It's a big week for the chocolate-obsessed among us. Although I am obsessive about chocolate all year round, my interest was reignited last week at a "Chocolate Lab" class given by Shooting Star's pastry chef Amy Oldis.
Amy spoons vegan chocolate mousse into cups for her students to take home.
Amy has a special touch with all things chocolate, from white to milk to semisweet to the very dark. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in California, and schooled at the pastry station at the Snake River Grill, Amy buzzes around the kitchen in perpetual motion whisking and stirring with such speed and accuracy that it makes your head spin.
Chocolate mousse is amazingly intense and rich without added milk or dairy.
And her chocolate desserts are both classic and unique, with a touch of whimsy. First we made homemade Tootsie Rolls, which are both easy and irrestitible. Semisweet chocolate is melted and mixed with light corn syrup and the secret ingredient that makes a Tootsie Roll taste like a Tootsie Roll...orange blossom water. Imagine how much fun it would be to make these with your kids, or surprise them with their very own box on Valentine's Day.
Tootsie Rolls are cut into blocks, then rolled into little two-bite nubs. Amy revealed their secret ingredient.
When Amy raved about the flavor of her Caramelized White Chocolate Whipped Ganache, I must admit I was skeptical. Having never been a fan of white chocolate--technically, it's not even chocolate--I was completely surprised by how much I fell in love with her concoction. White chocolate is spread on silicon baking mat-lined pan, and placed in a 200ºF oven until it is done. How will you know it is done? It will smell like the most delicious dulce de leche, or imagine a toasty fresh caramel aroma wafting from your oven.
White chocolate is spread on a pan and baked in a low oven until is becomes decadently caramelized.
As the white chocolate bakes, Amy pulls it out of the oven and spreads it this way and that so that it cooks evenly. Once the white chocolate is sufficiently caramelized, it is folded into hot cream to make a ganache, then cooled to room temperature and chilled overnight. It is whipped to the consistency of a thick frosting just before using, as a cupcake topping, a brownie embellishment, or a decadent straight-up-with-a-spoon treat.
Amy's spatula moves quickly in the kitchen.
Vegan chocolate mousse, anyone? The perfect edible valentine for a vegan sweetheart, Amy makes dark chocolate mousse with water instead of cream. Another revelation: without the cream, the flavor of the chocolate comes through even more. It's more intense, somehow. Less muted. More chocolatey.
Sicilian Superfood Fondue, made with dark chocolate, extra virgin olive oil, and fiori di sicilia. Using superfoods like oranges and pistachios for dipping makes it a healthy indulgence.
I was so inspired by this new-to-me concept of dairy-less chocolate cream that I created a vegan Chocolate Fondue with olive oil in lieu of cream. My Sicilian Superfood Fondue contains just 3 ingredients: Valrhona 66% chocolate, extra virgin olive oil, and fiori di sicilia (an extract that is like Sicily in a bottle, think bitter almonds, blood oranges, jasmine blossoms and vanilla). But the number of dipping ingredients is infinitesimal: blood oranges, apples and pears, cubes of French baguette or 460Bread walnut cranberry bread, amaretti cookies, Marcona almonds and pistachios, or figs, fresh or dried.
Semisweet chocolate pudding frozen into little fudge bars is somehow perfectly fitting for a cold February night.
Back in the kitchen with Amy, we made the most adorable little "Fudgesicles". Semisweet (54%) chocolate is mixed with cream, milk, egg yolks, sugar and salt. This involves some tempering of the hot cream and milk with the eggs, but don't let that scare you. Amy makes it look easy. The result is a rich and creamy chocolate pudding that can be eaten straight up in a bowl, or frozen into fudgesicles. At home, I made these with Dixie cups and wooden skewers. There's nothing like a frozen chocolate treat in the middle of a frigid February!
Molly and Cindee devoured their adorable little fudgesicles.
As Amy's Chocolate Lab was coming to an end, she had one more chocolate indulgence planned for us: Hot Milk Chocolate. Now, if you are a dark chocolate lover like me, you may not get too excited about a hot milk chocolate. I wasn't. But Amy's Hot Milk Chocolate was so creamy, so smooth, but with a salty edge, that I finished every last drop, even though I was getting a bit full from noshing on the Tootsie Rolls. This hot chocolate is based on the classic French cooking technique of making a créme anglaise, which is hot cream and milk tempered with eggs, and cooked just long enough to make a thick sauce. The créme anglaise is then strained and stirred into chocolate, to be drunken immediately, or frozen in an ice cream.
Hot milk chocolate...like drinkable hot ice cream in a cup.
Edible valentines: the best valentines of all.
For a printable version of each recipe, click on the file below it.
Amy Oldis, pastry chef extraordinaire, swears by Alice Medrich's Bittersweet as her chocolate bible. This recipe for Tootsie Rolls, however, comes from Gail Gand.
Orange blossom water can be found locally at Jackson Whole Grocer. If you can't find it, substitute orange extract instead.
- 12 ounces semisweet chocolate (54%)
- 5.9 ounces light corn syrup (yes, you will need a kitchen scale to be precise)
- 1 teaspoon warm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
- Melt chocolate in a bowl set upon a pot of boiling water.
- Place light corn syrup, warm water and orange blossom water into a measuring cup, and warm for 15 seconds in the microwave.
- Whisk corn syrup mixture into the chocolate and incorporate well. Pour into a plastic lined pan, such as a 12 inch by 8 inch half sheet pan.
- Fold plastic wrap over top and press down, squeezing out air bubbles.
- Leave overnight at room temperature.
- Cut into strips, roll, and cut into 2-bite pieces.
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Sicilian Superfood Fondue
This fondue is incredibly quick and easy; you only need 3 ingredients for the fondue, and you can raid your cupboards for dipping inspiration. Be sure to use a high quality chocolate that is at least 54% cocoa solids, and a good fruity and flavorful olive oil.
If you prefer to use even darker chocolate, such as a bittersweet one with over 70% cocoa solids, you may want to add a tablespoon of good honey (Sicilian honey!) to keep the fondue a tad sweet.
Fiori di Sicilia is an extract that can be found locally at Jackson Whole Grocer. It is my secret ingredient in biscotti, olive oil cake, and risotto rice pudding. But its orange-lemon-vanilla-jasmine essence pairs best with pure chocolate.
Fiori di sicilia can be found locally at Jackson Whole Grocer, or online at kingarthurflour.com.
- 12 ounces good dark chocolate, coarsely chopped, such as Valrhona 66%
- 1/2 cup good fruity extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fiori di sicilia (or substitute 1 teaspoon orange extract, 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract, and 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract)
- for dipping: 2 x 2 inch chunks of 460 Bread walnut cranberry bread, or crusty French baguette; blood orange or cara cara orange segments, removed of pith and peel; fresh or dried figs, apricots or pears; amaretti cookies; pistachios or Marcona almonds. Candied orange or lemon peels would also be very dippable.
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Stir in the olive oil and the fiori di sicilia, and mix well.
- Transfer to a fondue pot warmed with a flame.
- Serve warm with a platter of dipping ingredients.
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