Food and Film: Hidden Figures


Let’s celebrate the Oscars by pairing food and film.  This year, I am only making one dish for one movie.  I think Hidden Figures will be the movie that wins!   It’s such an inspiring and true story of Katherine Johnson, a brilliant NASA employee who “helped put an astronaut into orbit around the Earth and helped put a man on the moon.”

 To choose the recipe each year, I select a scene that captures the essence of a film and its message.  In Hidden Figures, the coffee pot is a heartbreakingly poignant symbol of discrimination against African Americans and women during the 1960’s.  Katherine’s stoic strength, determination, and grace empowered her to soar despite the circumstances.  With coffee being the key ingredient, I chose Chef Carla Hall’s delicious recipe for Chocolate Decadent Bites that includes instant espresso powder.  Chef Carla Hall is truly one of the nicest people I know, and she has inspired me during my midlife culinary journey.

Chef Carla Hall of the CHEW


Thank you so much Chef Carla Hall and Simon & Schuster, Inc. for the permission to reprint this delicious recipe for Chocolate Decadent Bites featured on pp 292 and 293 in Cooking with Love: Comfort Food that Hugs You. Text copyright by Carla Hall 2012.

Photographs copyright 2012 by Greg Powers Photography

Chocolate Decadent Bites

Makes about 40 bites

I’m not really into chocolate. I mean, I like it, but I don’t go gaga over it. And yet I love

these little bites! And there’s coffee in them, a flavor I don’t like unless it’s playing with

others. Here, it’s BFF with chocolate. I enjoy this combo because it’s not too sweet and the

strong coffee lends a depth of richness to the bittersweet chocolate. The texture hovers

somewhere between truffle and cake. Rich chocolate ganache sandwiched between fudgy

chocolate cake makes for a memorable bite your friends will swoon over. Note that this

makes a big batch, ideal for parties or to give as a homemade gift.


. pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up,

plus more for the pan

. cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

. pound bittersweet chocolate (68% cacao), chopped

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1 teaspoon table salt

9 large eggs

1. cups sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 cups pecans or walnuts, toasted and finely chopped (optional)


1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons liqueur (such as Frangelica, Chambord,

or Grand Marnier), optional

1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350ÅãF. Butter a half sheet pan and line it with

parchment paper. Butter the parchment and dust with flour, tapping out excess.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the espresso powder. Let the mixture cool.

3. Sift the flour and salt into a small bowl.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the eggs and sugar on mediumhigh

speed until thick and a pale-lemon color, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of

the bowl occasionally. Beat in the vanilla until blended. Reduce the mixer speed to low

and gradually add the flour until just incorporated. Add the melted chocolate in a steady

stream. Continue beating until thoroughly blended, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom

of the bowl occasionally. Stir in the nuts, if using.

5. Spread the batter in an even layer in the baking pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted

near the edge comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let

cool completely.

6. While the cake cools, make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Heat the

cream in a small saucepan until steaming. Pour over the chocolate, then gently stir with a

wooden spoon until smooth. If using, stir in the liqueur until fully incorporated.

7. Invert the cake onto the wire rack. Peel off and discard the parchment paper. Place a

large board or pan, flat side down, on top of the cake. Invert the board, cake, and rack

together. Remove the rack, then cut the cake in half crosswise to form two 12 by 8-inch

rectangles. Place the rack over a rimmed baking sheet and place one cake layer on it.

8. Spread half of the chocolate ganache to cover the cake layer on the rack. Sandwich

with the top layer, smooth side up. Pour the remaining ganache all over cake, spreading

to evenly cover the top and sides. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Cut into bite-size pieces and serve.

Catering Like Carla

•You can mix up the type of chocolate you use to your taste. I use 68% cacao

chocolate for the cake because I don’t like my desserts too sweet. But if you

prefer a sweeter dessert, use a lower percentage semisweet chocolate. For a

more intense bitterness, use a higher percentage bittersweet. If you’re using

semisweet for the cake, you can use bittersweet for the ganache and vice versa.

But I wouldn’t go all the way to milk chocolate (and certainly not white chocolate);

those varieties wouldn’t taste right.

Click here to order your copy of Carla’s cookbook!

Thanks for joining the fun on Kitchen Chat as we celebrate the Oscars! Who do you think will win?

Savor the day!

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