February is a month of Revy festivities — thank goodness, as we need comic relief from all this snow. Not only Chinese New Year, but the Spirit Festival, and soon Valentine’s Day, all come in February, the month named after a ritual purification. Februa was a Roman Festival that took it’s name from februare, meaning to wash or purify with water. (Ice melts, rivers run, we splash about.)
Valentine’s Day is also connected with the Feast of Lupercal, a pagan springtime ritual involving everything from running naked through the fields to meet (or escape from) antler-bedecked young men honouring fertility, to sacrificial rites including in ancient Arcadian times cannibalism, to purify and erase the sins of the year gone by.
How does chocolate equate? Maybe we’re finding out, as scientists now show that chocolate contains more antioxidants per serving than any other food except black plums. Or so say the folks at Hershey. http://www.allchocolate.com/health. The thing is, we want to believe that chocolate is good for us. Chocolate is a relatively recent addition to the Valentine’s celebrations, and it certainly gives us pleasure if not necessarily purification.
Wendy Mulligan has sadly given up her chocolate business, but we can still get regionally made chocolate through
Crescendo via Daniel and Elvira’s friends Peter and Jolanda Rotzetter’s new chocolate shop called Chocoliro in Armstrong. Their website is www.chocoliro.ca .
For a simple at-home chocolate recipe, buy Callebaut dark and white chocolate in the bulk section at Cooper’s and make some of your own chocolate bark at home. Or go all out for your sweetie, and make a no-flour Chocolate Valentine Log.
Be careful when using chocolate not to burn it, nor to let it come into contact with water. Even a drop will spoil the smoothness. That’s why I like to heat it in the microwave, but only on MEDIUM POWER. If your microwave doesn’t have power adjustments, melt the chocolate in a thick saucepan over a pan of boiling water, but just a little water, and only just boiling, as you must avoid getting any water at all into the chocolate. Otherwise it distempers, and you will have to start all over again.
Chocolate Marble Bark
This marble bark is amazingly easy and super yummy. Vary it by using all dark chocolate or half and half dark and milk chocolate, and by choosing whatever nuts and dried fruit you prefer. For children, substitute gumdrops or crushed Oreo cookies for the dried fruit, and leave out the nuts. I also made this with milk chocolate and peanuts. Add some crushed caramels and it’s a real munch.
½ lb. dark Callebaut chocolate chunks or coins
½ lb. white chocolate chunks or coins
½ cup toasted nuts, your favorite
1 cup dried fruit—cranberries, apricots, raisins, mangoes, apples or ginger
Put the dark chocolate into a microwaveable bowl and zap it on MEDIUM POWER for 3 minutes, stirring after each 1 minute interval.
Repeat with the white chocolate.
The chocolate won’t be completely melted, but stir until smooth. Chop the nuts and cut the dried fruit (apricots, mangoes or apple) into slivers the size of a pumpkin seed. Mix the nuts into the dark chocolate, and the dried fruit into the white chocolate.
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper . Drop alternating spoonfuls of the white and dark chocolate mixes onto the cookie sheet. Use a knife to draw the white and dark mixtures together to marble them. Make sure the cookie sheet is covered more or less evenly with the chocolate.
Refrigerate until very firm. Break into pieces and pack into either cupcake papers or between layers of wax paper in a container.
Chocolate Cappuccino Log Roll (Gluten-Free)
A slice of this chocolate roll is like heaven to chocolate and coffee lovers. For children, use plain rather than coffee-flavoured cream for the filling and top. This is a very nice dessert for any occasion, and it’s gluten-free character makes it good for anyone who can tolerate cream and eggs but not flour. Variations would include leaving out the chocolate and espresso, substituting jam or lemon curd for the whipped cream in a vanilla version, or using additional whipped cream or frosting on the outside of the log. Instant espresso can be hard to come by; if you can’t find it, make half a cup of quadruple strong coffee and use 1 tbsp.
You will need a cookie sheet with ½ inch to one inch sides to bake the chocolate meringue that forms the log. I bought one at Chantilly for this purpose — it’s 11” X 17” and a perfect fit. You also need an electric beater. A hand-held one is okay, but relying on a whisk means you’ll have to strong-arm the kitchen help ha ha to make either meringue or whipped cream!
First you make the log, then the filling. The recipe is from Gourmet. In this version, the covering is simply icing sugar with a bit of cocoa, but you could put frosting all over. To my mind, this makes it too rich, but chacun à son goût.
For the cake:
7 oz semi-sweet chocolate
6 large eggs
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar
For the filling:
1 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp instant espresso coffee powder
5 ½ tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Step 1: Make the cake roll
Set the oven to 350F. Butter a shallow but sided cookie tray, then line it with foil or waxed paper and butter the liner.
Melt the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl in the micro using MEDIUM POWER, for 1 minute at a time. three times, until almost all is melted; then stir in the lumps with a wooden spoon.
Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks with 1/3 cup of sugar in a big bowl using an electric beater until the yolks and sugar are thick, pale yellow, and creamy looking. This can take 5 minutes. Stir in the chocolate and the vanilla.
In a separate very clean bowl (it can’t have a trace of fat or the eggs won’t beat) and clean beaters, whip the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar. Whip some more until eggs whites stand up in the bowl. Then continue beating as you add the other 1/3 cup of sugar, until the egg whites hold stiff peaks. This will take about 5 minutes of beating. The egg whites should be glossy and smooth and stiff enough to stay absolutely in peaks when you take the beaters out.
Stir ¼ of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the rest of the whites. Fold and fold until well mixed and then pour the batter into the lined baking tray. Spread the batter evenly.
Bake at 350 F for about 12-14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack. The cake will “unpuff.”
2. Make the filling
Whip the cream in a large bowl until it hold stiffish peaks. Sift into the cream 4 tbsp of the icing sugar plus the instant espresso and continue to beat until sugar is mixed in. Refrigerate.
3. Assemble the Valentine log
Sift together 1 ½ tbsp icing sugar and the cocoa powder. With the cake still in its baking tray, sift the sugar and cocoa mix over the cake. Use a knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the baking tray. Put a large piece of aluminum foil over the cake and invert the cake onto the foil. This is a bit tricky—make sure you grasp the whole thing firmly as you flip it. Remove the foil and the wax paper. Be careful. The log is delicate at this stage.
Put the cake down on a tabletop or counter with the long side nearest to you. Spread the whipped cream filling over the cake, leaving one inch on all sides except the long side that is in front of you.
Start with the long side near you, and roll up the cake jelly roll fashion. Use the wax paper under the log to help achieve an even roll. You think it’s not going to work, but if you roll slowly, urging the roll with the help of the foil, and spreading your hands out to ensure an even roll the length of the cake, it will work. The cake will break a little when you start, but this won’t show later.
Keep the foil around the outside of the roll, and twist the ends together. Refrigerate at least one hour. Then put on a serving plate, seam side down.
3. Decorate the log roll
You can sift icing sugar, cocoa powder, or a mixture of the two, over the log, then dress with chocolate covered coffee beans or candies. Or beat up some more whipped cream, flavour with either chocolate, vanilla or instant espresso powder, and paint on the outside of the log. You might want to decorate with tiny cinnamon hearts, but not on the top of the cream as they will bleed red. Use red gumdrops if you want a candied plus cream effect.