Back to the Kitchen: For the Love of Chocolate

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chocolate heart

Oh chocolate — my true love! How many nights it has been just you and I?  The evening ends with me beating myself up after hours at the gym and then the sun goes down and I just can’t resist you!  Who knew we were doing something so terribly right? Dark chocolate has been shown to reduce LDL levels (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent. Also, it contains phenylethylamine which is the chemical the brain produces when we fall in love.  The neurotransmitters act like little messengers running around our brain telling the body what to do. Serotonin, one of the main neurotransmitters in the body, acts as an anti-depressant.

Chocolate is full of antioxidants which neutralize free radicals, which damage cells, clog arteries, and contribute to chronic illness and aging. It contains more calcium than eight ounces of milk and it is full of flavonoids which are pigments found in plants that help reduce damage to the body. They help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide and are good for the heart. It releases endorphins that are natural feel-good chemicals. It just makes you feel good! So grab a slab and enjoy guilt free these recipes! Once again chocolate is our friend!

Beef Tenderloin Cocoa Coffee Rub

2 ounces unsweetened cocoa

2 ounces ground espresso

2 ounces chili powder

2 ounces garlic salt

1 ounce dried marjoram leaves

3 pounds beef tenderloin

Combine cocoa, ground espresso, chili powder, garlic salt and dried marjoram leaves. Mix well.  Sear beef tenderloin evenly on all sides. Allow tenderloin to cool. Then evenly coat with cocoa rub on all sides. Place tenderloin in low, preheated oven to finish cooking. Remove from oven when internal temperature reaches 120°F (medium rare) about 20 minutes. Allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing. Serves six.

Chocolate Risotto

3 tablespoons butter

1-tablespoon olive oil

Small red onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup Arborio Rice

1-cup mushrooms, sliced

¼ to ½ cup white wine

3 to 5 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock

3 teaspoons Dutch processed cocoa

Dash of smoked paprika

1-cup parsley, chopped

Parmesan Cheese to serve

Mix butter and olive oil in a stockpot over low heat until butter is melted. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Stir until onion is translucent. Add garlic and stir for about a minute. Add rice and stir a few minutes. Add mushrooms and stir for about 5 minutes until they soften. Add wine and stir until absorbed. Add hot stock about ½ a cup at a time. Keep the heat hot enough so the rice keeps gently simmering and absorbing each addition of stock. When the rice is plump and cooked when tasted you have added enough stock. Stir in 1-tablespoon cocoa and dash of paprika. Taste and check seasoning.  Stir through some parsley and Parmesan. Serves 4.

Chocolate Chili Con Carne

3 pounds beef chuck

Freshly ground black pepper

Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus 1 teaspoon

1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus 2 teaspoons

2 tablespoons chili powder, plus 2 tablespoons

Masa harina (Mexican corn flour)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lard

4 red onions, peeled and minced

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 jalapeno peppers, sliced thin with seeds, stems removed

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 to 3 (12-ounce) bottles beer

1 (12-ounce) can diced tomato in juices

1 quart chicken stock

3 (12-ounce) cans black beans

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into large chunks

Cut the chuck into 3/4-inch pieces.  Place chuck in a large bowl. Season liberally with pepper (about 20 turns of the grinder) and kosher salt to taste.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, and 2 tablespoons of the chili powder. Mix well and coat meat with the masa harina. The flour will thicken the sauce. Preheat a cast iron Dutch oven on the stove over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and then the coated meat, spreading it evenly so it covers the bottom of the Dutch oven in one layer. Leave it alone, without turning it, so the meat will brown and caramelize. Meanwhile, add the lard. The meat has a lot of moisture in it so a good amount of steam will come from the pan before it is caramelized. As it browns, slowly turn each piece with tongs. Once all sides are caramelized, remove meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a cookie sheet to cool, leaving juices in the Dutch oven to saute vegetables. Add onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat until they start to caramelize and soften. Add jalapenos and allow to cook for 2 more minutes until soft. Add tomato paste.

Some of the same spices used on the meat will be used in the sauce. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of cumin, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, the oregano, and 2 heaping tablespoons of the chili powder. Add beer. Stir to incorporate everything. Add diced tomatoes and stir. Then add the reserved meat. Add chicken stock. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours until meat is wonderfully tender. Drain juice from the black beans, add beans to the chili pot, and bring up to simmer. Then add chunks of bittersweet chocolate. Stir until it melts. Serves 10-12

Chocolate Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce

For pancakes:

1/2 cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1-cup sugar

1/2-teaspoon baking soda

1/8-teaspoon salt

2 whole large eggs

1 large egg yolk

3/4-cup well-shaken buttermilk

1/4-cup vegetable oil

1-teaspoon vanilla

Unsalted butter for greasing griddle

Sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl, then whisk in eggs, yolk, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until combined well. Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet over moderately low heat and lightly coat with butter.Working in batches of 2 or 3, pour 1/4 cup batter per cake onto hot griddle and cook until bubbles appear on surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip cakes with a large spatula and cook until tops spring back when pressed gently, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Add 1/2-teaspoon butter to griddle between batches.

Serve cakes in stacks, topped with chocolate sauce. Serves 4

For the sauce:

1 cup heavy cream

7 ounces 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips

Bring cream to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, then pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, gently whisking until smooth. Keep warm or at room temperature.

Chocolate Truffles

12 ounces semi- sweet chocolate (chips or a bar broken into small pieces)

1 stick butter

1/2-cup ground chocolate

In a double broiler, melt the chocolate over simmering water, stirring constantly. (If you don’t have a double broiler you can use a smaller pan for the chocolate and a larger one to simmer the water. Just be careful especially with the kids, as it is slightly awkward.) Remove from heat. Add butter stirring until melted. Chill until firm enough to form into small round pieces. Roll in ground chocolate. Chill overnight in refrigerator. Makes about 40.

Chocolate Fondue

Combine in a medium, heavy saucepan:

1-cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons butter

Stirring constantly bring to a rolling boil. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add:

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Let stand for one minute, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in:

2 teaspoons vanilla, or a splash of brandy or orange liqueur.

Pour into a fondue pot and serve with shortbread, pound cake and any fruit you like.

Very Chocolate Ice Cream

2-cup heavy cream

6 heaping tablespoons Valhrona cocoa

6 1/2 6 ounces 60%cacao bittersweet chocolate

1-cup milk

5 egg yolks

1/2-cup sugar

1/4-teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon vanilla

In a medium pot heat 1 cup of heavy cream with cocoa; whisk well to ensure the cocoa dissolves properly. When cream is bubbling at the edges, remove from heat and add dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds then give it a good stir until it’s all incorporated. Add remaining cup of cream to pot, stir to combine, then pour the contents into a medium sized non-metal bowl, scraping out the pot as well as you can, and place a strainer over the bowl. Place the pot back on the stove, and add the cup of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar and the salt. Heat the milk and sugar gently on the stove while you get your egg yolks ready. Whisk the egg yolks together and then grab the pot from the stove. SLOWLY drizzle warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking the entire time until everything’s all combined. Then dump the liquid back into the pot. Stir constantly with a wooden or other heat-safe spoon or spatula over medium heat until the eggs thicken a bit, into custard. You’ll know it’s done when you can hold up the spoon and run your finger through the egg-milk mixture and the line you drew with your finger stays there. Pour custard through the strainer into the bowl. Add vanilla and stir to combine the chocolaty goodness. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl, literally touching the entire surface of the ice cream base. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours then prepare according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Once you’ve got it into your final container, freeze again for at least 6 hours – Remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before eating so it has time to soften a bit before serving.

Salted Chocolate Toffee Laces

2 cups 60% cacao chocolate

4 teaspoons coarse sugar

2 teaspoons sea salt

Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Place chocolate in a heatproof, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds with a metal spoon, or until smooth. Using a spoon, drizzle half the chocolate, back and forth, onto 1 prepared tray to form a large rectangle. Continue drizzling the chocolate in circles. Repeat with remaining chocolate and tray. Let stand for 5 minutes Sprinkle chocolate evenly with sugar and salt. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until set. Break into shards. Serve 8.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

8 ounces 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips

1 pound strawberries with stem, washed and dried completely

3 ounces white chocolate (to garnish half)

Place chocolate in heatproof pan. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat; set the bowl of chocolate over the water to melt. Stir until smooth.

Once the chocolates are melted and smooth, remove from the heat. Line a sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the fruit into the dark chocolate, lift and twist slightly, letting any excess chocolate fall back into the bowl. Set strawberries on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries. Melt the white chocolate the same way and with a fork drizzle over half of the strawberries for a lovely presentation.

Chocolate Basil Cake with Chocolate Cream Frosting

1-cup sugar

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (plus addition leaves for garnish)

8 tablespoons butter

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 large eggs

1/2-teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4-teaspoon salt

3/4-cup all-purpose flour

1/2-cup hot water

1 cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips

1 recipe chocolate cream, frosting (below)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with Bakers Joy. Place the sugar and basil in a food processor. Process until basil is chopped fine and uniformly green in color (it will look slightly wet). In a large bowl whisk the melted butter, cocoa powder and basil sugar until well blended. Whisk in the eggs, 1 at a time, until blended and smooth. Stir in the baking soda, vanilla, and salt.

Gradually add flour to bowl, stirring just until blended (do not over stir). Add hot water to mixture, stirring just until blended. Add chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 22-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares. Cool completely, Prepare sour cream frosting. Spread over cake and garnish with basil leaves.

Chocolate Cream

1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

6 tablespoons butter, softened

½ cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips

1-teaspoon vanilla

In a medium bowl whisk the powdered sugar and cocoa powder; set aside. In a separate medium bowl beat the butter and melted chocolate with an electric mixer on low speed until blended. Gradually add sugar mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low speed until well blended. Add vanilla and beat well for 1 minute until very smooth and creamy.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.   CLICK HERE to Learn from Gwen through her instructional videos featured on EHow. Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON .



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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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