Valentine’s Day stories ran in A la Carte with almost a week to spare, meaning there’s no excuse for letting the occasion pass without some little token from the kitchen.
If you want to punch up the flavor of chocolate quickly and easily — but elegantly — consider using some high-end liqueurs, such as Chambord or Cointreau, two of my personal favorites.
Made in the fertile and rich Loire Valley, Chambord is a black-raspberry liqueur infused with red raspberries, blackberries, and currants and finished with notes of vanilla, honey and ginger. It’s delicious in cocktails but almost more so in dark- and bittersweet-chocolate baked goods. Splashing some into a raspberry sauce is a no-brainer move that intensifies the flavor of berries, particularly frozen or off-season ones.
By contrast, it’s still prime season for citrus, which can be heightened with Cointreau, a high-end triple sec covered in a previous post. I have a personal affection for Cointreau after visiting the distillery as a student in Angers, France, also in the Loire Valley. It’s not quite as strong as Grand Marnier, an orange peel-based cognac often used in chocolate desserts, particularly mousse.
Either Chambord or Cointreau could be used in the following recipes, the first so basic that it almost doesn’t count as baking. And I can attest that making chocolate mousse is way easier than it sounds.
Of course, if you didn’t want to spring for these spirits, try substituting orange and raspberry extracts, just not in the same amounts. I’ve been experimenting with some McCormick pure extracts in my kitchen and find some flavors, like orange, almost overpowering, while coffee — also nice in baked goods — can be used more liberally. For more delicate flavors, which should be backed by fine chocolate, try orange-blossom or rosewaters.
Chambord Black-Raspberry Brownies
1 box devil’s-food cake mix
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1⁄2 cup oil
1⁄4 cup Chambord
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1⁄4 cup powdered sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil. Combine the cake mix, eggs, oil, Chambord and 1⁄4 cup water. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into prepared baking pan and smooth. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool to room temperature before cutting. Dust with the powdered sugar, if desired, and slice brownies into 3-inch squares. Top with ice cream and 3 to 4 ounces of Chambord.
Makes approximately 12 servings.
3 large egg yolks
1⁄2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Chambord
2 cups heavy cream, divided
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons water and bring to a boil for 1 minute on stovetop. Pour sugar mixture over egg yolks and mix well. Add the Chambord and mix. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whip 1 cup of the heavy cream to medium peaks. Using a mixer, whisk egg-Chambord mixture until thin and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time. Remove bowl from heat and let cool until tepid.
Fold egg mixture and whipped cream into chocolate mixture until just combined. Spoon into favorite stemware or a serving bowl. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
May be made a day ahead. Before serving, whip remaining heavy cream with the powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Garnish mousse with whipped cream and fresh mint sprigs.