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GOOD COOKING

Make Your Holiday Indulgence Bittersweet

December 13, 1990|ABBY MANDEL

Even with the current emphasis on health and fitness, the mere mention of chocolate makes most people extremely hungry. It is the just reward for going that extra mile, the special indulgence that eases any other food sacrifice.

And since holiday celebrations make extravagance acceptable, there's every reason to make that extravagance chocolate. The following desserts reinforce chocolate's finest features: its seductive smoothness, its richness and its deep, dark, satisfying flavor. All do-aheads, each chocolate recipe makes an elegant presentation.

The chocolate mille-feuille is the quickest and easiest to prepare with a 1-2-3 last-minute assembly. The glazed frozen fudge cake is served partially frozen, making it a refreshing dessert. The chocolate pecan torte with strawberry butter cream is a show-stopper on a dessert buffet table in both appearance and taste.

While most of your guests are sure to go for the chocolate, it's still a good idea to serve fresh fruit alongside. Berries are the most versatile choice, and they make a delicious complement to chocolate. Fresh orange segments in a light syrup work well with chocolate, too.

This is a wonderfully easy dessert that satisfies chocolate cravings without being too rich. The thinnest sheets of chocolate are used as puff pastry; they are cut into rectangles to resemble Napoleons or into any other shape that fits your fancy. (Cookie cutters offer a wide range of holiday shapes.) Use them to loosely sandwich raspberry sorbet, ice cream or frozen yogurt. Obviously, many other flavors would work well too. Arranged on a dessert plate sauced with raspberry sauce and dotted with fresh raspberries, the presentation belies its ease. Easily doubled or tripled, the chocolate mille-feuilles keep well in the refrigerator or freezer.

CHOCOLATE MILLE-FEUILLE WITH RASPBERRY SORBET AND FRESH RASPBERRIES

4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

2 teaspoons oil

1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed, pureed and strained, chilled

1 teaspoon raspberry liqueur, optional

1 pint raspberry sorbet, ice cream, or frozen yogurt

1/2 pint raspberries

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

Grease baking sheet and line with parchment paper. (It's important that paper stay flat. Weight at corners, if necessary.) Use pencil to trace 9x7-inch rectangle. Set aside.

Melt chocolate and oil in double boiler over gently simmering water or in microwave oven in microwaveable dish on (MEDIUM-HIGH) 75% power. Stir just until smooth. Pour into center of rectangle. Quickly spread chocolate with small rubber spatula to fill rectangle. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Use pizza cutter to cut vertically in half. Then cut each half crosswise into 4 equal rectangular pieces (about 3 1/2x2 1/4 inches). Or cut chocolate into any other desired shapes. Carefully peel pieces off paper and transfer to airtight tin, placing wax paper between pieces. Refrigerate or freeze. Use thawed but chilled.

To assemble, combine pureed raspberries with liqueur. Swirl enough raspberry sauce on dessert plate to coat. Let sorbet soften. Center plate with chocolate. Arrange scoop as desired. Top loosely with another chocolate piece at angle. Dust lightly with powdered sugar. Arrange raspberries on sauce. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Here, dense , fudge-like layers are filled with cocoa-flavored whipped cream. Topped with a velvety glaze, it's a chocolate dessert that appeals to all ages.

GLAZED FROZEN FUDGE CAKE

16 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1/2 cup unsalted butter

5 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

Dash salt

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons vanilla

Cream Filling

Glaze

Grease 2 (9-inch) layer cake pans. Line bottom of pans with circle of parchment paper. Grease paper. Set aside.

Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler over gently simmering water or in microwave in microwave-safe dish at 75% power. Transfer to large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, beat eggs, sugar and salt in electric mixer until very thick, fluffy and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes.

Stir flour and vanilla into chocolate mixture. Add 1/4 whipped mixture. Stir well to combine. Fold in remaining whipped mixture. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bang pans on counter to settle batter.

Bake at 400 degrees on center oven rack until wood pick inserted into center comes out fudgy but not wet, about 8 to 9 minutes, rotating pans midway if they appear to be baking unevenly. Surface will be slightly cracked. Let cool in pans on wire rack. When completely cool, use flexible knife to separate cake from sides of pan and gently invert onto rack. Remove paper. (Layers can be frozen up to 3 months, wrapped airtight.)

Spread Cream Filling on bottom layer. Top with remaining layer, smooth side up. Place in freezer. Once frozen, wrap airtight. Can be frozen as long as 3 weeks.

Pour Glaze over top of cake. Spread most on top with thin coating on sides. Can be frozen as long as 3 days, once glazed, wrapped airtight after it is frozen solid.

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