Chocolate recipes for Valentine’s Day (and my February @AlbertaatNoon column on @CBCradio One)

done cherry

Chocolate is a great ingredient. You can eat it on its own and savour every morsel or you can add it to your baking for a loving touch everyone will appreciate.

For my Alberta at Noon Column this month I talked about bean to bar chocolate-made-from-scratch and a company called Choklat. Their’s is the kind of chocolate I eat straight up oe in the over 1000 kinds of truffles they make on site or melted in the cascading bliss of a chocolate fountain fondue for two. I want to savour every last gram of this expensive but exquisite chocolate.

This post will highlight a few recipes that do not call for such expensive and distinct chocolate. Single estate chocolate would be wasted in baking that calls for the alchemy of many ingredients combining to create something new and fabulous as a whole. I hope you’ll read on and see what treats I have in store for you.

White Chocolate Maple Bourbon Cherry Bomb Volcano Cakes
Yes, that’s a mouthful but it’s a very good mouthful.
½ c. whipping cream
4 oz white chocolate pieces
1 ½ c. sugar
1/c c. unsalted butter
¼ c. maple syrup minus 2 tablespoons
5 T. bourbon, divided
2 eggs
½ c. skim milk
1 ¾ c. flour
½ t. baking powder
½ c. frozen, bottle preserved or fresh cherries (I pit about 10 lbs of big black-red juicy Bing Cherries from B.C. every summer and freeze them but the bottled cherries in juice work well too)
Make a ganache by slowly heating the whipping cream on the stove until it simmers.
Pour it over the white chocolate in a bowl.
Stir till the chocolate is smooth and set aside.
Heat the oven to 400°F and butter 8 individually sized ramekins.
Beat the sugar and butter on high-speed until fluffy.
Add the maple syrup and 2 tablespoons of the bourbon and continue beating till well-blended.
Add the eggs one and at a time and scrape down the sides of the bowl between each.
Add the flour and baking powder and mix till smooth.
Distribute the batter evenly among the ramekins and bake on a cookie sheet for 15 to 20 minutes depending on how runny you like the lava in your volcano to be. Some like a runny pudding. I’m more of an 18 – 20 minute person with more of a soft cake texture suiting my palate. They are done well enough for most people when they turn golden and pull away from the sides.
near done
Place the cherries in a small saucepan with the remaining bourbon and simmer till they are warmed through and the liquor is reduced – while the cakes are baking.
Serve the cakes one of two ways: in the ramekins with a hole poked in the centre to add the white chocolate ganache and cherries or flipped upside down onto a plate and drizzled with ganache and the cherries and their juice.

Raspberry Cream Cheese Brownies
Prepare raspberry filling as follows:
8 oz cream cheese (softened)
½ c. raspberry jam
¼ c. sugar
1 egg
Mix all ingredients till smooth and set aside.
Brownie Batter
1 c. butter (softened)
2 c. sugar
2 t. Vanilla
3 eggs
¾ c. cocoa powder
1 ¼ c. flour
½ t. baking powder
½ t. salt
1 c. milk chocolate chips
Heat the oven to 350°F and butter a 13X9X2 inch pan.
Mix the butter, sugar and vanilla on high-speed until fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time stopping between each to scrape down the sides of the mixer.
Combine the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt and then add them to the batter in small amounts beating until smooth.
Stir in the chocolate chips and remove one cup of batter before transferring the rest to your baking pan.
Spread the batter evenly over the pan and then cover it with the raspberry filling.

Drop spoonfuls of the chocolate batter on the raspberry layer and then using a sharp knife drag and swirl the chocolate drops through the layers of the batter.
Bake about 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool in the pan and cut into bars.
Serve alone or with raspberries and whip cream on the side.
tray of brownies

Bonus – a lesson I learned about savouring it all from developing these recipes.

Here’s the truth.
I’m not too happy with the photos in this particular post.

It’s ski season and between running my family to the mountains each weekend, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, paying bills, writing a book with a friend, and planning the touring year for my company it was late last night when I was baking and thinking about taking any photos for today’s taping of my CBC column.

The other thing that I wasn’t happy about is that I chose to make the brownies in this beautiful pink heart-shaped baking dish from Sophie Conran. I was seduced by its beauty without really thinking about the fact that brownies need a larger and flatter pan.

Turns out two wrongs can make a right.

My family and all my friends at the CBC thought these two items I baked were delicious. The goodies disappeared with uncommon vitesse and broad smiles were left in their place. Nobody who got to eat my baking seemed to care a whiff if they looked perfect.

So, mistakes are great.

I learned, once and for all time, that brownies need a big flat pan to cook properly and I learned that while I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow with a team of communications experts and photographers to make her Goop gorgeous, I’m doing my best and even when I don’t savour it all, my family and friends will do that for me and because of their love and affection, in the end, I’m able to get there too.

Here’s to the last brownie in that pretty but not useful for brownies pan. It really is all good and I really can savour it all.

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