July 7, 2010

celebrating chocolate

Today is National Chocolate Day in the U.S., although some sources would beg to differ, naming October 28th, December 28th or 29th as the official holiday. There is even an American Chocolate Week in March, if one day is not enough for you.

last year's holiday fare, via Brattleboro Cooks

this year's Valentine's Day edition, rosewater fleur de sel caramels enrobed in dark chocolate

Every day is Chocolate Day in my book, & I have been happily experimenting with chocolate making for years now. I concentrate mostly on filled chocolates, since I find the myriad possibilities for flavoring ganaches to be most exciting & satisfying.

That said, I can not go to a family celebration without making a chocolate mousse for my niece, her favorite dessert in my repertoire, or to other friends' celebrations without a rich chocolate pâté, flavored with rum, a smokey whiskey or cognac & served with shortbread toasts.

And then, of course, there are chocolate truffles & filled chocolates.

my niece's favorite chocolate mousse

During the winter holidays I roll up my sleeves & make packages of 4 or 5 different flavored chocolates for friends & family. Last year's offerings included dark chocolate with our own homegrown mint ganache, another with black tea, a milk chocolate with coconut milk & spicy madras curry, & a white chocolate with saffron & honey.
In previous years Earl Grey tea ganaches, Vermont maple & cognac ganaches, chai tea ganaches, fleur de sel caramels, & Mexican coffee ganaches made with organic Mexican coffee beans, cayenne & cinnamon, as well as traditional deep, dark chocolate truffles rolled in cocoa powder, have found their way into the bellies of my favorite people.

It is important to me that I use organic, local butter & cream for the ganaches, as well as organic ingredients to flavor them, using homegrown & local whenever possible. The most important ingredient, of course, is the chocolate, & I use the finest I can find in my immediate area, such as Valhrona & El Rey, for the couverture.

I was thrilled when a fabulous woman, Jennifer, profiled me on her local cooking blog, which features a wide variety of fantastic foods made by local talent, including my favorite recipe for chocolate mousse. Her impressive daughter contributed a recipe for scrumptious chocolate mint brownies, definitely worth checking out for your Chocolate Day celebrations!

Voilá, xxx dark chocolate mousse:

chocolate mousse

3 oz. semisweet chocolate
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 Tbsp. cognac or your liqueur of choice
2 Tbsp. brewed coffee
4 eggs
1 cup whipping cream

Separate the eggs and set aside.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Melt chocolate with the brandy and coffee in a double boiler over low heat until it is smooth, glossy, and lump-free. Remove from heat and whisk the egg yolks into the chocolate.
Whip the cream until it holds a soft shape.
Heat the egg whites until they are barely warm by swirling the bowl above a burner/gas flame. Beat them until they hold soft peaks. Stir about a quarter of them into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the rest. Fold in the whipped cream.
Pour into individual serving bowls, or into a large serving bowl. Chill and serve with fresh whipped cream, cookies and/or fruit.

adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere

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