February is the month of my birth. I was, my parents told me, supposed to be born on February 14, a day neither of my parents celebrated as it was not on the Jewish calendar. But that year, my dad, hoping I would arrive soon, bought my mother a huge box of chocolates and some flowers to help cheer her up in the final days of pregnancy.
My mother did not go into labor. She did, however, eat the entire box of about 5 pounds of chocolate — or so I have been told — in about 4 days, and, as my dad said, she was not really big on sharing.
By Feb. 18, the chocolate was gone and my mom went to play canasta with some friends. She and her partner were winning when suddenly my mother went into labor. They all said it was probably just a stomachache from the ungodly amounts of chocolate she had consumed and insisted she remain until the game was over.
I was born on the 19th, and my dad swore I came out screaming for chocolate — a fact I truly believe, because chocolate has been my passion since childhood.
When I grew up a bit and could actually eat chocolate, I happily discovered that my grandparents handed out Hershey Bars like they had stock in the company. In fact, my paternal grandfather kept dozens of bars in the bottom drawer of his bureau. Whenever we were there, we were allowed to take one candy bar home. We could not eat it in the house, probably because the meals we 11 grandchildren were all there for was meat. So my older cousins would sneak us out of the apartment before dinner to sit on the stairs and eat our chocolate. When we got caught, the adults would take our candy bars and we would have to wash up and sometimes even brush our teeth with the horrid tooth powder my grandparents used. But there were always brand new Hershey Bars to take home.
Decades later, I learned that there is a whole world of chocolate beyond those cherished candy bars of my early childhood. Today there are too many brands and kinds of chocolate to taste in one lifetime! Dark chocolate is quickly catching up to milk chocolate as a favorite, and scientists have discovered that chocolate — pure cacao, actually — is very good for you! Many gourmet chocolates are certified kosher and pareve, making it possible to create the most impressive desserts with the best possible chocolate for every meal from Shabbat to chagim and more.
So celebrate my birthday — or yours — or any day of the week with something chocolate. It will help the cold months pass more quickly and, at the very least, will make you smile — because no one can eat chocolate without being happy!
GF Triple Chocolate Nut Dreams (Pareve)
2 cups ground hazelnuts
1 cup ground almonds
1-1/4 cup (scant) Dutch process pure cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. coffee (2 tsp. instant coffee plus 1 tsp. hot water)
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 extra large egg whites
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup bittersweet/semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 cup pareve white chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.
Place all ground nuts in a bowl and mix well. Spread evenly on one of the prepared baking sheets and bake in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes, mixing twice and watching carefully to avoid burning. When fragrant and slightly browned, remove from the oven and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
Place the cooled nuts in the bowl of an electric mixer and add the cocoa and confectioner’s sugar. Mix with a fork until completely, evenly blended.
Discard the used parchment and re-line the pan with new parchment.
Place the bowl on the mixing stand and add the eggs, cooled coffee and vanilla while the mixer is on slow speed for about 60 to 70 seconds. Scrape as needed. When just blended, remove the bowl from the stand, scrape down with a spatula and add the chips, folding them in evenly.
Drop by spoonfuls on the prepared pans.
Place in the oven and decrease the temperature to 320 degrees. Bake for 14 to 18 minutes, until there are cracks in the tops of the cookies, which will look dry and cracked a bit. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Peel them from the parchment and place on a flat plate.
Makes about 14 to 18 cookies, depending on size. If you make really small drops, they will cook faster and yield about 18 to 24 cookies.
The Best Hot Fudge Sauce in the Whole World (Dairy)
There is nothing as delicious as homemade hot fudge sauce: rich, thick and devoid of chemicals. This sauce becomes very thick when chilled, so store it in a wide-mouth jar or microwave safe container for future use.
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. instant coffee dissolved in the cream
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup sifted, unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate grated
Place the cream and butter in a small heavy saucepan over a medium-low heat. Stir until the butter is melted and the cream just comes to a low boil. Add the sugars, coffee and vanilla, and stir constantly until they are completely dissolved. The best way to tell if the sugars are dissolved is to taste a bit of the mixture. You will be able to feel any grains in your mouth, so continue until there are no sugar grains left.
Reduce the heat and add the cocoa. Stir briskly with a wire whisk until the cocoa is well incorporated. Add the grated chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from the heat and serve over ice cream.
A True Chocoholic’s Fudge Cake (Dairy)
This is one of my family’s favorite chocolate cakes. It makes three layers. You can use a white chocolate ganache in the middle and chocolate frosting outside.
2 sticks of butter at room temperature
8 extra large eggs at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 cans Hershey’s syrup (use 1 can dark syrup, if you like)
2 squares (2 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, finely ground
2 cups cake flour (self-rising)
In a mixer, cream the butter and the sugar. Add eggs one at a time, blending after each. After all the eggs are added, beat on medium-high for about one minute. Reduce speed and add the syrup and vanilla. Remove the beater blades and stir in the flour by hand in three or four additions. Grate the chocolate with a grater or in a food processor until very finely grated, almost flour-like. Add the chocolate to the batter and mix well.
Grease and flour three 9-inch pans and divide the batter equally among them. Bake at 350 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool and turn out the cake layers on a plate dusted lightly with cocoa powder. Serves 10 to 15.
Chocoholic Frosting (Dairy)
8 squares unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup light cream or half and half
6 Tbsp. butter at room temperature
1-1/2 to 2 boxes confectioner’s sugar
Melt the chocolate with the cream, stirring almost continuously. Do not boil. Remove from heat and transfer to bowl of mixer. Mixing slowly, add the sugar and butter. Beat on medium-high until cool and a spreadable consistency. Makes enough for three layers. Frosted cake serves 10 to 12.
Triple Threat Brownies (Dairy)
1-1/2 sticks butter, cut into pieces
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso (you can use decaf)
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups sugar (to taste)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1 cup semi or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks (generous)
Filled chocolate candy bars that come in bars that can be divided into 24 small squares about 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches square. I like raspberry or caramel filled squares. But mint is delicious, as is coconut, praline, toffee, etc.
Butter a foil lined 13x9 brownie pan. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the chocolate, butter and coffee in a large saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until the chocolate and butter are melted. Remove from heat. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk until completely blended. Add the flour and mix until smooth. Add chips and mix until evenly distributed.
Pour batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula.
Evenly space 24 chocolate candy bar pieces over the brownies in a 4 by 6 piece grid. Press down gently to slightly submerge the candy. Smooth the batter if needed.
Bake until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Drizzle. Makes 12 to 24 brownies.
2 oz. white chocolate
2 to 3 tsp. butter
2 oz. semi or bittersweet chocolate
2 to 3 tsp. butter
Melt the white chocolate and butter in a microwave proof bowl until melted and smooth. Pour into a plastic baggie and twist the top closed. Snip a tiny corner off the bag and drizzle the chocolate in any design you like over the brownies. Repeat with the dark chocolate and a clean bag.