Sweet and simple for your Valentine: Easy chocolate desserts fit for every cooking skill

Posted Feb. 08, 2011, at 5:27 p.m.
Chocolate desserts make Valentine's Day a little sweeter.
Bill Hogan | MCT
Chocolate desserts make Valentine's Day a little sweeter.
Chocolate desserts make Valentine'?s Day a little sweeter.
Bill Hogan | MCT
Chocolate desserts make Valentine'?s Day a little sweeter.

There’s something fun, something sexy, something luscious about chocolate. So head to the kitchen and stir something up for Valentine’s Day.

What, you’re afraid of a chunk of chocolate? Messed up too much of the sweet dark stuff?

Join the club. Most every cook has watched melting chocolate seize up — that dramatic shift from creamy to stiff glob — when a drop of water hits it. Even Rozanne Gold.

Gold is the chef and award-winning author of almost a dozen cookbooks, including her most recent, “Radically Simple.”

She knows that moment well: “It’s horrifying,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll add a touch of cold butter or a little splash of cream,” then heat gently until all’s well.

Because she’s not a pastry chef, Gold said, “I tend to keep my desserts very simple.”

A favorite dessert? “Really good chocolate, 62 percent (cacao content) or even more bitter, with shards of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and red grapes,” she said. “Each taste and flavor of one affects the taste of the other, and it’s just like this wonderful little taste experience.”

The good thing about chocolate? “If it gets messed up somehow,” she counsels, “it’s still going to taste good.”

So, whatever your cooking skills, whatever your age, make something chocolate for dessert, utterly simple, a bit complex. Enjoy.

Melting chocolate

Here are a few tips from Carole Bloom’s “Intensely Chocolate.”

Don’t rush chocolate melting. Try to rush it and you can ruin it.

Once melted, chocolate can stand at room temperature about 15 minutes; stir occasionally to prevent skin from forming.

Milk chocolate and white chocolate are delicate and can burn easily; use very low heat when melting. Stir frequently.

To keep chocolate from seizing, be sure utensils that come in contact with chocolate are completely dry. A stray drop or two of liquid will cause chocolate to seize into a stiff and grainy mass.

Easy Chocolate Parfait

Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 15 minutes Makes: 4 parfaits

1 package (3.9 ounces) chocolate pudding

½ pint (1 cup) whipping cream

4 cookies (Oreos, chocolate chip, etc.), coarsely crumbled

Fresh raspberries

1. Make pudding according to package directions; set aside to cool. Whip the cream to stiff peaks.

2. Put 1 tablespoon of cookie crumbs in bottom of each of four clear stemmed dishes or glasses. Add a spoonful of chocolate pudding, then a spoonful of whipped cream and a layer of raspberries. Continue layering. Finish with whipped cream and a raspberry garnish.

Nutrition information: Per serving: 365 calories, 61 percent of calories from fat, 25 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 82 mg cholesterol, 34 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 476 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

All-chocolate Velvet Tart

Prep: 25 minutes Cook: 20 minutes Chill: 1½ hours Makes: 10 servings

Adapted from Rozanne Gold’s cookbook, “Radically Simple.” Creme fraiche is a tart garnish; use unsweetened whipped cream for a milder flavor.

5 ounces chocolate graham crackers or chocolate wafer cookies

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup whipping cream

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon creme de cassis or 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 cup creme fraiche

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine graham crackers and 4 tablespoons of the butter in food processor; process until finely ground. Pack crumbs evenly into a buttered 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Bake 10 minutes.

2. Heat cream just to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Add chocolate; stir constantly over low heat until melted. Stir in cocoa, cassis and remaining 1 tablespoon of the butter until smooth. Pour into crumb crust; refrigerate 1½ hours or until firm. Serve with creme fraiche.

Nutrition information: Per serving: 404 calories, 63 percent of calories from fat, 30 g fat, 18 g saturated fat, 58 mg cholesterol, 35 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 111 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

Bittersweet Chocolate-caramel Mousse

Prep: 25 minutes Cook: 12 minutes Chill: 2 hours Makes: 10 servings

Adapted from Carole Bloom’s “Intensely Chocolate.”

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (66-72 percent cacao content)

½ cup each: granulated sugar, light brown sugar

¼ cup water

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

2 cups whipping cream

½ stick (¼ cup) 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened

1. Melt bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on low power in 30-second bursts, stirring after each burst. Set aside, stirring occasionally.

2. Combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, water, honey and vanilla paste in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Cook over high heat until mixture comes to a boil. To prevent crystallization, dip a pastry brush in water and run it around inside of pan where mixture meets the pan; repeat. Cook without stirring until it turns amber, 6-8 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat 2/3 cup of the whipping cream to a boil over medium heat. Slowly add hot cream to caramel mixture, stirring constantly with a long-handled heat-safe silicone spatula. Be careful; mixture will bubble and foam. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in butter until completely melted; stir in melted chocolate thoroughly. Transfer mixture to a heat-safe bowl. Cover with plastic w rap. Place on a rack; cool to room temperature.

4. Whip remaining 1/3 cups whipping cream to soft peaks. Reserve ½-cup whipped cream for garnish. Fold remaining whipped cream into chocolate mixture in three stages, blending thoroughly. Divide mousse among dessert bowls or glasses, or pour into a 1½-quart bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; chill until set, about 2 hours. Garnish with remaining whipped cream.

Nutrition information: Per serving: 346 calories, 67 percent of calories from fat, 27 g fat, 16 g saturated fat, 78 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 22 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Bittersweet chocolate meets caramel

Pastry chef and confectioner Carole Bloom’s newest book, “Intensely Chocolate: 100 Scrumptious Recipes for True Chocolate Lovers,” boasts a quartet of mousse recipes.

It’s also thick with tips on working with chocolate and closes with a glossary packed with “chocolate” terms, from amelonado (a type of cacao from the Amazon) to winnowing (a process that frees the inner nib from a cacao bean’s husks).

You don’t need to be a chocolate expert, though, to enjoy her recipe for a bittersweet chocolate-caramel mousse.

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