December 22, 2008

Live to Eat - My Life in Chocolate

I grew up in a family that celebrated the great things in life with food. A good report card meant a meal at my favorite restaurant. Winning first chair in the woodwind section of my high school orchestra deserved a three layer chocolate cake with strawberries and cocoa crème icing. 4th runner-up in the Miss Atlantic County (NJ) pageant was a feast of enormous proportions starting with a celebratory brunch featuring chocolate chip pancakes the morning after and culminating with a buffet dinner for family and friends that evening. I don’t dare to imagine what level of food frenzy would’ve erupted had I actually won the crown and moved on to the Miss New Jersey pageant. Anyway, such has been my life. In my adult years, I haven’t had any desire to change the role food plays. I’ve just learned to love the gym, daily power walks and eating healthy in frequent, dramatic spurts.

Chocolate has elite status in my business life as well. It’s no secret that my favorite chocolatier is
Vosges Haut Chocolat. Their artisan flair appeals to my sensibilities. I’m so enamored with their delicacies that I gave each member of my amazing staff a box of their Exotic Truffle Collection. Since the first proclamation of health benefits from consuming dark chocolate, I’ve made sure that a bar of delectable Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates No. 1 Dark 70 or a Maya Gold “Fair Trade” from Green & Black’s is always in my production room. Customers who’ve come to my design studio have sometimes been treated to a Brownie Cupcake from one of my much loved NYC bakeshops, Crumbs.

I recently had to make a grand apology to my boyfriend for a minor lapse in judgment that resulted in us having to miss a friend’s holiday party that we’d both been looking forward to for months. No number of “I’m sorry’s” would’ve mattered that night so I knew my creative mind had to come up with some expression of sorrow that would have a significant impact. Then it dawned on me. I live with the reigning king of food consumption so as the old saying goes “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. But what combination would bring joy, satisfaction AND forgiveness? Here’s my successful solution:

Recipe from Epicurious.com

Spiked Hot Chocolate

Yield: Makes 6 drinks.

INGREDIENTS
4 cups milk
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup Frangelico
Garnish: whipped cream

PREPARATION
In a saucepan, combine the milk, the chocolate, the sugar, and the cinnamon and heat the mixture over moderate heat, stirring, until the chocolate is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Add the rum and the Frangelico and heat the mixture, stirring, until it is hot. Divide the mixture among 6 heated mugs and top each drink with some of the whipped cream.



Recipe from JoyOfBaking.com

Chocolate Fudge Cookies

INGREDIENTS
1 cup (115 grams) pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (could also use walnuts or hazelnuts)
1/2 cup (56 grams) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder (optional)
1 pound (450 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated white sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (170 grams) semisweet dark chocolate chips
1 cup (170 grams) white chocolate chips

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant. Let nuts cool and then chop coarsely. Set aside.

Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder into small bowl. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the sugar and eggs until pale yellow and thick, about 5 minutes. When you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla extract. Fold in the dry ingredients to the chocolate batter and mix only until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto prepared cookie sheets, spacing evenly. With moist fingers, press batter to form 3 1/2 (9 cm) to 4 inch (10 cm) rounds. Bake cookies about 12 - 14 minutes or until the tops of the cookies become dry and cracked, but are still shiny. Do not overbake these cookies.

Remove from oven and place baking pan on a wire rack to cool. When cookies are firm, remove from baking pan and let completely cool on rack.

These cookies are best the day they are baked but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.

Makes about 24 large cookies.

Warning: This solution may cause over caffeinated intoxication.

While my life is full of adventures, both on the up side and the down, one constant will always be that an infusion of chocolate in any form will make everything alright.

Photo of Chocolate Truffles Courtesy of Vosges.com

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