Deep Dark Chocolate: Decadent Recipes for the Serious Chocolate Lover
By Sara Perry
Published by Chronicle/Raincoast, 2008 softcover. $20.95; 196 pages.

“Dark chocolate is more than a quintessential comfort food. It is the new coffee: an affordable daily luxury with its own menu of intensities, flavors and special infusions.” Sara Perry

There aren’t many people who disagree with Perry’s view. I know only one — he hates chocolate of any kind — but he’s a fine person otherwise.

Dark chocolate is for everyone — for moms and dads, for friends and lovers and for aunties and grandparents. Keep it away from the dog (the theobromine will make dogs and cats sick), but give it to someone who’s had a rough day and it soothes the ragged edges like nothing else. Chocolate has a rich, decadent, almost sinful side to it, but thankfully, it has its good sides too.

Chocolate brims with healthful flavonoids as well as mood-enhancing substances that replicate falling in love. There’s a small jolt of caffeine in there, too, but a whole pound of chocolate contains only the same amount as an 8-oz. cup of coffee, says Perry.

Perry describes all the forms of dark chocolate takes, from unsweetened or bitter baking chocolate to cocoa powder, then offers a list of chocolate-related terms that explain both its properties and its origins. For best results, use quality whole chocolate, chips, buttons or cocoa, she says.

If you’ve never worked with good quality dark chocolate in baking and cooking, it pays to read the chapter Baking Tips and Deep, Dark Chocolate Secrets before you proceed with any recipes, Perry suggests. Chocolate can be finicky, and though disasters such as seized chocolate (caused by even the tiniest bit of moisture as you try to melt the chocolate) can be fairly easily remedied,  you have to know what you’re doing.

The recipes here are divided into cookies and brownies; cakes, pies and tarts; puddings and custards; chilled desserts; sauces; breakfast delights; candies; and drinks and range from chocolate espresso cookies to chocolate gingerbread to chocolate bread pudding to bittersweet chocolate-rum icebox cake.

Perry says the following cookies were created for a friend who had just discovered her sweetheart had grown sweet on someone else, hence the name. The chocolate surely helped ease the pain a little. And you can take out the “Not” if your romance is still intact. These dipped cookies are best within 3 days and should be stored at room temperature, says Perry. Undipped cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or frozen up to 2 months.

He-Loves-Me-Not Valentine Hearts

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup ground almonds
¼ cup premium unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. premium unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Large pinch salt
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp. pure almond or vanilla extract

Dipping chocolate
3 oz. premium dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. vegetable shortening

In medium bowl, whisk flour, almond meal, cocoas and salt until well blended. Set aside.

In stand mixer  or with a hand mixer set on medium speed, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in almond extract until well blended, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. On low speed, slowly add dry ingredients and beat until just blended, again scraping down the bowl as necessary. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and scrape the crumbly dough onto one half the wrap. Fold the wrap over the dough and knead 3 or 4 times. Flatten dough into a disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or leave it ungreased. Remove dough disk from fridge, unwrap and cut in half. On pastry cloth or a lightly floured board with cloth-covered rolling pin, or between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, roll out one half the dough to a ¼-inch thickness. Using a two-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut a cookie, pressing the cutter straight down into the dough. Repeat, cutting cookies closely together to avoid rerolling. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate cookie sheet and bake until firm to the touch, about 12 minutes longer. Repeat with remaining dough.

Pull parchment paper with cookies onto counter and let cookies firm and cool slightly before transferring from parchment to wire rack to cool completely. If not using parchment, let cookies firm and cool slightly on the baking sheet before transferring.
To make dipping chocolate: Place chocolate and shortening in tall, deep heatproof bowl and set in a wide pan or skillet of hot water. Set aside for 5 minutes, stirring 4 or 5 times, and let chocolate melt completely. Stir until smooth.

Meanwhile, place two wire racks on sheet of parchment or waxed paper to catch drips. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate and allow extra chocolate to drip back into bowl. Place cookies on racks to set, for up to 2 hours, depending on room temperature. For a fast set, after 10 minutes, you can slip the wire rack into the fridge to chill for no longer than 5 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
– From Deep Dark Chocolate