Added on by Monica Cheng.

It’s the spring quarter, and I have yet to fully come to terms with the fact that this is the last nine weeks of my undergraduate studies at Northwestern. It’s weird because I’ve been so preoccupied with preparations for the future -- fellowships and medical school applications -- that I think I have not had a chance to truly appreciate the present.

Soo, this spring, I want to be able to enjoy my last months as a college student in Chicago, especially now that I know for sure that I will be leaving the city and spending the next year in Boston. Despite having ventured to the various parks, museums, shops, and neighborhoods of Chicago over the past four years, it feels like I’ve only just grazed the surface of what the city has to offer and there are still many new and exciting places to explore. Which is great. I have a list of things to do this last Chicago, bike down the lakeshore path to the city, see the Museum of Contemporary Art, try the Bongo Room, and relish another pistachio & honey ice cream from Jeni’s.

In the spirit of trying new things, I have decided to face my long-held fear of yeast, which is -- to be honest -- not grounded in any reality. Cue, focaccia.

Focaccia is the perfect beginner’s bread. Easy to make, no fuss, and no kneading necessary. It requires few ingredients outside of flour, warm water, and yeast. After a two-day slow rise and a second rise, you get a beautifully golden crusted focaccia with a satisfying chew and a springy flavorful top, packed with the flavors of rosemary, thyme, mozzarella, and other spices. Dip in olive oil to as a snacking bread, or slice in half to make a sandwich. Enjoy!



From Food52 | Yield: 6 - 10 servings

3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or high-gluten bread flour)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1/8 cup olive oil

Shredded mozzarella & parmesan cheese, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, garlic powder, for topping

Whisk together flour, salt, and yeast. Add warm water and stir by hand until sticky dough forms. Pour olive oil into container. Transfer dough to container, turn to coat, and cover tightly with lid or plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator to rise for 1 or 2 full days.

Line 9 x 6.5 inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer dough to prepared pan. Spread out as much as possible. Place in warm place (oven, with light turned on) and let rise until doubled in size, approximately one hour. The dough should feel fluffy.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Pat focaccia to even thickness of approximately 1 inch on baking sheet. Dimple entire dough using fingertips (kind of like playing piano chords on the dough), and drizzle with olive oil. Add toppings. Bake 15 minutes, or until top is uniformly golden brown. Enjoy!

Storage: Store in air-tight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Irish Coffee Eclairs

Added on by Caroline Zhang.
Irish Coffee Eclairs | Pass the Cocoa
Irish Coffee Eclairs | Pass the Cocoa
Cream as rich as an Irish brogue
Coffee as strong as a friendly hand
Sugar sweet as the tongue of a rogue
Whiskey smooth as the wit of the land.
-Joe Sheridan's Irish Coffee Recipe, 1943

Choux pastry is a nemesis. I'd be the first to admit that I'm quite complacent in my baking. No prayers and shortcuts in the kitchen; I've grown accustomed to expecting most things to turn out the way I planned--or at least, to look and taste pretty good. 

There is a handful of exceptions to that rule; choux is one of them. The first few times I made choux in a college dorm were unqualified disasters, soggy and egg-y lumps of dough or flat, collapsed disks. I've definitely improved my understanding of this strange, twice-cooked dough, but choux still has me imploring Saint Honoré and peering anxiously into the oven window to see if my eclairs are rising.

However, homemade eclairs are absolutely, completely worth it. It's so hard in most places to find eclairs and cream puffs with choux shells that are still crispy and filling that is rich and creamy and not thinned out with fake flavors and fats. 

Irish Coffee Eclairs | Pass the Cocoa
Irish Coffee Eclairs | Pass the Cocoa

I ironically had to give up coffee during the last few weeks of writing my thesis because it was making me too jittery. But the thesis is in,  the caffeine is flowing again, and I couldn't help but pair it with some Irish whisky, cream, and chocolate and stuff it inside an eclair.

For this recipe, I received a wonderful sample of a light roast Ethiopian coffee from Atlas Coffee Club, a subscription service that provides coffees from around the world. Their Ethiopia Sidamo coffee is light, fragrant, and fruity. It's strong enough to lend body and flavor to the Irish coffee pastry cream in the eclairs, but smooth and delicate enough to balance with the whisky I added.

And since the chocolate glaze looked a little plain on its own, I decorated the eclairs with white chocolate sprinkled with matcha, and green matcha polka dots. It seemed appropriate given Saint Patrick's Day and the Irish poetry thesis. 


Atlas Coffee Club provided me with a free sample of their coffee to review. All opinions are my own.

Irish Coffee Eclairs | Pass the Cocoa

Irish Coffee Eclairs

Yields: about 40 three-inch eclairs

For the Choux Pastry
1 cup water
½ cup unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 eggs

For the Irish Coffee Pastry Cream
⅔ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
⅛ teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
1 ¼ cup half and half (see notes)
1 cup strongly brewed coffee, hot
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey, divided
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

For the Chocolate Glaze
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
¾ cup heavy cream

For Decoration (Optional)
4 ounces white candy melts or white chocolate (see notes)
1 teaspoon matcha powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped freeze-dried strawberries


You could substitute the half and half with a combination of whole milk and cream. I would advise against using all milk; the pastry cream requires some fat for flavor and texture. 

Though I’m usually a snob about chocolate, I would advise using white candy wafers, or white chocolate without actually cocoa butter for the decorations (I used Nestle brand), since it doesn’t require tempering and will set more firmly.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the water, butter, and salt in a pot. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts and the water begins to simmer. Take the pot off the stove.

Add flour and stir the mixture vigorously until it comes together in a thick dough. 
Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat and cook it for another 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, in order to dry out the dough.

Take the pot off the heat, and let the dough cool for about 5 minutes. Give it a few stirs to help it cool off. Whisking constantly, add 4 eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. It will seem impossibly lumpy, but keep mixing and the batter will come together. The mixture should be smooth and shiny; if you scoop some batter out of the bowl, it should fall back into the bowl in a thick ribbon and hold its shape on the surface of the batter. If it is too thick whisk the 5th egg in a separate bowl, and add it a spoonful at a time, until the batter reaches the right consistency.  (Don’t add the 5th egg all at once, or the batter may become too runny).

Pour the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip. (Or simply snip off the end of a gallon size Ziploc bag). Pipe 3-inch lines onto the parchment paper. Wet your fingertip and flatten any peaks in the batter you just piped.

Bake the choux for 20 - 25 minutes at 425 F until they are a golden brown. Turn off the oven and crack open the door, and let the choux sit for 15 more minutes. The choux should be hollow and completely dry on the inside. Let cool completely.

Make the microwave Irish coffee pastry cream (though you certainly could make it the traditional way over a stove). In a large microwaveable bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt, breaking up any clumps in the cornstarch. 

Whisk in the cream, followed by the egg yolks. Whisk until completely smooth. While mixing continuously, add in the hot coffee. Add in the cubed butter.

Microwave on full power for 6 to 8 minutes (it will depend on the power of your microwave), stopping the microwave and mixing the pastry cream every minute or so. The pastry cream is done when it begins to boil and and thickens to a pudding-like consistency.

Cover the pastry cream with a piece of plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight, or for at least 3-4 hours to allow the cream to chill and set. 

Put the pastry cream in a piping bag with a small round tip.

With a sharp knife, poke two evenly spaced holes in the bottom of each eclair that are large enough for the tip of the piping bag. 
Pipe the pastry cream into both holes of each eclair until they are filled and feel heavy in your hand.

Make the chocolate glaze. Heat the cream on the stove or in the microwave until it just begins to simmer. Add the chocolate. Let sit for a minute, then stir until combined and smooth.

Dip the top of each eclair in the chocolate, and place onto a cookie sheet to set.
Make the decorations, if desired. Melt the white candy melts and divide roughly in half between two wax paper-lined cookie sheets. Spread into a thin, even layer. Sprinkle half with freeze-dried strawberry, and dust the other half with matcha. Let set completely, then cut into small pieces to place on top of the eclairs. You can also reserve a little bit of the candy melt and mix in some matcha powder to color it green. Pour the candy melt into a ziploc bag, and pipe small dots. Let set, and place ontop of the eclairs.

Store eclairs in the refrigerator. They are best they day they are made, but can keep for 2-3 days. 

No Bake Blood Orange Cheesecake Tartlets

Added on by Caroline Zhang.
No Bake Blood Orange Cheesecake Tartlets | Pass the Cocoa
Blood Orange Slice | Pass the Cocoa
No Bake Blood Orange Cheesecake Tartlets | Pass the Cocoa

Noting that my senior thesis is due in six days,

Alarmed by the amount of writing I still haven't done,

Deeply conscious of a craving for something sweet, brought on by stress eating,

Observing how far away the dorm kitchen is,

Expressing my deep exasperation at the fact that this cheesecake wouldn't set when I tried to make it in a cake pan,

I, Caroline, hereby 

Proclaim the existence of this wonderful cheesecake tart that requires no oven or walks in the cold to the kitchen

Congratulate myself on salvaging the orange cheesecake that wouldn't set but tasted really good,

Encourage all stressed college students (as well as humans of the non-college non-stressed variety) to make this cheesecake.


Caroline Zhang
thesising senior

No Bake Blood Orange Cheesecake Tartlets | Pass the Cocoa
No Bake Blood Orange Cheesecake Tartlets | Pass the Cocoa
No Bake Blood Orange Cheesecake Tartlets | Pass the Cocoa

No Bake Blood Orange Cheesecake Tartlets

Yields: six 4-inch tartlets

For the Crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling
8 oz. white chocolate
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
zest of two medium blood oranges

For Assembly
1 blood orange, thinly sliced
zest of one blood orange, for sprinkling (if desired

Make the crust. Mix together the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Distribute equally between six mini tart pans. 

With a spoon or your hands, firmly press the graham cracker mixture evenly along the sides and bottom of the tart pans. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to allow the crust to firm up.

Make the filling. Place the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave on medium power for about 90 seconds, or until the chocolate is melted. Make sure to stop every 30 seconds to give it a good stir or else the white chocolate might burn. Let the chocolate cool until it is lukewarm, but not set.

With an electric mixture (or some elbow grease), whisk the cream cheese with the powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl until it is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the zest and blood orange juice.
While whisking continuously, pour in the melted white chocolate, and whisk until smooth. (If you pour in the chocolate while it is still hot, it may form lumps in the cheesecake).

Spoon the cheesecake mixture between the six tart pans. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Decorate with orange slices and zest, and enjoy!

Maida Heatter's Boozy Chocolate Cake

Added on by Monica Cheng.

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate through the interview process of applying to fellowships is the ability to talk. I remember when a friend joked that her most valuable skill requires her mouth because, “Imagine how sad the world would be without my voice.” Tragic, indeed.

So I’ve been practicing talking and the art of interviewing this past month, and I’m pretty excited to pin down what exactly I will be doing in this next year post-grad. And then from there, figure out how in the world I will get into medical school. Yep, 2017 is THE year of applications and interviews!

Ok. What’s the best way to de-stress or simply have a chill time? Nom on cake! To begin, this isn’t your ordinary chocolate cake. Spiked with bourbon and a generous dose of coffee, this Maida Heatter cake has everything going for it. We switched out the espresso for Atlas Coffee Club Indonesian Sumatra ground coffee.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’ve made uber cute mini cakelets with pink whipped cream frosting. And get this: the whipped cream is enhanced with honey whiskey, just to bring things to a new level of amazeee. Call me in love. Sweet Sophia was super enthused with the idea of booze and judged the appropriate amount to add to the standards of the Great British Bake Off -- which is, a whole lot, to the point that you can very evidently taste it in every bite.

This cake was especially exciting to make because I got to break out my new fancy cookie cutters (a christmas gift from a lovely friend), and we got to pretend that we knew how to frost the mini cakelets. The result of this whole process is a supremely moist and chocolate-y cake with a light whipped cream finish. Despite the amount added, the coffee and bourbon do not overwhelm the cake and the chocolate truly shines. It’s a wonderful cake that we’ve made many a times, and great to make for a special someone or just because. Enjoy!

~ Monica

-- Thank you, Atlas Coffee Club, for inspiring this post. All opinions are my own.

Maida Heatter's Boozy Chocolate Cake

Lightly adapted from NYT Cooking | Yield: 8-10 servings

For the boozy chocolate sponge cake:
5 ounces unsweetened or semisweet chocolate, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons Atlas Coffee Club Indonesian Sumatra ground coffee, to taste
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs

For the whipped cream frosting:
1 1/2 cup heavy cream, very cold
1/3 cup powdered sugar
~1 tablespoon honey whiskey, or any other flavored liqueur like almond or hazelnut
red food coloring (optional), more or less to taste

Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare a 9.5" x 13" sheet pan by buttering generously.

Drip brew coffee: 4-6 tablespoons of ground coffee and 1 1/2 cup boiling water. Add bourbon. Set aside to cool completely.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Add melted chocolate. Mix in baking soda and salt. Then, on low speed, alternatingly add the flour in three additions with the liquids in two additions. Beat smooth after each addition. It will be a thin mixture.

Pour into prepared pan and tap lightly on counter. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean with slight crumbs. Cool completely.

While cooling, prepare whipped cream frosting. Place beaters or whisk in freezer for 3 minutes until very cold. Beat cold heavy cream with cold beaters/whisk until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Gradually add food coloring, one drop at a time, if so desired.

Assemble. Cut out heart shapes or other shapes using cookie cutters. Frost and stack into mini layer cakes. Enjoy!