Ah, chocolate. I don't think there's a food that is more loved and revered around the world (except maybe caviar, and that's an acquired taste!). When we are born, we all have a sweet tooth. And as we grow up, that sweet tooth is refined and honed on chocolate treats from simple fudge to rich cakes and pies, ice cream, cookies, and decadent candies.
I love the fact that chocolate is celebrated in the dead of winter.
Valentine's Day would be a pale imitation of itself without chocolate. Did you know that eating chocolate stimulates hormones in your brain that makes you feel like you are in love? Plus, chocolate (in moderation) is good for you! Good-for-you compounds like flavanoids, theobromine, tannins, and nutrients like copper, calcium and magnesium are found in all chocolate.
But while true chocolate lovers appreciate this science, taste and texture are more important. Chocolate is so good because of cocoa butter and other fats, which melt at a low temperature, coating your mouth and spreading the fabulous flavor.
There are a few tricks you need to know when working with chocolate. First, purchase the best chocolate you can find. When you open chocolate, you may find a pale coating on the surface. This is called bloom, and doesn't affect the quality or properties of chocolate at all, but is a result of the chocolate being exposed to fluctuating temperatures.
When melting chocolate, make sure that all your utensils, pans, pots, and spoons are dry. The tiniest bit of water combining with the chocolate as it melts can cause it to seize, or thicken into lumps. (If this does happen, stir in a bit of solid shortening to help smooth things out.)
Chocolate performs best at low temperatures.
When melting or baking chocolate products, use low heat to prevent burning. Some recipes call for 'tempering' chocolate. This process controls the temperature of the chocolate, creating crystals that form and help solidify the chocolate when at room temperature. I've developed a very easy way to temper chocolate, posted in my Chocolate Peanut Butter Bonbons recipe.
Now, on to the recipes. This selection, which was very difficult to pare down, includes my favorites. These are the recipes that I reach for when I want to impress company, for comfort, or just when I need chocolate. Enjoy.
My Favorite Chocolate Recipes
- Chocolate Crepes with Caramel Sauce
Oh, these crepes are so fabulous. They're rich, creamy and smooth, with a white chocolate cream filling and a homemade caramel sauce. The best part about the recipe (aside from how it taste) is that every part is made ahead. When ready to serve, all you have to do is assemble.
- Rocky Road Fudge Candy
If you like chocolate and peanut butter, this is the candy for you! It's rich and creamy and so delicious.
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake
If you love cheesecake and chocolate, this is the recipe for you! If you can't find mini chocolate chips, just chop regular chips with a butcher knife until the pieces are tiny.
- No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
This fabulous recipe combines peanut butter, cocoa powder, and oatmeal in a way that makes the best cookie ever. They are super easy to make and will disappear in a flash!
- Chocolate Chocolate Icebox Dessert
Just three ingredients make this fabulous dessert in minutes. You have to make it at least eight hours ahead of time, so factor that in to your planning!
- Decadent Chocolate Fudge Cake
This cake tastes like fudge, wrapped in fudge, and topped with more fudge. Plus it's so fun to make, with just six ingredients! Need I say more?
- Rocky Road Fudge Bars
I think this is just about the perfect chocolate bar cookie. A rich brownie, laced with a cream cheese filling, is topped with marshmallows and a chocolate frosting. Yum.
- Black and White Brownies
These rich and creamy brownies are studded with white chocolate chips and topped with melted white chocolate and smooth chocolate frosting.
- Nut Goodies
People in the Midwest know all about Nut Goodies, a chocolate coated candy bar with peanuts and a maple cream filling. If you aren't familiar with this candy, make this recipe. You'll swoon.
- Pecan Pie Brownies
I think I'll make these brownies for Valentine's Day, but use cashews instead of pecans. Wow.
- Brownie Fudge
For some of the best brownies you will ever eat, try these that are half brownie, half fudge. These need to be cut into pieces about one inch square; that's how rich they are!
- Molten Chocolate Cake
These individual cakes are perfect for a romantic Valentine's Day dinner. When you cut into them with a fork, melted chocolate oozes out, enveloping the tender cake. They are spectacular, and very easy too.