We all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day this year. We just posted some new photos to our Flickr Photo Account of our lovely Heart-filled weekend. We hope all our friends and family enjoyed their love-filled holiday as well.
CHOCOLATE: INSIDE AND OUT
To make chocolate, multicolored egg-shaped pods are harvested by hand from cacao trees when they’re about six months old. Next, their seeds — or beans — and pulp ferment to deepen flavors and remove bitterness. They’re subsequently dried and roasted to elicit their aroma, color and rich flavor.
After that the cacao seeds are cracked open, revealing flavorful nibs; cacao nibs are finely ground to make chocolate liquor, which contrary to its name is actually a thick, non-alcoholic liquid of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. Sugar, vanilla and additional cocoa butter are added to the liquor during a process called “conching,” resulting in all kinds of mouth-watering chocolate specialties:
To make cocoa, the cocoa solids are removed from chocolate liquor, pressed into a cake, then pulverized into a powder. Dark, mild-flavored Dutch-process cocoa is treated with alkali to neutralize some of cocoa’s harsh acid compounds.
What kid hasn’t reached into the pantry and pulled out a hunk of baking chocolate, convinced they’re discovering chocolate nirvana? That first bite makes for a bitter lesson — literally! Also known as bitter, baking or cooking chocolate, unsweetened chocolate is about 45% cocoa solids and 55% cocoa butter.
Bitter or Bittersweet Chocolate
Chocolate in this category contains at least 35% chocolate liquor. The higher the percentage, the darker and more bitter the chocolate.
Dark or Semi-Sweet Chocolate
This general category usually contains 15% to 35% chocolate liquor. Think of it as gently bitter and mildly sweet.
In this all-American favorite, milk and/or milk solids replace some of the chocolate liquor, generally less than 15%, making for chocolate that’s smooth, sweet and mild.
While white chocolate — a creamy concoction of cocoa butter, milk solids, sugar and vanilla — resembles chocolate, it contains no chocolate liquor and therefore isn’t really chocolate at all.
NO FUDGING, CHOCOLATE IS GOOD FOR YOU!
Chocolate lovers take heart! Recent findings reveal that dark chocolate is packed with high-quality polyphenol antioxidants that may promote overall cardiovascular health. Cocoa beans also contain flavonoids (like those found in tea and red wine), which promote healthy cholesterol levels and act as antioxidants. Great news!
Chocolate is also full of phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring substance in the body believed to help ward off the blues, as well as stearic acid, a unique saturated fat thought to help lower cholesterol. How’s that for proof positive that eating chocolate may make you happy and healthy?
A sweet side note: As if that wasn’t enough to convince you to dig in, chocolate also provides a slew of daily nutrients. A 1.4-ounce milk chocolate bar contains about 3 grams of protein, 7% of the adult daily value (DV) of riboflavin, 8% of the DV for calcium and 5% of the DV for iron.
Raspberry Chocolate Layer Cake
A cake perfect for your Valentine!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, melted
4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
FROSTING, FILLING AND GARNISH
16 ounces icing sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, softened
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
5 (+/-) tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raspberry jelly, melted (I used raspberry jam)
Fresh mint leaves
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Dust with flour; tap out excess. (I lined the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper)
2. Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
3. Beat together sugar and eggs at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in melted butter and melted chocolate until blended.
4. At low speed, alternately beat in flour mixture and milk until smooth. Beat in vanilla.
5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pans; smooth tops.
6. Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 25 – 30 minutes.
7. Transfer pans to wire racks to cool slightly. Turn cakes out onto racks to cool completely.
1. Beat together icing sugar, butter, cocoa, milk and vanilla at medium speed until smooth.
Slice each cake in half horizontally. Spread one layer with half of jelly. Top with a second layer of cake. Spread top with some frosting. Top with a third layer of cake. Spread with remaining jelly. Place remaining layer of cake on top. Spread remaining frosting on top and side of cake.
Garnish with raspberries and mint springs.
How to Make Paper Water Lillies
Paper flowers which are perfect for Valentine’s Day.
2 colors of tissue paper
1 color of slightly thicker paper (I used a colored paper bag)
Cut four 10″x12″ pieces of tissue paper and 1 layer of the thicker paper. Stack the pieces of paper up alternating the colors with the thicker piece of paper on the bottom.
Fold the paper lengthwise into 1″ accordion pleats.
Trim the ends into points. Fold the folded strip in half, and cut it along the fold line. Trim these ends into points too.
Cut a notch on both sides of the middle of the shorter strip and tie with string.
Open out the pleats and begin gently lifting each layer of tissue paper. The slightly thicker paper bag paper will become the bottom of the flower.