Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A rich hunk of chocolate

So you know it's bad news when your dad tells you he doesn't bother going to your blog anymore.

"I keep reading about those kaiser rolls, but there's never anything new."

Well, Father, as usual you are correct. I have been noticeably low-key around these parts for the past few weeks. Maybe I should blame the turkey:

(Father, expert carver of my brined bird.)

Or the spectacular view of Manhattan from our Hoboken hotel-room perch last weekend:

(Post-dinner at Diner.)

(Pre-"breakfast" at Shake Shack.)

Or Shake Shack, which we ate twice in two days, in the car mind you because the weather was so frightful:

(Note gearshift.)

(Steaming up the car windows with our Shake Shack.)

Or the cute dog, who requires and deserves a great deal of attention:

(No caption necessary.)

Or the Christmas decorations, which, you know, should be in place before the 25th:


Or the couch, my warm and inviting nemesis:


Yes, I've been otherwise occupied. And my little bloggy space has suffered. So today I offer chocolate on a stick -- something decadent enough to take your mind off my inappropriate absence. Because if anything's a distraction, a rich hunk of chocolate is.


A rich hunk of chocolate (or 36) is also a good thing to have on hand in December, when you might need a festive treat while decorating the tree, or listening to Christmas carols, or welcoming friends and long-lost family members. These cocoa blocks are perfect for just such occasions: chunks of creamy chocolate you can swirl in a mug of hot milk to create a deeply flavorful cup of hot chocolate -- or that you can just eat straight off the stick, depending on your patience and sweet tooth. When I think of December, I think of blustery snow, cable-knit sweaters and steaming mugs of cheerful soul-sating goodness. These cocoa blocks fit right in with that image, and are particularly perfect on Christmas morning.


They're also really easy to make, so you can get right back to the couch if you want. I won't judge you.


++++++

COCOA BLOCKS
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour catalog


I used a bit of almond extract to add a non-chocolate complimentary dimension to these treats, but they would be equally delicious with an equal amount of vanilla extract or a drop or two of peppermint oil. Or even a drop of cinnamon oil (how very Mayan). Or you can skip the extra flavoring entirely and just go for the full-on chocolate.

Also, please note that the cocoa blocks need to stand overnight to set, so plan accordingly.

One final note: unless you are going to use all 36 cocoa blocks at once, I find it easiest to cut the blocks, then wrap the whole batch together in parchment paper and a layer of plastic wrap BEFORE adding the wooden sticks. Store at room temperature and insert the sticks before serving. (It's challenging to store 36 cocoa blocks on sticks.)


1/2 c. (4 oz.) heavy cream
14-oz. can sweetened, condensed milk
3 c. (18 oz.) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 c. (4 oz.) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 t. almond extract (or flavoring of your choice; see above)
1 T. cocoa powder, for dusting
Wooden sticks


Line an 8"x 8" pan with parchment paper, allowing for an overhang of parchment on all 4 sides that you'll use to grip and remove the cocoa blocks once they're set.


In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the cream and condensed milk over low heat until it simmers and steams. Remove from heat and add the chocolate; allow it to melt gently.


After 10 minutes, return the chocolate mixture to low heat to melt the chocolate completely. Whisk until the chocolate is thick and shiny, which only takes a few minutes. Add the almond extract and whisk to combine.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan; level with an off-set spatula. Using a small sieve, sprinkle the cocoa powder over the chocolate to coat the surface. Set aside overnight, uncovered, at room temperature to set.


The next day, remove the chocolate from the pan using the excess parchment overhang. Heat a knife by running it under hot water. Dry the knife and cut the chocolate into 1 1/4"-inch squares, cleaning and reheating the knife occasionally to ensure even cuts.


Place a wooden stick into the center of each block, taking care not to stick it all the way through.


Eat straight off the block, or stir into a cup of hot milk. Repeat.



(Husband = cocoa block beneficiary.)

Makes 36 blocks.

4 comments:

ARLENE said...

A fabulous treat and so easy to make. I hear you about those Christmas ornaments. My bare tree has been sitting here for 3 days now. Tonight's the night!

robert said...

it is right and just that father should take the lead, since he is the one who checks your blog several times a day.

Dianne said...

As usual, you make a good point there, Father.

Even though you didn't hit "cancel" and/or wait for the next person through the ATM.

a boy retriever said...

i love this post