Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day and Chocolate

Given that Valentine's Day is this week, I've been thinking a lot about chocolate, which in my view has always qualified as a major food group. There's a reason the Aztecs called it the "food of the gods," you know.

There are estimates that over $1 billion worth of chocolate is purchased for Valentine's Day and while 75% of chocolate purchases are made by women during most of the year, in the days and minutes before Valentine's Day, 75% of the chocolate buying is done by men. Yes, chocolate and Valentine's Day have become synonymous for many.

But I don't mind. Do you?

I am, however, somewhat discriminating when it comes to this delightful food. I don't like all kinds of chocolate, particularly the cheap varieties as I find them too sweet. I tolerate milk chocolate. And white chocolate isn't really chocolate anyway (according to regulations, chocolate must be comprised of at least 19% cocoa solids).

These days my favorite chocolates are Frango mints. First created in 1918, they were associated with Chicago's Marshall Fields department stores from 1929 on and for years, were produced in large melting pots on the 13th floor of the Midwestern chain's flagship store. When Macy's consumed Marshall Fields a few years ago, it also became the official distributor of Frangos. But these incredible mints are very difficult to find in New England except at Christmas time and even then, the offerings are scarce or in the case of my local Macy's, non-existent.

Nonetheless, No. 2 son and I are major fans of these chocolate truffles, which we believe only reach optimum flavor following refrigeration. We rely on the kindness of others to import these delicacies and there are some cooling in my fridge right now that will be judiciously parceled out and individually savored on Valentine's Day and beyond.

I confess that I am such a chocolate fan that I eat it nearly every day, but usually not in candy. I have a favorite low-cal muffin recipe that allows me to have my chocolate fix with minimum guilt. And when I don't care about calories, I turn to a molten chocolate cake recipe that has become a family favorite. And as my Valentine's Day gift to you, I am repeating both recipes below.

The healthy low-cal recipe
Chocolate muffins (makes 18)
1 box of Devil's food chocolate cake mix (any brand)
1 can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients. Spoon into muffin tins. Bake for 18 minutes. Makes 18.

The definitely not low-cal recipe
Molten Chocolate Cakes (makes 4 or 8, explanation below)
4 squares Baker's semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
6 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup Cool Whip topping, thawed (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter 4 (3/4 cup) custard cups or souffle dishes. Place on a baking sheet. Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 min. or until butter is melted. Stir with wire whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar until well blended. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks. Stir in flour. Divide batter between prepared custard cups.
Bake 13 to 14 min. or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 min. Carefully run small knife around cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto dessert dishes. Top with 1 tbsp. of whipped topping and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings (ONLY if you plan to divide the cakes in half, but in my experience no one can eat just half of the cake. Better plan for 4 servings instead). Batter can be made a day ahead. Pour into prepared custard cups, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bake as directed.


Anonymous said...

I love the mint truffles from Harry & David! Now you're making me crave them!

Karen Kullgren said...

That comment was not supposed to be from Anonymous-I proudly own my chocoholism!

Kathy said...

I have made the muffins many times but w/o the chocolate chips, I will try them next time.

PatRemick said...

Chocoholism is a wonderful thing. I sure don't want to be cured!