For those who melt over chocolate



Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts

By Maida Heatter

Chocolate Sensations

By Reader's Digest

Reader's Digest Association / 2005 / $26.95

The layout of Chocolate Sensations makes the recipes look easy. Each is contained to one page and is accompanied by a photo of the finished dessert. The steps are numbered, which makes it easy to keep your place while cooking.

The introduction includes information on the history of chocolate and substitutions. For example, in a pinch, you can use 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon butter for 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate.

The chapter on cakes includes a chocolate-mint cake, a cocoa-yogurt cake and a chocolate-strawberry shortcake. The cookies go from bake-sale favorite chocolate chips to chocolate-buttercream macaroons. There's a short tutorial on making chocolate candy, including truffles, and one on choux pastry, used to make cream puffs.

Chocolate-Chip-and-Almond Biscotti

Makes about 40 biscotti

6 ounces (1 1/4 cups) whole blanched (skinned) almonds

2 cups sifted unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

12 ounces (2 cups) semisweet chocolate morsels

2 eggs graded "large"

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons whiskey or brandy

First toast the almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan in a 350-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan a few times until the almonds are lightly colored and have a delicious smell of toasted almonds when you open the oven door. Set aside to cool.

Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If possible, use cookie sheets with two or three flat edges; otherwise, use any sheets upside down. Line the sheets with baking parchment or aluminum foil, shiny side up, and set aside.

Sift together into a large bowl the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the sugar and stir to mix. Place about 1/2 cup of these dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade. Add about 1/2 cup of the toasted almonds and process for about half a minute, until the nuts are fine and powdery.

Add the processed mixture to the sifted ingredients in the large bowl. Add the remaining toasted almonds and the chocolate morsels and stir to mix. In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla and whiskey or brandy just to mix. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Be patient.

Place a length of baking parchment or wax paper on the counter next to the sink. Turn the dough out onto the parchment or wax paper. Wet your hands with cold water - do not dry them - and press the dough into a round mound.

With a long, heavy, sharp knife, cut the dough into equal quarters. Continue to wet your hands as you form each piece of dough into a strip about 9 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide and a generous 1 inch high (you will press the dough into shape, more than roll it). The ends of the strips should be rounded.

Place two strips crosswise on each of the lined sheets. Bake for 25 minutes, reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back once during baking. Remove the sheets from the oven, and slide the parchment or foil off the sheets. With a metal spatula, transfer the baked strips to a large cutting board, and let them cool for 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. With a serrated French bread knife, carefully cut on a sharp angle into slices about 1 inch wide. This is tricky; cut slowly with a sawing motion. Place the slices, cut side down, on the two unlined sheets.

Bake the two sheets, turning the slices upside down and reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back once during baking. Bake for about 25 minutes (depending on the thickness of the biscotti) until dry. Turn the oven heat off, open the door and let the biscotti cool in the oven. When cool, store in an airtight container.

From "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts"

Per serving: 192 calories, 5 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 18 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 39 milligrams sodium

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