NEW CASTLE —
Ah, in less than a week, it’s all hearts and flowers. And chocolate.
I confess that my sweet tooth has dulled a bit through the years but I occasionally dig far back into the kitchen cupboard where I keep some chocolate. I’ve gone so far as to scoop a handful of milk chocolate chips from the bag if the cravings get really bad.
But I’m convinced that chocolate lovers of the world need no excuse to indulge now and then.
Valentine’s Day is as good a reason as ever. And it’s less than a week away.
I still remember my parents — when I was in elementary school — helping me construct those elaborate boxes that classmates filled with Valentine’s Day cards. One, in particular, stands out. It was first covered in white paper, then had layers of red lace and a frilly red bow on top. I thought it was the prettiest Valentine’s Day card box I had ever seen. Funny how those things stay in our memory.
Now I’m a little more interested in the heart-shaped boxes that contain any variety of chocolate with any variety of centers — except nougat.
If you love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, then the Rocky Road bars in today’s Culinary Conversation will especially appeal.
Another favorite combo is cherry and chocolate, and with triple types of the latter, the cake is an ultimate winner.
I love the fact that the black bottom cupcakes are in smaller form, which makes them especially kid friendly. The recipe is from a cookbook compiled by members of a club I once belonged to. The contributor was a wonderful baker and the cupcakes are heavenly.
Speaking of contributors, your opportunity to participate in Culinary Conversation is only an email or letter away. Your family probably already knows what a great cook or baker you are. So now is the a chance to let your friends, neighbors and co-workers find out, too.
Black Bottom Cupcakes
- 1 8-oz. package cream cheese
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 6-oz. package chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup oil
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp. vinegar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Beat together cream cheese, egg, sugar and salt. Stir in chocolate chips. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add oil, water, vanilla and vinegar, and mix well.
Use small cupcake liners in mini cupcake pans; fill each 1/2 full. Top with 1 tsp. cheese mixture. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes about 45 miniature cupcakes.
Triple Chocolate-Cherry Cake
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 1/2 tsps. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup dried tart cherries
- 1 tbsp. instant espresso-coffee powder
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 2 tsps. vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
- 3 large eggs
- 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
- 1 package (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
Powdered sugar for dusting
Whipped cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 315. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In small bowl, place cherries with enough very hot water just to cover; let stand at least five minutes to soften cherries. In 2-cup glass measuring cup, dissolve espresso powder in 1 tbsp. very hot water; stir in buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat sugar with butter until blended, scraping bowl often with rubber spatula. Increase speed to medium; beat two minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. Reduce speed to low; add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
At low speed, alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat until smooth, occasionally scraping bowl.
Drain cherries and pat with paper towels to remove excess water. With rubber spatula, fold melted unsweetened chocolate into batter. Then fold in chocolate chips and drained cherries.
Pour batter into pan. Bake for one hour to 1 hour, 10 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack to cool completely.
To serve, sift powdered sugar over cake.
Top with whipped cream, if desired.
* Can be baked ahead and if wrapped well, kept in the freezer for up to two weeks.
Peanut-Butter Rocky-Road Bars
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2/3 cups creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 tbsps. margarine or butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup miniature marshmallows
- 1/2 cup salted cocktail peanuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13x9-inch metal baking pan. Line pan with foil; grease foil.
In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat brown sugar, peanut butter, sugar and margarine or butter until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until creamy. At low speed, beat in flour, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until well blended, constantly scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
With hand, press dough onto bottom of pan. Bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows, peanuts and chocolate pieces over top; bake five more minutes or until golden. Cool completely in pan or on wire rack.
When cool, transfer with foil to cutting board. Cut lengthwise into four strips then cut each strip crosswise into six pieces.