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My Chocolate Valentine (February 8, 2011)

Valentine's Day... and that means chocolate! We've got a batch of fabulous recipes for you, and they're very doable, with gorgeous results! Two are almost idiot simple and fun to do; the others are from the kitchens of experts and take time and patience. Worth it? Oh, heavens, yes, and you will be rewarded whichever way you go... after all, it's chocolate!

We've known Rose Levy Beranbaum forever, and can attest that no one knows cakes better than she! Author of nine cookbooks, Rose has garnered every award possible for most of them. It started with The Cake Bible and the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year in 1988, then a James Beard Foundation Award for Rose's Christmas Cookies, and her The Bread Bible was nominated in several categories and selected as one of the Top Ten books of 2003. The latest is Rose's Heavenly Cakes, which, like her others, gives you the best recipes ever with complete, failure-proof instructions and explanations for every step from equipment needed to "highlights for success." Thanks, Rose – you've done it again!

We've just met Carole Bloom, and not a moment too soon! A European-trained pastry chef and confectioner, as well as the author of ten cookbooks including Bite-Size Desserts and The Essential Baker, Bloom has worked in renowned hotels from Switzerland to California. You may have read her articles in, Food and Wine, Fine Cooking, Eating Well, Cooking Light and Chocolatier, among others. Her latest book, Intensely Chocolate, has to be the best one yet: 100 scrumptious recipes for all of us who live for chocolate. Oh, Carole, we're doing them all!

Blackbird Bakery Gluten Free is a great cookbook for everyone; author Karen Morgan, blogger and proprietor of the Blackbird Bakery in Austin, Texas, has given us 75 luscious, tempting recipes carefully crafted for anyone who has an autoimmune disorder or other medical condition that may require a change of diet, or even for those of us who thankfully don't! You'll want to try every one of Morgan's recipes, but first, you'll need to source the ingredients. Our suggestion is to start with The Celiac Association,, as they not only tell you where to buy, but will answer questions as well. Enjoy!

Doesn't everyone love little cookbooklets? We do and always enjoy cruising the 101 Things to Do with... series. Each of the booklets gives you, yes, 101 recipes on the subject, be it cheese, slow cookers, potatoes, yogurt or dozens of others. The recipes are all easy, quick and, for the ones we've tried, very rewarding. Today we're featuring 101 Things to Do with Chocolate, authored by Stephanie Ashcraft. She's the author of the original 101 Things to Do with a Cake Mix and a baker's dozen in this popular series, plus teaching cooking classes based on the tips and meals in her cookbooks. No wonder all these recipes are so terrific – Stephanie is a graduate home economist! Hooray!

We love Lou Seibert Pappas's terrific cookbook, Crème Brûlée; each recipe is more decadent that the last, and who knew that crème brûlée came in so many versions? Pappas, author of Ice Creams & SorbetsPancakes & Waffles and several other books in the same sweet vein, has given us the definitive collection of this decadent dessert. We'll give you more of her recipes in columns to come, as the selections come from everything from Classic and Creative, Fruity and Fabulous and Chocolate and Nutty to Savoury. Keep that blowtorch handy!

On today's menu:

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Rose's Double Chocolate Valentine

Well, of course we had to feature this gorgeous cake! From Rose's Heavenly Cakes, this is really the final word in chocolate cake... it uses the best cocoa and, to finish, a sweet injection of melted chocolate and cream. And, promises Rose, it's astonishingly easy to make. Do read the recipe completely, and do plan ahead... but it's so worth the time! Yes you can!

Serves 8 to 10

Baking time: 30 to 40 minutes

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp (sifted before measuring) unsweetened (alkalized) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) boiling water
  • About 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature (1/4 cup plus 1/2 Tbsp)
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups plus 1 Tbsp cake flour or bleached all-purpose flour)
  • sifted into the cup and levelled off
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 9 Tbsp (1 stick plus 1 Tbsp) unsalted butter (65–75°F or 19–23°C)

Special equipment: One 9-by-2-inch heart-shape or round cake pan (8 to 8²/3 cups), encircled with a cake strip, bottom coated with shortening, topped with parchment cut to shape, then coated with baking spray and flour.

Preheat the oven: Twenty minutes or more before baking, set in oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Mix the cocoa and water: In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. To speed cooling, place it in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before proceeding.

Mix the remaining liquid ingredients: In another bowl, whisk the yolks, the 3 Tbsp water and the vanilla just until lightly combined.

Make the batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula.

Bake the cake: Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze.

Ganache Glaze

Makes 1 cup

  • 3 ounces dark chocolate, 60% to 70% cacao, chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Make the ganache glaze: In a food processor, process the chocolate until very fine.

In a 1-cup or larger microwavable cup with a spout (or in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often), scald the cream (heat it to the boiling point; small bubbles will form around the periphery).

With the motor of the food processor running, pour the cream through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few seconds until smooth. Scrape the ganache into a small bowl and set it in a warm spot.

Apply the glaze and cool and unmold the cake: As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, place the pan on a wire rack, poke holes all over the top with a wooden skewer, and use a brush to dabble half of the ganache glaze onto the cake. It will take about 10 minutes. Run a small metal spatula around the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and invert the cake onto a flat surface, such as a cardboard round or plate that has been covered with plastic wrap. Peel off and discard the parchment and poke holes all over. Dabble with the remaining glaze, brushing a little onto the sides of the cake as well. Cool completely, for 1 or more hours, or until the chocolate is firm to the touch. Invert the cake onto a 10 inch cardboard round or 1-inch perfectly flat plate covered with plastic wrap. It is now top side up with plastic wrap sticking to it. Peel off the plastic wrap, then reinvert the cake onto a serving plate so that it is bottom side up; remove the remaining plastic wrap.

Raspberry Topping

  • 2 pints fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup red currant jelly

Make the raspberry topping: Starting at the outside border and working in toward the center, place the raspberries closely together to cover the surface of the cake.

In a microwave, or small heavy saucepan over low heat, melt the currant jelly. Use a small clean brush to paint the currant glaze onto the raspberries.

If making the cake without the raspberry topping, for a more attractive appearance use a pastry brush to stipple the chocolate glaze after it is almost set. You may also dust the top lightly with cocoa or powdered sugar by placing the powder in a strainer held over the cake and tapping the edge of the strainer with a spoon.

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1 Tbsp superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Make the whipped cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. (Chill the mixer's whisk beater alongside the bowl.)

Whip the mixture, starting on low speed, gradually raising the speed to medium-high as it thickens, just until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised.

If desired, use a pastry bag fitted with a large open star pastry tip (3/8 inch) to pipe a shell border around the base of the cake. Alternatively, serve with a dollop of whipped cram on the side.

Tony's wine recommendation:
10 Year-old Tawny port, LBV port; from Greece – Samos Muscat, Mavrodaphne


Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Ginger and Apricots

Another master, Carole Bloom, gives us this recipe, which is so easy it's laughable, and so sinfully delectable you won't believe it. The combination of crystallized ginger and chopped dried apricots elevates the rich chocolate to a lively level, while the addition of cacao nibs enhances the texture. Perfect? Oh yes, especially with four ingredients going together in less than 30 minutes. Bliss... from Intensely Chocolate by Carole Bloom.

Makes about 4 dozen pieces (1¾ lbs)

  • 1 cup (5¼ ounces) finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup (5¼ ounces) finely chopped dried apricots
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) cacao nibs
  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate (66–72% cacao content), finely chopped

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or a non-stick liner. Combine the crystallized ginger, apricots and cacao nibs in a bowl and stir to combine evenly.

Place 12 ounces of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Stir often with a rubber spatula to ensure even melting. Or melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on low power in 30 second bursts, stirring after each burst. Remove the top pan of the double boiler if using, and wipe the bottom and sides very dry.

Stir in the remaining chocolate in 3 stages, making sure each batch is melted before adding the rest.

When the chocolate is completely blended, quickly stir in the ginger, apricots and cacao nibs with a rubber spatula, coating them completely. Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread it evenly with the spatula to cover most of the sheet. Chill the bark in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until firm enough to break.

Gently peel the waxed paper off the back of the bark and break the bark into pieces by hand. Serve the bark at room temperature.

Keeping: Store the bark between layers of waxed paper in an airtight plastic container in the refrigerator, away from strongly flavoured food, up to 2 weeks. To freeze up to 3 months, wrap the container in several layers of plastic wrap and aluminums foil. Use a large piece of masking tape and an indelible marker to label and date the contents. If frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

Making a change: Replace the crystallized ginger with 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts. Replace the bittersweet chocolate with milk chocolate or white chocolate.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Riesling Icewine, Sauternes


Brownies for Lovers

Karen Morgan comments, "One of the first baked goods that I made repeatedly as a teenager and later devoted long hours of experimentation to as I began my journey into the gluten-free world was the brownie. ...My (favourite) is one with a slightly chewy edge and a soft, but not too soft, center, falling just between the chewy and cakey varieties. To achieve this goal, it's important to use the freshest possible eggs and the highest quality chocolate you can get your hands on. These brownies are for anyone who believes that love at first bite is still possible." Oh, YES, Karen!

From Blackbird Bakery Gluten Free.

Makes 16 brownies

  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces high-quality unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup glutinous rice flour
  • 1¾ tsp guar gum
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Take a piece of parchment paper and, using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut 2 inches into each corner (right where the two edges of the paper meet) at a 45° angle. Press the parchment into the greased 9×13-inch pan. The slits you cut into the corners will allow you to fit the paper into the pan with perfectly smooth edges.

In a large stainless-steel bowl set over a saucepan with 2 inches of barely simmering water (don't let the bowl touch the water), melt the butter and chocolate, being careful not to let the chocolate scorch. Whisk in 1 cup of the sugar. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir with a whisk to blend. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs with the remaining 1 cup sugar until the eggs have doubled in volume. Stir half of the egg mixture into the melted chocolate mixture, then stir in half of the dry ingredients. Repeat this process and stir until the batter looks like chocolate pudding. Fold in the vanilla. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and baked for 30 minutes, or until the brownies are cracked around the edges.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Lift the brownies out by grasping the two sides of the parchment paper. Transfer to a cutting board and remove the paper. Cut into 16 parts.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days and for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Asti Spumante, Cream sherry, Pedro Ximenez


Decadent Chocolate Truffles

Jessica is bringing the champagne, and you promised to bring the truffles tomorrow; it's already midnight and...oh, where did the time go? Never mind, we've got the world's fastest recipe from 101 Things to Do with Chocolate. Relax, you'll be in bed in half an hour, and those truffles will star at the party tomorrow! Thank you Stephanie Ashcraft... these are the easiest and fastest truffles ever.

  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla
  • Finely chopped nuts, sweetened coconut flakes, cake decorating sprinkles, powdered sugar, or cocoa powder for topping

In a heavy 2-quart pan, melt together chocolate chips and condensed milk; stir in vanilla. Refrigerate 2 or more hours in the pan until firm.

Place desired toppings in separate bowls. Shape chocolate into small balls about 1-inch in diameter and then roll in toppings. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 35 truffles.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, Recioto della Valpolicella


White Chocolate–Cognac Crème Brûlée

Sigh... shreds of bittersweet chocolate fleck this luscious, creamy white chocolate dessert; it is fun to adorn the top with long curls of bittersweet chocolate. Crème brûlée is in everyone's top five desserts, and no wonder; rich and sinful and it glides down your throat, delivering a burst of flavour and crunch at the end. You'll love this version! From Crème Brûlée by Lou Seibert Pappas.

Serves 6

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 6 Tbsp for topping
  • 3 Tbsp Cognac
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus chocolate curls for garnish

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Pour the cream into a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the white chocolate until blended. Let cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale in colour. Whisk in the 1/3 cup sugar until dissolved. Whisk in the white chocolate cream and Cognac.

Place six standard-size flan dishes in a baking pan. Sprinkle half of the chopped bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips in the bottom of the dishes. Divide the custard mixture among the dishes. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate on top. Pour warm water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of the custard still jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven and lift the dishes from the hot water. Let cool briefly, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, place the dishes on a baking sheet and evenly sprinkle 1 Tbsp sugar over the top of each custard. Using a hand-held blowtorch, caramelize the sugar. Garnish with chocolate curls.

Making chocolate curls: Let a bar of bittersweet chocolate warm to room temperature or slightly warmer. Using a vegetable peeler, peel long curls from the bar.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Demi-Sec champagne, Brachetto d'Acqui


For permission to publish material and photographs, we wish to thank:

John Wiley and Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, for Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum. © Cordon Rose. Photography © Ben Fink.

and for

Intensely Chocolate by Carole Bloom. © 2010 Carole Bloom. Photography © Glenn Cormier.

Raincoast Publishers, Vancouver, and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, for Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free by Karen Morgan. Text © 2010 by Karen Morgan. Photographs © 2010 by Knox Photographics.

Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, and Gibbs Smith, Salt Lake City, for 101 Things to Do with Chocolate by Stephanie Ashcraft. Text © 2008 Stephanie Ashcraft.

Raincoast Books, Vancouver, and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, for Crème Brûlée by Lou Seibert Pappas. Text © 2005 Lou Seibert Pappas. Photographs © Alison Miksch.


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

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