Archive for: Chocolate
One easy way to finish up a dessert is to make a little garnish for it. You can throw a mint leaf or a fresh raspberry on top of many things as a finishing touch, but a classic garnish that looks a little fancier are chocolate curls. Chocolate curls are small, curled pieces of chocolate that add a burst of chocolate and a dressed up look to a dessert. They look quite elegant when they’re topping a pudding, ice cream or cake, and they’re easy to make as long as you have chocolate and a vegetable peeler in your kitchen.
Start with a large chunk of chocolate, or a good sized bar of chocolate. Starting on a flat part of the chocolate, such as the side of a chocolate bar, press the edge of the vegetable peeler into the chocolate and slowly “peel,” as though you’re peeling an apple. You need to apply even pressure to keep the chocolate curling up into the vegetable peeler, and might need to experiment a little bit with exactly how much pressure to need to use, since both too heavy and too light of a touch can cause the curls to break. The chocolate will curl up into neat ringlets as you work. Keep peeling in the same spot so that you always have a nice, flat surface to grab curls from.
Chocolate covered strawberries are one of the tastiest treats that you can make with fresh strawberries, but this chocolate and strawberry combination can be used in other types of desserts, as well. This Double Chocolate Strawberry Tart is definitely inspired by the idea of a chocolate covered strawberry – though in this dessert, the strawberries are on top of the chocolate!
The tart starts with a Chocolate Shortbread Tart Crust. This buttery crust is filled with a very simple chocolate cream cheese filling. I love this filling because it is very easy to prepare and has a subtle cheesecake flavor to it that goes well with all kinds of other flavors, including fresh fruit. Melted dark chocolate gives it a good chocolate flavor while still keeping it light and not as heavy as a ganache filling can be. The tart is finished with a flower-like array of thinly sliced, fresh strawberries. You get a perfect mouthful of crisp crust, creamy filling, chocolate and berries in every bite.
I made this dessert as 4 individual tarts for single servings (or sharing), but you can use the shortbread crust recipe to make a 9 or 10-inch tart shell, as well, and you can assemble these ingredients into one larger tart to serve a crowd. The tart is best when served just after you add the berries, as the fresh berries give off too much juice to store the entire tart for a long period of time. You can, however, prepare the tart shells a day or two in advance and store them in an airtight container at room temperature. The day you are ready to serve them, fill the shells with the chocolate cream filling and store the filled crusts in the refrigerator for up to a few hours. Add the strawberries just before serving.
I like this tart served very simply, but to dress it up you can add a dollop of whipped cream to each one. You can also melt some apricot jelly and use it to “glaze” the strawberries for a super-shiny finish, though I think that perfectly ripe strawberries need no embellishment.
Chocolate extract is an alcohol solution infused with cocoa beans, which makes it very similar to vanilla extract, but with the flavor of cocoa instead of vanilla. It’s an interesting extract to work with because it is unusual and not often called for in recipes, although it can really round out the flavor of a chocolate dessert and highlight the chocolate flavor already there.
Rodelle Organics Organic Chocolate Extract is a high quality chocolate extract and I have had the pleasure of working with it lately. It is produced just like their vanilla extract: by distilling cocoa beans in a water and alcohol solution until that solution captures all of the flavor notes of chocolate. It smells like a bar of dark chocolate when you sniff the bottle, and that is exactly the flavor that gets transferred to any baked good you add this to. Like vanilla extract, it won’t replace actual chocolate in a recipe (a chocolate cake still needs cocoa or chocolate), but it will deepen that flavor and you’ll notice a difference in the finished product. I find that it really makes an impact in custard recipes, such as puddings and ice creams, and is a great addition to any chocolate frosting. It is difficult to detect in some baked goods simply because of the amount of chocolate already present in a recipe, but in simpler desserts (such as chocolate chiffon cakes versus intensely fudgy brownies) it can add a whole new layer of complexity and flavor.
Ibarra is a brand of Mexican table chocolate that is one of the most well know, and most widely available brands of Mexican chocolate. Ibarra chocolate is sold in thick, octaganal tablets and is made with sugar, cacao nibs, lecithin and cinnamon flavoring, which gives it a little spice. The most unusual thing bout this chocolate is that it has a gritty texture, thanks to a very generous amount of coarse, undissolved sugar in the chocolate. The chocolate, unlike regular chocolate bars, is not meant to be eaten in small pieces. Instead, it is meant to be used to make spicy Mexican hot chocolate by dissolving it into hot milk or water.
Ibarra has dramatically increased in popularity and availability over the past few years and is now available in most large grocery stores, where it can be found with other hot chocolates. It is also available at Mexican and specialty stores. In addition to making a tasty hot chocolate, the chocolate can also be chopped and incorporated into all kinds of baked goods – from cookies to cakes – to give them a spicy Mexican chocolate flavor.
Chiffon pies are light, airy pies that have fillings with a mousse-like consistency. They are, in fact, made much like a mousse and get most of their volume from beaten egg whites or whipped cream. They also usually have a small amount of gelatin in them that helps them keep their shape and slice easily. A chiffon pie can be a great option for a dessert that packs a lot of flavor, without feeling heavy, and this Chocolate Chiffon Pie is great example of exactly that.
The pie starts with a chocolate crumb crust and is filled with a mousselike chocolate chiffon filling. Some chiffon pies use egg whites to give them their lift, but this one uses whipped cream both for volume and for mouthfeel. The pie has a wonderful chocolate flavor to it, thanks to a generous amount of chocolate in the filling. Both dark chocolate and semisweet chocolate will work in the filling – even chocolate chips, so long as they’re good quality. It is best to choose a chocolate that you really enjoy because that will be the main flavoring of this pie. I used Guittard Bittersweet (61% cacao) chocolate in the pie pictured. Opt for a darker chocolate if you prefer a more bittersweet flavor in your pie, and semisweet if you prefer your pie to be a touch lighter.
I like a chocolate crumb crust for this pie, as the chocolate flavor goes well with the pie and it adds a nice crunchy element to the dessert. A regular graham cracker crust will also work well, and you can use a traditional pastry crust that has been prebaked and cooled, if you prefer. The pie keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for several days after assembly. It is best when served with a little bit of lightly sweetened whipped cream and a few chocolate shavings for garnish.