If you happen to have a lot of chocolate lying around (and have the self-restraint not to eat it all at once), you might want to consider how to properly store it to keep it in prime shape.
Store your chocolate in a cool, dry place -- we keep ours tucked away in a cabinet in the Test Kitchen. Do not refrigerate or freeze the chocolate, and keep it away from excessive heat. Store the chocolate wrapped tightly in plastic wrap (some experts also recommend wrapping the plastic-wrapped chocolate in foil to further preserve).
Occasionally, chocolate will "bloom," taking on a cloudy, whitish-gray tint or specks. "Fat bloom" can occur if the chocolate is kept in an excessively warm place; "sugar bloom" can occur if the chocolate is kept in a humid environment and takes on moisture. Bloom on chocolate doesn't look so good, but it shouldn't affect the way the chocolate performs in a recipe.
In the right conditions, properly stored chocolate should last for several months. That is, if you don't eat it first.
CHOCOLATE SHORTCAKES WITH BRANDIED CHERRIES
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes / Servings: 8
Note: From Noelle Carter. The shortcakes are best served warmed with whipped creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of the reserved brandied cherries in their sauce.
1 pound dried tart cherries
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups brandy
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup amaretto
1/4 cup orange liqueur, preferably Cointreau
1/2 vanilla bean
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
Zest of 1 small orange
1. In a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the cherries with the sugar, brandy, wine, amaretto and orange liqueur. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean into the pan and combine with the other ingredients. Place the vanilla pod, cinnamon, peppercorns and orange zest in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie together to make a sachet (this will make it easier to discard once the cherries have been brandied). Place the sachet in the saucepan.
2. Bring the cherries to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Strain the cherries from the liquid and set aside. Discard the sachet. Bring the liquid back to a simmer and continue to cook until it has thickened to a syrup and reduced to three-fourths cup, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Combine the syrup with the cherries in a nonreactive container. This makes about 3 cups of brandied cherries. Cover and refrigerate until needed; the brandied cherries will keep, refrigerated, for months.
2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, divided
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup drained brandied cherries
1 teaspoon instant espresso
1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon coarse or sanding sugar
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut 5 tablespoons of the cold butter into half-inch pieces; incorporate the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter or fork until crumbly. Stir in the chopped chocolate and brandied cherries.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the espresso and hot water until the espresso is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream, sour cream and vanilla.
3. Stir the espresso mixture into the dough mixture. The mixture will still be very crumbly at first. Knead the dough (still in the bowl) with your hands until it just comes together. Lightly flour your work surface with cocoa powder and flatten the dough to a 1 1/2-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut the dough into 8 rounds. Place the rounds at least 2 inches apart on two stacked baking sheets lined with a sheet of parchment paper (the double layer of baking sheets will prevent the shortcakes from overcooking on the bottom before they are fully baked).
4. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Lightly brush the top of each shortcake with melted butter. Lightly sprinkle the coarse sugar over the shortcakes and place in the oven. Bake the shortcakes until puffed and they spring back lightly when touched, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through for even baking.
5. Remove the shortcakes, still on the parchment, to a rack. Cool completely. The shortcakes will keep for 3 days, covered, at room temperature.
Each of 8 servings: 631 calories; 7 grams protein; 85 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 27 grams fat; 16 grams saturated fat; 59 mg. cholesterol; 422 mg. sodium.
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