Fun with Chocolate for the Holidays
I Love Chocolate
Chocolate has gone from a 'delicacy of the rich' in the late eighteen hundreds to a delicacy for the masses. Here in the U.S. we can thank Milton S. Hershey for that transition.
Honestly, you don't have to be rich, own a chocolate plantation, or have connections to make some fun and interesting chocolate right at home. And with these recipes you can create your own gourmet chocolate gifts.
Chocolate is a healthy food too, especially if you use chocolate that is made from the entire seed not just a portion of the cocoa butter or chocolate liquor.
What is Chocolate?
Chocolate is a lot like coffee in the way it is grown and processed. The plant itself is sensitive to temperature, climate, and annual rainfall, and it grows best in sub-tropical regions.
Chocolate Maker: Making chocolate is a complex and careful process. It is harvested from the tree, then separated from the pod, aged (fermented) for a certain period of time, sun-dried, and then roasted and ground. All of these processes are carefully monitored because one misstep at each phase will produce sub-standard chocolate.
Like coffee, any mistake in the harvesting, aging, and/or roasting will affect the taste.
The roasted chocolate is then ground producing a combination of cocoa solids (cocoa powder) and cocoa butter in roughly equal parts. This is called chocolate liquor.
Chocolatiers: take this processed cocoa, add sugar, perhaps milk, cocoa butter, and other ingredients to make candy.
Chocolate melts at thirty-seven degrees centigrade which is right below normal human body temperature.
If you don't have corn syrup handy you can make simple syrup by combing equal parts water and sugar. Heat four ounces of each together in a microwave for about two minutes and stir. You can also substitute maple syrup for a flavor variation.
You can use milk instead of cream. I do not recommend going below 2% milkfat. Naturally, milk will not have as rich a flavor as cream.
The vanilla adds a counterpoint to the chocolate thereby intensifying the chocolate flavor.
Ganache is nothing more than chocolate and cream or milk in specific proportions. It is very fast and easy to make and can add an elegant touch to baked good.
It does not have to be very hot to remain in a thick liquid state so for this reason it's a relatively safe kitchen recipe for the kids.
You will need the following;
- 3 Tablespoons corn syrup (I recommend honey instead)
- 6 ounces heavy cream
- 12 ounces dark chocolate (dark chocolate chips work well)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Microwave the heavy cream or milk for two to three minutes. Do not allow it to boil. You should just be able to see a wisp of "steam" rising off of the surface. Add the vanilla and syrup. Stir gently but well.
Add the chocolate chips or bits and stir gently until all the chocolate is melted into the milk. Allow this to cool slightly.
Set your baked item on a wire rack over waxed paper. Pour the ganache over the baked item and allow to cool. Ganache will harden at room temperature. Once set refrigerate.
The Ganache will have a milk-chocolate color with a very glossy finish when set.
This is very simple indeed. Again you'll want to use a microwave. Once melted you can poor the writing chocolate into a "baggie", cut a small hole in one corner, and use this to "write" on baked goods.
- 1 Cup chocolate chips (milk or dark)
- 2 teaspoons Canola oil (or no flavor oil)
In a small microwave safe bowl combine ingredients and microwave for one or two minutes (depending on your microwave). When you retrieve the bowl you should be able to see that the chips are just starting to melt. Stir the chips and oil together until smooth.
Poor the mixture into a plastic bag, cut a small hole out of one corner, and use the chocolate liquid to write. The chocolate will solidify almost instantly.
Imagine using this to decorate cakes, cup-cakes, or even cookies.
Hot Chili Chocolate
This recipe, without the sugar, is said to be very similar to the royal drink of the Aztec. Aztec tradition says that combining chili and chocolate stirs romantic passions. Try this recipe with your love interest and find out.
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1 heaping tablespoon instant espresso
- Pinch salt
- 2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- or 2 ounces cocoa powder
- 2 cups whole milk (I use 1% with no ill effects)
- A sprinkle of chili powder
Boil the water in a saucepan, add the vanilla extract. Add the sugar, espresso, and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat and simmer for one minute and add the bittersweet chocolate or cocoa powder.
Whisk until the mixture gets thick. Add milk and simmer one more minute. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of chili powder on top.
You can make this ahead of time and reheat. When reheating make sure to either whisk or blend it in a blender to make it light and foamy before serving.
Try topping this with whipped cream or iced cream.
You can also substitute ground cinnamon for the chili or add cinnamon along with the chili.