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CHOCOLATE

Times Food Editor

If there’s a single food in this country that arouses passionate devotion to the nth degree, chocolate has to be well up there in the running for first-place honors. It inspires almost unreasoning admiration in the hearts (and on the palates) of devotees; so much so that anyone who professes to either dislike it--or, worse yet, be indifferent to it-- is suspected of having questionable taste.

I should know. I’m one who isn’t an out-and-out chocolate freak. It’s not that I don’t like chocolate. I do like it. It’s just that true chocolate freaks expect anything and everything made with chocolate to taste good. They are bitterly disappointed and, yes, even shocked when a chocolate recipe turns out to be either bad or, possibly worse, just so-so. Such disasters create much more discussion as to how and why things went wrong than an ordinary recipe failure does. And that never ceases to amaze me, for I’m still not convinced that chocolate really does possess all those wonderful magical qualities that acknowledged chocolate fanatics attribute to it.

As a practicing coward I rarely indulge in the type of debate chocolate lovers adore concerning the respective merits of chocolate versus vanilla or lemon or other flavors. (Probably because I always seem to be on the wrong side.) And I run like mad when someone starts a discussion on the relative merits of all the different kinds of chocolate. These are arguments that I found years ago to be genuinely no-win matters.

Yet, in spite of my doubts about its superiority as a food and a lack of all-encompassing enthusiasm for things chocolate, I’m a big fan of this product of the cocoa bean on occasion. A single chocolate truffle . . . a thin slice of darkly rich chocolate cake . . . a small wedge of an equally rich chocolate pie . . . all will woo my appetite as quickly as anyone else’s. But it takes only a small amount to satisfy my chocolate sweet tooth amply for a while. That’s where I fall out of favor with real chocaholics. A true chocolate fan can decimate a chocolate anything in nothing flat.

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And if you have any doubts about that fact, you can prove it to yourself this weekend when a chocolate extravaganza, called “A Salute to Chocolate III,” will be held at the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. A chocolate cooking contest featuring the offerings of 40 chefs from all over California will be held on Friday, when the show will be open only to the trade. But even if you can’t get in on the trade day event, the public is welcome to visit the 80 booths and displays at the center on Saturday and Sunday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Admission is $7.50 at the door; kids under 5 get in free.

There will be candy-making demonstrations, and many of the show’s participants will be passing out free samples of their chocolates. And if that isn’t enough excitement for you, there will be daylong silent auctions of various chocolate products on both Saturday and Sunday, and actor/chocaholic Ned Beatty will act as auctioneer at live auctions of other chocolate goodies between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. both days. The auctions will benefit Childhelp, USA. With the whole event devoted to chocolate in one form or another, it should be a chocolate freak’s paradise.

Just to be sure you aren’t deprived of a personal chocolate fix in case you can’t attend “A Salute to Chocolate III,” we asked several of the chefs who are competing in the contest for the best chocolate dish to share their recipes.

Eiji Kawamitsu, garde manger at Pioneer Boulangerie in Santa Monica, provided us with a great Chocolate Pasta recipe he serves with a decadent-tasting raspberry and creme fraiche sauce. Michel Richard, whose Patisserie/Restaurants in Los Angeles and Studio City have quite a following, offered a wonderful Auteuil, which consists of a spongecake that is soaked in a raspberry puree before being completely surrounded by a delicate chocolate mousse.

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Michael Shafer, executive sous chef at the Century Plaza Westin Hotel in Century City, took advantage of the pear’s affinity for chocolate by poaching whole pears and serving them chilled with a super chocolatey sauce. And Angela Dee Cohn, the chef/owner of Creative Expressions, a specialty catering firm in Napa, provided a surprise touch in a key lime pie by hiding a crisp layer of melted chocolate between the crust and tartly sweet filling of this traditional Florida favorite.

Their recipes and some other suggestions for going wild with chocolate follow.CHOCOLATE-LACED BOWL

1 honeydew melon or deep bowl (5-inches in diameter)

1/2 pound (about) good-quality chocolate or summer coating, chopped in small pieces if in large block

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Cover melon or bottom of bowl with sheet of foil. Chill several hours. Place chocolate in top of double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. Stirring occasionally, heat until chocolate melts. Cool but maintain flowing consistency.

Place some chocolate in pastry bag fitted with medium plain tube. Slowly pipe lacy pattern over half of foil-covered melon until shape of bowl. If chocolate seems runny because it’s too warm, stop to cool off a bit, then continue piping until bowl is finished.

Pipe more chocolate onto center to form solid base. Let set and harden in cool place or refrigerate. Carefully remove foil from fruit, then remove foil from chocolate. If lace breaks, squeeze small amount of melted chocolate to repair ends and quickly chill to reharden.

Use as serving “bowl” for berries or other lightweight fruit or for truffles.

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Note: If using regular chocolate that melts quickly and chocolate bowl needs to stand at room temperature for longer period, about 2 ounces of paraffin (considered safe for human consumption) may be added to the chocolate during melting.

CHOCOLATE CUPS

1 pound chocolate pieces or as needed

Grapefruits or oranges, chilled

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Place chocolate in top of double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. Stirring occasionally, heat until chocolate melts. Cool but maintain flowing consistency.

Take 1 or 2 sheets of plastic film wrap long enough to cover each fruit, plus about 4 inches extension for holding film wrap at one end. Wrap fruit (it’s OK to have creases and folds), and holding 1 end of film wrap, dip fruit about halfway into melted chocolate until thickly coated, about 30 to 60 seconds. Allow to drip slightly and carefully place onto wax paper-lined plate. Let set in refrigerator. Repeat with more fruit and chocolate (or use same fruit after chocolate hardens). Carefully remove fruit from plastic wrap and chocolate. Remove plastic wrap from chocolate cup. Fill with fruit, truffles or mousse.

FUDGE PIE

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

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1 cup sugar

1 (13-ounce) can evaporated milk

1 1/2 cups water

2 cups semisweet chocolate pieces

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4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate

6 egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons butter

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1 basket strawberries

1 baked (9-inch) pie shell

Meringue or sweetened whipped cream, optional

Combine gelatin and sugar in saucepan. Stir in evaporated milk and water. Heat over medium heat. Stir in chocolate until melted. Do not boil.

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Beat egg yolks lightly. Pour small amount chocolate mixture over, stirring constantly. Return egg yolk mixture to pan and stir and heat just until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and butter.

Arrange strawberries around edge of pie shell. Pour in chocolate mixture. Chill until set. Spread Meringue over filling, touching edges of crust all around, then bake at 375 degrees 8 minutes or until top is lightly golden. Or top with whipped cream and garnish with whole strawberries. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Meringue

5 egg whites

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1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

Lightly stir egg whites, salt and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer. Place bowl over pan of simmering water 1 to 2 minutes or just until slightly warmed, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and beat at high speed 2 to 3 minutes or until stiff but of spreadable consistency. Use immediately.

MICHEAL SHAFER’S

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KAHLUA CHOCOLATE PEARS

6 pears

Lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar

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1 cup water

1/4 cup Kahlua

4 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate

2 tablespoons butter

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Peel pears, leaving whole without removing stalks. Brush with lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Combine sugar and water in saucepan. Place over low heat. Add pears and simmer, covered, 20 to 30 minutes or until pears are tender but firm. Remove pears from syrup and arrange on serving dish. Chill until serving.

If necessary, bring remaining syrup to rapid boil until reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Add Kahlua and reduce to 1/4 cup. Add chocolate, stirring constantly until sauce is smooth. Beat in butter, bit by bit. Chill until serving. Pour sauce over pears just before serving. Makes 6 servings.

EIJI KAWAMITSU’S CHOCOLATE

PASTA OR COCOA FETTUCCINE

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1 1/3 cups flour

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate or cocoa powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 eggs

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1/2 teaspoon salt

Raspberries

Creme fraiche

Chambord liqueur or creme de framboise

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Mix flour and semisweet chocolate or cocoa powder in mixing bowl. Mix oil, eggs and salt. Gradually work into flour mixture, mixing until smooth, thick dough is formed. Wrap dough in damp towel and let stand in refrigerator at least 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and roll dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Run dough through pasta machine and cook about 10 to 15 minutes. (If you do not have a pasta machine, cut into thin strips.)

Serve pasta with fresh raspberries with creme fraiche and touch of chambord liqueur or creme de framboise. Makes 4 servings.

MICHEL RICHARD’S AUTEUIL

10 to 12 ounces frozen raspberries with juice

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1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

Softened butter

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut up

3 cups whipping cream

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2 tablespoons kirsch

1 (8-inch) round spongecake

Cocoa powder

Fresh raspberries

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Combine frozen raspberries and sugar in blender and puree until smooth. Line inside of greased 9-inch cake pan with long sheets of plastic film wrap and brush with soft butter.

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over barely simmering water. Whip cream until stiff but smooth. Fold in melted chocolate and kirsch. Place mousse on bottom of cake mold and around sides, reserving some to cover top. Set aside in refrigerator.

Split spongecake in half horizontally, reserving other half for other use. Soak spongecake briefly in raspberry puree. Drain, reserving leftover raspberry mixture for sauce at serving. Place spongecake in center of mousse and cover top with remaining mousse mixture. Overlap ends of plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours.

To unmold, dip cake mold into hot water several seconds, removing cake with plastic wrap. Remove plastic wrap. Serve sprinkled with cocoa powder and garnished with fresh raspberries, if available. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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ANGELA DEE COHN’S

BLACK BOTTOM KEY LIME PIE

6 ounces semisweet chocolate pieces

1/4 cup half and half

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1 baked (9-inch) pie shell

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

1/3 cup orange juice

4 egg yolks, lightly beaten

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1 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon grated lime peel

2 tablespoons Cognac

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4 egg whites

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup semisweet chocolate shavings or curls

Melt chocolate pieces with half and half over very low heat or in top of double boiler over hot water. Cool slightly. Spread on bottom of pie shell. Set aside in refrigerator.

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Soften gelatin in orange juice 5 minutes. Combine egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in double boiler. Whisk until well blended. Add lime juice and cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon. Add lime peel, Cognac and gelatin mixture. Stir until gelatin is completely dissolved. Cool at room temperature. Add green food color, if desired.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. When lime mixture begins to thicken, fold in egg whites. Pour filling into pie shell, piling high in middle. Chill thoroughly. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream around edge of pie and garnish center with chocolate shavings or curls. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

STRAWBERRY-CHOCOLATE MOSAIC

8 ounces semisweet chocolate pieces

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1/4 cup dark rum

8 ounces butter or margarine, softened

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 eggs, separated

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1 cup chopped walnuts

6 ounces shortbread-style or plain sugar cookies

2 (1-pint) baskets strawberries, stemmed

Sweetened whipped cream

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Combine chocolate and rum in top of double boiler over barely simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature.

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl until light. Beat in egg yolks, 1 at a time, then mix in walnuts. Add cooled chocolate mixture and blend thoroughly. Beat egg whites to form soft peaks. Gently fold into chocolate mixture.

Break cookies into 1/2-inch pieces. (Should measure about 1 1/2 cups.) Gently fold into chocolate mixture. Spoon half of mixture into lightly greased 8x4-inch loaf pan. Arrange 1/2 basket of washed and pat-dried strawberries evenly over chocolate layer, pressing berries lightly into batter. Spoon remaining chocolate mixture over berries, smoothing top. Tap pan lightly on counter to remove any air bubbles. Cover and chill until firm, at least 4 hours.

To serve, dip thin knife blade into hot water and run around sides of pan. Dip bottom of pan briefly into hot water. Unmold onto platter. Pipe whipped cream on top of loaf and garnish top and sides with strawberries. Cut loaf into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick slices and serve with remaining strawberries. Makes about 12 servings.

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DOUBLE-FROSTED

BOURBON BROWNIES

3/4 cup sifted flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

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1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shortening

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

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1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

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1/4 cup bourbon

White Frosting

Chocolate Glaze

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Heat shortening with sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Stir in chocolate and vanilla until chocolate is melted. Beat eggs in bowl, then beat into chocolate mixture. Stir in flour mixture. Stir in nuts. Spread in greased 9-inch square pan. Bake at 325 degrees 25 to 30 minutes or until brownies test done in center. Sprinkle bourbon over brownies. Cool to room temperature. Frost with White Frosting. Chill well, then spread Chocolate Glaze over frosting. Chill thoroughly. Cut into bars. Makes 12 to 16 bars.

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White Frosting

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

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Cream butter and powdered sugar together in small bowl. Beat in vanilla.

Chocolate Glaze

1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate pieces

1 tablespoon shortening

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Heat chocolate pieces and shortening together in top of double boiler over simmering water until chocolate is melted. Cool slightly before spreading over frosting.


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