A Chocolate Fest for Valentine’s Day
There are those people who believe it just isn’t a proper Valentine’s Day feast without chocolate, and with good reason. Chocolate was viewed as an aphrodisiac by the Aztecs, those great folks we originally got chocolate from, who thought it invigorated men, and made women less inhibited.
Okay, while specific aphrodisiac effects of chocolate are scientifically unproven, it does contain substances that increase energy, stamina, and feelings of well being. Chocolate contains a pair of compounds known as phenylethylamine and serotonin, both of which affect the pleasure centers of the human brain. Also, dark chocolate may positively affect the circulatory system (ahem-we all know what that does!). And some researchers believe that chocolate contains pharmacologically active substances that have the same effect on the brain as marijuana. Bottom line- it just makes us feel good, so I say bring on the chocolate fest.
In keeping with these sentiments, we believe a party of chocolate treats is just the thing for the loved ones in your life on Valentine’s Day.
A while back, I was the lucky winner of a year of chocolate from Albert Uster Imports, suppliers to professional pastry chefs (yep- I am a lucky girl), so each month, I receive a box filled with a chocolately surprise. So today- just in time for you to treat the loved ones in your life on Valentine’s Day, I’m going to share with you some lovely chocolate treats I’ve cooked up with what they’ve sent me.
The second month of deliveries brought 11 pounds of 58% Trudelia Bittersweet Couverture. I found perfect uses for it, in the wonderful flourless truffle cake (recipe below) which has become an always welcome favorite among my clients, family and friends, and in a decadent chocolate fondue. We served both of these chocolatey treats at last fall’s LAHelpsLA event.
Then in January, I received a box of these beautiful truffles which are just perfect for a Valentine’s Day party. All of the above are perfect for a Valentine’s Day Chocolate Fest! So-Bon Appétit and spread the love!
Oh- two last things- yes, that’s me above, alongside a bowl of chocolate truffles and dipping strawberries in chocolate. Secondly, although I’m a big fan of Champagne, I don’t think it’s the best choice for chocolate desserts, but I do have a beverage suggestion from master mixologist, Natalie Bovis, aka The Liquid Muse. She suggests sipping these treats with a small chilled glass of ruby port for the perfect pairing.
Chocolate Truffle Truffle Cake recipe follows…
Chocolate Truffle Cake- Thanks to Dishin’ in the Kitchen for the pic
Chocolate Truffle Cake
Recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible
I use Ms. Beranbaum’s variation with praline paste:Love ‘N Bake Hazelnut Praline, All Natural, 11-Ounce Can (Pack of 2)
1 pound bitterssweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
6 large eggs
1/2 cup ( 5.5 ounces) praline paste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line an 8 inch removable bottom springform pan with a buttered circle of parchment. Wrap the outside of the pan with a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil.
Melt the chocolate, praline paste and the butter In a large metal bowl set over a pan of hot water until smooth.
Break the egs into the mixer bowl of a stand mixer, and set them over a pan of simeering water, stirring constantly to prevent curdling, until just warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and beat them until the triple in volume, or as my instructor, Chef Jake, at CCA always said, until they won’t rise anymore and begin to retreat, about 5 minutes.
Using a balloon wire whisk, fold 1/2 of the eggs into the chocolate mixture until almost incorporated. Fold the remaining half until just blended. Use a rubber spatula to fold the last bit in, to insure that the heaviest mixture at the bottom is incorporated. Scrape into the prepared pan, and smooth with a spatula. Set the pan in a larger pan and fill it with 1 inch of hot water. Bake 5 minutes. Cover loosely with a piece of bittered foil and bake another 10 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven, and place on a wire rack to cool. The cake will be soft, but don’t worry, that’s the way it should be. When it is completely cool, cover it all around with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it.
To unmold the cake, have a two cardboard rounds ready. Wipe the sides of the pan with a hot, damp towel. Run a thin metal spatula around the edges of the cake, and release the sides of the springform pan. Place the first platter or cardboard round on top and invert the cake onto it. Wipe the bottom of the pan with a hot, damp towel, then remove the pan bottom and parchment. Reinvert the cake onto second cardboard round.
Ice the cake with a thin coating layer of ganache or chocolate icing to create a smoother surface. Refrigerate until very cold, then glaze with ganache.
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream (I learned from Gayle’s Bakery in Cupertino that ultra-pasteurized heavy cream makes the smoothest ganache)
1 tablespoon Cognac (optional)
Chop or grate the chocolate into very small pieces.
Heat the cream to the boiling point, and pour in three additions over the chocolate, stirring gently (you want to avoid making air bubbles) with a whisk after each addition. Stir in the Cognac, if using.
Place the truffle torte on a parchment lined baking sheet, and pour the warm ganache over it, through a fine mesh strainer.I like to throw some glitter, sprinkles or dragées on it to decorate.
This cake serves about 20 people easily, and lasts several weeks in the fridge if well wrapped.
A slice of Chocolate Truffle Cake served with Burgundy infused cherries