream
1 c. whole milk
2 large eggs
½ c. brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped pecans
Powdered sugar, for garnish
1 batch Single-Origin Chocolate Whiskey Sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 4 (6-inch) ramekins with butter and set aside.
Place the bread cubes in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the heavy cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt. Whisk to combine, then add the pecans and raisins. Stir until uniform, then pour the custard mixture over the bread. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is uniform, the allow to sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Divide the pudding mixture evenly in the four ramekins and bake 40-45 minutes or until the center of the bread pudding is set. Dust on a little powdered sugar and top with warm chocolate whiskey sauce. Serve warm.
Single-Origin Chocolate Whiskey Sauce
6 oz. single-origin dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. milk
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. whiskey
Place chocolate in the top portion of a double boiler (there should be roughly 2 inches of water in the bottom pan) over medium heat, stirring frequently until the chocolate is melted through. Remove from heat and set aside. Set aside.
Whisk together the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Add the cream, and whisk to incorporate. Let cool completely, then stir in the whiskey. Serve on top of bread pudding or other dessert.
My agent is in Minnesota, so I thought it would be fun to have a character who’s from there too. My husband and I visited Minnesota in 2019 for a writing event, and we talked to so many people who were excited to share their favorite local food (we had just missed the fair, which is apparently a big deal). When I had Logan make Felicity a meal that represented his home kitchen, I had to go hotdish. Felicity’s a foodie, and I needed Logan to be a good match for her, so I made his cooking style all about elevated comfort food. He’ll eat tater tot casserole – but he’s going to make his mushroom soup from scratch. Make your batch of cream of mushroom first, then the casserole will come together easily. You can add some fresh or frozen veggies if you want to bump up the nutrition.
Butter, for greasing
1 lb. ground beef
½ c. onion, chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. salt
1 package (16 ounces) frozen tater tots
1 ½ c. cream of mushroom soup (see recipe below)
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Grease a two quart baking dish with the butter. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the ground beef and onion in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook until the onion becomes translucent and the beef is cooked through. Drain any grease, then add the garlic powder, pepper and salt.
Pour the ground beef mixture into the prepared baking dish, spreading to make a smooth layer. Add the frozen tater tots, making another layer. Pour the homemade cream of mushroom soup over the tater tots. Top with the shredded cheese.
Place the baking dish in the prepared oven and bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until heated through.
In Grand Openings Can Be Murder, Felicity%u2019s assistant Carmen makes baked goods from Felicity%u2019s chocolate. One of the things she makes is chocolate-chunk pan dulce %u2013 in this case Besos (the word is Spanish for kisses), also known as yo-yos, because that%u2019s what they look like. There are a number of variations on what they%u2019re sandwiched together with, and how they%u2019re coated. Carmen%u2019s cooking style takes classics and basics %u2013 and then elevates them by incorporating herbs and spices (this ties into everything I learned writing There are Herbs in My Chocolate). We used home-made strawberry jam which was thick and sticky, which helped the two halves of the bread to really stick together. And don%u2019t be afraid to really grease the outside of the assembled besos, to get the coating to stick.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, plus one additional yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup chocolate chunks
1 tablespoon food grade lavender flowers\
1 tablespoon caster sugar, plus 2 additional tablespoons
1 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup strawberry jam
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, yeast and baking powder. Set aside.
Place the softened butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, and cream the mixture until it becomes fluffy. Add the eggs and the vanilla, then mix until well combined. Add the flour mixture, the water, and the vanilla extract. Mix on low for 1 minute, to combine and then increase the speed to medium. Continue mixing until the dough takes on a soft, smooth texture (about 10-20 minutes). Add the chocolate chunks and work them into the mixture using your hands or a spoon.
Using a 2-ounce baking scoop or the palm of your hand, place half spheres of dough roughly 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the spheres are browned (about 15-20 minutes). Cool completely.
Meanwhile, in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle, combine the lavender flowers and the tablespoon of caster sugar. Grind until you achieve a fine powder, then put the powder through a fine-mesh strainer. Re-grind any remaining solids. Discard anything that won%u2019t go through the strainer. Place the lavender sugar in a medium bowl, add the remining caster sugar and the coconut flour and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of strawberry jam on the flat side of one cooled beso half. Place another half, flat side against the filling to create a sandwich with the jam in the middle. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to stick better.
Using your fingers, coat the cooled beso halves with the room-temperature butter. Roll into coconut sugar mixture, then tap off the excess coconut.
This should make about enough for your hotdish. If you want to make enough to either eat the soup as soup, or to have cream of mushroom in the freezer for later, here ‘s a link to the full batch recipe.
1 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. olive oil
1 c. onions, diced
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. shitake mushrooms, diced
1 c. baby portabella mushrooms, diced
2 Tbsp. Marsala wine (any dry red or white wine)
1 1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 pinch dried thyme
1 pinch salt
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 c. beef stock
¼ c. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
Melt butter and oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is softened and starts to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms and let them cook down a bit (4-6 minutes) then add the wine and cook for a few more minutes. Add the flour, thyme, salt and pepper to the mixture, and mix until the flour is completely combined. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, then add the stock and stir until the mixture is uniform. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.
Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally until thickened (around 30 minutes).
Reduce heat to low, stir in cream and parsley. Simmer for and additional 4-6 minutes (do not allow the mixture to boil). Adjust seasonings. Pull out ¼ cup of the mixture and set aside. Puree the rest of the soup using an immersion blender until smooth, then return the remaining soup to the pot and stir to incorporate.
Cream of Mushroom Soup (Full Batch) –
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 c. onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 c. shitake mushrooms, diced
4 c. baby portabella mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup Marsala wine (any dry red or white wine)
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 c. beef stock
1 c. heavy cream
¼ c. fresh parsley, chopped
Melt butter and oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is softened and starts to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms and let them cook down a bit (4-6 minutes) then add the wine and cook for a few more minutes. Add the flour, thyme, salt and pepper to the mixture, and mix until the flour is completely combined. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, then add the stock and stir until the mixture is uniform. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.
Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally until thickened (around 30 minutes).
Reduce heat to low, stir in cream and parsley. Simmer for and additional 4-6 minutes (do not allow the mixture to boil). Adjust seasonings. Pull out two cups of the mixture and set aside. Puree the rest of the soup using an immersion blender until smooth, then return the remaining soup to the pot and stir to incorporate. Measure 1 ½ cups of the completed soup for your hotdish recipe. Reserve remaining soup for another use.