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Irresistible Excuses to Indulge

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Written by foodie pam   
Saturday, 28 November 2009

Photo by Anna Williams/Orchard Represents 2009
If you love chocolate you may not feel you need an excuse to indulge, but if you're like me and want to save your indulgences for the very best then the subtitle of Absolutely Chocolate - irresistible excuses to indulge - is perfect.  From the Editors of Fine Cooking Magazine, Absolutely Chocolate is a collection of chocolate centric goodies ranging from breakfast through high tea and onto dessert.  

Recipes that caught my eye include Kahlua truffle triangles, Chocolate pots de crème, Dark chocolate soufflé cakes and Chocolate truffles.  As you can tell these are truly chocolate lover recipes.  They are also not your everyday recipes; the editors have done a good job of presenting the special chocolate recipes that truly are irresistible. Although you will find some common chocolate indulgences such as chocolate chip cookies, many are less common. One is Toasted bread with chocolate, which they say is a favorite snack of kids in Spain, but I suspect will become a favorite of some adults as well.  The combination of port and chocolate also was particularly appealing in the Port Ganache-Glazed Brownies with Dried Cherries (recipe below).

But the truffles are what really drew me in.


Photo by Anna Williams/Orchard Represents 2009

I'd never made truffles before, although I'd certainly indulged in them before.  My favorite type of truffle has a shiny solid chocolate outer surface rather than the cocoa or nut encrusted type. Absolutely Chocolate has recipes for both types, but the later is a much simpler recipe that doesn't require tempering the chocolate.  As much as I wanted to make classic shiny truffles, I equally did not want to temper the chocolate, so I was really glad they had the alternate recipe for Simple Chocolate Truffles (see recipe below).  Even without the tempering, they are a little time consuming and certainly require some patience but the result in my and my husbands hands was wonderful little bit-size treasures that were quickly eaten up at a recent party I had.  

Absolutely Chocolate provides a bunch of useful information on types of chocolate and baking with chocolate at the beginning of the book.  One of the most important things I've found in baking with chocolate is the choice of the chocolate itself.  I'm sure you've heard it before but I'll say it again - buy the best quality chocolate for your budget. This is definitely true in these recipes where the chocolate is center stage and really makes a difference.  I used Scharffen Berger  for my truffles and frequently buy the familiar Scharffen Berger pale blue box for baking.  

Port Ganache-Glazed Brownies with Dried Cherries

From Absolutely Chocolate by the Editors of Fine Cooking. Taunton Press, 2009.

For the port-soaked dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, very coarsely chopped (or whole dried cranberries)
  • 1/3 cup tawny port

For the brownies
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted
  • butter; more softened
  • butter for the pan
  • 3 ounces (2/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 ounces (3/4 cup) unsweetened natural (nonalkalized) cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt

For the port-ganache topping
  • 1/2 cup tawny port
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces semisweet
  • chocolate, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

Soak the cherries: In a small saucepan, bring the cherries and port to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Make the brownies:?Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch-square metal baking pan, tapping out the excess flour.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk or stir in the sugar, followed by all four of the eggs and the vanilla. Stir in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, starting slowly to keep the ingredients from flying out of the pan and stirring more vigorously as you go. Stir until the batter is smooth and uniform, about 1 minute. If you're using the port-soaked cherries, stir them in at this time, along with any remaining liquid from the saucepan.

Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan, smoothing it so it fills the pan evenly. Bake until a toothpick or a skewer inserted 3/4 inch into the center of the brownies comes out with just a few moist clumps clinging to it, about 40 minutes. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Make the topping: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the port to a boil. Boil until the port is reduced to 2 tablespoons, 3 to 6 minutes. Pour it into a small cup or bowl. Thoroughly rinse the pan. Bring the heavy cream to a boil in the pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off the heat. Stir in the chopped chocolate and reduced port until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is melted.

Pour the ganache into a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Put the bowl in a cool part of the kitchen and let the ganache cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. When it's cool, spread it evenly over the cooled brownies and give the ganache about an hour to set (it will still be quite soft and gooey). Cut into 16 squares. Keep the brownies at room temperature, well wrapped, for several days. You can freeze them, too, for up to two months.

Simple Chocolate Truffles

From Absolutely Chocolate by the Editors of Fine Cooking. Taunton Press, 2009.

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate (55% to 60% cacao), coarsely chopped or broken into pieces  (2 slightly heaping cups)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed); more as needed
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped  (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) finely chopped toasted nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, and pistachios), optional

Grind the chocolate in a food processor until it reaches the consistency of coarse meal, about 30 seconds. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the cream to the food processor and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.

Add the butter to the warm (but not hot) ganache while it's still in the food processor. Process until smooth, about 10 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Put the cocoa powder in a large bowl. Using 2 teaspoons, shape rounded, heaping teaspoonfuls of truffle mixture and drop them onto a large, parchment-lined baking sheet.

When all of the truffles are scooped, dip them in the cocoa
and use your palms to roll the truffles into smooth 1-inch balls (don't worry about making them perfect; slightly irregular truffles have an appealing homemade appearance). Transfer the truffles to the refrigerator.

Melt the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set in a small skillet of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Transfer the bowl to a work surface. Working in batches, use your fingers or a couple of forks to coat the truffles with the melted chocolate.

Coat the truffles again with the remaining cocoa or chopped nuts (if using), and return them to the baking sheet. If using your hands, you'll have to stop and wash off the chocolate in between batches.

Let the truffles sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving.

MAKE AHEAD: Truffles will keep for up to five days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring them to room temperature before serving.

About Absolutely Chocolate

ImageFor years, most cooks only worried about choosing between semi-sweet and milk chocolate when whipping up chocolate creations. These days, however, it's vital to know the origins, varieties, and unique characteristics of chocolates available. The experts at Fine Cooking magazine have taken the guesswork out of making more than 125 scrumptious sensations from layer cakes, tarts, and pies to muffins, cookies, and brownies to candies, sauces, and hot cocoa. Each recipe features must-know tips on choosing and buying just the right chocolate; step-by-step, cant-fail instructions; and authoritative advice from America's most respected experts. In other words, Absolutely Chocolate is absolutely fabulous!

Available from

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Monday, 30 November 2009 )
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