4/4/08

Oh, Chocolate Goddess, I Bow to Thee...

Have you ever had one of those days, where everything went wrong? Well, I had one of those days, all week. And nothing you or your loved ones do in an attempt to lift your spirits is ever successful.

Nothing that is, except for (as if you didn't know where I was going with this) CHOCOLATE!

I know I'm screaming it. And I know it's rude. And maybe I need to go back to Kidney garden -as my young son would say- for a refresher course in courteous, respectful behavior. But I can't do that. I'm too old for Kidney garden, not to mention, with my hips, those tiny desks can be a bitch!

So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt my way to the back of my pantry, the Magical Pantry of W.o.n.d.e.r.s., where I keep my stash of chocolate hidden. Incidentally, another good hiding place is an empty box of fabric softener in the laundry room. Don't worry. My kids are about as interested in the laundry room as they are about this blog. My secret is safe with you ... two, my viewing audience.

I digress. I decided nothing could jump start my weary brain faster than baking something, anything, with chocolate. And you know what? I made two, count them, two dreamy chocolate treats.

The first one is a simple and quick Pots de Crème. Use your favorite bittersweet chocolate for this, and call me on your way to Heaven.




Chocolate Pots de Crème


1½ cups heavy whipping cream
½ cup whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
6 egg yolks
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup very strong prepared espresso coffee

Eight 4 to 5 ounce pot the crème cups or ramekins

Bring the cream and sugar to a boil with the vanilla bean in a saucepan.
Whisk yolks in a bowl. Whisk about a third of the boiling cream into the yolks. Return remaining cream to a boil and whisk in yolk mixture. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 15 or 20 seconds, until slightly thickened.
Strain cream into a bowl and add chopped chocolate. Whisk in espresso and pour into molds.

Refrigerate until cooled. For advance preparation, cover the pots de crème with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Uncover and leave at room temperature for about an hour before serving. This recipe was adapted from one found in Nick Malgieri's book "Chocolate."





This next recipe for Peppermint Patties is a bit more involved than the previous one, but not at all difficult. Have your kids help shape the candies. Their efforts may yield candies resembling the state of Kentucky, but so what, they'll love it.





Peppermint Patties

2½ cups sugar
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons of butter
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon peppermint oil
6 drops green food coloring, optional
2 cups semisweet chocolate, melted


Stir together the sugar, cream, milk, butter and cream of tartar in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, without stirring; reduce heat to medium. Attach a candy thermometer to inside edge of pot and cook without stirring, until mixture registers 235° (soft-ball stage), about 12-14 minutes.

Pour sugar mixture onto a marble slab. Using two spatulas or bench scrapers, scrape mixture back and forth until it starts to turn into a thick, opaque mass, 3-4 minutes. Once it's cooled enough to handle, knead in the peppermint oil and food coloring, if using, and knead until smooth.
Shape fondant into 36, 1½" wide disks, each about 1/3" thick. Keep the rest of the fondant covered while you work to keep from drying out. Freeze candy centers for 1 hour.

Working with one disk at a time, dip them into melted chocolate using a dipping fork; allow excess chocolate to drip off. Transfer candies to parchment-paper lined sheet pan until set. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge, for several weeks. Bring to room temperature 10-15 minutes before serving, although, I prefer these chocolatey / minty delights cold.