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Valentine's Day Special : Chocolate: New World Discovery Is the Object of Love the World Over

February 09, 1989

Valentine's Day is the one day when nearly everyone abandons their vows and gives into cravings for chocolate. If you or your sweetheart have an affinity for chocolate, then the scrumptious offerings here should make this Tuesday that much more special.

Chocolate has enjoyed a comfortable position in the diets of Americans--for a long time popular as an addition to baked goods like cookies, cakes, candies and pies as well as for its appeal straight from the package.

It was a New World discovery, one of the most sought-after treasures brought back to Europe from the brave new land across the Atlantic. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus first discovered the cacao, or cocoa bean, during his explorations of the New World. But he did not fully understand the Aztec's love of it.

Potential Value

It wasn't until explorer Hernando Cortez brought the bean back to Europe that the cacao bean's potential value was understood. They mixed the beans with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cinnamon, and the beverage soon became the favorite drink of nobility.

Knowledge of the delicacy spread through Europe and finally made its way to America, where the love affair grew quickly. And today chocolate is probably one of the most sought-after commodities around.

Here, it is offered in some traditional desserts as well as in some unusual undertakings. Semisweet chocolate pieces are stirred into Chocolate-Macadamia Muffins and sprinkled over a warm pancake that is topped with fresh fruit and powdered sugar. Lovers of brioche will find the addition of the morsels to the recipe an interesting variation, and glazed chocolate mint cookies will satisfy all.

CHOCOLATE-MACADAMIA MUFFINS

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate pieces

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

2/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup corn syrup

1 egg

Combine chocolate and butter in top of double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add nuts and stir to coat well. Make well in center of flour mixture.

Combine reserved chocolate mixture, sour cream, corn syrup and egg in small bowl. Mix until well blended. Pour chocolate mixture into center of dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened.

Spoon into paper-lined muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake at 375 degrees 15 to 18 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely or serve warm. Makes about 15 muffins.

CHOCOLATE-BAKED PANCAKE WITH FRUIT

1/4 cup butter or margarine

4 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate pieces

2 cups fresh fruit

Powdered sugar

Melt butter in heavy 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Combine eggs, milk and flour in large bowl. Beat until foamy. Pour into hot skillet. Bake at 425 degrees 2 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate pieces over pancake. Return to oven and bake 17 to 19 minutes longer. Top with fruit and powdered sugar. Serve immediately. Makes 1 (10-inch) pancake.

CHUNKY CHOCOLATE-APPLE BREAD

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons buttermilk

1 cup coarsely chopped apples

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate pieces

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and soda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg in small bowl.

Combine butter and 1 cup sugar and beat until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add flour mixture and buttermilk. Stir in apples, 1/2 cup walnuts and chocolate pieces. Pour into greased 9x5-inch loaf pan.

Combine remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup nuts and sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 degrees 50 to 60 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan, then remove from pan and cool completely or serve warm. Makes 1 loaf.

CHOCOLATE MINT COOKIES

1 1/2 cups mint-flavored semisweet chocolate pieces

1 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

6 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1/4 cup shortening

3 tablespoons corn syrup

2 1/4 teaspoons water

Melt 1/2 cup chocolate pieces in top of double boiler over hot, not boiling, water, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Combine butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Beat until creamy. Beat in egg and blend in melted chocolate. Gradually add flour mixture. Shape dough into ball and wrap in wax paper. Chill about 1 hour.

Roll dough out to 3/16-inch thickness on floured surface or pastry cloth. Cut with 2-inch round cookie cutter. Bake on ungreased baking sheets at 350 degrees 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.

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