Everyone loves chocolate, and like wine and cheese, today chocolate is all about terroir and artisanal crafting. Regardless of what chocolate you like to eat, with these recipes you should experiment with the good stuff. I like Valrhona and Scharffen Berger these days. Happy Valentine's Day!
The Best Brownies
2 c. toasted and cooled pecan halves
1 c. flour
6 T. unsweetened cocoa powder . . . I love Scharffen Berger brand best
1 T. instant espresso
1/2 t. salt
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate . . . Try Scharffen Berger,
Schokenag, Callebault, or Valrhona
2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed.
5 large eggs
2 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. sour cream
2 t. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400. Butter a 9 x 13 brownie pan, line it with parchment, and butter the parchment. Sift together the dry ingredients. Melt the butter and chocolate in a slow double boiler.
Beat eggs in a standing mixer until light and foamy, slowly add the sugar, increase speed to high and beat for 12–15 minutes. Lower speed to low and add the sour cream and vanilla. Add the chocolate mixture and blend briefly. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix briefly. Fold in the nuts and pour batter into the pan.
Bake for 16 minutes or so until the edges of the brownies pull away from the pan. Rotate the pan and bake another 10 minutes—the center should be set, but a tester inserted into the center should still come out with a few crumbs attached. Do not overcook!
Cool pan on a baking rack, refrigerate for 4 hours, and turn brownies out onto a cutting board. Cut into small squares and serve at room temperature.
Molten Chocolate Cakes
2 sticks sweet butter, plus some for greasing the molds
8 oz. artisan bittersweet chocolate
4 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. flour, plus some for the molds
Butter and flour 8 four-ounce ramekins or oven-proof molds—be sure all interior surface area is covered. Cakes will stick wherever you miss, so be thorough.
Place chocolate and butter in a slow double boiler and melt to combine.
Whip eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until light and thick. Beat egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Whisk in the flour.
Pour batter into molds and bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10–11 minutes or until set. Cakes will have risen an inch or so. Cakes should barely hold together, holding their molten chocolate center.
Unmold and serve with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Serves 8 as a dessert
24 oz. chopped bittersweet artisan chocolate
1 T. instant espresso dissolved in 1/4 c. warm water
1/2 c. Grande Marnier
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 c. of heavy cream, whipped with 1/4 c. fine sugar until stiff
10 egg whites, whipped stiff
Place the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and stir until melted. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the espresso, Grande Marnier, and the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Fold the egg whites in to the whipped cream, and then fold the chocolate into the cream/egg-white mixture. Stir in the espresso mixture. Combine well.
Divide the mousse into 8 glasses or bowls and refrigerate for at least 8 hours to chill and set. Garnish with whipped cream seasoned with powdered sugar and serve. Serves 8.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. toasted pecan pieces
3/4 t. baking soda
8 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
3 T. light corn syrup
1 large egg yolk
2 T. milk
1 T. vanilla extract
3/4 c. Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375.
Sift together dry ingredients.
In a standing mixer, use a paddle attachment to combine butter, sugars, and corn syrup at low speed. Add yolk, milk, and vanilla. Mix well and add dry ingredients. Combine on low speed for about 2 minutes. Do not overbeat. Fold in chips and nuts by hand and set batter aside.
Drop 1 T. portions of batter 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 375 until brown and flat. Reserve, when finished, to a cookie rack to cool. They will be crisp. If you desire a little toothy-ness to your cookie, bake a few minutes less.
A short list of possible dip-ables:
Pound cake chunks
Large, "stem-on" strawberries
Fresh orange sections
Angel food cake squares
1 c. heavy cream
16 oz. high quality bittersweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped
Heat the cream in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan until very hot, but not boiling. Pull pan from heat and add the chocolate.
Let stand until softened, 3–5 minutes, and whisk gently. Pour into fondue pot and start dipping.
Roll dipped fruit in shaved coconut, sliced almonds, etc.
Season chocolate with any flavored liqueur or non-alcoholic coffee-bar syrup.