Amazing orange-chocolate cookies featuring Villa del Conte’s Chocolates

Have I introduced you to one of my new favourite cookies ever in the whole wide world? No? Well, here’s your chance to meet. These amazing chocolate chip cookies have three kinds of chocolate inside, PLUS essence of orange, PLUS sea salt. If you’ve been eating a lot of chocolate desserts (or just really good chocolate in general), you probably know by now that something that elevates good chocolate things to great is this little thing called sea salt. Just like with caramel, sea salt seems to bring out in chocolate as well a boldness of flavour. And of course, the orange-chocolate combination has been around for a long time. Long enough to fall a step towards being called a classic, in my opinion.

These cookies are so good, my friends. SO CRAZY GOOD. I’m not even exaggerating here!

But before I get ahead of myself with these Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies, I thought I’d give a shout-out to the lovely people who sent me the chocolates that figured so well in these cookies. Some weeks ago, Villa Del Conte sent me their premium artisanal baking chocolate bars to try. (Thank you so much!) One is their milk chocolate, and the other is a semisweet 50% dark chocolate. Both bars come in 500-gram packages with their signature orange sticker on top.

These handcrafted chocolates hail from its namesake, idyllic rural Villa Del Conte in Padova, Italy (or Padua I suppose it’s better known as); where the recipe has been passed on from father to son for 75 long years.

Here’s a shot of the milk chocolate bar. Just look at how beautiful it is! I apologise if ogling chocolates sounds a little weird, but it’s exactly what I did when I opened these babies up. For someone like me who isn’t a milk chocolate lover, I thought the quality of this milk chocolate was excellent. Smooth and creamy, and not cloyingly sweet.

Believe me when I say I’m not one to compliment a milk chocolate bar.

Now my cardinal rule when it comes to using any kind of chocolate in baking is to always use the brand that I personally like to eat. These did pass my taste exam, but I still wanted to take these chocolates out for a test drive just to see how they would fare once I actually baked them into something. After all, Villa Del Conte promises that these chocolates will produce only the most luscious cakes, cookies, and pastries. I wanted to see how accurate this claim was.

The cookies I chose to make are a triple chocolate affair. There’s milk, semisweet, AND bittersweet incorporated into them, so clearly the chocolates play a huge role in the outcome of these cookies. For the bittersweet, I used another brand which has been my favourite for a while. But for the milk and semisweet, I chopped up some of the Villa Del Conte chocolates I was sent. My expectations were pretty darn high, I must admit.

And in case it wasn’t clear enough in my opening statement how much I love these. Hot damn. I REALLY FREAKING LOVE THESE COOKIES.
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Dabbling in cauliflower magic with this healthy Chicken BBQ Pizza

There’s this whole cauliflower craze that entered my radar last year thanks to the sheer genius of it. Who would’ve thought you could turn cauliflower into some sort of super ingredient to make a gazillion things?! The recipes I’ve bookmarked so far are all adaptations of calorie-heavy dishes (eg. white-sauce alfredo pasta, rice dishes, and pizza) because I’m curious to see how the heck you can transform cauliflower and incorporate it into these dishes. I don’t expect it to taste exactly the same as the original, but health benefits aside, would it actually taste good? Would it feel or look even remotely like what it’s supposed to mimic? How much effort does it even take?

To quell all the questions, there was really only one thing to do: try it out it!

Deciding to use pizza as the springboard for this experimentation– I sound like a mad scientist haha!– was a pretty easy decision. First of all I’m always in the mood for it. Secondly, I feel like it would be the simplest and easiest recipe to try. Plus I could customize the topping and make it a favourite flavour, just in case I don’t end up liking the cauliflower crust. Well the good news is I did like the cauliflower crust, so it ended up being a double whammy! 
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Love is like lemons and strawberries

Valentine’s means a lot of different things to different people. Apart from anniversaries, this is probably the only other day where couples go all out in surprising each other. My single friends joke about this being “Singles Awareness Day”, declaring that Valentine’s is just another commercial opportunity for companies to sell something. (Well ain’t that the truth!) Regardless of how you’re spending Valentine’s this year, I think we can all agree that it is a day that celebrates that little thing called love.

Love, which some may call the single sweetest feeling in the world; or the worst heartbreak that forever sours affections for another. But mostly I think love is the balance of the best and worst of human experiences. It’s an up and down jumble of emotions and memories that is neither always good or always bad. In certain moments it can send you to Cloud 9; at the same time it may drop you to any one of Dante’s layers of hell. One word, four letters, but quite possibly the most profound of all concepts to explain.

I’m not trying to partake in the impossible task of creating an explanation as to what or why love is. The fact that it exists is enough. And all I can say is, I’d like to believe we all have a love out there that we deserve. The one that we should work hard to own and keep. The one we accept with all our heart through the good times and the bad. Some of us might have already found it, but for the others who are still waiting: that’s okay! Love will come at its own time. :)

That said, I’m fervently wishing that no one is playing Leona Lewis at top volume because they’re suffering from Bleeding Heart Syndrome.

Ya see what I just did there? :P
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On ideal dates and pretzels dipped in chocolate

How go the preparations this Valentine’s week? I bet a lot of you are busy prepping homemade red-tinged desserts for romantic dinners already, with matching Jo Malone candles and beautiful China for the special night. Something personal and intimate in a place where you can be free to just be yourselves— that’s the best type of date in my opinion.

If I were to describe my perfect date, it would be something along the lines of a little picnic up on a rooftop. The sort where you can prepare a bit of food, then simply relax and enjoy each other’s company. The sort where you end up talking about pretty much anything under the stars. These days technology and social media have made chatting face-to-face so underrated, but I happen to think getting to sit down to actually talk to the people who are important in your life is a luxury I always want to have. You get to spend time with them and laugh with them and bask in the impact of their presence in your life. It’s cause for the heart to flutter and feel content.

Another scenario that seems to fall into the more fantastical realm (at least right now, since none of this is in any of my immediate travel plans) involves walking down the streets of San Francisco with pretzels or churros or ice cream in hand. Strangely enough always one of the three figures in my fantasies. There, we’d be walking towards some giant bookstore (one of my happy places!), and on the way I would spot a bunch of interesting storefronts and drag my boyfriend inside. I know this reads like something right out of a rom-com, but if that makes me a hopeless romantic, then whatevs!

I guess that pretty much explains why I’ve chosen to share a pretzel recipe today. While taking a romantic stroll in San Francisco with pretzel in hand might be somewhat of a dream at this point in time, at least I can still eat an actual yummy pretzel any time I please. I can just make them!

As a Valentine’s gift to my lovely readers, I also made a little how-to-make video featuring these awesome cinnamon pretzels with a chocolate dip. You can watch it after the jump! :)
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