Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Chocolate Fondue

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If you have never made a fondue, now is the perfect time to learn how!
There are basically three traditional varieties of fondue: cheese, meat, and chocolate.
This post will focus on how to make chocolate fondue.

You may think you need to own a special fondue pot, but while it’s fun to have one, it’s not absolutely necessary.
A dedicated fondue pot is really just a warming dish on a stand, with a candle underneath the pot to keep what’s in it warm.

Without a candle, a regular bowl should stay warm for about 20 minutes.

The “special” equipment usually also includes long forks for dipping the fruit into the chocolate, but you can substitute regular forks, bamboo skewers or even long toothpicks.

For this chocolate fondue recipe you will need:

    • 6 ounces of fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 64% cacao if marked)
    • ½ cup of heavy cream
    • 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
    • 2 Tablespoons of Cognac or other brandy

You will also need lots of “goodies” to dip into the chocolate. Choose any of your favorite fruits. Just be sure to cut them up into bite size pieces. Some favorites of mine are; strawberries, raspberries, pineapple (fresh or canned), grapes, bananas, and dried apricots. You can also try pound cake cut into chunks, shortbread cookies, and ruffled potato chips! Chocolate coated potato chips are a real surprise dunker! Everyone is going to love the sweet and salty combination.

You can get all the “dunking bits” prepared in advanced and put on a serving dish. (Keep the cut fruit in the refrigerator, covered, until you are ready to serve the fondue.)

Put the cream, butter and Cognac in a small sauce pan.

Bring everything to a simmer over medium heat. While that is coming to a simmer, chop the chocolate into really tiny pieces.

(For various ways of breaking up the chocolate, see my post on Chocolate Fudge.)

Remove the pan from the heat when everything has begun to simmer, and add the chocolate.

Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the fondue pot (or serving bowl).

If you leave chocolate fondue over the candle for any length of time, stir it occasionally to avoid scorching.

Cheers!

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Graham Cracker Pie Crust

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Learning how to make a graham cracker pie crust will open the door to making all sorts of tempting dessert pies including the Chocolate Fudge Pie pictured above.

Most people learning how to cook are totally terrified at the thought of making a pie crust. This graham cracker crust may well change your mind! It is about 1,000 times easier to make than making and rolling out a pie crust made of dough. (For the more adventurous beginner cooks, be sure to check out the bottom of this post for links on making a pie crust made of dough from scratch)

(For my international readers, graham crackers are readily available in the USA. I am not sure what the equivalent ingredient would be elsewhere. If anyone can recommend a plain, sweet cracker that is used in your country for a crumb crust, I would appreciate you adding it to the comments!)

You may be asking, “why should I bother making it myself?” You can buy a pre-made graham cracker pie crust, usually in two different sizes; 9-inch or a package of minis.

The answer is that the taste and texture of a home-made graham cracker crust is far superior to that of the pre-made variety. Plus, it just looks better presenting a dessert in a proper pie dish rather than a tin-foil pan!

Making the crust yourself is not complicated at all. It only takes three ingredients – butter, sugar and graham cracker crumbs.

(An alternative to the butter and sugar would be to use 3 Tablespoons of canola oil and 3 Tablespoons of maple syrup.)

There are usually three packets of crackers each in a box. Each packet contains 9 crackers, and when crushed, will equal 1 and 1/4 cups of cracker crumbs.

To crush the crackers into crumbs, put the crackers in a zip-lock bag and, with a heavy can, start crushing.

Or just buy a box of the crumbs and ….

measure out 1 and 1/4 cups of crumbs.

In the USA, butter comes in sticks.

(One stick has 8 Tablespoons, which equals 1/2 cup or 4 ounces or 113 grams.)

Put 5 Tablespoons of butter into a med-large microwave safe mixing bowl.

Melt the butter. This will take about 1 minute, depending on your microwave.

Add the crumbs to the bowl along with 1/4 cup of sugar.

Using a fork, mix these ingredients together.

It should be all blended, but still crumbly.

Put the crumbs into a 9-inch pie dish and press them in place with your fingers…..

or a one-cup measuring cup.

When making a frozen or refrigerated pie filling, put the crust in the refrigerator to chill while making the filling. The crust should chill for about 10 minutes before adding the filling.

It is not necessary to bake the crust, unless your recipe specifically says to do so. But, baking the crust will give it a wonderful taste and a crispier texture.

To bake a graham cracker pie crust, preheat the oven to 350 degree oven and bake the crust for 8 minutes.

Cool the crust completely before adding the filling.

A tart pan with a removable bottom is also a great option instead of using a pie dish.

If you have never seen a pan with a removable bottom it really does look odd. Press the crumbs into the pan the same way you would a regular pie dish.

When it comes time to serve from a pie made in a tart pan, place the tart on a large can.

The ring drops down…

And the pie is ready to serve!

Cheers!

P.S.

Here are some great pie crust links:

Pie Crusts – Ready Made – tips from startcooking.com

Food Wishes recipe video on Easy Homemade Pie Crust

Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pie Crust

The Barefoot Contessa – Ina Garten’s video on making a pie crust

Simply Recipes – Lattice Top Pie Crust

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Chocolate Bark

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To make chocolate bark — a sweet, tasty snack or dessert – you just melt chocolate, mix in some extra ingredients and spread it out in a pan to harden. It’s simplicity itself, but there’s lots of opportunity to be creative!

I’m making mine with white chocolate chips, Spanish peanuts and dried cranberries. I like the salty sweet combination of the nuts with the cranberries and white chocolate.

You can also use pretzels, chopped apricots, candied ginger, cashews, pecans, and lots of other ingredients. Many, many things go well with melted chocolate! Choose your ingredients to mix up the textures and the colors.

For the chocolate, you can use chocolate chips or a chocolate bar, using white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate or a swirled combination of all three. If you are using a bar of chocolate, chop it into small pieces so it will melt more evenly.

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In a medium size, microwave safe,mixing bowl, slowly melt the chocolate in the microwave. Start melting the chocolate chips on high for about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Then zap them in 15 second increments until the chocolate is melted.

Chocolate chips don’t really change their shape until you mix them with a spoon or spatula. Be sure not to zap them past the melting point. 12 ounces of chocolate chips in my microwave took 2 minutes and 15 seconds to melt.

2 Cups of add-ins to 12 ounces of chocolate is the perfect ratio! I’m actually adding only 2/3 cup of the cranberries into the mixture and the remainder I’m going to be sprinkling on top.

Gently mix everything together.

Now, line a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan with wax paper or parchment paper.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan and spread it evenly out over the bottom of the pan. (Hang onto the wax paper when you are doing this!)

Sprinkle on the remaining cranberries.

Put the bark in the refrigerator to harden. This should take 1-2 hours.

Once set, lift the bark out of the pan and peel off the wax paper.

You could use a knife to cut it into pieces.

But it’s more fun to break it apart with your hands into uneven chunks.

Serve it as is, or wrap it up to give away as a gift!

If there are any leftovers, store them in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

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