chocolate

5 Chocolate Ideas for Valentine’s Day

by Anne Maxfield on February 13, 2017

A friend of the Accidental Locavore inspired this piece.

He said he was having Valentine’s Day dinner cooked for him for the first time in his life, but that the cook was still going to get chocolates from him. Sweet.

It made me think about alternatives to the traditional heart-shaped box. Okay, or square box.

Not that there’s anything wrong with chocolate in any form.

Here are five chocolate desserts that are favorites and will be appreciated by anyone (and it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day). Always use the best chocolate you can find.

  1. Molten Chocolate Cakes: I laugh every time I see these on a menu. Why? Because they’re super easy to make and always impressive. Even if you don’t bake, you can pull these off. A few raspberries and maybe some vanilla ice cream and you’ve got a Valentine’s Day treat. Bonus: you can make them ahead, bring them with you and just pop them in the oven as dinner is wrapping up.
  2. Ultimate Chocolate Cookies: These cookies with chocolate in three different forms are amazing! And being that cookies are totally ready to go, you’ll be excused if not all of them make it to the intended recipient.
  3. Caramel and Chocolate Tart: This is a little more complicated, but no less delicious. It’s a tart shell lined in chocolate and topped with caramel. Depending on your need to be trendy (or not), pick a garnish of Malden salt or some chocolate shavings.
  4. Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse: Another winner that travels easily, this just takes chocolate mousse to another level. If you want to dress it up even more to impress your Valentine, some tuiles are easy to make and add a nice crunch to the mousse.
  5. Chocolate and Cheesecake Brownies: Chocolate, check. Cheesecake, check. Portable, check. Elevate your brownies to the next level with this recipe. While it will never replace a classic brownie in my book, the cheesecake topping dresses it up for a special occasion.
  6. DIY Hot Chocolate Mix: For this you might want to find a pretty container (mine just sits in a Ball jar). Six ingredients and you’ve got a superior hot chocolate mix. It’s easily tweaked depending on how dark you like your cocoa. If you’re not a purist, some chipotle powder or coffee could be interesting.

Which of these do you think would bring smiles to your Valentine, or any dinner guests?

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Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

by Anne Maxfield on November 10, 2016

Accidental Locavore a Plate of Ultimate Chocolate CookiesSometimes you need to cook to take your mind off current events.

These ultimate chocolate cookies might distract you from things like election results.

And they taste amazing!

Might even put a smile on your face.

Pull out a cookie sheet and give it a try.

This makes about 12 cookies.

Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

  • 2 ounces unsweetened (baking) chocolate
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sifted flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee (optional)
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips
  • 8 ounces walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Accidental Locavore Baking Ultimate Chocolate CookiesPreheat oven to 350°. Melt unsweetened, semi-sweet chocolate and butter together in a double boiler until melted (or see update below). Remove and let cool.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.

With an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and coffee on high speed. Reduce to low speed and add chocolate/butter mixture. Add sifted ingredients and mix just until smooth. By hand, stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop tablespoon-sized cookies on sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until top of cookies get a cracked look. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Ultimate Chocolate CookiesMy verdict: This recipe came from an old friend and I had forgotten how good these cookies were! Frank tried them and loved them! They’re like a cookie version of a really good brownie, or molten chocolate cake. . I left the nuts out as I’ve had allergies, but they would be a great addition. I also left the coffee out as I like my chocolate unadulterated, but if you feel differently…While cookies aren’t a part of my normal repertoire, these are classics.

Update: I’ve made these at least four times recently, and they continue to be great! Recently, a friend said that he had melted the chocolate and butter in the microwave, so I tried it. About 90 seconds, but do it in 30 second increments.

The Accidental Locavore’s friend’s recipe has this at the bottom: DISCLAIMER: Not responsible for anyone’s actions after cookies have been consumed!!!

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A Crawfish Boil at Gaskins

by Anne Maxfield on May 23, 2016

Accidental Locavore Crawfish SpreadThere are always restaurants you want to try and for whatever reasons never seem to get to. Such is the case with Gaskins, a local (if a 40 minute drive counts as local) place that opened about a year ago. It’s owned and run by Sarah and Nick, two refugees from some major Manhattan eateries. They’ve settled in Germantown and opened a casual “gathering place” featuring some great-sounding dishes, mostly sourced from local farms.

Accidental Locavore Crawfish BoilThe Accidental Locavore says “great-sounding dishes” because the evening I was there was for the second annual Spring Social and Crawfish Boil put on by the Hudson River Exchange, a local arts group, which featured only one item on the regular menu (more about that one thing later). Instead, all the tables in the place were laid out end-to-end and covered with kraft paper. After drinks (including a mango-mint daiquiri that will make you rethink daiquiris and find a designated driver) they poured 100 pounds of crawfish along with potatoes, smoked kielbasa, ramps, scallions and fiddleheads along the length of the table.

Accidental Locavore Eating CrawfishSarah gave us a quick demo on how to properly eat the crawfish and suggested that there was pride to be taken in having the biggest pile of empty shells, so we all eagerly set to work. It’s been a long time since I’ve had crawfish and these were delicious! If you’re not familiar with them, they look and taste like little lobsters, but are probably much healthier as melted butter does not have to be involved.

Accidental Locavore Crawfish AfterFiddleheads (the tiny beginnings of ferns) are another spring treat I hadn’t had in ages. They were so good that the next time I come across them, I’m taking advantage of their short season! The kielbasa, which somehow wasn’t at my end of the table, was well worth the stroll to the other end. In other words, everything was great!

Accidental Locavore Gaskins Ice CreamIf you didn’t save room for dessert—your loss! That’s the one thing that we had that is a menu item and totally worth saving some space for (trust me, you won’t want to share). Nick’s chocolate ice cream is one of the great ones! Creamy and richly chocolate it’s almost worth going to Gaskins just for that! The other ice cream, a sweet cream one, was almost as good—buttery and silky smooth, but for me, the chocolate was all I needed.

Now that I’ve seen what a fun place Gaskins is and how terrific the food for a crowd was (never an easy task), I’m excited to go back and try their menu items. And you know what I’m having for dessert…

 

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse

by Anne Maxfield on May 19, 2016

Accidental Locavore Salted Carmel Chocolate MousseThese were the criteria: I needed a dessert for a dinner party, it needed to travel well and since the hostess is another foodie, the dessert needed to be pretty damn good. After spending a lot of time with Made in India, the Accidental Locavore decided to go back to another favorite, David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Since he’s such a dessert guy, he had to have something that would impress 6 people:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt, preferably fleur de sel or Malden

Accidental Locavore Mousse PrepSpread the sugar evenly over the bottom of a wide sauce pan. Heat the sugar over medium heat. As it begins to liquefy at the edges, with a heatproof spatula (thank you, GIR), very gently drag the liquefied sugar towards the center. Watch carefully as once the edges start to darken, the sugar is in danger of burning. Continue to cook, stirring gently until all the sugar is melted and begins to caramelize.

When the sugar is a deep amber color and starts to smoke, remove it from the heat and quickly whisk in the butter, stirring until it is melted. Gradually whisk in the cream and stir until the little bits of caramel are completely melted. I find it helps to warm the cream before you add it in.

Accidental Locavore Caramel for MousseOnce smooth, add the chocolate, stirring gently until it’s melted and smooth. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Once it’s no longer warm, whisk in the egg yolks.

In a separate large bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold 1/3 of the mixture into the chocolate and sprinkle in the salt. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until no streaks of white remain.

Divide the mousse into serving glasses or a serving bowl and chill for at least 8 hours. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: Who knew 6 ingredients could be so delicious? I had eaten these before when David was cooking at DeGustibus, but somehow (sorry David) these tasted better. Somewhere in the process, it occurred to me that they needed a little something crunchy (probably too much time spent in Nice eating chocolate desserts) so I made some tuiles to go with them and it was the perfect touch. That recipe will go up next week, so stay tuned. Be careful making the (any) caramel, it’s a mere moment in time between beautiful and burnt. Gently warming the cream makes it much easier as the caramel doesn’t harden and take forever to combine with the cream.

And the reaction at the dinner? One of the guests asked if he could lick his dish!

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