Tomorrow is February 1st: the beginning of the month of sweethearts, spouses, and loves. February is also National Chocolate Lover's Month--a whole month to celebrate the delicious, velvety smoothness of chocolate! Mmmmm…Chocolate…
The first chocolate candies, or eating chocolates, were created in England in the 1800’s. Chocolate, in candy form and as a drink, was very popular with the wealthier society: they were the only people who could afford the decadence at the time. It spoke to your wealth if you served chocolate to guests. Today, thankfully chocolate is readily available no matter your status, and it is one of the most popular candies available. During the month of February the National Confectioners Association estimates that over 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates will be bought and sold over Valentine’s Day.
Learn more about chocolate at CHEFS Catalog In Season, featuring chocolate!
While eating chocolate candies and bars are delicious ways to enjoy chocolate, I prefer it used in recipes. Give me chocolatey chicken mole (mo-lay), chocolate cheesecake, or a warm, buttery chocolate babka! But if you aren't used to working with chocolate, it can be challenging to decide which chocolate to use. Molding, tempering and storing chocolate presents their own challenges. I will not claim to be an expert on chocolate, but I thought I would share some of my favorite chocolate resources.
For a nice good quick reference guide on types of chocolates, I like Cook’s Country Getting to Know: Chocolate. It was published in their recent December/January issue, but is also available online.
If you haven’t ever heard of him, Jacques Torres, is one of the premier chocolatiers. He has many videos available, but these two are perfect for learning some basics:
Chocolate Making 101
Tempering & Storing Chocolate
(And yes, I have used my hair drier to heat chocolate. It really works!)
How will you be celebrating National Chocolate Month? Below are a few of our most popular featured recipes to help satisfy that chocolate craving. (For these and other Chocolate recipes, visit CHEFScatalog.com)
Your Turn: What's your favorite chocolate indulgence?
Chocolate Meringue Miniature Cheesecakes
8 chocolate graham crackers
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped Guittard bittersweet chocolate
14 ounce cream cheese (not whipped)
1/2 cup sugar
5 ounce semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar
2 egg whites
pinch of Salt
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Put graham crackers in the small bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade, and pulse until fine crumbs form. Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse to blend.
Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Stir in the chocolate. Divide mixture equally among 12 round molds in a mini cheesecake pan, pressing evenly into the bottom of each cup.
Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool.
Put all ingredients in the large bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until smooth. Scrape bowl and pulse again. Pour mixture onto the cookie crusts in the mini cheesecake pan, dividing evenly and filling almost to the top.
Bake until set, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill thoroughly.
Remove cheesecake pan from the refrigerator approximately 15 minutes prior to serving. Carefully unmold the cheesecakes from the pan.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and the salt. Put the egg whites and sugar mixture in the large bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until stiff peaks form. Spoon meringue into a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip.
Pipe a large star on the top of each cheesecake. Using a kitchen torch, lightly torch the top of the meringue "star", browning slightly.
Shave chocolate on top of meringue for garnish.
Makes 15 miniature cheesecakes.
Cook's Country Chocolate Blackout Cake
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pans
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
Be sure to give the pudding and the cake enough time to cool or you'll end up with runny pudding and gummy cake. Serves 10 to 12
For the pudding: Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in large saucepan. Set pan over medium heat. Add chocolate and whisk constantly until chocolate melts and mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and transfer pudding to large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.
For the cake layers: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl.
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then slowly whisk in flour mixture.
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.
To assemble the cake: Cut each cake in half horizontally. Crumble one cake layer into medium crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup pudding over cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup pudding and last cake layer. Spread remaining pudding evenly over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle cake crumbs evenly over top and sides of cake, pressing lightly to adhere crumbs. Serve. Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Chocolate Silk Pie
1 single crust pie crust
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs or equivalent pasteurized egg product
1/2 cup sweetened whipped cream
Heat oven to 450 F. Roll out pie crust to fit 9-inch pie pan. Line crust-filled pie pan with parchment and fill with pie weights. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely with pie weights in place to help ensure crust shape, about 30 minutes.
In 1-quart saucepan, melt chocolate over low heat; cool. In small bowl with electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in cooled chocolate and vanilla until well blended.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating on high speed 2 minutes after each addition; beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy. Pour into cooled baked shell. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls. Store in refrigerator.