At last week’s Chocolate Lovers workshop held at NC Cooperative Extension in Dobson, instructor Carmen Long and her sous chef, Marilyn Geiger, were indeed the Pied Pipers of chocolate as they taught the assembled chocolate lovers everything they ever needed to know about the delicious topic.
In the jam packed two-hour class, Long and Geiger alternated class segments like a well-oiled, live action Food Network show and by the time a class portrait was taken at the end of the evening, students left with an assortment of chocolate goodies that they had either made themselves or seen demonstrated as well as a bellyful of chocolate samples and a full chocolate tasting.
The evening began with Marilyn Geiger, Pilot Mountain Achiever’s Club chairman, doing a craft demonstration where she showed students how to wrap Hershey’s Kisses with tissue paper to create paper roses with an edible center, a precursor to the evening’s highlight, creating handmade edible chocolate roses.
While participants were wrapping their chocolates, Carmen Long, NC Cooperative Extension Agent for Surry County, moved on to demonstrating a number of chocolate recipes focusing on maximizing chocolate goodness while minimizing negatives from other ingredients.
Long started out with two-ingredient chocolate muffins made and baked in front of her audience without the aid of the magic ovens so often used on TV cooking shows. They took no more than 30 minutes from start to eat and would be entirely possible for a workday breakfast. The secret was starting with a purchased cake mix and adding nothing to it but a can of pumpkin puree. It mixed quickly by hand and baked in 20 minutes. Long pointed out that by substituting pumpkin for the eggs and oil usually used with cake mix, the nutritional profile of the muffins was considerably enhanced with no loss of flavor. Fat and cholesterol would be lower and fiber increased and a tasting by the class proved that taste was not compromised in the least. The muffins got a unanimous thumbs up.
Marilyn Geiger gave her recipe for chocolate zucchini bread along with a substitution hint. If you don’t have unsweetened baker’s chocolate on hand, for each 1 ounce square called for in a recipe, you may use three tablespoons of cocoa and one tablespoon of butter. Long added that any fat would work and a class member pointed out that the substitution is on the Hershey’s cocoa label in case one forgets.
Long shared a recipe with the class for frosting that is low in sugar and totally delicious since for many cakes and cupcakes, it is the frosting that contains the lion’s share of sugar, a problem for diabetics. Her secret is sugar-free instant pudding. The flavor of the frosting is as unlimited as the flavors of instant pudding available; chocolate, white chocolate, vanilla, lemon, strawberry, the sky’s the limit. For anyone who is not concerned with sugar content, the recipe works equally well with instant pudding containing sugar. Long pointed out that the only down side to the recipe was that the frosting must be refrigerated but that is a small price to pay for such a simple recipe that can help put frosting back on the menu for people watching sugar intake.
The class also made blueberry sparklers in honor of the upcoming July 4th holiday. An assortment of these along with fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries drizzled with white chocolate and sprinkled with red and blue sprinkles and made into an edible arrangement would make a centerpiece and dessert that is as patriotic as it is delicious for a July 4 barbecue.
When the class got down to the serious work of creating chocolate roses, Long began to talk about the history and science of chocolate. Chocolate has some health benefits for cardiovascular disease and weight modification but the amount required to get results is unrealistic. Chocolate is seldom allergenic although the other ingredients in chocolate confections can be, nuts being a prime example.
At this point in the evening, the classroom had become a three ring chocolate circus with the students still modeling roses in bittersweet chocolate while Long is giving a PowerPoint presentation on the properties of chocolate while Marilyn Geiger is passing out samples of chocolate starting with 80 percent cacao and working down through semi-sweet, milk and white chocolate.
The percentage of cacao is the amount of chocolate contained in any given chocolate. It is inversely proportional to sugar content. That is to say that the higher the cacao percentage, the less sugar is in the chocolate. Long concluded that the darker the chocolate, the better for you even though some of the students made a face at the 80% cacao. By the time, the tasting had gotten down to 70%, there was almost universal enjoyment.
As the evening ended, Carmen Long gave the students a piece of advice that applies not just to chocolate but should be useful to all cooks everywhere. She said, “Recipes are guides. They’re not rules or guides.” Long and Geiger generously shared their recipes with readers of The Mount Airy News. All except the chocolate roses. Long said, “We have to save something for the people who came out for the class.”
For information regarding future cooking and food classes and to possibly obtain the recipe for the elusive chocolate roses, check out Surry Community College at Surry.edu or the NC Extension Surry office at surry.ces.ncsu.edu
U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
1 cup large fresh blueberries
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 tsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. red and blue candy sprinkles
On each of 10 bamboo skewers (8 inches long), spear 8 blueberries. In a perfectly dry microwavable cup, stir chocolate chips and oil. Microwave on medium power 30 seconds; stir. Microwave 20-30 seconds longer; stir until the chocolate is smooth. Transfer melted chocolate to a resealable plastic bag. Snip a very small corner off the bottom of the bag. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the skewered blueberries and immediately roll lightly in sprinkles.
Lite Cool Whip Frosting
1 (3 1/2 ounce) box sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup skim milk
1 (8 ounce) container fat-free whipped topping ( Cool Whip)
Make instant pudding with the 1 cup of skim milk and then add the tub of cool whip.
This will frost a 10” x 13” cake. Ice your cake and refrigerate.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Marilyn Geiger, ECA of Surry County
Melt in microwave:
2 -1 oz. squares unsweetened chocolate
(or you may substitute 2 tbsp. melted butter and 6 tbsp. cocoa)
Mix together with melted chocolate:
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 cups grated zucchini (12-14 oz.)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 heaping tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
Bake at 350°F. for about 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Makes two 9×5 loaf pans or four 3.5×6 pans.
Chocolate pumpkin muffins
1 chocolate cake mix
1 (15 1/2 ounce) cans pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
Mix pumpkin and chocolate cake mix together. Fill muffin cups. Bake in 350°F. oven for 20-25 minutes.
Hot Fudge Brownie Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Whipped cream or ice cream
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together flour, next 3 ingredients, and 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a large bowl; stir in milk, oil, and vanilla. Spread batter in a lightly greased 8-inch square pan. Combine brown sugar, cocoa, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl; sprinkle over batter in pan. Using a spoon, gently drizzle 1 1/2 cups boiling water over batter, being careful not to disturb layers. (Do not stir.) Bake at 350°F. for 45 minutes or until a cake layer forms on top and layer springs back when touched. Let cool on a wire rack 25 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.
Chocolate-Cherry Pudding Cake: Thaw 1 (12-oz.) package frozen dark, sweet, pitted cherries; drain. Pat cherries dry with paper towels. Prepare recipe as directed, gently sprinkling cherries over batter in pan before baking. Proceed with recipe as directed.
Mocha Pudding Cake: Substitute hot freshly brewed coffee for boiling water. Proceed with recipe as directed.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard or by email.