There is at least one thing on this crazy planet that seems to be a universal: Chocolate makes me and countless others happy.
Photography by Janet Warlick / Styled by Muriel H. Wilkins
[dropcap]And[/dropcap] research for this month’s issue made me quite happy — I got lost in reading books by chocolate experts, looking at photos of chocolate, tasting the results of chocolate recipes and sampling locally made chocolate bars. Though it’s tough work, I even “forced” myself to taste more Izard Chocolate. Someone has to, after all. Plus, after eating okra from my garden all fall, I reminded myself that “…chocolate is Nature’s apology for okra” and gracefully accepted the apology, along with plenty of chocolate cookies, but, I digress ….
For those concerned about good health, there’s good news! Dark chocolate continues to enjoy favor as being “good for you.” And for those of you who like to make your own delicious, good-for-you chocolate treats, we’ve got you covered with these great recipes.
Robynn’s Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
(Photo at top)
These very rich cookies go together easily in the food processor. The trick is knowing when they are done, so watch them carefully as they bake.
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 2 cups flour
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, softened slightly
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a food processor, add sugar and butter. Blend until well creamed. Add vanilla; pulse to blend, then add cocoa and process in. Add flour; blend. The dough may be a little stiff, depending on the softness of the butter. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead a few times to bring the dough together in a ball. Cut in half; wrap half each in plastic. Refrigerate to firm dough, about 30 minutes.
On a floured surface, or between two sheets of plastic wrap, roll or flatten with hands to ¼-inch thick. Using 2-inch cookie or biscuit cutters, cut into desired shapes. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 12 to 14 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie you desire. They may take a minute or two longer, depending on the oven. Cookies are usually ready when the whole cookie is bubbling as it bakes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before moving to wire rack. Decorate with drizzles of white or dark chocolate, a dusting of powdered sugar or enjoy plain.
Yield: about thirty-two 2-inch round cookies.
Note: These cookies spread in the oven so if you prefer a thicker cookie, roll them out thicker, at least ¼ inch. Also, this recipe can be halved.
Submitted by Robynn Zinser, Little Rock, Ar
Looking for a spectacular dessert? This is just the thing. Whether mounded into a tall pyramid or served in individual dishes, these mini cream puffs are sure to delight.
- 1 stick (½ cup) butter
- 1 cup flour
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups cream for filling, freshly whipped and barely sweetened
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and dump in flour. Stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball that pulls away from sides of the pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat, and stir in eggs, one at a time. Dough will separate after each addition; stir until it forms a smooth paste before adding next egg. Stir in ¼ teaspoon salt.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls 1 inch apart onto sheets. Bake on a center rack until puffed and brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cut slits in sides of puffs, turn off oven; return puffs to oven for 10 minutes. Cool completely, fill each puff with a teaspoon of freshly whipped cream, stack into a mountain shape and pour over chocolate sauce.
Yield: 3 dozen.
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (mini chips melt fast)
- 2 tablespoons honey
Place the cream and chocolate chips in a bowl, set over simmering water, and stir just until the chocolate melts. Add honey, and stir until smooth.
O N L I N E E X C L U S I V E
These will make a decadent treat for that special someone. Wrap them up as a gift, along with the cookbook from whence they came, Bittersweet, by Alice Medrich. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter and finish with a red ribbon.
- 2 cups flour
- 2 heaping tablespoons cocoa
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus sugar for sprinkling
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1¼ cups heavy cream
- ¼ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon milk or cream for brushing tops
- berries and freshly whipped cream for serving
Position rack in center of oven, and preheat to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt together thoroughly. Add the chocolate chips and combine. Make a well in the center and pour the cream into it. Use a rubber spatula to push the dry ingredients from the sides into the well, cutting and turning the mixture just until the dry ingredients are almost entirely moistened and the dough looks rough and shaggy. Gather the dough into a lump. Knead it gently against the sides of the bowl five or more times, pressing in the loose pieces, until the dough just holds together — it should not be smooth — and the sides of the bowl are fairly clean.
On a lightly floured board, pat the dough into an 8½-inch round, about ¾-inch thick. Cut into 12 wedges. Press a few chocolate chips into the top of each scone. Place them at least 1 inch apart on the baking sheet, and brush the tops with milk or cream. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake until the tops crack and the bottoms begin to brown around the edges, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with berries and freshly whipped cream.