This summer while in Paris I dined in a new restaurant, Le St Joseph, located outside the city in the suburb of La Garenne-Colombes. Chosen by my good friend, and impeccable Paris food critic, John Talbott, the bistro turned out, as they say in the Michelin guide, “to be worth the detour,” or in our case, a 30-minute cab ride.
From the beautiful cream of pea soup garnished with tiny diced feta, golden croutons, and grilled spices to a salad of roasted eggplant, fresh orange segments, and yellow tomatoes, topped with transparent goat cheese chips and toasted pepitas, everything was delicious. I remember best the dessert; a coffee panna cotta covered with a dark chocolate ganache, and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts and cookie crumbs.
Long after I returned stateside, visions of this delectable confection swirled in my mind. Panna cotta (Italian for cooked cream) is a gloriously smooth custard made without eggs, bound with gelatin, and served chilled. The recipe here calls for both whole milk and heavy Continue reading
“If in doubt, choose chocolate,” has always been my mantra. So when my husband and I host a supper at our house next week for his class at Amherst College, guess what the the dessert will be! Definitely a chocolate creation, and in this case a rich dark chocolate caramel cake.
What makes this luscious single-layered confection unique is that the batter is studded with caramel candies that soften and blend into the dark chocolate mixture while baking.The recipe is based on one I spotted several years ago in a French magazine, but in the original version the candies were laid atop the batter. After baking the cake several times, I discovered that submerging the caramels so that they are completely covered produced a richer, more interesting texture. Continue reading
CHOCOHOLIC! Yes, I’m one of the millions who belong to this club. Give me a dessert menu, and I’ll choose the chocolate creation every time. Look in my kitchen cupboards and you’ll find a shelf dedicated to cooking chocolates– bittersweet, semi-sweet, 60 % to 85 %, cocoa powder. Take a peek in our guest bedroom and you’ll see a bowl of chocolate kisses set out for overnight company. Oh, and when traveling I always tuck a few dark chocolate bars into my hand luggage—so calming during turbulence on bumpy flights!
So as Valentine Day’s approaches, you can imagine my delight in dreaming up new chocolate treats. This year I plan to make dark chocolate tartlets with dark chocolate “perles.” So what are “chocolate “perles” (pearls in French) you may ask?
They are petite chocolate balls slightly smaller than pomegranate seeds that add crunch to recipes. I first discovered these morsels in chocolate desserts in Paris. Recently, though, I found Valrhona “perles” in my local Whole Foods, and happily added them to the tartlets.
To keep things simple, I used mini-fillo cups for the tart shells and sprinkled some “perles” in them. A filling Continue reading
My husband joked last week that if you walked though our house you’d find every TV turned to the weather channel and each computer screen set on the weather forecast. We have had so much snow in western Mass that one might mistake our backyard for a scene from Siberia. To counter the chaos outdoors, I’ve made countless runs to the supermarket, loading up on food so I could cook during the storms. The dense, deep dark chocolate cake featured here has been one of my projects since Valentine’s Day is so close at hand.
This classic, flourless cake calls for four primary ingredients—bittersweet chocolate, butter, sugar, and eggs. You need only to melt the chocolate and butter together, stir in the sugar, and finally add the eggs one a time before pouring the batter into a deep sided pan and baking it.To give this traditional cake a little extra embellishment for Cupid’s Day, I cut out a paper heart and centered it on the top before dusting the cake with powdered sugar. A bowl of espresso-scented whipped cream is a tempting garnish.
A view of our snow-covered back yard!
My friends all know that I have been a bona fide chocoholic for decades. Bars of rich 70 % dark chocolate are tucked away in my kitchen cupboard, ready to satisfy my chocolate cravings at any hour of the day. You’d also find bowls piled high with Chocolate Kisses in our living room, on our sun porch and in both guest bedrooms at our house. When asked by cooking students to list what I might like for my last meal, I say the only requirement is that it end with chocolate! So when Valentine’s Day arrives each year, I celebrate with a special homemade chocolate indulgence.
This month I pulled out a recipe for a luscious dark chocolate flourless cake that I baked several years ago during a winter visit to Paris, and then adapted for my newspaper column when back home. I had spotted this particular cake in a French cookbook, and noticed that it was prepared with a slightly different twist. What caught my attention was that the sugar was first caramelized, then diced butter and chopped chocolate were stirred into the hot liquid until they melted. Finally, egg yolks and beaten whites were incorporated before the batter was poured into a pan.
For Valentine, why not try these scrumptious chocolate caramel bars composed of three sublime layers- a buttery crust, a caramel center, and a dark chocolate coating! They can be prepared 2 days ahead so there’s no last minute work, and the recipe, which yields 16 bars, can be doubled or tripled depending on your needs. Continue reading
Perfect for Valentine celebrations, this rich, moist, single-layer torte prepared with semisweet chocolate, ground pecans, and a generous amount of butter, is irresistible. The soft texture of the cake, the creaminess of the caramel, and the crunch of the nuts and chips combine to form a celestial trinity. This recipe serves eight easily so you can make it for a crowd, or offer it to a single special person and have some delicious leftovers.