Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Wine and Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

posted in Beverages, Sweets by Kathy Maister

I received the following from Natalie MacLean, author of “Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass”.

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Hi Start Cooking,

Want to seduce someone this Valentine’s Day? Just share a glass of wine (or three) with your sweetheart. Wine is liquid sensuality: Its heady bouquet stimulates the appetite and its velvet caress soothes that desire. What other drink is described as both ‘voluptuous’ and ‘muscular’? And when you pair wine with the mouth-coating luxury of chocolate, the combination is impossible to resist.

The creamy flavors of chocolate go best with sweet, full-bodied, high-alcohol wines.
My top 10 wine and chocolate matches:

1. Dark Chocolate and Banyuls, France
2. Chocolate-Covered Biscotti and Recioto Della Valpolicella, Italy
3. Chocolate-Orange Cake and Liqueur Muscat, Australia
4. Chocolate with Nuts and Tawny Port, Portugal
5. Milk Chocolate and Tokaji, Hungary
6. Bittersweet Chocolate and Amarone, Italy
7. Chocolate-Dipped Fruit and Icewine, Canada
8. Chocolate Ganache Truffles and Sauternes, France
9. Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake and Framboise, California
10. Chocolate Hearts with Cream Filling and Cream Sherry, Spain

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Natalie suggests wines to complement 50 chocolate dishes in her online matching tool at www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher. Just click on “desserts” to find pairings for chocolate mud pie to chocolate cheesecake. Her online food-and-wine matcher doesn’t just focus on chocolate. The interactive tool has thousands of wines to pair with any dish: meat, pasta, seafood, vegetarian fare, pizza, eggs, cheese and dessert. You simply choose the food or wine from a drop-down menu to get the pairing suggestions. There are also lots of recipes for those planning a romantic meal. The matcher is updated regularly with new dishes and wines from the 85,000-plus readers who subscribe to Natalie’s free e-newsletter, which offers tips on how to buy, cellar and serve wine.

Natalie has won four James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. Eric Asimov of the New York Times calls Natalie’s approach “a winning formula,” describing her as “the disarming Everywoman … she loves wine, loves drinking.”

Thanks, Natalie for sharing your expertise!

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Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

What a treat! Everyone knows it’s a celebration when you are served strawberries dipped in chocolate! Learning how to make them isn’t difficult but may take a bit of practice figuring out how to dip and not drop the strawberries in the melted chocolate!

Buy medium size berries – two bites is the prefect size. As beautiful as those giant ones are, they are too hard to eat!

Gently rinse the berries in cool water…

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…and then spread them out on a clean dish towel to dry.

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Let them dry completely before you start dipping. Not a drop of water should be left on the berries.

In addition to dipping the strawberries in chocolate, you can also dip the edges in coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles or nonpareils. (Those are those colored candy dots in the photo above.)

Eight ounces of chocolate will cover about 12-14 medium-large strawberries. You can use any type of chocolate you prefer – dark, milk, semi-sweet or white chocolate.

(Note: A block of white chocolate is a lot tastier than “white chocolate chips, which are only “chocolate flavored” and not the real thing!)

If you are using a chocolate bar or a block of chocolate, chop it into small pieces…

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…and then put the chocolate in a small microwave safe dish. Melt it, in the microwave, for about 1 minute and 30 seconds on medium. (Don’t cover the dish!)

When melting chocolate chips, they will not really change shape that much until you give it a stir.

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The goal is to slowly melt the chocolate, not bring it to a boil. If it still isn’t melted, continue melting in 15 second increments in the microwave. Stir the chocolate. It should be smooth and have no lumps.

 

Once the chocolate is melted, start dipping.

Try to cover about 2/3 of the strawberry with chocolate. It looks prettier than covering the entire strawberry.

Then gently dip the strawberry into one of your additional toppings.

When you do the dipping, be sure to hold back the green top so that it does not get covered in chocolate.

If you are having difficulty holding the strawberry, skewer it, just under the green bit, with a toothpick.

You are less likely to drop the strawberry if you hold it with a toothpick. (There are all sorts of chocolate dipping tools for sale as well.)

Put the dipped berries on some wax paper to set. They should be stored in the refrigerator, and eaten at room temperature, within 24 hours.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Fudge

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, so it’s time to start thinking about chocolate! (Actually, I don’t need a holiday to think about chocolate!)

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This blogpost is all about learning how to make fudge. Chocolate lovers may also want to check out my post on Chocolate Fondue and…

How to Make Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate.

For the fudge you will need:

    • 1 pound of fine-quality milk chocolate
    • ½ stick of unsalted butter (OR 1/4 cup or 2 oz. or 56 g)
    • One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
    • ¼ teaspoon of salt
    • ½ teaspoon of vanilla (optional)

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You may have noticed something weird in that list, and be thinking, why do you use unsalted butter and then add salt to the recipe? The answer is that lots of recipes are written that way, because you have more control over the amount of salt in the recipe with that approach. If you want (or if you have to) you can substitute salted for unsalted butter in this recipe, but your fudge may end up with a noticeably saltier flavor.

There is a HUGE difference between sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. This recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk.

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Evaporated Milk and Sweetened Condensed Milk

Evaporated milk has no added sugar and is slightly thicker and richer than regular milk. Sweetened condensed milk is very thick and very sweet. They are not interchangeable ingredients.

Let’s startcooking!

Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or wax paper. (The original recipe I saw said to line only the bottom of the pan. However, if you cut off a slightly larger sheet of parchment paper and do at least two of the sides as well, it will make it much easier to get the fudge out of the pan after it has hardened.)

You can buy parchment paper right next to the tin foil and the plastic wrap at the grocery store. It’s specially made to be used for cooking.

For the next step, I’ll first give you a quick overview and then provide more detail.

The quick overview is that we’re going to place a metal bowl on top of a pan of barely simmering water, and gently heat all the ingredients, stirring occasionally, until smooth.

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Now for just a bit more detail about this step!

You can buy pans that are designed to fit into one another, leaving space at the bottom for water. They are called “double-boilers” and can get pretty expensive. Fortunately, you don’t really need one for this recipe. A regular bowl over a normal pan works just fine. However, you have to make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. The whole point of a *double boiler* is to melt/cook things very gently by having the steam from the water (not the water itself) heat the upper bowl!

Put a couple of inches of water in a sauce pan and bring it to a simmer. (No rapid bubbles, just gentle little bubbles!)

While the water is heating, break up the chocolate into small bits. You could cut it with a knife.

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Or (and this is the fun version) just slam the wrapped chocolate bar against the counter. When you unwrap it, it should be broken up into bits.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Add the butter, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and the salt to the bowl.

Set the bowl over the simmering water. Give the chocolate mixture an occasional stir. When everything is smooth, blended, and all melted, pour it into the prepared pan (the one with the parchment paper.)

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Put it in the refrigerator. DO NOT COVER THE FUDGE! (If you cover it, too much condensation will form and ruin your beautiful fudge!) Let it chill for about 4 hours or until it is totally firm and then cover it with plastic wrap.

To cut the fudge, run a butter knife around edges of pan and invert the fudge onto a cutting board.

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I do hope you put the parchment up at least two sides of the pan! Otherwise, right about now you are saying: “She’s crazy, I’m never going to get this out of the pan”! If you can get your knife to the edge of the parchment paper, that should be enough to loosen it. If that doesn’t work, after you have run your knife around the edge of the pan, cut out a small corner. Taste it. (Yes, it’s delicious, and no, you can’t just eat it from the pan!) Now slip your knife under the parchment paper and the fudge should come out of the pan. (This is the hardest step of this entire recipe!)

Remove the parchment paper.

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With a ruler, score the fudge with lines about one inch apart. This way you will get nice even pieces.

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You can slice your fudge ahead of the time you plan to serve it, but store it in the refrigerator!

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Storing and Serving Fudge:

My kitchen tends to get very warm so I always store fudge in the refrigerator. Store fudge in an airtight tin, with a piece of wax paper between each layer. It should keep on the counter (out of the sun) about 2 weeks, in the refrigerator about 2-3 weeks, and in the freezer about 2-3 months. To keep it really moist, you can store the entire “block” of fudge and only cut it when you are ready to serve it. It’s best eaten at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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