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A hot chocolate treat for your valentine

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  • More hot chocolate inspirations

    • Pastry chef Danielle Centeno of Escazu Artisan Chocolates in Raleigh grew up enjoying hot chocolate in Columbia. One easy way to upgrade your cup of cocoa is to use one of the many South American brands, which produce a richer tasting beverage. Look for Sol, a Colombian brand, or Abuelita, made by Nestle, at the grocery store or a local Latin market.

    • Raleigh cookbook author Fred Thompson offers another way to upgrade your favorite hot chocolate: Divide 2 ounces Irish cream liqueur, 2 ounces dark rum and 1 ounce cream de cacao between two mugs. Divide 2 cups hot chocolate between each cup and top each with a dollop of whipped cream. Serve immediately.

    • If you have a fireplace at home, consider creating a fun, romantic treat: Fill a basket with the makings of s’mores (graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows). Lay out a blanket and pillows in front of the fireplace and revisit this childhood treat.

  • Lover’s Hot Chocolate

    From “Hot Chocolate: 50 Heavenly Cups of Comfort,” by Fred Thompson (Harvard Common Press, 2006).

    1 ounce creme de cacao

    1 ounce amaretto

    1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee

    4 tablespoons chocolate ice cream

    8 pecan halves, chopped for garnish

    DIVIDE creme de cacao, amaretto and coffee between 2 Irish coffee glasses or mugs. Top each with 2 tablespoons of the ice cream and half of the chopped pecans. Serve immediately.

    Yield: 2 servings.

  • White Chocolate Souffle Cakes with Raspberry Chocolate Sauce

    From Alice Medrich in“Fine Cooking Cakes and Cupcakes,” (Tauton Press, 2014).

    1/2 cup fresh raspberries, rinsed, or 3/4 cup thawed frozen raspberries

    3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

    2 tablespoons butter, plus more for ramekins

    3 tablespoons sugar, divided, plus more for ramekins

    3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    1/8 teaspoon salt

    3/4 cup whole milk

    6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

    1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

    1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

    PUT a metal or Pyrex pie plate or cake pan in a freezer to chill.

    PUREE raspberries in a food processor. Transfer puree to a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl. Strain puree by pressing and scraping with a rubber spatula. Discard seeds.

    COMBINE chocolate, butter, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons of raspberry puree (save any extra for another use) in a medium heatproof bowl set in or over a skillet of barely simmering water. Stir frequently with a rubber spatula until melted and smooth. Scrape into a puddle on the chilled plate and return to freezer until firm, 20 to 30 minutes. When raspberry-chocolate mixture is firm, use a teaspoon to scrape into 6 rough balls. Keep balls on the plate and refrigerate until ready to use.

    LIGHTLY butter 6 (6-ounce) ramekins or custard cups. Coat with sugar or tap out excess.

    PUT egg yolks in a medium bowl near stove and have another large, clean bowl at hand. Combine flour and salt in a small, heavy saucepan. Whisk in just enough milk to make a smooth paste. Whisk in remaining milk. Set pan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture has consistency of a thick creamy sauce, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk about 2 tablespoons of hot sauce into yolks to warm them up gently. Scrape yolks back into saucepan and cook for a minute or two, whisking constantly, until mixture becomes a thick, pasty cream; it should be about as thick as store-bought mayonnaise. Scrape pastry cream into the clean bowl. Add white chocolate and whisk until it’s fully melted and incorporated into warm pastry cream. Stir in vanilla. Set aside for a few minutes until tepid.

    BEAT egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed until whites mound gently. Gradually beat in sugar and beat until whites form medium-stiff peaks when you lift the beaters; the tips should curl over but still look moist, glossy and flexible. With a rubber spatula, fold about one-quarter of the whites into the white chocolate pastry cream to lighten it. Scrape remaining whites into the cream and gently fold in until blended, taking care not to deflate the whites.

    TAKE raspberry-chocolate balls out of the refrigerator and put one in the center of each ramekin. Divide batter evenly among ramekins and level tops gently with the back of a spoon. Heat the oven and bake right away, or cover ramekins with plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

    WHEN ready to bake, position a rack in the lower third of oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic and put ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake until cakes are puffed and golden on top, 16 to 18 minutes. Cool a few minutes before serving.

    Yield: 6 servings.

  • Hot Chocolate Layer Cake with Homemade Marshmallows

    If you can’t find Lyle’s Golden Syrup, substitute light corn syrup. By Rebecca Rather in “Fine Cooking Cakes and Cupcakes,” (Tauton Press, 2014).

    For cake:

    12 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for pans

    3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, more for pans

    3/4 cup canola oil

    4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

    3 cups granulated sugar

    3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

    3 large eggs, at room temperature

    3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

    2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

    2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

    For frosting:

    2 1/2 cups heavy cream

    6 tablespoons unsalted butter

    1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out

    6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

    2 cups granulated sugar

    2 cups unsweetened natural cocoa powder, plus more for decorating

    1/2 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light corn syrup

    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

    For marshmallows:

    3 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored powdered gelatin

    2 cups granulated sugar

    1 cup light corn syrup

    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    1 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, more as needed

    POSITION racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven and heat oven to 350 degrees.

    BUTTER 3 (9-by-2-inch) round cake pans and line each with a parchment round. Butter parchment, then dust with flour and knock out excess.

    COMBINE 12 tablespoons butter, oil, chopped chocolate and 1 cup water in a 3-quart saucepan. Heat over medium heat until melted.

    WHISK flour, sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Pour hot chocolate mixture into sugar mixture and whisk until combined. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, then whisk in buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda and salt. Portion batter evenly among pans.

    SET two pans on top rack and third on lower rack. Stagger pans so no pan is directly over another. Bake, swapping and rotating pans’ positions after 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on racks for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto the racks, remove parchment, and cool completely.

    MAKE frosting: Combine cream, 6 tablespoons butter, vanilla beans and seeds in a 4-quart saucepan over low heat. Stir until butter is melted. Remove vanilla bean and whisk in chopped chocolate until melted. Whisk in sugar, cocoa powder, syrup and salt until smooth. Be sure cocoa powder dissolves completely. Pour into a 13-by-9-inch pan and freeze until firm, about 2 hours, or refrigerate overnight.

    MAKE marshmallows: Pour 3/4 cup cold water into bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Attach bowl to mixer and fit with whisk attachment.

    CLIP a candy thermometer to a 3-quart saucepan; don’t let the tip of the thermometer touch bottom of the pan. In saucepan, boil 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt and 3/4 cup water over medium heat without stirring until the mixture reaches 234-235 degrees, about 10 minutes. With a mixer on low speed, pour hot sugar mixture into gelatin in a slow, thin stream.

    ADD vanilla, carefully increase speed to high, and beat until mixture has thickened and cooled, about 5 minutes (the bottom of the bowl should be just warm to the touch). Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with foil, leaving an overhang on two sides. Sift 1 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar into the bottom of the pan, then pour marshmallow mixture into the pan and sift another 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar on top. Let sit at room temperature until set, at least 2 hours.

    ASSEMBLE cake: remove frosting from freezer or refrigerator. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to soften. Change to a whisk attachment and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

    PUT a cake later on a flat serving platter or a cake stand lined with strips of wax paper to keep it clean while icing. Top layer with 1 1/2 cups frosting, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula to cake’s edge. Repeat with another cake layer and 1 1/2 cups frosting. Top with last cake layer.

    PUT 1 1/2 cups frosting in a small bowl. With an offset spatula, spread frosting in a thin layer over top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate cake until the frosting is firm enough to seal in the crumbs, 20 to 30 minutes.

    SPREAD remaining frosting in a smooth layer over the top and sides of the cake. If necessary, you can rewhip the remaining frosting to loosen and lighten it. Remove waxed paper strips.

    LIFT marshmallow out of the pan, using foil overhang. Using a knife dipped in cold water, cut along edge to release it from the foil. Transfer to a cutting board and remove foil. Put remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Cut marshmallows into cubes of different sizes, from 1/4-inch to 3/4-inch. You may need to dip knife again in cold water. Toss marshmallows in sugar to coat. Then shake in strainer to remove excess. Mound marshmallows on top of cake. Sift some cocoa powder over marshmallows.

    Per serving: 1,080 calories, 14g protein, 161g carbs, 47g total fat (23g saturated, 17 g mono, 4.5g poly) 130mg cholesterol, 350mg sodium, 8g fiber.

    Yield: 16 servings.

Here’s the trouble with Valentine’s Day: Some people love planning every minute detail of a romantic gesture; others are left in a cold sweat when they realize they are coming home empty-handed or they didn’t think about making a dinner reservation until too late.

If your only option at this point is the white tablecloth service at your local Waffle House, consider getting in the kitchen to cook something as a loving gesture.

If you need inspiration to make treats for your valentine, we have two words for you: “hot” and “chocolate.” We’re talking about not only hot chocolate in liquid form, but also a molten white chocolate cake and a truly hot chocolate-inspired three-layer chocolate cake crowned with marshmallows.

We offer recipes and ideas for cooks at every level. It can be as simple as whipping up a steaming mug of hot chocolate, elevated with some liquor, or making s’mores in the fireplace. Or you can put on your apron and make that triple-decker cake with the marshmallows made from scratch.

Whatever you do, remember it’s the thought that counts.

Weigl: 919-829-4848; Twitter: @andreaweigl
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