Valentine’s Day is just a few days away, but its not too late to make a simple but unapologetically luscious real chocolate dessert. This year thoughts of Valentine Day started early for me while I was watching the CBS special, The Beatles at 50. Fifty years? I liked foil-wrapped waxy chocolate kisses before I became a chocolate aficionado who considers the source of the chocolate. I was a vegetable illiterate who transformed into an enthusiastic whole foods plant-based vegan. I’m ready to toast Feb 14 2014 with peace, love and compassion for all. And, to eat a yummy chocolate dessert. Are you with me? I modified the Spicy Ginger Truffle (pictured here) from Vegan Chocolate and surprisingly, they are faster to make than the rolled truffles. Use any truffle ganache you like.
All You Need Is Love. Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles is a fantastic multi-media show at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts. Is it possible that it’s 50 years since I went with my friend Ella to see the Beatles at Forest Hills, Aug 1964. I still remember the excitement when the helicopter carrying them landed! Times have changed dramatically and my own life has changed, with twists and turns I could never have imagined.
I was not vegan then. I didn’t know any vegans or even vegetarians. I didn’t eat organic foods, and I had not ever heard of the foods I eat today. (Kale? Wild
Mushrooms? Tofu? Ginger?) Believe me, I could not have predicted how much I love vegetables, or that the girl who didn’t know how to brew a cup of coffee (seriously I couldn’t boil water) would learn to cook, love to cook, find she was good at it too. I couldn’t imagine how much vibrant good health and satisfaction was possible simply by enjoying a whole foods plant-based, compassionate diet. Or, that I would be living this dream of a life where my “work” is teaching cooking and baking classes, helping people get back into their kitchens and eat more healthfully, and writing books about food. For these profound blessings, I am very grateful.
& Some Chocolate… (That chocolate, a food I eat every day is a bean, is mighty special too!!) Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, Running Press, is filled with Chocolate Recipes that anyone can make, from beginners to pros, with or without dietary considerations, and from vegan to omnivore. “Fran Costigan’s Vegan Chocolate is the holy grail of sweet, plant-based treats! This cookbook is destined to be a treasured baking classic for all kitchens.”—Kris Carr, New York Times bestselling author of Crazy Sexy Kitchen
Ethical Chocolate: As I write in Vegan Chocolate, I choose to use organic and ethical, wholesome ingredients, but of course, the choice is yours. Around Valentines Day, when chocolate reigns supreme, it is a good time to consider that tragically today slavery / forced labor is still a factor in the production of chocolate and sugar, and much of it is child slavery. Find up to date information about ethical chocolates, and those that are not at http://www.foodempowermentproject.com. You can even download a free app and take the list with you.
It comes as a surprise to many people that, unless there is a party happening, my preference for Valentine Desserts is Chocolate Quick, Easy and Lighter, instead of the more elaborate and heavier triple chocolate types of desserts. Following are my picks for this year, Feb 14, 2014. (All recipes are from Vegan Chocolate). What are your favorite chocolate desserts for Valentine Day?
Almost Instant Chocolate Pudding [Find the recipe at http://www.bigcityvegan.com/blog/food-and-drink/almost-instant-chocolate-pudding-recipe-from-vegan-chocolate-cookbook ]
Mendients Find the recipe at http://relish.com/recipes/mendiants/
Spicy Ginger Truffles with Valentine Variation (Recipe follows)
This morning, I decided to try using a small cookie cutter to stamp out heart shaped truffles from Spicy Ginger Truffle Ganache. It worked like a charm. The little hearts looked so pretty, I decided that instead of dusting them with cocoa powder or enrobing them in melted chocolate, I’d see how they looked simply brushed with ginger powder, standing in for the gold luster dust and then waved a fork of melted chocolate over some. See for yourself. (Remember, so far, I am an iPhone photographer). Later I did enrobe a few in melted seed tempered chocolate using my new gadget, the Wilton Chocolate Pro Electric Melting Pot. I was a doubter, but I use it often to melt smaller quantities of chocolate, and find it’s a good place to store leftover melted chocolate too. I use the “warm” setting instead of the “melt” setting, by the way.
The pungent ground ginger cooked into coconut milk to flavor these ultra creamy truffles elicited this comment from my friend Lisa (Vegan Culinary Crusade), who is an accomplished cook and author from Toronto: “Not only are these exquisite, they are perfect for sharing when you want to spice things up with a certain someone.” How you spice things up is up to you, but make sure you add enough ground ginger to ensure that at least these truffles are up to the task. Remember: bittersweet chocolate will temper the flavor of the ginger. Using coconut sugar adds a subtle caramel note to the spiciness, but mixing organic granulated sugar and whole cane sugar works just as well. Either way, just follow the recipe carefully and your reward will be luxurious truffles.
Set a fine mesh strainer over a heatproof liquid measuring cup for straining the heated milk. Add the chocolate to a heatproof bowl and set aside while you heat the milk.
Pour the milk into a small saucepan. Add the sugar, 1 1⁄2 teaspoons /3 grams of the ground ginger, and the salt. Cook over medium heat, whisking a few times, to a low boil.
Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat. Cover the saucepan and let the milk sit for 10 minutes to infuse with the flavor of the ginger, stirring a few times. The heat of the ginger should be pronounced, so taste the milk now. If not, add more ginger to taste and let the milk infuse another few minutes.
Pour the milk through the strainer into the measuring cup. Discard any solids.
Wash and dry the saucepan. Return the spiced milk to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until small bubbles are visible around the sides.
Pour the hot milk over the chocolate all at once. Gently rotate the bowl so the chocolate is completely submerged. Cover the bowl with a plate and let stand undisturbed for about 4 minutes.
Add the vanilla and olive oil and whisk from the center out only until smooth and glossy. Keep the bowl of ganache at room temperature while you test the final consistency. A properly made truffle ganache is firm enough to scoop and shape but still tastes creamy. Dip a teaspoon into the ganache, set the coated spoon on a small plate, and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes. After chilling, the ganache on the spoon should be smooth and firm, but still taste creamy. It is unlikely, but if the glaze is too firm, add a tablespoon of room temperature milk and repeat the test. Add a second tablespoon if needed.
Cool the ganache in a shallow dish at room temperature for 30 minutes. (The ganache sets up fastest and most evenly in a 9-inch / 23-cm glass pie pan or similar dish.) Refrigerate uncovered until the surface is no longer soft, then place a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ganache, covering it completely, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until very firm. The ganache can be refrigerated at this point for up to 1 week in an airtight container.
Make The Truffle Centers: Line a shallow container with parchment. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. Use a spoon to scoop out 1-inch pieces of ganache and another to push the ganache off the spoon into the container. (If you prefer more uniform truffles, use a 1⁄2-tablespoon scoop.) When a half dozen or so are made, roll and press the pieces into irregularly shaped rounds. Repeat until all the ganache has been used, washing and drying your hands as needed. (If at any time the ganache becomes too soft to shape, refrigerate until cold and proceed.) Cover and refrigerate the truffle centers in layers separated by parchment paper for 15 to 25 minutes before finishing with the cocoa coating.
Valentines Day Variation: Make sure the ganache is cold but not brittle. Press a heart shaped cutter into the ganache and push the heart out of the cutter onto a parchment lined sheet pan. Repeat until you have made as many hearts as your heart desires. You can refrigerate or freeze any remaining ganache, or roll the rest into rounds.
Finish The Truffles: Choose one of the following three methods from the chapter introduction (page 36) to suit your time or taste: roll in cocoa powder, the remaining ginger, and flaked sea salt; coat in melted chocolate and cocoa powder (the hybrid method); or enrobe in tempered chocolate. Place the coated truffles in refrigerator to set for 30 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle the truffles with a pinch of ginger powder and a few grains of flaked sea salt just before serving, or press a small sliver of candied ginger into each.
Valentines Day Variation: Sprinkle either the shiny or matte (bottom) of the heart with ginger powder or edible gold luster dust. [I prefer the ginger for added zing]. Stop here or place the hearts close together and wave a fork loaded with melted chocolate over the hearts, creating a random design. Or, enrobe the hearts in melted chocolate and dust lightly with gold or ginger. Add a red berry [I used a freeze dried cranberry on the heart pictured]
Remember, I’d really like to know what dessert you like on Valentine Day. Will you make dessert or buy dessert or — will you skip it? Do you associate chocolate with Feb 14th?
With love and appreciation,