Chocolate sets a romantic mood for Valentines

Create a special treat for your love whether using dark, milk or white chocolate in dessert, drinks

    It’s probably safe to say that most couples celebrating Valentine’s Day next week will include chocolate, whether as a gift or as a dessert.
    Although chocolate is a tasty treat when eaten by itself, it’s also delicious when used in traditional desserts such as tortes, tarts and cakes.
    To make these desserts special, use small baking pans to create individual servings, then place them on a dusting of cocoa or powdered sugar on a plate. Garnish with fresh fruit slices, whipped cream or ice cream.
    Desserts don’t have to be complicated. Try something easy, such as strawberries dipped in melted chocolate.
    Chocolate can be used in cookies that are delicious as they are or dipped in a fondue to create a decadent treat. You could also dip biscotti, fresh and dried fruits and small pieces of cake or marshmallows in a chocolate fondue.
    When selecting a chocolate, remember this simple rule — the better tasting the chocolate you elect to use the better the chocolate dessert.
    Buy chocolate you’ve had a chance to try first. Place a piece on your tongue and allow it to slowly melt. If it coats your mouth with a smooth, velvety feel that’s a good sign you’re eating an excellent piece of chocolate.
    Chocolate is best stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. If kept in a refrigerator, it should be tightly wrapped and allowed to come to room temperature before being used.
    And take care when melting chocolate not to burn it. Chocolate is a delicate treat, and it needs to be treated gently.
    Following are some recipes from

Chocolate Mousse

8 ounces 60% cacao chocolate baking bar
2 cups heavy cream
4 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar

    Whip cream to form light peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator.
    Melt chocolate in a large mixing bowl set over barely simmering water.
    Whip the eggs with the sugar about 10  minutes, until very fluffy and thick. Quickly stir the beaten eggs into the chocolate, then fold in the whipped cream.
    Pour or spoon mixture into cups or bowls and chill about two hours, until firm.
    Makes 8 to 10 servings.


Chocolate Raspberry Tartlets

14 ounces semi-sweet chocolate baking chips
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup heavy cream
3 cup fresh raspberries
1 pinch of salt

    In the bowl of a food processor, process butter, sugar and salt until creamy. Add cocoa and process until smooth. Add flour and pulse until crumbly.
    Divide dough into six equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
    Remove one piece of dough at a time from refrigerator and roll into six-inch circle between two pieces of plastic wrap. If dough gets too soft, refrigerate until firm before continuing.
    Remove top sheet of plastic wrap and invert dough circle over a 4-1/2-inch nonstick tartlet pan with removable bottom. Keeping plastic wrap on top side, then press dough into bottom and sides of pan. Trim excess dough and carefully peel off plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough to make six tartlet shells. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
    Prick bottom of tartlet shells all over with fork. Bake in a 375-degree oven about 15 minutes, until dough looks dry. Cool completely in pans.
    In saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to simmer. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Let sit until chocolate melts, then whisk gently to combine. Cool to room temperature, then pour 1/3 cup chocolate mixture into each tartlet shell.
    Refrigerate tartlets at least one hour or until filling is firm.
    Carefully remove tartlets from pans. Arrange raspberries decoratively on top of filling.
    Makes six servings.
    To make one large tart, use an eight-inch nonstick tart pan with removable bottom.  To make smaller tartlets, press dough into muffin tin compartments lined with paper or foil muffin cups. Remove muffin cups after filling and chilling tartlets.


Chocolate Ginger Tarts

1-1⁄2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1-1⁄2 cups heavy whipping cream
12 ounces 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking chips
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1⁄4 cup candied ginger, thinly sliced or coarsely chopped

    In a small bowl, combine wafer crumbs, sugar, and salt, then stir to combine. Add butter and mix until moistened. Place one tablespoon in each of 24 buttered mini-muffin tin cups. Pat crumb mixture down to form even tart bases. Bake in a 350-degree oven for five minutes. Remove from pan to cool.
    In a medium saucepan, bring cream to a simmer. Turn off heat, add chocolate baking chips and ground ginger and cover. Let stand four minutes, then whisk until smooth. Return tart shells to pan. Pour mixture into prepared shells and refrigerate two hours, until set.
    Carefully remove tarts from pan and garnish with candied ginger before serving.
    Makes 24 tarts.


Chocolate Truffle Cookies With Sea Salt

1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups 60% cacao bittersweet baking chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup    60% cacao bittersweet baking chips
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

    In a heatproof bowl over a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter until smooth. Turn off the stove and let chocolate sit over warm water.
    Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix to combine. In another bowl, mix together sugar and eggs and combine thoroughly with a whisk. Slowly add warm chocolate mixture. Stir to combine. Add vanilla extract and mix.
    Stir in flour mixture. Cool for a few minutes. Stir in chocolate chips and chill 10 to 15 minutes.
    Scoop rounded tablespoons of batter and place on baking tray. Sprinkle each cookie lightly with a pinch of sea salt. Bake in a 350-degree oven for seven to eight minutes, until the outside looks slightly cracked and the center is soft and gooey. Be careful not to over-bake. Cool on a rack.
    Makes 24 cookies.
    For a chunky and different twist, add one of the following: 3/4 cup toasted pecans or pistachios, 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger or 1/3 cup sweetened coconut.

Triple Chocolate Truffle Cake

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
2 ounces white chocolate baking bar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for pan
8 large eggs, cold
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

    Melt butter and semi-sweet chocolate chips over double boiler until smooth, then  cool slightly.
    With a hand mixer or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip eggs and salt on medium speed about five minutes, until doubled in volume. Gently fold, in thirds, whipped eggs into melted chocolate. Pour batter into a nine-inch round cake pan that’s been buttered and the bottom lined with parchment paper. Place pan in water bath. Bake in a 325-degree oven about 40 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and is set in the center.
    Remove pan and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely in pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
    To remove cake, dip the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pan in warm water and run a thin metal spatula around the inside of the pan. Invert onto a plate to unmold, then remove parchment paper.
    To prepare ganache, bring heavy cream to a simmer and pour over milk chocolate chips. Stir gently until smooth, then cool slightly. Pour ganache over top of cake and spread with an offset spatula to evenly cover. Chill about 30 minutes, until ganache sets. To garnish, grate white chocolate bar on top of cake.


Dark Chocolate-Cherry Creme Brulee

1-3/4 cups half-and-half
1 cup 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking chips
5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kirsch or 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dried tart cherries
2 tablespoons sugar

    In a small, heavy saucepan, cook and stir 1/2 cup of the half-and-half and chocolate baking chips over low heat just until chocolate is melted. Gradually whisk in the remaining half-and-half. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
    In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, kirsch or vanilla and stir just until combined. Slowly whisk hot chocolate mixture into egg mixture.
    Place six six-ounce broiler-proof ramekins in a three-quart rectangular baking dish. Divide cherries and chocolate mixture evenly among ramekins. Place baking dish on oven rack and pour enough boiling water into dish to reach halfway up sides of ramekins.
    Bake in a 325-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until mixture is set but centers still shake slightly. Carefully remove ramekins from water and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Cover and chill for two to 24 hours.
    Let custards stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Sprinkle tops of custards with two tablespoons sugar. Using a culinary blow torch, heat until sugar is melted. If you don’t have a torch, broil three to four inches from the heat for four to five minutes, just until sugar begins to melt. Serve immediately.
    Makes six servings.


Dark Chocolate Brownie Truffles

1 cup semi sweet chocolate baking chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 cup bittersweet 60% cacao baking chips

    In a heat-safe bowl or saucepan, melt butter with chocolate chips. Set aside to cool.
    Use a whisk to combine eggs, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla, just until combined.
    Combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl.
    Slowly pour and whisk the butter and chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar.
    Use a sieve to sift dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Fold together until just barely combined.
    Pour brownie batter into a greased eight-inch square baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 325-degree oven about 40 minutes. Remove and cool completely.
    Once the brownies are cool, place them in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, turn the mixer on to low speed. Use a small cookie or ice cream scoop to scoop out small rounds. Form into a round ball and refrigerate at least one hour, until firm.
    Combine 60% cacao dark chocolate chips with coconut oil. Microwave on 20 second intervals until melted and smooth. Dunk each brownie ball into the melted chocolate. Top with a pinch of sea salt and allow to set.
    Makes 20 truffles.


Bittersweet Chocolate Souffle

10 ounces 72% cacao dark chocolate baking chips
6 tablespoons butter, plus more for coating dish
6 tablespoons sugar, plus more for coating dish
6    eggs, separated, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange liquor, optional
Powdered sugar, optional

    Generously coat eight one-cup ramekins with butter, then coat bottom and sides of dishes with granulated sugar, tapping out the excess.
    In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate and butter, heating in 30 second increments and stirring in between until completely melted. Whisk in egg yolks, salt, vanilla extract and orange liquor until combined.
    In an electric mixer, beat egg whites with cream of tartar on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer still running, add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beat until egg whites hold stiff peaks and appear glossy.
    Whisk a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixer. Fold in remaining egg whites in two additions. Divide batter amongst ramekins, filling each almost to the rim. Using a wet paper towel, wipe excess batter from rim.
    Bake on the lower middle rack of a 400-degree oven for 11 to 13 minutes, until soufflés are puffed and center moves slightly when dish is shaken gently. Dust top with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
    To make ahead of time, freeze filled ramekins until you are ready to bake. Bake in a 400-degree oven 17 to 18 minutes.



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