Tag Archives: chocolate

Cappuccino Cheesecake

cappucchino cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crumb Crust

1 ½ c. chocolate graham cracker crumbs (about 15 squares)

½ c. sugar

½ t. cinnamon

¼ c. melted butter

Cheesecake Filling

2 eggs

½ c. sugar

2 t. vanilla

1 ½ c. sour cream

¼ c. instant coffee

2-8 oz. pkgs. Cream cheese, cut into pieces

2 T. melted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400o. Generously grease a 9 ½ inch deep dish pie plate with shortening. You can buy graham cracker crumbs already prepared, or break 3-4 whole graham cracker squares and put in blender. Blend on high to turn into crumbs. Dump them into bowl and repeat with remaining graham crackers. Add sugar, cinnamon and melted butter to the graham cracker crumbs in bowl and mix with fork until well moistened. Using the back of a spoon, press crust into pie plate. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes. While crust is baking, wash out blender to remove any remaining crumbs and combine eggs, sugar, vanilla and sour cream in blender and mix until smooth. With blender running, & add cream cheese one piece at a time until blended. ( I just remove the handle and drop the cream cheese in the hole) Add melted butter and blend until incorporated. Pour into prepared crust. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 35 minutes. Cool & refrigerate.

Week 39: Aphrodisiac Cooking

oysters

 

Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away and it’s time to think about how you’re going to celebrate with that special someone. Gifts are always nice, but why not prepare an aphrodisiac meal for them? Who knows where it will lead (wink, wink)?

Aphrodisiac recipes have been cooked up throughout the world for centuries. You may have heard that oysters are an aphrodisiac — but what about potatoes, skink flesh, and sparrow brains? These things were once considered aphrodisiacs, too. Almost everything edible was, at one time or another. Some foods thought to be aphrodisiacs resemble genitalia – oysters, bananas – you get the picture. Short of taking Viagra which has been shown to effectively treat erectile dysfunction, aphrodisiac foods are those which possess vitamins, minerals and chemicals which stimulate desire. In actuality, foods which boost energy, stimulate attraction, fertility and promote blood flow to all important regions are believed to be effective in increasing sexual performance and satisfaction.

Aphrodisiacs get their name from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and sexuality. One account of her “birth” says she arose from the sea on a giant scallop, after Cronus castrated Uranus and tossed his severed genitals into the sea. Aphrodite then walked to the shore of Cyprus. Her name derives from aphros which means “foam” and refers to her as rising from the sea foam. She is always depicted nude and is often shown floating on a scallop shell.(In Roman mythology, Aphrodite is known as Venus, whose messenger is Cupid). In Ancient Greece during a festival to celebrate Aphrodite, participants were initiated into the Mysteries of Aphrodite and were given salt, a representation of Aphrodite’s connection to the sea, and bread baked in the shape of a phallus. The Aphrodisia festival is still held in Greece and Cyprus each year over a three day period in the summer.

Avocadoes

Plump and moist, these sensuous pear-shaped fruits resemble certain parts of the body. They contain vitamin E which helps your body churn out hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, which circulate in your bloodstream and stimulate sexual responses like clitoral swelling and vaginal lubrication.

Bananas

Bananas are high in potassium which delivers muscle strength, so in theory intensifies orgasms.That’s something powerful to think about when you wrap your lips around this phallus-shaped fruit.

Chilies

The chili pepper’s effect on the body has actual scientific backing, so there might be some truth to this one. Chili peppers contain capsaicin which can cause a physiological response – increased heart rate and metabolism, sometimes even sweating — that is quite similar to the physical reactions experienced during sex. Eating chili peppers also releases endorphins for that “feel good” sensation. Its bright red color is considered a symbol of love by many, and the shape is, well, self-explanatory.

Chocolate

Sinful and sweet, chocolate has been historically used in seduction rituals. Even Casanova was rumored to indulge in chocolate prior to a sexual rendezvous. Chocolate contains the chemicals anandamide and phenylethylamine, which boost serotonin levels – the chemical which occurs naturally in the body when someone is happy or feeling passionate. It also contains tryptophan, a brain chemical that yields serotonin, which is known to produce feelings of elation.

Ginseng

Some say ginseng is an aphrodisiac because it actually looks like the human body. (The word ginseng even means “man root.”) Studies have reported sexual response in animals which have been given ginseng, but there is no evidence to date of ginseng having any effect on humans.

Figs

Figs have for centuries been considered an aphrodisiac, and we’re not talking about Fig Newtons, but actual figs. If you’ve ever split a fig in half and checked out the inside, you’ll see why some have likened the pink fleshy insides to the female form. But aside from its appearance it does contain essential minerals and vitamins that could help kick things off in the sexual arena. The magnesium, potassium, and iron levels alone will help get you back online in these departments, and the Vitamin B-6 will give you energy to keep things going.

Maca

Nutty and sweet, maca is used in beverages, cookies and baked goods. This sweet root vegetable has been nicknamed Peruvian Viagra, and animal studies have indicated some aphrodisiac qualities, although this hasn’t been extensively tested on humans. It contains a steroid like chemical which is a precursor to sex hormones and is also thought to increase stamina and heighten awareness.

Oysters

The most famous of aphrodisiac foods, oysters have a reputation for fertility. Research shows they are high in zinc, which science has linked to increased sperm production. Oysters also contain two unusual amino acids – D-aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate, both known to trigger the production of testosterone. Eating this libido-lifting treat raw ensures you get the greatest benefits of these amino acids, as cooking significantly reduces the amount. Oysters are eaten very seductively – you suck, slurp and eat them out of your hands, or someone else’s hands. See what I mean?

Red Wine

A little alcohol can dissolve inhibitions and put you in the mood. Red wine helps with relaxation and contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps boost blood flow and improves circulation before and during intercourse.

Salmon

Salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids which keep sex hormone production at its peak. The pink, velvety texture of a salmon fillet is also stimulating to the senses.

Truffles

Earthy and black, truffles caused religious consternation in the days of the Arab empire. These precious fungi were banned from sale near mosques for fear they would corrupt the morals of good Muslims. Today, anything associated with luxury or indulgence is considered sexy – it must means she’s worth the extra expense, right?

So, light the candles, put on some soft, romantic music and incorporate the above foods into your menu. Cooking for your partner can serve as the best aphrodisiac of all.

Resources

www.cosmopolitan.com

www.greekmythology.com

www.health.usnews.com

www.independent.co.uk

www.webmd.com

Chocolate Mint Truffles

These chocolate truffles are sinfully rich and delicious.

dark-chocolate-truffles

Ingredients:

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

½ c. heavy cream

2 T. butter

¾ c. powdered sugar

2 egg yolks

¾ t. peppermint extract

Unsweetened cocoa

Directions:

Sift powdered sugar and combine with chocolate, heavy cream, butter and egg yolks over low heat. Whisk constantly until smooth and chocolate has melted. Remove from heat and stir in peppermint extract. Chill 3-4 hours until firm enough to handle. Shape into small balls and roll in cocoa. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes: 36

Week 37: Chocolate

The t-shirt I wear to the gym says “Will Exercise for Chocolate,” and it exposes one of my indulgences. Who can resist the rich, velvety taste of a bite of chocolate? With Valentine’s Day fast approaching (believe it or not, Valentine’s cards are already on sale), it’s time to learn more about chocolate.

cocoa pods

Chocolate comes from the fruit of the cacao tree. The fruit of the tree grows as a pod, similar in size to a deflated football, off the main trunk of the tree. The trees can grow anywhere from 25 to 50 feet tall. Once harvested, each pod is cut open to reveal a milky white or pastel-hued pulp with 25-50 beans per pod embedded within. The majority of cacao trees grow within rain forests where the climate is very warm and humid and the fragile younger trees are sheltered from the strong, direct sunshine of the tropics. Once the trees are 5 to 8 years old, they can handle the direct sunlight without a problem, but seedlings often have to be shaded with banana leaves in areas of deforestation until they are older.

History

Historians agree that the earliest evidence of chocolate can be traced back to Indian tribes in Mexico and Central America around 1900 B.C. At first only the milky pulp surrounding the beans from the cacao pod was used as a drink called “cupuacu.” Later they discovered that roasting the beans over an open fire created a delicious treat. Roasted cacao beans began to be traded as legal currency – a pumpkin was 4 cacao beans, a rabbit was 10 cacao beans, a turkey was 100 beans, an avocado was 3 beans, and a slave could be purchased for 10 cacao beans! The Aztecs and pulverized cacao into a drink which they blended with water using a tool called a “molinillo” which is a wooden staff with decorated mixing rings. This blending tool is still used today in nearly every Latin American country. Cortes discovered the drink the Indians called “xocolatl” which was often spiced with chile, nuts or other spices and brought it back to Spain with him. This popular drink soon spread from Spain throughout Europe. The first full-scale, relatively modern chocolate factory was set up in Britain in 1728. The Dutch are credited with the method for separating the cacao mass from cacao butter, producing what we know as cocoa powder, and the Swiss developed the first modern bar of chocolate in 1819. In the mid-1870s they incorporated dry milk powder into chocolate creating the first milk chocolate. A Belgian manufacturer developed a technique for making pralines, or dipped and filled chocolates, in 1912. Just a few years later, in the United States, the Milky Way bar was developed by the Mars Corporation and thin quickly followed by the Mars Bar. Milton Hershey was the first person to put nuts in candy bars and added vegetable fats so combat troops could take chocolate bars into warm climates without having them melt. The Hershey factory is the largest chocolate manufacturing plant in the world, and the Hershey Bar is the best-selling chocolate bar in the world today.

Cocoa-Beans1

Harvesting and Processing

There are three main varieties of cacao: forestero, criollo and trinitario. Forestero is the most common and prolific due to its hardiness and resistance to diseases and pests. They are grown primarily in Africa, which accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s production of cacao. Stout and tannic forester beans are fermented for about a week to mello them.

Criollo beans are considered the highest grade and are used for top-quality chocolate blends and for many single-bean chocolates. The criollo has a more elongated pod which is low yielding and vulnerable to disease. They are low in astringency and require less fermentation, only about 3 days. Criollo beans account for only about 5 percent of the world’s cacao production.

Trinitario cacao is a hybrid of forester and criollo and was created on the island of Trinidad. The best trinitario beans are from Trinidad, of course, or Java.

I had the opportunity to visit Belize many years ago and see the cacao beans harvested and fermented. Cacao trees are too fragile for workers to climb, so harvesting cacao beans is done from the ground using “tumadores” or special, machete like blades on long handles. Then the pods are sliced open and fermented. The cacao beans and their gluey pulp are placed in pits dug in the earth or in wooden crates, covered with banana leaves and left to ferment. Fermentation turns the sugars into acids and changes the color of the beans from a pale color to a deep, rich brown. Once fermented, the beans are sun dried or dried using heater to prevent mold growth. They are manually raked and turned daily to dry out the moisture content. This takes about a week and then they are packed into canvas or plastic woven sacks for shipping.

At their various factory destinations, they are unloaded and sorted for leaves and foreign matter. Next they are roasted to a temperature between 210 to 290 degrees F. Quickly cooled, they are passed through a winnower which cracks the dusky outer shells and blows them away. The inner bean is crushed into smaller pieces called “nibs” to be made into chocolate. The nibs, about 50 percent fat) are crushed into a paste called “chocolate liquor” although it contains no alcohol. This process is called “conching.” Unsweetend or bitter chocolate is referred to as pure chocolate liquor and is usually sold in bars for baking. As the cacao paste is kneaded smooth, cocoa butter and coarse sugar are blended to make bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Milk chocolate is made by kneading in dried milk solids or milk powder. “White chocolate” contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids.

The percentage of cacao or cocoa listed on a label – for example in baking chocolate – refers to the combined percentage of cacao solids and cacao butter in the product, not just cacao solids.

What is “tempering?”

Chocolate is composed of cocoa fat and sugar crystals. Before melted chocolate is cooled and solidified, the fat needs to be emulsified, otherwise the fat will rise to the surface and cause gray streaks. Tempering is a process which raises the temperature at which chocolate melts and also gives it a “snap” when it is broken. Tempered chocolate shrinks slightly, allowing chocolatiers to remove chocolate from molds.

Health Benefits

Centuries ago, cacao was used as a disinfectant, to alleviate apathy and the milky white pulp was used to facilitate birth. Chocolate is high in antioxidants and is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and iron. Studies have shown that chocolate contains serotonin and some chemicals, like phenylethylamine (PEA), that are similar to components found in the drugs ecstasy and marijuana. People with depression tend to consume more chocolate than others, perhaps due to these chemicals. PEA has a similar effect on the chemistry of the brain to what we experience when we fall in love.

A 3.5 ounce serving of milk chocolate, however, contains 540 calories, 29.7 grams of fat, and 51.5 grams of sugar.

Storing Chocolate

Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity and thus should be stored around 60oF with a relative humidity of less than 50 percent. It should also be stored away from other foods, as it can absorb different aromas. “Blooming” can occur if chocolate is stored or served improperly. Fat bloom is caused by storage temperature fluctuating or exceeding 75.2oF, while sugar bloom is caused by temperature below 59 °F or excess humidity. To distinguish between different types of bloom, one can rub the surface of the chocolate lightly, and if the bloom disappears, it is fat bloom. Although visually unappealing, chocolate exhibiting bloom is perfectly safe to eat.

Resources

Desaulniers, Marcel. Death by Chocolate.

Lebovitz, David. The Great Book of Chocolate.

http://www.wikipedia.com

 

 

 

 

 

History

Historians agree that the earliest evidence of chocolate can be traced back to Indian tribes in Mexico and Central America around 1900 B.C. At first only the milky pulp surrounding the beans from the cacao pod was used as a drink called “cupuacu.” Later they discovered that roasting the beans over an open fire created a delicious treat. Roasted cacao beans began to be traded as legal currency – a pumpkin was 4 cacao beans, a rabbit was 10 cacao beans, a turkey was 100 beans, an avocado was 3 beans, and a slave could be purchased for 10 cacao beans! The Aztecs and pulverized cacao into a drink which they blended with water using a tool called a “molinillo” which is a wooden staff with decorated mixing rings. This blending tool is still used today in nearly every Latin American country. Cortes discovered the drink the Indians called “xocolatl” which was often spiced with chile, nuts or other spices and brought it back to Spain with him. This popular drink soon spread from Spain throughout Europe. The first full-scale, relatively modern chocolate factory was set up in Britain in 1728. The Dutch are credited with the method for separating the cacao mass from cacao butter, producing what we know as cocoa powder, and the Swiss developed the first modern bar of chocolate in 1819. In the mid-1870s they incorporated dry milk powder into chocolate creating the first milk chocolate. A Belgian manufacturer developed a technique for making pralines, or dipped and filled chocolates, in 1912. Just a few years later, in the United States, the Milky Way bar was developed by the Mars Corporation and thin quickly followed by the Mars Bar. Milton Hershey was the first person to put nuts in candy bars and added vegetable fats so combat troops could take chocolate bars into warm climates without having them melt. The Hershey factory is the largest chocolate manufacturing plant in the world, and the Hershey Bar is the best-selling chocolate bar in the world today.

 

Harvesting and Processing

 

Chocolate comes from the fruit of the cacao tree. The fruit of the tree grows as a pod, similar in size to a deflated football, off the main trunk of the tree. The trees can grow anywhere from 25 to 50 feet tall. Once harvested, each pod is cut open to reveal a milky white or pastel-hued pulp with 25-50 beans per pod embedded within. The majority of cacao trees grow within rain forests where the climate is very warm and humid and the fragile younger trees are sheltered from the strong, direct sunshine of the tropics. Once the trees are 5 to 8 years old, they can handle the direct sunlight without a problem, but seedlings often have to be shaded with banana leaves in areas of deforestation until they are older. I had the opportunity to visit a chocolate factory in Belize many years ago, although it was less “factory” per se and more a collection of huts where the cacao beans were processed.

 

There are three main varieties of cacao: forestero, criollo and trinitario. Forestero is the most common and prolific due to its hardiness and resistance to diseases and pests. They are grown primarily in Africa, which accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s production of cacao. Stout and tannic forester beans are fermented for about a week to mello them.

 

Criollo beans are considered the highest grade and are used for top-quality chocolate blends and for many single-bean chocolates. The criollo has a more elongated pod which is low yielding and vulnerable to disease. They are low in astringency and require less fermentation, only about 3 days. Criollo beans account for only about 5 percent of the world’s cacao production.

 

Trinitario cacao is a hybrid of forester and criollo and was created on the island of Trinidad. The best trinitario beans are from Trinidad, of course, or Java.

 

Cacao trees are too fragile for workers to climb, so harvesting cacao beans is done from the ground using “tumadores” or special, machete like blades on long handles. Then the pods are sliced open and fermented. The cacao beans and their gluey pulp are placed in pits dug in the earth or in wooden crates, covered with banana leaves and left to ferment. Fermentation turns the sugars into acids and changes the color of the beans from a pale color to a deep, rich brown. Once fermented, the beans are sun dried or dried using heater to prevent mold growth. They are manually raked and turned daily to dry out the moisture content. This takes about a week and then they are packed into canvas or plastic woven sacks for shipping.

 

At their various factory destinations, they are unloaded and sorted for leaves and foreign matter. Next they are roasted to a temperature between 210 to 290 degrees F. Quickly cooled, they are passed through a winnower which cracks the dusky outer shells and blows them away. The inner bean is crushed into smaller pieces called “nibs” to be made into chocolate. The nibs, about 50 percent fat) are crushed into a paste called “chocolate liquor” although it contains no alcohol. This process is called “conching.” Unsweetend or bitter chocolate is referred to as pure chocolate liquor and is usually sold in bars for baking. As the cacao paste is kneaded smooth, cocoa butter and coarse sugar are blended to make bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Milk chocolate is made by kneading in dried milk solids or milk powder. “White chocolate” contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids.

 

The percentage of cacao or cocoa listed on a label – for example in baking chocolate – refers to the combined percentage of cacao solids and cacao butter in the product, not just cacao solids.

 

What is “tempering?”

 

Chocolate is composed of cocoa fat and sugar crystals. Before melted chocolate is cooled and solidified, the fat needs to be emulsified, otherwise the fat will rise to the surface and cause gray streaks. Tempering is a process which raises the temperature at which chocolate melts and also gives it a “snap” when it is broken. Tempered chocolate shrinks slightly, allowing chocolatiers to remove chocolate from molds.

 

Health Benefits

 

Centuries ago, cacao was used as a disinfectant, to alleviate apathy and the milky white pulp was used to facilitate birth. Chocolate is high in antioxidants and is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and iron. Studies have shown that chocolate contains serotonin and some chemicals, like phenylethylamine (PEA), that are similar to components found in the drugs ecstasy and marijuana. People with depression tend to consume more chocolate than others, perhaps due to these chemicals. PEA has a similar effect on the chemistry of the brain to what we experience when we fall in love.

 

A 3.5 ounce serving of milk chocolate, however, contains 540 calories, 29.7 grams of fat, and 51.5 grams of sugar.

 

Storing Chocolate

Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity and thus should be stored around 60oF with a relative humidity of less than 50 percent. It should also be stored away from other foods, as it can absorb different aromas. “Blooming” can occur if chocolate is stored or served improperly. Fat bloom is caused by storage temperature fluctuating or exceeding 75.2oF, while sugar bloom is caused by temperature below 59 °F or excess humidity. To distinguish between different types of bloom, one can rub the surface of the chocolate lightly, and if the bloom disappears, it is fat bloom. Although visually unappealing, chocolate exhibiting bloom is perfectly safe to eat.

 

 

Resources

 

Desaulniers, Marcel. Death by Chocolate.

Lebovitz, David. The Great Book of Chocolate.

http://www.wikipedia.com

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Truffle Cakes with Port Raspberry Sauce

This is one of my two favorite desserts.  I first had it at a waterfront restaurant in Mystic, CT and returned home to experiment with various recipes until I had it perfect! I like the way you can make them in advance and freeze them (so you always have a dessert on hand for unexpected guests).  They reheat quickly in the microwave.

Chocolate Truffle Cakes

 Ingredients:

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

¾ c. (1 ½ sticks) butter

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

5 T. sugar

2 T. flour

cocoa

Directions:

Generously grease with butter eight ¾ cup soufflé dishes or custard cups.  Sprinkle inside of each dish with cocoa.

Stir chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth.  Remove from heat.  Using electric mixer, beat eggs, egg yolks, and  5 T. sugar in large bowl until thick and pale yellow, about 8 minutes.  Fold in chocolate.  Add flour  and mix well.  Divide batter among dishes.  (Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover with plastic wrap & chill.  Bring to room temperature before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 375oF. Place Soufflé dishes on baking sheet.  Bake cakes  uncovered until edges are puffed and slightly cracked  (about 15 minutes).  Can be served immediately or frozen and reheated in microwave for 45 seconds.  Serve with a scoop of coffee ice cream or drizzle with port raspberry sauce and toss with a few fresh raspberries.

Port Raspberry Sauce

Directions:

3 pints fresh raspberries

¼ c. sugar

¼ c. ruby Port

 Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat until raspberries are softened and mixture begins to thicken.  Remove from heat and strain.

 

Best Fudge Brownies

Chocolate is applauded for health benefits in addition to it’s sinfully delicious flavor.  If you want, these can be made in a muffin tin for individual portions rather than in a baking dish (just divide the batter – fill each greased section of the muffin tin about 1/2 full of batter.)  Spread a small circle of the icing on each one and top with a raspberry for an elegant dessert!

Ingredients:

Brownie:s

½ c. + 2 T. butter

1 c. sugar

1 t. vanilla

2 eggs

½ c. cocoa

½ c. flour

½ c. pecan pieces

Icing:

1 ½ c. powdered sugar

1/3 c. cocoa

1/4 cup butter

½ t. vanilla

¼ c. milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325oF.  Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs and mix well.  Add cocoa, flour and pecan pieces.  Bake in a greased 8” square pan at 325oF for 30 minutes. For icing, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat and blend until smooth.  Spread on brownies while they are still warm.

Coffee Toffee Pie

Ingredients:

Pastry shell:

½ package pie crust mix

¼ c. light brown sugar, firmly packed

¾ c. finely chopped walnuts

1 square unsweetened chocolate, grated

1 t. vanilla

Filling:

½ c. (one stick) butter, softened

¾ c. sugar

1 square unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

2 t. instant coffee

2 eggs

Topping:

2 c. heavy cream

2 T. instant coffee

½ c. confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375oF.  In medium bowl, combine piecrust mix with brown sugar, walnuts and grated chocolate.  Add 1 T. water and vanilla.  Using a fork, mix until well blended.  Turn into a well-greased 9 inch pie plate. Press firmly against the bottom and side of pie plate.  Bake in 375oF oven for 15 minutes.  Cool pastry shell in pie plate on wire rack.  Meanwhile, make filling.  Cream butter and sugar and mix on medium speed for five minutes until light and fluffy.  Blend in cool melted chocolate and instant coffee.  Add one egg and beat five minutes.  Add remaining egg and beat five minutes longer. Turn filling into baked pie shell and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, overnight.

The next day, make the topping.  In mixing bowl, combine cream with instant coffee and confectioner’s sugar.  Refrigerate mixture, covered for one hour.  Remove from refrigerator and beat until stiff.  Spoon over filling. Garnish with chocolate curls or grated chocolate, if desired.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours prior to serving. Serves 8.