Thursday, July 15, 2010
Because we all need a little romance:
I can't think of a simpler dessert than chocolate covered berries. At their most basic all you need are a dozen plump, ruby-red berries and half a cup of chocolate chips. Of course, you can dip almost anything in chocolate: raspberries, bananas, pineapple, dried fruit etc. But, in honor of that most classical and romantic of desserts I've chosen strawberries. Let's face it, we can all use a little extra romance these days.
My first two years of college my roommates and I would make elaborate dinners, complete with smuggled bottles of champagne, to celebrate Valentine's Day. Chocolate covered strawberries were, of course, the order of the day. I've stepped up the classic a little with some tasty additions to finish the berries but feel free to experiment! A cocktail hour where your friends dip and decorate berries while sipping something really yummy would be a great summer party idea. The berries don't take long to set up and you'll be done dipping a lot sooner than if you did it all one your own. Having each person bring something, like crushed hazelnuts for dipping or a wedge of brie for snacking, brings the cost down and adds to the excitement. I choose to use toasted coconut and crushed toasted almonds here because I can't get enough of them these days.
Notes: Because we are going to be melting the chocolate let's talk a minute about a double boiler. Placing a heatproof bowl over a pain of gently simmering water is a safe way to melt chocolate; just be sure the water never boils or touches the bottom of the bowl. Let the water heat up with the bowl on top for a few minutes before you add the chips. When they are softening stir them with a heatproof spatula until the chocolate is totally smooth and shiny. Also, have all of your toppings prepared in advance. The chocolate will set up very quickly once you dip the berries so be prepared! Because the berries will start to break down when rinsed it is best NOT to wash the berries before using.
Trick: turn the AC down. The chocolate will set up best if it is not refrigerated but the air should be very cool while the chocolate is setting. If you place the berries in the fridge or freezer they will be dull and have a powdery film (still very edible).
1 bag chocolate chips of your choice
Nuts or other decorative toppings of your choice
1/2 cup chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet or bitter-sweet)
1/4 cup toasted coconut, optional
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts such as almonds or pistachios, optional
1. Place 2 inches of water in a sauce pot with high sides and heat over low. Place a shallow heat proof bowl over the water. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
2. Place a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet and set aside.
3. To prepare the coconut and almonds: Heat the coconut in a dry frying pan over medium-low heat. Stir the coconut occasionally until it starts to crisp and become fragrant. Once it begins to turn golden brown stir it continuously and continue to toast for another 1-2 minutes. When sufficiently toasted remove from the heat and spread out in a single layer on a plate. Repeat with almonds.
4. When the chocolate is melted and drips from the spatula it is ready to dip. Add a few drops of vegetable oil to the chocolate and stir; this will make it extra shiny. Take a strawberry, holding it by the stem, and dip into the chocolate, rolling your wrist so that it covers 3/4 of the berry. Place on the waxed paper or dip into your topping of choice. Repeat.
5. When all the berries are dipped let them set in a cool place (but not the fridge) for about 10 minutes or until the chocolate is no longer sticky or soft. Serve and enjoy!