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A Chocolate Buffet

February 10, 2011
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BEYOND CHICKEN SOUP

Despite the often gray and dismal skies of February, I look forward to when the calendar reaches the 14th -- Valentine's Day -- so that I have a legitimate excuse to create a chocolate buffet and send out invitations.

It's luxurious but affordable, sensuous but innocent. Imagine the allure of a table laden with a sumptuous selection of cookies, candies, tarts, tortes, mousses and creams loaded with the dark confection.

Invite guests to contribute to the dessert table by either making something or bringing their favorite bar of chocolate along. Set out pitchers of ice-cold milk and water, along with freshly brewed coffee to cleanse the palate between tastings. In fact, a full-bodied Cabernet or Zinfandel would be the perfect wines to partner with these confections.

Chocolate-Cherry Mousse

(Dairy)
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate 
    2 oz. unsweetened chocolate 
    2 cups heavy cream 
    7 egg whites, room temperature 
    1 cup superfine sugar 
    1/2 cup dried pitted cherries 
    2 tsps. grated orange zest 
    2 tsps. instant coffee powder

    For Chocolate Leaves:

    10 lemon or camellia leaves, wiped clean 
    3 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Melt the chocolates in the top of double boiler just until softened.

Whip the cream until it begins to thicken. Add the chocolate and continue to whip until stiff.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff. Fold into chocolate mixture.

Carefully fold in the cherries, orange zest and coffee powder.

Spoon into individual serving dishes and chill at least 4 hours. Decorate with chocolate leaves.

To Make the Leaves: Melt 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate. Brush the chocolate on the shiny side of Camellia or lemon tree leaves.

Refrigerate until the chocolate is set. Peel leaf from chocolate.

Serves 8 to 10.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes

(Dairy)

Filling Ingredients:

8 oz. cream cheese at room temp 
1 egg 
1/3 cup sugar 
pinch salt 
1 cup chocolate chips

11/2 cups flour 
1 cup sugar 
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa 
1 tsp. baking soda 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1 cup water 
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
1 Tbsp. white vinegar 
1 tsp. vanilla

    Preheat oven to 375°.

    Line 18 muffin tins with paper cups.

    Combine the cream cheese, egg, sugar, and salt in mixing bowl. Fold in the chocolate chips and set aside.

    In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

    Add remaining ingredients; blend well.

    Fill the cupcake papers about 3/4 full with batter. Drop the cream-cheese mixture into center of each.

    Bake for 40 minutes.

    Chocolate Carrot Cake

    (Dairy)
    • 5 eggs, separated 
      3/4 cup sugar 
      4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled 
      2 large carrots, peeled, finely grated 
      11/2 cups ground pecans 
      1/3 cup breadcrumbs 
      12 pecan halves for garnish

      Glaze Ingredients:

      8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces 
      1 stick butter, cut into pieces 
      1 Tbsp. honey

    Preheat oven to 350°.

    Butter and flour an 8-inch springform pan.

    Beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar until creamy and pale. Gradually beat in the chocolate. Stir in the carrots, nuts and breadcrumbs.

    Beat the egg whites with remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff. Fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared pan and bake about 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and remove from pan.

    Make glaze by melting the chocolate and butter. Stir in the honey; spread on cooled cake. Garnish with pecan halves.

    Serves 8 to 10.


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