Chocolate champ concocts new desserts

April 07, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Susan Littell is a wizard with chocolate. She has raked in countless prizes in chocolate cooking contests, burying the competition in layers of chocolate buttercream, chocolate mousse, chocolate chips and chocolate cake.

In February, she swept the Akron, Ohio, Ultimate Chocolate Dessert Contest, taking all three ribbons in the chef category and first and second in the caterer division.

"I live for chocolate," she explains.

She lives with it, too, whiling away the days making chocolate mousse bombes, chocolate truffle tortes, flourless chocolate cakes and nine other drop-dead desserts as a baker for Culinary Classics.

The Akron firm, begun a year ago by Scott Yaeger and John Fulvimar, supplies pastries to top restaurants in Northeast Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Ms. Littell's secret, she says, is using one-third to one-half less sugar than standard recipes call for. This allows the chocolate flavor to dominate. She knows she has a winner when a new creation tastes intensely chocolate, but not too sweet.

Two of her winners in the contest -- the domed cake and chocolate eclipse, a flourless chocolate cake -- are among the 11 desserts Culinary Classics sell, so she wouldn't part with the recipes. But Ms. Littell parted with her recipe for "totally awesome chocolate raspberry hunks," the brownies that won second place in the caterer division.

The Hunks offer a nice variety of textures and flavors with their darkchocolate-pecan base, raspberry filling and a cream cheese layer topped with more dark chocolate. White chocolate is grated on top while the brownies are still warm from the oven.

Ms. Littell doesn't use imported chocolate or Dutch-process cocoa in her recipes. Hershey's cocoa and regular semisweet chocolate chips are fine, she says.

But she insists on using unsalted butter rather than salted butter or margarine. "The flavors just don't compare," she says.

Totally awesome chocolate raspberry hunks

CHOCOLATE LAYER:

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate

3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

3 eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup pecans

6 ounces (1 cup) white chocolate chips or chunks

CREAM CHEESE LAYER:

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

TOPPING:

1/2 to 1 cup seedless raspberry preserves

4 to 6 ounces white chocolate

For the chocolate layer: Combine unsweetened chocolate semisweet chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power for one minute. Stir. If necessary, continue microwaving at 15-second increments until melted. Or melt in the top of a double boiler until smooth. Set aside.

Combine eggs, sugars and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Stir to blend. Blend the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture with a spoon. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt. Blend well, but do not beat. Stir in the pecans and white chocolate chips. Set aside.

For the cream cheese layer: Combine cream cheese and butter and blend well. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Beat in the egg, blending well.

Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a non-stick vegetable spray. Spread half of the chocolate batter in the pan and smooth with a spatula. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the chocolate mixture. It does not have to be perfectly even.

For the topping: Plop the raspberry preserves over the cream cheese mixture by spoonfuls. Gently try to spread preserves over cream cheese mixture, which will be very soft. Plop remaining chocolate batter over the raspberry preserves, spreading as evenly as possible. Don't worry if some jam oozes up.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately grate the 4 to 6 ounces of white chocolate over the brownies. Cool thoroughly before cutting.

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