Chocolate Buffet

I have a lot of catching up to do. I just got back from a wonderful anniversary weekend away and I have quite the backlog of posts for you. Here’s one from a few weeks ago, but not to worry. You can still catch it.

I was lucky to join Ms. L for the Langham Hotel‘s chocolate bar at Cafe Fleuri. It was delicious and I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. There were so many amazing treats. Everything I had was great and I was sure to choose wisely since there was sooo much to chose from.

The Three Bite Rule - Chocolate Bar
The Three Bite Rule - Chocolate Bar

The Three Bite Rule - Chocolate BarThese macaroons were amazing…one of my favorite items of the day.

The Three Bite Rule - Chocolate Bar
The Three Bite Rule - Chocolate Bar
The Three Bite Rule - Chocolate Bar
The Three Bite Rule - Chocolate BarThis was hands down my favorite item. There was something about Peanut Butter Bomb in the name. The tan part was soft peanut butter dough with a peanut butter center on some dark chocolate with a milk chocolate mousse.
The Three Bite Rule - Chocolate Bar
Thankfully they had some salty treats to keep us going. They make their own potato chips!
The Three Bite Rule - Chocolate Bar
I felt a bit wasteful since anything I deemed unworthy I didn’t go beyond the initial bite. There were too many good things to eat! We did a good job and left full without being sick, but  it was overwhelming. I loved it for the price tag (free!) but I would be hesitant to pay $40 for one sitting of chocolate. The desserts were really great, and there was an impressive spread of choices, but I’d only spend $40 on a box of chocolates I could enjoy until empty. I worked a gourmet candy store in high school and college so it isn’t lost on me, but free was fantastic.

Full 3 Bite Rule Disclosure: Our invitation from Google+ Local to the chocolate bar was completely complimentary but my thoughts, opinions, and words are entirely my own.

Lighter Lemon Squares

I haven’t shared anything sweet in a while. I made some lemon squares for my dad’s bday. He’s a sucker for lemon squares…get it? Hahaha!

They were good, but quite tart. He’s a healthy guy so I thought he would appreciate that Cooking Light had paired down the sugar and butter in this one. Without futher ado, I give you
The Three Bite Rule - Lemon Sq

Cooking Light’s Lemon Squares

Ingredients:

3 2/5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons canola oil
Cooking spray
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions by cooking light:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, pine nuts, and salt in a food processor; pulse 2 times to combine.
The Three Bite Rule - Lemon Sq
Add butter and canola oil. Pulse 3 to 5 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. Place mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; press into bottom of pan.
The Three Bite Rule - Lemon SquareBake at 350° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
The Three Bite Rule - Lemon Square

Combine granulated sugar and next 5 ingredients (through egg white) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Pour mixture over crust. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes or until set. Remove from oven, and cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Sprinkle squares evenly with 2 tablespoons powdered sugar.
The Three Bite Rule - Lemon Sq

These are their words, not mine. I was a nincompoop (why yes, spellcheck does knows that word and corrected it for me) and didn’t read through the whole recipe carefully first. This means I missed the memo that I was to toast the pine nuts. It was fine but the squares would have had 10x the nuttiness if I toasted the pine nuts.

Also ½ cup of fresh lemon juice doesn’t help. I juiced 2 large lemons and didn’t quite get ½ cup. Go with 3 lemons or have some bottled lemon juice to top it off. Do you know the trick to roll them around with some pressure to get the most possible juice? Roll with the meat of your hand while admiring your edgy nail polish and while applying pressure.  (It is prob not edgy anymore now that I said that, right?)
The Three Bite Rule - Lemon Sq

If I haven’t given enough credit where credit was due, this recipe (in it’s entirety came from Cooking Light just like the prior 3 links)

Sauce

More vacation fun! I wanted to get this amazing meal recap out before I spill the beans of my next vacays scheduled! :D You can check out what else I loved eating on vacation here.

I eat at this restaurant (Sauce) every year when I travel to San Fran for work and I fell in love the first time. They had me at mushroom jenga.
Sauce sign
Sauce serves this ap of lightly breaded mushroom “fries” stacked like jenga or lincoln logs. It comes with ranch dipping sauce. Even people who don’t like mushrooms like these.

mushroom jenga
After another crazy-filled day of sightseeing Mr. J and I were starving (as in this was the day we didn’t have Ghirardelli sundaes for lunch). We also had endured a somewhat impromptu hike. I don’t mean the regular crazy hills, I mean up the side of a peak.

I mentioned this spot and the menu caught Mr. J’s eye too. Sold! It was near our hotel and I was pretty jazzed at the prospect of splitting a bunch of small plates.

Needless to say, I got the portabello fries. Mr. J got bacon wrapped mini meatloaves served on mashed potatoes with gravy. What a fun idea for a potluck or dinner party?! Then we split everything else. Put your fat pants on, there was a lot of food.
mini meatloaf
We got Dungeness crab rangoons. It was pretty much all crab, no filler. Swoon. They were really good. I kind of changed my tune when we calculated the cost per Rangoon. Whatever, we were on vacation.
wontons
Next up was a side of Mac & Cheese. It was baked with a delightful cheese and cracker topping. I’m pretty sure the deliciousness came from a good quantity of butter.
Mac & cheese baked
And then the server asked us about dessert. Mr. J felt like we had to get the mini doughnut holes with vanilla bourbon dipping sauce. I wasn’t impressed with them earlier in the week because they weren’t warm and soft. Same story this time. Womp womp. We did a good job at them nonetheless.
mini donut holes
I was really interested in the PB&J cake with strawberry perserves, chunky peanut butter layer, and vanilla ice cream center.
pb & jelly cake
That’s when it went downhill. There was a sampler and we went for it. You can see above that it had the doughnuts, the PB&J cake. It also came with rum raisin cookie dough ice cream sandwiches.
cookie dough ice cream sandwich
They put some strawberries dipped in whipped cream and brown sugar on for good measure too. Why? Probably because these are full servings and intended for 4 people.

Mr. J was adamant that we finish. We were laughing so hard about how stuffed we were that we gave it a good shot but it was a doozy. I had a serious case of the giggles and Mr. J was doing some Lamaze breathing. Our waitress kind of thought we were insane.

It was such a fun meal. I kind of love the last night of vacation. Do you? I means it is almost time to go home and by the end I’m ready. It was such a fun dinner of sharing and there was PLENTY of food. Mr. J and I truly got to just enjoy ourselves and relish the moments.

source: Sauce

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

I saw some homemade peanut butter cups on pinterest and knew I had to make them for my dad. He loves peanut butter cups (and passed that love to me). I made these for Father’s Day and they were amazing, if I do say so myself.

They were way easier than I thought they’d be. I will definitely make these again. The pb cups had the flavors everyone loves but there was more chocolate (which makes them better, duh). I made mini ones and used the leftovers to make just a few big ones.
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Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

The recipe comes from Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients:

1 cups creamy peanut butter
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup light brown sugar
1¼ cups powdered sugar
4 cups milk chocolate chips
¼ cup vegetable shortening

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine peanut butter, butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Heat until completely melted and starting to bubble, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Add the powdered sugar a ¼ cup at a time, stirring until completely combined with the peanut butter mixture after each addition. Set aside and let cool.
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Melt the chocolate chips and shortening together in a double-boiler until completely melted.

Using a small cookie scoop or a couple of teaspoons, spoon melted chocolate into the bottom of each lined muffin cup.
pb_cups_filled_590_390Place a peanut butter scoop on top of each chocolate-lined muffin tin. Then use a scoop or spoon to add more melted chocolate on top and around each peanut butter patty.

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Refrigerate again for 30 minutes, then they’re ready to serve! Most of them looked good but this imperfect one seemed like a good one to taste test I mean photograph and cut up.
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I was afraid they might not come out of the wrappers, but that wasn’t a problem at all. My peanut butter sauce wasn’t as thick as Brown Eyed Baker’s was. The original recipe suggested rolling the peanut butter mixture into disks.

These were very good, and so worth it.

Cookbook: Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook

I got a copy of Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook but I kept it under wraps until I could make Cookie Dough Truffles for Mr. J’s Birthday. I’ve been making treats to accompany birthday and Christmas gifts lately and I figured this was definitely special enough! He got real gifts on his bday but I wanted him to have something to open at a family gathering too. Plus, I love excuses to make something unusual!

The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook is by Lindsay Landis. She also writes a blog Love and Olive Oil. Here’s her blog post for these cookie dough truffles! The cookbook is lovely and really has some good ideas. It is a fun one I think anyone would like. It is spiral bound which is a huuuuge help when following a recipe (it lays flat). I love the photography and I’m sure I’ll make something again. Here it is standing up but hiding behind my cookbook shield.
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The cookbook has a ton of creative recipes I haven’t seen everywhere. I have my eye on Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sandwich Cookies, and Cookie Dough-Stuffed French Toast.

I made the truffles and they came out ok. They were somewhat messy but tasted good (as was the case for some oreo truffles I made with Mrs. E way back when). Anything that has to be dipped in chocolate is going to be good but messy. I made them on a warm day and couldn’t come up with a good technique.

The dough is super sticky since there aren’t any eggs in the recipe, but otherwise it is standard cookie dough dipped into melted chocolate. First I made the dough.
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Then the chips are mixed in and it is left to refrigerate for 30 minutes. I’m a lucky duck that my Mum gave me a mixing bowl cover for opportunities such as these!

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Then the dough is rolled and dipped.

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I liked that there weren’t a million ingredients. I overlooked that the chips were supposed to be mini (makes sense). That might have allowed them to form more uniform balls, rather than the large and lumpy ones mine were.

My trouble was dipping. I think the tines of my forks are kind of close together to allow the chocolate to drip through. I tried a bamboo skewer and that seemed to go ok. They were tough to get off though. It meant that getting off the skewer left an undipped hole. I did my best to cover it and I definitely recommend sprinkles to hide any imperfections.
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He liked them. I thought they looked cute once they were done and I could breathe again. Dipping was time consuming so I might make them as cups…that’s just a hint to what I made in cups that worked so well. ;)

I wish I could send some fun sweet treats to Biloxi this weekend. Something tells me 95-degree weather would wreak havoc on some cookie dough deliciousness but should be great for a beachy bachelorette party! Enjoy ladies!

Full 3 Bite Rule Disclosure: My copy of Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook was completely complimentary but my thoughts, opinions, and words are entirely my own.

Birthday Party Theme: Apps & Zerts

This year may have been my best birthday theme ever. My life in event planning is Parks & Rec…to a tee. It is perfectly accurate in case you were wondering. I’m reasonably sure most of the jurisdictions I work with have assistants who are bribed not to let calls go through. They’ve referenced the piles of paper they have to get through and regularly do me a favor, by doing their jobs. Work hasn’t made me bitter, but I see the disparity in customer service all the time. I have a special place in my heart for park folks around the country who take their jobs as seriously as Leslie Knope.

Mr. J took all the photos so I could enjoy myself. It was wonderful and delicious. My friends are really talented. Somehow I thought there’d be a more manageable quantity of food compared to last year’s birthday food theme, but (K)nope, there was more!
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Without further ado, here they are!

Here’s the app winner: Not Swanson’s Zucchini Goat cheese Rolls (the winner won Ron Swanson paper dolls)
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This is the zert winner: S’more Cups (this winner got Leslie Knope paper dolls)
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These had LOTS of votes so it won a runner up award aka, a sketch of Tom Haverford
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This runner up got a sketch of Ben Wyatt since the flavors were so complex
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This runner up got the Chris Trager health award

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This runner up got a sketch of Donna since I thought Donna would find this Benz-worthy
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There was so much food! This one was mine!
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this was mine too!

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apps_zerts_bacon_590_390
apps_zerts_brownies_590_390 Are you hungry now?

Pies? Whoopie!

I loooove whoopie pies. I’m thankful that Mr. J comes from the state whose official treat is the whoopie pie (Maine’s official dessert is blueberry pie)! If I had my way, I wouldn’t have had a wedding cake, I would have served whoopie pies. Don’t get me  wrong, I ended up loving the cake, but how yummy would that have been?! For Christmas my bro & sis in-law gave me a whoopie pie pan and cookbook. It was so perfect since on the way to the C family Christmas I said I hoped I got a whoopie pie in my stocking!
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I’m not a big baker but now that I have lots more space and a fancy mixer, I hope to bake more. These came out great which was definitely a confidence booster. Also, you may recognize these from my Nosh guest blog post!

Oatmeal Whoopie Pies

Ingredients:

4 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (packed) brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups rolled oats (not fast-cooking)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
½ cup raisins (optional)
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and both sugars on low speed.
Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla dn beat until light and creamy, about 3 minutes.
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In a food processor or blender, process ¾ cup of the oatmeal until it resembles whole grain flour. Transfer the ground oatmeal to a medium bowl and add the remaining oatmeal, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the oatmeal mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and beat on low speed until just combined.
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Using a spoon, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets and repeat, spacing them at least 2 inches apart.
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Bake one sheet at a time for about 11 minutes each or until the cookies begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
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Makes about 48 two-inch cakes.

Classic Marshmallow Cream

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups Marshmallow Fluff
1 ¼ cups vegetable shortening
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract

Directions

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the Marshmallow Fluff and the vegetable shortening, starting on low and increasing to medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Reduce mixer speed to low, and add the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla, and beat until incorporated.
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Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more.

I was really proud of these and they were delicious. I might fill the whoopie pan a bit less next time because they were pretty large.
Using the whoopie pan, I made 24 cakes, thus making 12 whoopie pies.
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The cookbook is cute. I liked that it was casual (makin’ whoopie, beating filling until you forget about it, etc). The pictures are great and there are some great combinations (bacon chive goat cheese filling or pistachio cardimum cakes, or mocha etc).

Please Sir, May I have S’more

I know, I know, s’mores were so last summer. All summer I just kept thinking I should make one of the many s’mores cookies or s’mores bars out there but I never got to it. This was a good one to flex my baking muscle though! They were a shortbread cookie with a layer of chocolate and a layer of marshmallow. They were topped with a little cookie crumble.
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I made these for my bookclub ladies when I also served them calzones and I knew my colleague Ms. K deserved one after breaking some hearts at work for the youth program.

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2  cups chocolate chips
3 cups miniature marshmallows

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degree F. Spray an 8 inch square baking pan.
Beat butter and sugar until well blended in large bowl. Add egg and vanilla; beat well.
Slowly add flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt, beating until blended.
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Press half of dough in prepared pan. Bake 15 minutes.
smores_baked_590_390Sprinkle chocolate chips over baked layer then sprinkle with marshmallows.
Scatter bits of remaining dough over marshmallows, forming top layer.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes or just until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. 16 bars.
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I liked that these weren’t overly sweet but the gooeyness of the marshmallows made these a fun treat. They’re also a great cookie bar I think everyone would like.

Swappin’ Cookies

I think this is the last of my holiday items to catch you up on. Do you have today off? Great! Make some of these cookies! If you’re working today then just stay tuned this week for a guest blog recipe post and a calzone!

I love all the cookies that come along with the holidays. Growing up I don’t think I realized how lucky I was that Mum made so many cookies, from scratch. I thought everyone was so lucky.

Normally when cookie swaps are mentioned everyone groans and isn’t into consuming more calories this time of year so I think I haven’t been to one since 2008? Wow.
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Ms. L invited me to one at Flour that is also a fundraiser for Cradles to Crayons. I’m so glad I took on the challenge but brining cookies to Flour Bakery? Talk about pressure! Let’s also talk about the recipe I chose considering I don’t bake very often: Apple Oatmeal Toffee Drop Cookies. Go ahead, you can laugh.

I made a sugar cookie base thinking I’d make some more cookies soon afterwards…what was I thinking? During packing, buying the house, and preparing to move all during the holidays, I had no time.

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used granulated brown sugar)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup quick oats
1 green apple, chopped
1/2 cup toffee bits

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
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Cut in butter and sugars together.  Add egg and vanilla, and mix until well incorporated.
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Add oatmeal and apple and stir by hand until combined.
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Form dough into ping-pong sized balls. Form an indent on the top and fill with toffee bits (see the top row). Cover the toffee with the dough from the sides of the well (see the bottom row).
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Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown. Then transfer to a cooling rack.

I made a double batch since we were asked to bring 2-4 dozen. These suckers had lots of butter, brown sugar, and oatmeal. I mixed in granny smith apples but filled them with toffee bits. I think the apple did a lot to keep them soft and the toffee melts so much faster and might leave these with burn toffee oozes if it isn’t stuck in the middle.

Baking a double batch and filling each cookie was a test of my patience. I tried to just go slow and make them all perfect. They came out awesome but baking cookies is hard work! I had 2 trays going and my apt oven was terribly uneven. Two timers, fifty million cookies, and creative cooling racks I was done and ready for the swap. (Mine are in the middle in the back).
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There were some awesome cookies at the swap. I had to admit there were a few I thought were below par. I’d never bring chocolate chip cookies to a swap unless they were perfectly cooked and the best ever…these weren’t.
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I was hoping Joanne Chang would talk more about baking, about Flour, about holiday cookies, etc. She talked about why they hosted this event again but I would have liked to hear about her cookbook or her favorite goodies. She had made Butter Breton Cakes that she was testing for her next cookbook.  They were reallllly good.
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Foolproof Black Forest Bread Pudding

As you know, I’m not really a baker. This is a fool-proof dessert that will really wow everyone. It’s really rich and chocolaty. The cherries add a nice touch without too much of a chocolate and fruit combo.
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Ingredients

8 slices of pumpernickel rye bread (without seeds)
3 tsp butter, melted
1 cup dark cherries, pitted
1 ½ cups chocolate chips
½ tsp cinnamon
¾ cup sugar
6 eggs, beaten
3 cups heavy whipping cream

Directions

Cut bread into 2” cubes
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Mix bread chunks with with melted butter in a 9×9 baking pan.
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In a double boiler, melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips with sugar and whipping cream.
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Sprinkle the remaining chips and the cherries in with the bread chunks.
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Remove chocolate from heat and slowly mix eggs into the chocolate/cream mixture.
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Pour over bread and cheeries in the baking dish.
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Let sit in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.
Bake 60 minutes at 350-degrees until the center has set.
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Serve warm.

Fun fact: pumpernickel bread has cocoa in it! Who knew? I didn’t for awhile but when you think about it, cocoa isn’t sweet on it’s own. If you are serving extremely picky eaters I would leave that fun fact until after they’ve tried it.
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This is an easy make-ahead dessert. I don’t even think you can over cook it! You can definitely add more bread and more eggs/cream in proportion. There should be enough liquid that the bread only peeks out but everything is covered.