CHOC FULL OF IDEAS
Love can be a bittersweet affair. There's that over-the-moon feeling when nothing ever, ever will dampen those giddy feelings. She is perfect in every way. No one compares to him.
Then he forgets to call and she texts once too often. The reality of every relationship is that the very good is almost always accompanied with a little not-so-hot. Bittersweet.
This Sunday is Valentine's Day, and we think a breakfast-in-bed brunch menu featuring bittersweet chocolate is a fine way to woo your honey. Even if you're not much of a cook, you can whip up a frothy Chocolatier cocktail of light rum, Creme de Cacao and chocolate ice cream with chocolate shavings on top. Surely, that says "I love you." Or at least "I tried," always an important concept on Valentine's Day.
Chocolate has become nearly as complicated as wine, with many types and brands available. Don't let the percentage numbers on packages intimidate you. Here's what you want for the recipes included here: bittersweet chocolate that doesn't exceed 62 percent cacao. Cacao — cocoa solids — derived from processing the bean is what gives chocolate its distinctive flavor; added sugar makes it sweet and cocoa butter makes it smooth.
Bittersweet chocolate has about a third less added sugar than semisweet chocolate, even though the two are often used interchangeably in baking. In general, you should use the type of chocolate called for in the recipe or risk results you aren't happy with. Unsweetened chocolate, as it says, has no sugar at all — it's 100 percent cacao — and milk chocolate has the most sugar and least amount of cacao. Actually, white chocolate has the least amount of cacao: none.
The Food and Drug Administration classifies bittersweet chocolate as containing at least 35 percent cacao, but many brands on the market contain much more than that. You'll find Baker's and Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate in most grocery stores, and some bigger markets carry Scharffen Berger and Lindt.
Your chocolate brunch
Now, we are not suggesting your brunch include all of the recipes here, just that you pick one or two and build a meal around it.
For instance, the Sugared Chocolate Beignets would be a lovely accompaniment to Greek yogurt, honey and chopped walnuts. Or offer them with miniquiches and fresh fruit.
These little pastry pillows are a busy cook's best friend because they can be made earlier in the week and frozen. Serve just after they've come from the oven for best results. Did we mention they start with puff pastry, a great convenience item to keep in your freezer?
Grilled Bittersweet Chocolate Sandwiches are a sophisticated offering that can be tinkered with according to your tastes. Call them panini if you want to be more trendy. Sliced strawberries or bananas change the taste, as would chopped hazelnuts or even peanuts. These are also rich, thanks to the butter on the bread. A wee bowl of fresh raspberries and strawberries would be an appropriate accompaniment.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries will go with just about anything and can easily be made the day before. In fact, they should be. Melt about 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate with 1 tablespoon shortening and dip away. Make sure your strawberries are very dry.
Greet your sweetie and the morning with a chocolate-covered strawberry on a silver platter, and rest assured that there will be no bitter on this sweet day. We can't make any promises for Monday, unless you make sure there are leftovers.
Grilled Bittersweet Chocolate Sandwiches
1⁄2 stick (1⁄4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
16 (1⁄2-inch-thick) baguette slices, cut on a long diagonal
1 (3- to 4-ounce) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate bar (no more than 62 percent cacao if marked), broken into 1⁄2-inch pieces
Generously butter 1 side of each baguette slice. Place 8 slices, buttered sides down, on a work surface and cover each slice with chocolate, leaving a 1⁄4-inch border around edge. Top with remaining baguette slices, buttered sides up, to make 8 sandwiches. Heat a dry 12-inch heavy skillet (not nonstick) over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then fry 4 sandwiches, turning over once, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer sandwiches to a plate and wipe skillet clean. Fry remaining sandwiches in same manner. Serve warm. Note: Add sliced bananas or strawberries, or even chopped hazelnuts, to the sandwiches if you'd like.
1 ounce light rum
1 ounce Creme de Cacao
5 ounces chocolate ice cream
1 tablespoon shaved bittersweet or milk chocolate
Combine rum, Creme de Cacao and ice cream in a blender and blend at a low speed for a short length of time. Pour into a chilled champagne flute, garnish with chocolate shavings and serve. Serves 1.
Sugared Chocolate Beignets
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1⁄2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 sheets (17 ounces total) cold, thawed puff pastry dough
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup sugar
Combine corn syrup and cream in a microwave-safe container. Heat in 30-second intervals until boiling. Put chocolate in a bowl and pour hot cream on top. Stir chocolate until smooth, then chill, stirring often, until firm, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each pastry dough sheet into a 12-inch square. Cut each square into 16 smaller squares and transfer to a baking sheet. In a bowl, lightly whisk egg and 1 tablespoon water to blend, then brush over pastry squares. Spoon about 1 teaspoon chocolate into the center of each square. Fold 1 corner of each square over to meet the opposite corner, forming a triangle. Press edges to seal. Use a 2 1⁄2-inch round cutter to trim corners of triangle and form a shape that resembles a three-quarter moon. Wrap trays with plastic wrap and freeze at least 1 hour and up to 1 week. (To save space, after 30 minutes of freezing, put pastries in resealable plastic bags in freezer.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake pastries, switching pan positions once, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes. Put sugar in a bowl and turn beignets in sugar to coat. Serve immediately. Makes 32.
Source: Sunset magazine
Easy on the chocolate, buddy!
Here's a recipe from Cooking Light that lets the health-conscious have their Valentine's Day chocolate and eat it too — without guilt. Use the best-quality chocolate you can find for the best results. One online commenter claimed fine results using a sugar-free Godiva chocolate bar and substituting Splenda for the sugar, which is good to keep in mind if you or your loved ones can't have sugar. This chocolate sauce is delicious warm or chilled with angel food cake, frozen yogurt, sorbet or fresh fruit.
Rich Chocolate Sauce
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup fat-free milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 1⁄2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine sugar and cocoa in a small saucepan; stir in milk and butter. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate and vanilla, mixing until chocolate melts. Serve warm or let stand 10 minutes to thicken slightly (sauce will remain fairly liquid).
Source: Cooking Light