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Karen Leland Book Reviews

Valentine’s Day: A Chocolate State Of Mind

A recent Italian survey conducted by the Catholic University in Campobasso, found that 6.7 grams of dark chocolate per day (about a half a bar per week) was the ideal amount for a protective effect against inflammation and subsequent cardiovascular disease. As if I needed another reason to eat chocolate.

With chocolaty cosmic-ness, this study came out only a few days after the death of one of the chocolate world's great leaders, Robert Steinberg. Steinberg (61) was co-founder of Scharffen Berger Chocolate and a candy maverick who helped turn the humble cacao bean, into a star of the gourmet food world.

Both of these events drove me to my treasure trove of chocolate cookbooks to see what delicious deserts I could whip up in celebration of chocolate's goodness, in honor of Steinberg's life and just in time for Valentine's Day. I settled on The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook: Recipes and History from America's Premier Chocolate Maker (Ten Speed Press, 2007).

The Ghirardelli cookbook takes the challenge of making cookies, candy and cakes and turns them into a fun time in the kitchen. The recipes are simple (most contain only 6-10 ingredients), the instructions are clear, and the end results satisfying.

I decided to stretch my culinary wings and try my hand at crafting English toffee (page 124). It would not be an exaggeration to say that seeing sugar, butter, water and vanilla turn into carmel, spread thick on a baking sheet and cooled to a hardened perfection, was a thrill. Other recipes such as Individual Chocolate Soufflés (page 100), Double Chocolate Banana Bread (page 143), and Chocolate Flan (page 105) are equally as easy . A few final notes about how to get the most benefit from the book:

1. Every recipe recommends using Ghirardelli brand chocolate, however as long as you use the same amount and type, there is no reason you can't substitute a high-quality chocolate brand of your choosing.

2. You will need some basic equipment such as a good double boiler and a candy thermometer to make many of the recipes.

Chocolate Mousse
Adapted with permission from The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook (Ten Speed Press)

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups 60% bittersweet chocolate chips
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
¼ cup hot brewed coffee

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at medium-high speed, whip the cream to form light peaks. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Melt the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

Meanwhile, whip the eggs with the sugar at medium-high speed for about 10 minutes, until very fluffy and thick.

Stir the coffee into the melted chocolate chips. The mixture will start to thicken, so work quickly. Quickly stir in the beaten eggs, and then fold in the whipped cream. Pour or spoon the mixture into cups or bowls.

Chill until firm, about 2 hours. Makes 8-10 servings.

Karen Leland is author of the new book Time Management In An Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day and the Marin County restaurant reviewer for Sally’s Place. Karen is currently hard at work on a food memoir/cookbook tilted Pardon My Pink Pate. To contact her, please e-mail kleland@scgtraining.com.


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