Four Chocolate Recipes for Your Sweetheart...or Yourself

| story and food styling by Beth Maya | photography by Alex Lepe |

Chocolate, once reserved for the elite, became widely available to the masses due to advances made during the industrial revolution. Thank goodness. Today, Americans eat 100 pounds of chocolate every second - 1.4 billion pounds each year.

I, for one, am happy that it’s so readily available, so that we can focus on all the wonders of chocolate this month, starting with a few of my favorites. We will demystify the truffle and learn how to make the base of this decadent treat, then move on to an over-the-top ice-cream sandwich, super rich chocolate brownies, and an ultra-moist dark chocolate cake. These recipes are so diverse it’s like a box of, well, chocolates.

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
3 cups (18 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Optional coatings: Confectioner’s sugar, Dutch-processed cocoa, espresso powder, chopped nuts, or really anything you can chop small and goes well with chocolate. Think outside of the box; chopped pretzels or potato chips would be a salty, sweet combination.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips with milk on high in 30-second intervals. Use a whisk to mix until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Refrigerate, covered, 2 hours or until firm enough to roll.
Shape into 1-inch balls. You can use a small melon baller or a spoon. Roll in coatings as desired and enjoy.

DARK CHOCOLATE CAKE
adapted from Epicurious
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-
purpose flour 
1/2 cup cocoa powder
Generous 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar 
1 large egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8-by-2 1/2-inch cake pan and line with a circle of parchment.

Finely chop the semisweet chocolate and place in a bowl. Pour the hot coffee over it, and let it stand for a minute or so. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

In another bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar together.

Beat the egg at medium speed until it is pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the oil, then the buttermilk and vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined. Mix in the melted chocolate and coffee mixture. Add the dry ingredients all at once, and beat on low speed until the batter is just combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and stir to make sure all the dry ingredients are absorbed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto an 8-inch cardboard round or removable tart pan bottom. Carefully peel off the parchment paper and cool completely. Place the cooled cake along with the cooling rack on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

For the chocolate glaze, finely chop the chocolate into very small pieces and place in a medium bowl.

Bring the cream and corn syrup to a simmer. Keep your eye on it because it will spill over if left unattended. Just as it begins to boil, take off heat and pour it over the chopped chocolate, and let it sit for about 2 minutes. Then stir slowly and gently, starting in the middle until thoroughly combined and then working outward in concentric circles until the mixture comes together.

To glaze the cake, pour the glaze quickly in the center of the cake and then around the edges. Let it run for a few seconds and then gently jiggle and tap the baking sheet on the work surface to encourage the glaze to run down the sides of the cake. Just as it begins to dry, run a small flat spatula around the underside of the cardboard round to smooth the bottom edge and prevent “feet” from forming. Let glaze firm up before serving.

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
Adapted from Chef Dennis Littley
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
(1 1/4 sticks)
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, and get a 9-inch square baking pan.

Line the baking pan with parchment or aluminum foil with an overhang on opposite sides so you can lift out the brownies from the pan.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a heatproof bowl, and place it over a small sauce pot with simmering water to create a double boiler.

Stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Remove the bowl from the heat, and allow to cool just a little bit.

Add the vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon.

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one (I’m not too sure just how vigorously you can stir chocolate with a wooden spoon but give it a go).

When the batter looks thick, shiny and well-blended, add the flour and stir until you can no longer see it, and then beat it vigorously for 40 strokes with your wooden spoon.

Add the nuts and chocolate chips, and spread evenly in your baking pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out slightly moist with batter.

Let cool completely on a wire rack.

After they have cooled, lift the brownies out of the pan and gently remove the foil or parchment from the sides of the brownies.

Cut the brownies into squares and enjoy!

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE-CHIP COOKIE ICE-CREAM SANDWICHES
Recipe adapted from foodiecrush.com
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon espresso powder
2/3 cup Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups dark chocolate chunks
2, 14-ounce packages of your favorite ice cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking sheet mat.

In bowl of electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, creaming well in between each egg addition. Add vanilla and blend.

In separate bowl, sift flour, espresso powder, cocoa, baking soda and kosher salt. Mix in half of flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix. Add remaining half and mix. Mix in chocolate chunks.

Drop cookies by rounded tablespoon onto baking sheets. Bake 12 minutes. Remove from oven and move to cooling rack to cool completely.

Once cookies have cooled completely, remove ice cream from freezer and let sit at room temperature for 3-5 minutes to soften slightly. Set ice cream container on its side. With sharp, serrated knife, cut through ice cream container into 1/2- to 3/4-inch rounds.

Working quickly, remove wrapper and place slice of ice cream on bottom side of cookie, then top with another cookie. At this point for additional decadence, you can roll your cookie sandwich in anything you like, Toffee bits, mini-chocolate chips, chopped peanut butter cups, etc. Repeat with remaining cookies, and serve immediately or wrap individually in plastic wrap, place in a freezer bag and freeze for later.