Baking Class: Chock-full of chocolate

By
November 2, 2011 16:24

Dark or milky, whipped or solid, the sweetest of all desserts is perfect for a chilly night.




Chocolate candy sticks

Chocolate candy sticks 311. (photo credit: Amy Spiro)

It is said that chocolate increases endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. Well, I’m not sure I need to know the science behind it to know that chocolate makes me – and most people – very happy. Whether stuffed in your favorite cookie recipe, rolled up in a sweet babka or oozing out of the center of a hot chocolate cake, it’s hard to resist chocolate in any form.

Here are four desserts, from the super simple to the more complex, that will satisfy even the biggest chocoholics.

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Chocolate-covered pretzels barely qualify as a recipe, but they are one of my favorite snacks and a great treat to bring as a gift to a dinner party, birthday bash or bridal shower. There’s no baking involved, so it is a fun project to do with your kids one afternoon, and they make a beautiful presentation.

The recipe for chocolate mousse is my ultimate go-to dessert. It is quick, it has two ingredients, and it produces a rich, creamy mousse. If you’re really in a rush, the mixture can go in one bowl to set and be served at the table. If you have a little extra time, pouring it into individual cups, ramekins or bowls adds an individualized touch.

Chocolate biscotti is an “adult” dessert – a crisp, not too sweet cookie studded with almonds. The recipe, in fact, contains no chocolate in the cookie itself (though a healthy handful of chips), but the cocoa adds a rich flavor and allows the cookie to reach its required crispness.

If biscotti are adult, then crispy peanut butter brownies are a trip back to childhood – rich and decadent with the creaminess of peanut butter and a crunch from Rice Krispies cereal. Every bite is so heavenly and indulgent, you may want to hide them from your kids so you can enjoy them all yourself.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED PRETZELS
 You can use salted or unsalted pretzels, depending on your preference. Personally, I love the combination of the sweet and salty. The type of chocolate is also your choice, but I don’t recommend using white, since it doesn’t melt in the same manner.


✔ 1 large bag pretzel sticks
✔ 300-400 gr. milk or semi-sweet chocolate
✔ Topping of your choice (sprinkles, shredded coconut, chopped nuts, etc.)

Melt the chocolate in a tall, thin container for easy dipping. Hold the pretzel stick by one end and dip it into the chocolate, coating about half the stick. Let excess chocolate drip off, then roll it in the topping of your choice and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzels and refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CUPS
 Serves 6-8
 Once the mousse mixture is prepared, you can pour it into just about any container, such as a large bowl, mini cups or any size in between. To fill little cups, it may be easier (and neater) to pour the mixture into a piping bag and fill each cup individually.

✔ 8 large eggs
✔ 285 gr. semi-sweet chocolate

Separate the eggs into whites and yolks, being sure that no yolk is found in the whites. Place the yolks in a large, preferably glass, bowl and set aside.

Beat the egg whites on high with a stand or hand mixer until stiff peaks form, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Melt the chocolate. Pour a small amount of melted chocolate into the eggs, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Then add the remaining chocolate and whisk 10 until smooth.

Add one-third of the egg-white mixture to the chocolate and stir until combined. Then add the next one-third of the mixture and fold until combined, using strokes of the spatula and being careful not to deflate the eggs. Add the final third and fold again, until all is combined. If using a glass bowl, you can look through the bottom to ensure that all the chocolate is combined.

Pour the mixture into bowls or cups and leave in the refrigerator, preferably overnight, until set.

CHOCOLATE ALMOND BISCOTTI
 Makes approximately 20 cookies

For true baking precision, measure everything in grams. If necessary, cup measurements are provided but will not be as exact.

✔ 156 gr. ( 11⁄4 cups) flour
✔ 4 gr. (1 tsp.) baking soda
✔ 25 gr. (1⁄4 cup) cocoa powder
✔ 130 gr. eggs (2-3 large eggs)
✔ 120 gr. (1⁄2 cup) sugar
✔ 4 gr. (1 tsp.) vanilla extract
✔ A pinch of salt
✔ 200 gr. slivered almonds
✔ 107 gr. mini chocolate chips (optional)

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and roast at 175ºC for about 8 minutes. Let cool.

Mix the flour, baking soda and cocoa powder together in a bowl, then set aside.

Whip the eggs and the sugar together with a stand or hand mixer on high for about 8 minutes, until tripled in volume. Add the vanilla and salt, and then mix.

Using a spatula, fold (do not stir) the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until no streaks of flour remain. Fold in the almonds and chocolate chips.

Shape the dough into a long, flat loaf on a piece of parchment paper – about 30 cm. long.

Bake at 175ºC for 45 minutes. Remove and lower the oven to 135ºC.

Using a sharp serrated knife, carefully slice the loaf into approximately 1- cm.-thick cookies. Lay them flat on the parchment paper and bake an additional 30 minutes until completely dry. (If any of the pieces break apart when slicing, you can pat them back together and they should cohere during the second baking.)

CRISPY PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

 Brownie layer
✔ 140 gr. semi-sweet chocolate
✔ 1⁄2 cup butter or margarine
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. instant coffee
✔ 3⁄4 cup sugar
✔ 1⁄4 cup light brown sugar
✔ 2 eggs plus one yolk
✔ 1 tsp. vanilla
✔ 1⁄2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. flour
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt
✔ 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder

 Crispy topping
✔ 170 gr. semi-sweet chocolate
✔ 1 cup peanut butter
✔ 11⁄2 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Melt together the chocolate and butter for the brownie layer and mix together until smooth. Add in the sugars and continue mixing until incorporated.

Add in the eggs, one at a time, and then the yolk, mixing after each addition until smooth. Add the vanilla and mix. Add the flour, salt and cocoa powder, and mix until just combined. You may leave some small streaks of flour, but be careful not to overmix.

Pour the mixture into a greased 23 x 33 cm. pan, spread to coat the pan evenly, and bake at 175º C for 20 to 25 minutes, until just done (test with a toothpick – it should come out clean).

While the brownie layer is cooling, melt together the chocolate and peanut butter and mix until combined. Add in the cereal and stir until completely coated.

Spread evenly on top of the brownie layer (can still be warm). Chill until set, about 30 minutes to an hour.

Amy Spiro is a food writer and reporter.

She is currently a pastry student at the Jerusalem Culinary Institute, and blogs at bakingandmistaking.com


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