Delighting in Dark Chocolate

8 no-regrets reasons to come over to the dark side — recipes you’ll love!
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Makes 18

 

Note: A digital instant-read thermometer is needed for this recipe.

 

8 ounces best-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, plus 1 ounce cut into 2 pieces
2 cups assorted dried or candied fruits and nuts such as slivered dried apricots, candied ginger, candied orange peel, dried cherries, dried cranberries, quartered dried figs, pistachios, walnut halves, pecan halves and whole almonds

 

1. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

 

2. Place chopped chocolate in a small metal bowl. Set over a saucepan of simmering water. Turn off heat. Let chocolate sit undisturbed for 2 minutes, then stir to melt. As soon as the chocolate is melted, remove from heat, and insert thermometer. Add the remaining chocolate pieces, and stir constantly until chocolate has cooled to 90°.

 

3. Working quickly, drop chocolate by generous tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. Use the back of the spoon to spread into 2½-inch disks. Stud each with a variety of fruits and nuts. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate is dry and set.

 

4. Store at room temperature in an airtight container up to two weeks.

 

Click here for more recipes by Susan Spungen.

Photo: Romoulo Yanes

Chocolate Bacon Bites

Are they dessert or an appetizer? And, wait, an even more basic question: Does smoky, meaty bacon really pair well with intense bittersweet chocolate? The answer, from the avant-garde chefs who dreamed up the idea in the first place, is that this tidbit can start or finish a meal; either way, you’ll find it the perfect balance of savory and sweet.

 

Makes 1 dozen pieces

 

4 slices thick-cut bacon (about ¼ pound)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Cut each slice of bacon into 3 equal pieces. Arrange on a rack set over a baking sheet. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until bacon is browned and crisp.

 

2. Meanwhile, place chocolate in a small metal bowl. Warm the bowl of chocolate by setting it over a saucepan of simmering water. Turn off heat. Let chocolate sit undisturbed for 2 minutes, then stir to melt. As soon as the chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Stir until cooled and somewhat thickened.

 

3. Transfer cooked bacon pieces to a paper-towel-lined plate. Blot the tops with another paper towel. Dip each piece halfway into chocolate, and let excess drip off. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill briefly until chocolate is dry and set, then remove from refrigerator and serve.

Photo: Romoulo Yanes

Bittersweet Hot Chocolate

Gently perfumed by cinnamon and vanilla bean, this is comfort in a cup. Choose the best dark chocolate and be sure the cocoa powder is super dark and extra chocolaty.

 

Serves 4

 

1½ cups whole milk
½ vanilla bean, scraped
5 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer Valrhona)
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw
Pinch of salt
1 cup boiling water
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Whipped cream, optional

 

1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to almost simmering. Turn off heat. Add vanilla seeds and pod and one of the cinnamon sticks. Cover, and let steep 10 minutes.

 

2. Combine cocoa, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over low heat. While whisking, gradually add boiling water to make a smooth paste. Add chocolate, and stir until melted.

 

3. Remove vanilla pod and cinnamon stick from milk, and discard. Whisk milk into cocoa mixture. Continue heating and whisking until the mixture is hot and frothy. Serve with a cinnamon stick in each cup and, if you like, whipped cream.

Photo: Romoulo Yanes

Chocolate Beet Cake

This dessert is moist perfection—but the surprise is that it has a little health kick. The secret ingredient: a full two cups of cooked beets in the batter (though you’d never know it from the look or taste). A simple cream cheese frosting fills and crowns the cake for a pleasing color and taste contrast with the chocolate.

 

Serves 8 to 10

 

For the Cake
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for pans
3 large red beets
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened
2¼ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch of salt

 

For the Icing
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter (½ cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter two 9-inch layer-cake pans, and line with parchment paper; butter paper. Sift cocoa into pans, and tap out excess.

 

2. To make the cake: In a large saucepan, cover beets with lightly salted water, bring to a brisk simmer, and cook until a knife slips in easily, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain, and cover with cold water. When beets are cool enough to handle, slip skins off, and quarter. Puree in a food processor. Measure 2 cups of puree. Set aside.

 

3. With a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add the beet puree and vanilla, and mix well.

 

4. In a large bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt. Add to wet ingredients in mixer, and beat on low speed until smooth and combined.

5. Divide batter evenly between cake pans, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, and turn onto racks until completely cool.

 

6. To make the icing: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese at medium speed until smooth. Beat in butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Turn off mixer, and add confectioner’s sugar. On low speed, beat until thoroughly combined and smooth. Use right away, or chill if you prefer a firmer consistency.

 

7. Place one cake layer on a cake plate, and cover with half the icing. Top with the second layer, and frost the top with the remaining icing. Leave sides unfrosted.

Photo: Romoulo Yanes

Chocolate-Ginger Bread Pudding

Zing! Chewy bits of candied ginger spice up the creamy texture of this lusciously rich, deliriously decadent dessert. An unexpected bonus: It’s surprisingly easy to make.

 

Serves 8

 

1 loaf brioche or challah (10 to 12 ounces)
2 cups milk
1 cup cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons diced crystallized ginger, plus slivers for serving
Confectioner’s sugar and heavy cream

 

1. Butter the bottom and sides of a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

 

2. Trim tough crusts from bottom of brioche loaf. Cut into ¾- to 1-inch cubes. Place in a large bowl. Set aside.

 

3. Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat, and bring to a bare simmer. Turn off heat. Add chocolate, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Set aside.

 

4. Whisk together eggs, yolks, sugar, vanilla, fresh ginger and ground ginger in a large bowl until well combined. Very slowly, whisk in chocolate mixture. Pour over brioche cubes. Stir in crystallized ginger. Pour into prepared baking dish. Let sit while preheating oven.

 

5. Preheat the oven to 325º. Cover dish with buttered foil. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until custard is set. Let cool slightly. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, and serve warm, with heavy cream and slivers of ginger.

Photo: Romoulo Yanes

Dark Chocolate Sorbet

Desserts can feel like a deal with the devil: the health benefits of chocolate neutralized by a truckload of dairy and/or calories. But this one’s on the side of the angels—ice cream or whipped cream strictly optional.

 

Serves 4 to 6

 

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups boiling water
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, optional

 

1. Freeze the canister of an electric ice cream maker overnight.

 

2. Combine cocoa, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan, and whisk in ½ cup of the boiling water. Stir to make a thick, smooth paste. Slowly whisk in remaining water, and bring to a bare simmer over low heat. Turn off heat, and add chopped chocolate and vanilla. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

 

3. Chill mixture in a metal bowl set over ice water. Stir occasionally, until thoroughly chilled. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to an airtight container, and freeze until ­desired consistency is reached.

 

4. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if you like.

Photo: Romoulo Yanes

Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub

This is delicious served with polenta and sautéed mushrooms, with the collected juices from the roast spooned over the top.

 

Serves 4 to 6

 

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons fine salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

 

1. Preheat the oven to 375º. Combine first six ingredients in a small bowl. Rub mixture all over the pork tenderloins.

 

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Brown both tenderloins on all sides, for a total of 8 minutes. If both won’t fit comfortably in the pan, brown one at a time, adding another tablespoon of olive oil before the second tenderloin.

 

3. Transfer both tenderloins to a large rimmed baking sheet, and place in the oven until an internal temperature of 150º is reached in the thickest part, 20 to 30 minutes. Turn over halfway through cooking.

 

4. Transfer to a plate, and let rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing.

Photo: Romoulo Yanes

Chili con Carne with Chocolate

Serves 6 to 8

 

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1½ pounds ground turkey (dark meat or a mix)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder, such as Penzeys
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1 bottle beer
1 28-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1½ cups chicken stock
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
Sliced jalapeños and grated sharp Cheddar cheese

 

1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook over medium heat until softened, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium high. Add turkey, and cook until no longer pink, about 8 minutes, breaking up with a wooden spoon.

 

2. Add tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, oregano, cocoa, salt, pepper, chipotles and adobo sauce. Stir, and cook 1 minute longer. Add beer, tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a brisk simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.

 

3. Add beans and chocolate. Simmer 10 minutes more or until desired thickness is reached. Serve hot with sliced jalapeños and grated sharp Cheddar cheese.

Photo: Romoulo Yanes

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