It’s the Chocolate, Cupid


The way to your lover’s heart is through a bar of chocolate.

By Debby Maugans, Photography by Liesa Cole

Nearly every morning, my husband, Lindsay, breaks off a tiny square of an 84% cacao chocolate bar and slides it into my mouth before I am fully awake. The deep chocolate flavor melting and lingering on a virgin tongue the first thing in the morning is indeed a sweet sensation.

Baking an individual chocolate dessert is also an act of love, and there are more than 150 to try out in Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers. Available this month, the book is rich with cakes, pies and tarts, cookies and brownies, muffins and scones, soufflés, puddings, and specialties like baklava and graham crackers made with chocolate.

Here is a peek at the many recipes you can seduce your Valentine with—anytime you want to.

Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers, published by Thomas Dunne, is available this month. Debby Maugans will be at Alabama Booksmith on February 9 for a book signing and tasting, and will teach a baking class at Birmingham Bake and Cook on February 10.

Classic Chocolate Cake

Classic Chocolate Cake

1/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons well-beaten egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease insides of 2 clean 14.5-ounce cans. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and set aside. Or line 4 regular-sized muffin cups with paper liners.
Whisk milk, egg, and vanilla in small bowl.
Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda, and salt into a deep 1 1/2-quart mixing bowl. Add butter and half of milk mixture; beat with a hand-held electric mixer at low speed until dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase speed to medium; beat until batter is lightened and has increased in volume, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add remaining milk mixture and beat until well blended, about 20 seconds.
Scrape batter into cans or muffin cups.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes for cupcakes and 27 to 29 minutes for cakes.  Cool 15 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen edges of cakes from cans using a small sharp knife; invert cans and remove cakes.  Cool completely. Cut cakes in half crosswise; frost between layers and on tops and sides of cakes or tops of cupcakes. Makes 2 cakes or 4 cupcakes.

Bittersweet Chocolate Truffle Tarts

Bittersweet Chocolate Truffle Tarts

2 partially baked Rich Sweet Pastry shells, baked in 4 1/2- x 3/4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms, still in pans (recipe follows)

For filling:

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon Cointreau, chocolate liqueur, or cream

Pinch of salt

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons beaten egg yolk (about 1 1/2 yolks)

For glaze:

1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup

3/4 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 teaspoons warm water

Salted Pistachio Brittle (recipe follows)

Position oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place tart pans on a baking sheet for easier handling.

Prepare filling:  Bring cream, liqueur, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Place chocolate in a bowl; pour hot cream mixture over chocolate.  Let stand 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Place beaten egg yolk in a small bowl; whisk some of the hot mixture into egg yolk, then whisk egg yolk mixture into remaining hot mixture.  Pour into pastry shells;  bake until they are set about an inch from the edge but still jiggly in the center, 15 to 20 minutes.  (Centers will continue to set as the tart cools.) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Prepare glaze:  Place cream and corn syrup in a small, microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high power until very hot, about 20 seconds.  Add chocolate; let  stand 1 minute, swirling cream to warm chocolate.  Stir until smooth; stir in warm water.

Pour glaze over tarts, swirling to coat tops with glaze. Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 1 hour.

Remove tarts from pans; garnish with Pistachio Brittle. Makes 2 tarts.

Salted Pistachio Brittle

Nonstick cooking spray

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon water

Pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons salted roasted shelled pistachios

Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set it aside.

Place sugar, water, and salt in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring with a fork until sugar dissolves.  Boil sugar syrup until it is golden amber in color, swirling saucepan occasionally.  Remove from

heat.

Working quickly, stir pistachios into caramel and immediately pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet.  Press tip of a table knife into edges of the caramel, nudging and stretching it gently in all directions for form a very thin sheet.  Let cool completely and break into irregular shards.  Makes about 1/2 cup pieces.

Hazelnut Sachertorte Bars

Hazelnut Sachertorte Bars

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husks removed

5 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, softened

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon well-beaten egg, divided

2 tablespoons sieved apricot preserves

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, divided, chopped

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 ounce white chocolate, melted

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a 5 x 3-inch loaf pan (2-cup capacity)with aluminum foil and lightly butter the foil; or use nonstick aluminum foil. Set aside.

Place hazelnuts, 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor fitted with the knife blade; process until nuts are ground. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter and 1 teaspoon beaten egg, and pulse until mixture starts to clump together, 11 or 12 pulses. Press into loaf pan.  Bake until beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack. Turn oven off.

When crust is cooled, spread preserves over crust. Preheat oven again to 350 degrees F.

Place remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 1 ounce chocolate in a small, microwave-safe bowl; microwave on medium power until chocolate is glossy, about 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Whisk in sugar, then 1 1/2 tablespoons beaten egg.   Stir in remaining 2 1/2 tablespoon flour and salt. Stir in vanilla.  Pour over apricot preserves layer.

Bake until chocolate layer is just set and a toothpick inserted in center of chocolate layer comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Melt remaining 1 ounce chocolate and drizzle over top; refrigerate 10 minutes to harden.  Drizzle with white chocolate; let stand until firm. Lift the brownie layer from pan and cut into bars.  Makes 3 to 4 bars.

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Rich Sweet Pastry

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoons ice water, plus additional if necessary

Lightly beat egg yolk in a small cup with a fork and measure out 2 teaspoons.  Set aside the 2 teaspoons yolk and save the rest for other uses.

Sift confectioners’ sugar, flour, and salt into a food processor bowl.  Add butter , 2 teaspoons egg yolk, and 1 teaspoon ice water; pulse until the dough just begins to clump together, adding additional ice water, by teaspoons, if necessary.

Turn dough out on a piece of plastic wrap and divide it in half.  Shape each half of the dough into a disc and wrap it in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Place a rack in the center of oven and preheat  oven to 325 degrees.  Lightly butter or mist with cooking spray 2 (4- or 4 1/2-inch) tart pans. Or line 2 jumbo muffin cups (2 1/2- x 1 1/2-inch) with aluminum foil and butter or mist the foil.  Place tart pans on a baking sheet for easier handling and set pans aside.

Roll out each disc pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 6-inch round.  If you are using tart pans, fit each pastry circle into a prepared tart pan and tuck the overhang to inside of pan for extra reinforcement, gently pressing pastry into groves. If you are using a muffin pan, fit the pastry rounds into prepared muffin cups, pleating dough in even folds to fit. Tuck overhang to inside of pan for extra reinforcement.

Pierce bottoms of pastry shells several times with a fork and freeze until firm, 15 minutes.

Line pastry shells with nonstick aluminum foil and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans.  Bake 15 minutes. Remove pans from oven and carefully remove foil and pie weights.  Return baking sheet or muffin pan to oven.

For partially baked crusts, bake until the crusts are just dry and set, about 5 minutes.

For fully baked crusts, bake until they are light golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Makes 2 crusts.

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon beaten egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1/4 cup very finely chopped pecans

3 vanilla caramels, unwrapped

1 teaspoon heavy (whipping) cream

3 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips

Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl; mix with a fork to blend.  Add butter, egg yolk, and vanilla;  mix well with the fork or your fingers until the dough holds together.  The dough will be crumbly.

Shape dough into five equal balls.  Roll balls in beaten egg white, then in pecans to coat.  Place balls 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet.  Use your thumb to press an indentation in center of each cookie.  Shape cookie sides with your fingers, if necessary.

Bake until edges of the cookies are firm, about 12 minutes.  Meanwhile, place the caramels and cream in a small, microwave-safe bowl; microwave at medium power until caramels soften, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir until smooth.

Carefully slide parchment paper onto a wire rack. Spoon caramel mixture into cookie centers.  Let cookies and caramel mixture cool completely.

Place chocolate chips in a small, microwave-safe bowl;  microwave on medium power until soft, about 30 seconds. Use a fork to drizzle over tops of cookies.  Let stand until chocolate sets.  Makes 5 cookies.

Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache:

5 ounces premium quality milk chocolate, finely chopped

3 ounces premium-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely

chopped

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sour cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at medium power until glossy, 2 to 3 minutes; stir until smooth.  Let cool; whisk in the sour cream, vanilla, and salt. Whisk in additional sour cream, by tablespoons, if frosting is too thick. Makes about 1 cup.

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