Showing posts with label chocolate dessert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chocolate dessert. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Guilt-Free Chocolate Bliss for Valentine’s Day from Cleo Coyle



With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I thought this recipe might just hit the spot. (Possibly more than one.) Why? Served with coffee, tea, espresso, or cocoa, this elegant treat has very few calories (fulfilling my guilt-free claim) yet it has lots of amazing flavor. The way you consume this dessert is pretty darn sensuous, too, and all three ingredients have long been considered aphrodisiacs…

CHOCOLATE, of course, is the classic Valentine’s Day consumable. The Aztecs were probably the first to make the connection between amorous feelings and the cocoa bean. The emperor Montezuma was said to have fueled his romantic trysts by ingesting large amounts of the bean.



CINNAMON is a delightful, fragrant, and stimulating spice. The Romans believed cinnamon was an aphrodisiac. Cleopatra famously used it to arouse her many lovers.


COFFEE AND TEA contain caffeine, which is considered a perk in the department of stimulating amorous desires.

When coffee was first introduced to the Turkish culture, husbands were expected to keep their wives well supplied. If the husband could not provide daily coffee for his wife, it was a legitimate cause for her to divorce him. Fair enough since a wife's ability to make coffee was one of the ways a husband decided whether she was a good match for marriage.

So what is this dessert that combines chocolate + cinnamon + coffee (espresso or tea). I'll tell you...




CHOCOLATE-DIPPED
CINNAMON STICKS!

Cleo Coyle, who goes
loco for mocha, is author
of The Coffeehouse
Mysteries
Okay, this recipe is stupidly easy. It's more of a “process with tips” than a recipe. I thought it would be easy to write up. Wrong! This is one of the longest recipes I've ever written! But I wanted you all to have enough tips to make this easy and foolproof. (There are far too many ways to muck up the melting of chocolate and the dipping of things in it...so I hope all the directions help.)

I came up with this idea when I finished baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies and had about ½ cup of extra chips. I saw the cinnamon sticks on my shelf and decided to chocolate-coat them, just a fast, fun way to use the extra chips. That evening, I served the chocolate-covered cinnamon sticks with our after-dinner coffee, receiving happy compliments and quite a few kisses from my Valentine. I hope you all receive the same!



CLEO COYLE'S
SENSUOUS AS SIN!
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED
CINNAMON STICKS 


Start with selecting your favorite chocolate. What kind of chocolate? Because no sugar is added to this very basic recipe, I prefer using a chocolate that has sugar in it such as white, milk, semi-sweet, or Mexican.

If you like dark chocolate, by all means use it. Just taste it first and make sure the flavor is good naked, without additional ingredients added. A bittersweet chocolate (one with a very high cocoa percentage) may be delicious in a cake, cookie or pudding, but remember that you're adding sugar to those recipes. To many people, dark (or baking) chocolate with little or no sugar added will taste too bitter for this recipe.


Ingredients:

12 cinnamon sticks (the longer the better)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or about 4 ounces of block chocolate, chopped)

Step 1 – Prepare drying area: When the chocolate-covered sticks are wet, they’ll drip melted chocolate (obviously). So you'll need to prep a safe area for the sticks to dry. Here are two methods: (A) egg carton and (B) wax paper...

A. Egg carton method – Remove the top from an egg carton. Place it on a large dish. Using a knife, make a small incision in the carton top. To make sure the incision is large enough, insert one end of your cinnamon stick into the carton. Repeat for all 12 sticks. (See my photo below. I suggest you use the carton top only, which is sturdier. The egg carton bottom is tricky and although you see me using it in the photo, the sticks tend to move around more on the carton bottoms.)

Note: The top of the egg carton actually provides more
stability than the bottom. So I suggest you use the
entire top of the carton and forget about the bottom.

B. Wax paper method – Place wax paper over a large, flat dish. The only drawback with this method is appearance. Your chocolate-covered cinnamon sticks will still taste delicious but there will be a funny sort of flat side to your stick. If you want prettier sticks, use my method A (the egg carton). NOTE: If you have no wax paper, do no use paper towels or a naked dish! The chocolate will adhere to these surfaces and your sticks will be ruined. Parchment paper and aluminum foil are better alternatives.


The top stick was made with my egg carton method.
The bottom was made using the wax paper method.
Both of these treats will taste great. The egg carton method
simply looks nicer for presentation. Note also that
cinnamon sticks come in different lengths. For this recipe,
the longer sticks are easier to work with.

Step 2 – Melt Chocolate: Place ½ cup chocolate chips (or about 4 ounces of block chocolate, chopped) into a microwave safe bowl. I use my Pyrex measuring cup.

WARNING: Chocolate burns easily, especially white and milk chocolates, which have more milk solids, so you really need to be careful when you melt chocoalte in a microwave.

Nuke it for about 20 seconds. Remove the bowl and stir (make sure the spoon is dry because moisture will make the chocolate seize up). The chocolate won’t be completely melted yet, but you need to stir it to prevent burning. Now microwave it for another 10 seconds. Remove and stir again. Continue this process until the chocolate is completely melted.


Step 3 – Dip sticks (gee, that sounds funny, doesn't it?): Okay, one at a time, dip one end of each cinnamon stick into the melted chocolate. Allow excess chocolate to drip off the stick, back into the bowl. Spin the stick around slowly until the drips stop completely. Now place the clean end of the stick (the end you’re holding) into the prepared egg carton.



Step 4 – Wait: The chocolate must dry and harden. Give it about an hour before touching. To speed up this process, carefully move the dish (on which you’ve placed either the egg carton or wax paper) into the refrigerator for about thirty minutes.


To serve: Once the chocolate hardens, you're ready to use. Lightly stir the chocolate-covered stick into your cup of hot coffee (espresso, tea or cocoa). Stir only enough to re-warm the chocolate. Place the stick into your mouth like a lollipop and enjoy the taste on your lips and tongue. The flavors of warm chocolate and cinnamon combine with the coffee to create a lovely after-dinner sensation. It’s a deliciously fun and sensuous dessert experience with very few calories. A perfectly blissful ending to a romantic meal.


To store: Once the chocolate is completely hardened, simply place sticks in a plastic baggie and store in your refrigerator.


Happy
Valentine's Day,
Everyone!



~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries



To get more of my recipes, win free coffee,
or find out more about my books, visit me
 at my *virtual* coffeehouse:

 
Click on the book covers above
to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.

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A final, quick note for our mystery reading fans.
The latest Mystery Readers Journal with the theme Hobbies, Crafts, and Special Interests is now available.


The issue, edited by Mystery Fanfare's Janet Rudolph, includes many mystery authors who have guest posted for us over the past year. You can check out the contents by clicking here, which will also give you info on how to purchase a copy (hard or electronic) for yourself.


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Saturday, February 5, 2011

My not so secret love affair with ...








You may feel that February is the month of roses, soft music, gifts of twinkling jewelry, and all things romantic, but I think of it as the month of chocolate love. There’s nothing wrong with all that other stuff, but chocolate always makes me melt. I particularly adore chocolate at the end of a meal. This affection for chocolate desserts goes back to the days before I could even imagine being able to make such a thing, in fact, before I could pull off anything but the occasional tuna fish sandwich. You see, I came into my marriage with that single ‘culinary’ skill. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, had once cooked for the Queen of England. Ahem. Talk about a challenge. The problem was that I hated cooking.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t alone. I found a cookbook that seemed to have been written for me. The late, great humorist Peg Bracken saved my bacon and possibly my marriage. I fell upon her cheating-in-the-kitchen masterpiece The I Hate to Cook Book, a small but hilarious paperback with fast and easy recipes that could fool some of the people some of the time. I was able to laugh my head off while suffering in the kitchen. Many of the recipes are dated now, but I can still fool some of those same people with variations on the originals. I credit Peg Bracken with letting me fall in love with cooking. The original books have fallen apart over the years, but I still snatch up copies at library and book sales any chance I get.

But back to my story: one of the recipes in The Appendix to the I Hate to Cook Book (yes really) is something called pot-de-chocolat, a rich confection of chocolate, cream, and rum. It was pretty snazzy when I served that after a dinner party back in the day. No one knew it had taken about two minutes to make. I sure didn’t tell them.

In a recent New York Times Magazine, Amanda Hesser did a ‘Recipes Redux’ piece on the chocolate rum mousse, giving a recipe The Times had run in 1966 when rum and chocolate desserts were new and French terms boosted a cook’s status. I prefer Peg’s recipe. I have updated the original by using dark chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. It’s very easy. I imagine even on of my hopeless protagonists could make it. With a bit of luck. Here goes:

Pot-de-chocolat (6- 8 servings)

Into your blender bowl put:

1 cup of dark chocolate chips. (I used Hersey’s Chipits Special Dark, but this is me, so there are no rules)

1 ¼ cups scalded* 18 % cream. (I suppose you could fool around with the percentage of cream, but I haven’t yet)

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons of rum (I experimented with Grand Marnier too, but the rum was better)

* Heat until just below boiling

Turn the blender on at high speed ( I don’t have to tell you to put the lid on) and blend until the racket stops. Pour it into small pretty cups – Japanese tea cups or demi-tasse. It also looks great in small liqueur glasses – all will be pretty on your table or a buffet as well.

Keep the serving dishes small because it’s rich! I even used shooters too just to see how that would turn out. It worked so well we ate those before we got to our party. Oh well.

Don’t forget to chill the desserts for at least three hours. Feel free to fancy them up with a bit of whipped cream or a raspberry or two, but I like them this way. The only decoration I use is a spoon.

May I suggest that if you are all cozied up with someone you love on February 14th, that this will make a nice contribution to the mood. If the someone is a dog or cat, you’ll have to eat the pot-de-chocolat yourself (not good for them!) and hand out dogs treats or fish snacks, whatever. But those will be the subject for another post.

Until then, thank you, Peg Bracken, for laughter, coping skills and some tasty tricks!