Monday, December 31, 2012

Chocolate Fondue: A New Year’s Tradition

For the last 20 years we have rung in the new year in the quiet of our own home, preferring to stay clear of the drunken hordes (although we often drink a bit too much bubbly ourselves). We start off with cracked crab, sourdough and a salad, move to a selection of movies (often a trilogy of some sort), and then top it off with chocolate fondue and champagne. Not a very heart healthy way to celebrate, but this kind of spread only happens once a year, so we indulge and pay for it later.

This year we were invited to a New Year’s Eve game night at the Resort at 292, neighbors of Brilliant Daughter. We thought we would break tradition, as they are a fun-loving bunch, we can walk home from their house, and we love games! Because they had already decided on having a taco bar, the cracked crab got nixed, but I was adamant about the chocolate fondue. Gotta preserve at least one thing from this annual celebration.

This year I decided to try using the crockpot to melt and serve the fondue, since a crowd was expected. I have two Pound Plus Dark Chocolate Bars from Trader Joe’s and 2 cups of whipping cream. After breaking up the chocolate and adding it with cream, I turned the pot on low, covered and checked every 20 minutes with a quick stir. It was ready in a little over an hour, at which time I turned the pot to warm and it sat patiently waiting for another hour or so.

I brought much of the traditional dipping items: fresh pineapple chunks, Cutie mandarin wedges, banana slices, fresh strawberries, Sara Lee pound cake and, new this year, homemade chocolate marshmallows.

I’ve made marshmallows several times this year, usually to pair with homemade graham crackers and dark chocolate for s’mores, but wanted something different. And you can never have too much chocolate. The recipe I pulled was from Saveur, and differs from my vanilla marshmallows in that it had no egg whites. The texture and consistency is definitely different. The egg white version is a bit fluffier, less dense. But both are tasty. I definitely suggest you give them a try. 

Michael Kraus,
I’ve included the recipe for the chocolate marshmallows below. The one trick I can impart to make the process easier: once you have taken the marshmallow out of the pan, use a piece of dental floss to do the cutting. I slide the floss under the brick and then cross the two hands over each other, which cuts a nice slice. Move the cut log away from the brick and dust with the chocolate powder mixture. Repeat until you have 5 or 6 logs. Then you can either use the floss to cut individual marshmallows, or use a knife or kitchen shears to do so.

These are also heavenly floating in a cup of hot chocolate.

Canola oil, for greasing
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup honey
½ cup water
3 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin, softened in ½ cup cold water
½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted

Dusting Powder
¼ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan. Line bottom and sides with parchment paper, and grease paper. (I use small banana clips to secure the paper to the edge of the pan.) Grease a rubber spatula; set aside.

2. Combine sugar, syrup, honey, and 1/2 cup water in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer; cook, without stirring, until syrup reaches 250 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; let cool to 220 degrees.

3. Sprinkle gelatin over ½ cup of water and then bring another 1⁄2 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Place bowl of gelatin over the boiling water; whisk until gelatin becomes liquid. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk; add 1⁄2 cup sifted cocoa powder and cooled sugar syrup to gelatin; whisk on high speed until mixture holds stiff peaks, 5–6 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared pan; smooth top with oiled spatula; let cool until set, 5–6 hours.

4. Combine ¼ cup cocoa powder and cornstarch in a bowl and transfer to a strainer; dust work surface with mixture. Slide a knife around edge of pan to release marshmallows; remove from pan. Dust cocoa mixture over top. Using a slicing knife dusted with cocoa mixture, cut marshmallows into squares. Toss marshmallows with remaining cocoa mixture.

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