I have to admit, I was a late bloomer when it comes to enjoying chocolate. My dad can’t stand it, and my mother is indifferent to it, so we didn’t eat much of it growing up. But I learned to cook with it when I was dating my husband. He loves chocolate, and I loved experimenting with new delicious cakes and desserts to treat him on his birthday or other occasions. But it took a trip to France in 2006 to turn me into lover. If anyone can convince you to love chocolate, it’s the French!
Both of my kids love chocolate, which is why we go through a lot of hot chocolate in the winter. These are recipes I developed for them and other family members, and any of them would be a decadent treat for Valentine’s Day. The difficulty ratings are 1 (beginner) to 10 (Julia Child), and the chocolate ratings are 1 (cheap powdered hot cocoa) to 10 (coma-inducing). Enjoy!
Favorite Chocolate Recipes
Ultra Dark Chocolate Pudding
Chocolate Intensity: 10
Yield: 4-6 small servings.
Pudding made from scratch is a world apart from the stuff that comes in a box or packaged in plastic containers. This pudding is easy, quick, and very, very rich. If you want a less intense chocolate flavor, eliminate the brown sugar and use just 1/3 cup of cocoa powder. For a gourmet treat, serve this while it’s still warm and top it with real whipped cream. Oo la la!
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 cups milk (I use 2%)
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Separate your egg yolks into a medium-sized bowl and lightly beat them. Set aside.
2. Mix the sugars, cocoa powder, salt, and corn starch in a 2-quart saucepan. Whisk in the milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir for 1 minute.
3. Remove from heat and gently stir about half of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Whisk together and then return the hot mixture to the saucepan. Boil and stir for 1 more minute.
4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Serve warm or chill until set.
Almond Cake with Chocolate Ganache
Difficulty Level: 4
Chocolate Intensity: 7
Yield: 10 servings.
Last year my sister-in law asked me to make “something with ganache” for her birthday. Chocolate ganache is made from chocolate and cream, so it’s much runnier than chocolate frosting. And because of the cream, you have to keep it refrigerated. I came up with this cake as a way to showcase the ganache but keep it easy to work with. I love the combination of chocolate and almond extract, and the lighter-flavored cake balances out the heaviness of the ganache. It also looks fancier than it actually is, thanks to some easy decorating tricks. This is a great cake to show off!
Ingredients for the almond cake:
3 large eggs, room-temperature (see tip)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Eggs beat more quickly and easily at room temperature than cold from the fridge. You can set them out 30 minutes before baking. Or fill a bowl with warm (not hot!) water and let the eggs soak for 5-10 minutes until they no longer feel cold.
1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a jelly roll pan, 15 ½ x 10 ½ x 1 inch, with parchment paper, leaving about a 3” overhang on each of the short sides. This will make it easy to remove and roll your cake after it is cooked.
2. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. Beat eggs in a large bowl with electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes or until very thick and yellow.
4. With the mixer on low, gradually beat in sugar, water, and almond extract.
5. Using a large spatula, carefully fold in the flour mixture.
6. Pour cake batter into the prepared pan. Pick up the pan and tilt it back and forth to make sure that the mixture spreads evenly. It will be very thin, but you want it to reach all corners and spread as evenly as possible.
7. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
While the cake bakes, spread a layer of powdered sugar onto a large, clean towel (a large kitchen towel is perfect for this. A bath towel would be too big!)
8. Remove the cake and pick up the parchment paper by the overhanging edges. Turn the cake upside-down onto the powdered sugar-covered towel. Carefully peel off the parchment and sprinkle the cake with more powdered sugar.
9. While still hot, carefully roll the cake and towel together from the short end. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
<p>Ingredients for the chocolate ganache (with almond):
Make the ganache while the cake cools.
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ teaspoon almond extract
1. Warm the cream in a saucepan over medium heat until very hot. Do not boil.
2. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips until melted. Add almond extract.
3. Let ganache stand for about 5 minutes, until very thick. Test with a spoon by dripping a little of the ganache back into the pan. If the dripped chocolate mounds instead of sinking in, then it is ready.
Semisweet chocolate shavings (use a veggie peeler on a chocolate bar)
Zip-lock bag, scissors
1. Unroll the cooled cake and place on a serving dish. Pour ¼ of the ganache into the zip-lock bag and set aside.
2. Spread the rest of the ganache onto the cake. Roll the cake.
3. Snip a small hole in one corner of the bag. Use this to pipe ganache onto the top of the cake in a crisscross fashion.
4. Top with shavings. Keep refrigerated until serving.
Viennese Chocolate Torte
Chocolate Intensity: 10
Yield: 12 servings.
What makes this “Viennese?” It’s the oranges. Before I liked chocolate, I thought “chocolate orange” flavor was a terrible idea. But the tartness of orange complements the bitterness of dark chocolate. It’s a complex flavor and not as kid-friendly as chocolate almond or chocolate mint. You can really use any extract you like to vary the flavor, and change the toppings accordingly.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup butter (1 stick)
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 T Grand Marnier or 1 teaspoon orange extract
Zest from 1 orange
4 eggs, separated
½ cup granulated sugar
Filling and topping: chocolate ganache and candied oranges
1. Preheat oven to 325. Prepare 2 round cake pans (8 or 9 inch): trace the bottom of the pans onto parchment paper and cut out. Place the parchment in the bottom of pans and grease sides with butter or shortening.
2. While the egg whites are beating, melt chocolate chips and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.
3. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in flour until smooth; whisk in egg yolks until blended. Add Grand Marnier or orange extract and the orange zest.
4. With an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until soft peaks form.
5. Fold chocolate mixture into the egg whites. Spread into pans.
6. Bake 25 minutes or until the tops appear dry and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Cool 5 minutes; loosen the edges of the cake with a knife before removing from pans. Cool completely before filling.
8. To assemble: use the chocolate ganache recipe from above but omit the almond extract. Spread half of the ganache on one cake and top with the second cake. Spread the rest of the ganache on the top and arrange candied orange peel. Keep refrigerated until serving.
Candied Orange Peel Topping:
This is a very pretty topping, but the torte will still be delicious if you skip this step. You can decorate by drizzling with ganache and sprinkling sliced almonds instead. Or try good-quality store bought candied oranges.
Here is a great tutorial on how to make candied orange peel. You could just skip the cake and dip these in melted semisweet chocolate for an easy treat. Yum!
What are your favorite chocolate treats to enjoy on Valentine’s Day?
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