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This Will Make Your Chocolate Curl

February 11, 1993|JOAN DRAKE

A crown of chocolate curls turns a standard chocolate cake into a spectacular showpiece. All it takes is chocolate at the right temperature, a swivel-blade vegetable peeler and some time and patience.

The chocolate used for making curls must be in a solid bar at least 1/4-inch thick. It's easiest to work with white and milk chocolate, but dark chocolate will also curl.

Place the chocolate (scored-side down, if the bar is divided into segments) on a sheet of parchment paper or foil about eight inches wider than the bar. When making a large quantity of curls, warm and work with one bar at a time. (Leftover scraps of chocolate may be reused for baking.)

In The Times Test Kitchen, we found that the best way to heat the chocolate is to use a full-power microwave oven. We've also had successful results using a conventional oven.

The chocolate has been heated to the correct temperature when the edges give slightly to gentle fingertip pressure (Step 1).

Timing varies with the type and thickness of the chocolate. If the chocolate becomes too soft, set it aside a few minutes to cool.

Microwave Oven: Place chocolate on parchment or foil in oven and heat, uncovered, on HIGH (100% power) 15 seconds. If edges do not give to gentle fingertip pressure, continue heating in 5-second intervals.

Conventional Oven: Place chocolate on parchment or foil directly on oven rack and heat, uncovered, at 150 degrees 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until edges give to gentle fingertip pressure.

Remove the chocolate from the oven and place it on a counter, with the long side of the chocolate bar parallel to the surface edge. Fold the paper or foil on that side of the bar downward.

The peeler must have the blade and handle in a straight line. It may be necessary to wash the tool periodically while making the curls if chocolate builds up on the cutting blade. When making a large quantity of curls, a potholder comes in handy to protect your hand.

Gently holding the end of the chocolate bar nearest to you, place the peeler blade at the opposite end of the bar and pull the peeler toward you, removing a thin layer of chocolate and forming it into a curl (Step 2). If necessary, use your fingers to gently direct the chocolate to curl (Step 3).

With a little patience and experimentation, you'll be able to tell when each type of chocolate is at the right temperature. Curls will vary in length and shape, creating an attractive design when combined.

After one or two curls have been removed, turn the bar around and pull curls from the opposite end. Continue the procedure, reheating the candy if necessary, for five to 10 seconds in a microwave or 30 seconds in a conventional oven.

The curls are very delicate when first formed. A bamboo skewer works well for transferring the curls to a firm surface to cool and harden. Later, use the skewer to lift the curls onto the frosted cake (Step 4).

If you don't have a favorite chocolate cake recipe, try this one, adapted from Marion Cunningham's "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" (Knopf, 1979). The curls may be made in advance and stored in an airtight container.

RICH DEVIL'S FOOD CAKE 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar 3 tablespoons water 1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup butter 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 eggs, separated 1 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda Fudge Frosting Chocolate curls

Place cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons sugar and water in small pan and cook over low heat until smooth and blended. Remove from heat, stir in milk and set aside.

Cream butter. Add vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar and beat until light. Beat in egg yolks, then add cocoa mixture, blending well.

Combine flour, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda. Add to chocolate mixture and blend until smooth.

Beat egg whites separately until foamy. Slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold whites into batter. Spread in 2 (8-inch) round greased and lightly floured cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees 30 to 35 minutes or until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool cakes in pans 5 minutes before turning out to cool completely on wire racks. Frost with Fudge Frosting and garnish with chocolate curls. Makes 1 (8-inch) 2-layer cake, or about 12 servings.

Each serving contains about: 373 calories; 296 mg sodium; 68 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 56 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.13 gram fiber.

Fudge Frosting 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut into bits 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup milk 1/4 cup butter 1 tablespoon corn syrup 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla

Place chocolate, sugar, milk, butter, corn syrup and salt in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to rolling boil and cook, stirring vigorously, 1 minute. Cool.

Add vanilla and beat until thick. Makes enough frosting for 1 (8- or 9-inch) 2-layer cake.

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