Love can be a bittersweet affair. There's that over-the-moon outlook when nothing ever, ever will dampen those giddy feelings. She is perfect in every way. No one compares to him.
Then he forgets to call and she texts once too often. The reality of every relationship is that the very good is almost always accompanied with a little not-so-hot. Bittersweet.
Valentine's Day is coming right up, and we think a breakfast-in-bed brunch menu featuring bittersweet chocolate is a fine way to woo your honey, whether you celebrate the holiday on Feb. 14, a Tuesday this year, or over the weekend leading up to it. Even if you're not much of a cook, you can whip up a frothy Chocolatier cocktail of light rum, Creme de Cacao and chocolate ice cream with chocolate shavings on top. Surely, that says "I love you." Or at least "I tried," always an important concept on Valentine's Day.
Chocolate has become nearly as complicated as wine, with many types and brands available. Don't let the percentage numbers on packages intimidate you. Here's what you want for the recipes included here: bittersweet chocolate that doesn't exceed 62 percent cacao. Cacao -- cocoa solids -- derived from processing the bean is what gives chocolate its distinctive flavor; added sugar makes it sweet, and cocoa butter, also from the bean, makes it smooth.
Bittersweet chocolate has about a third less added sugar than semisweet chocolate, even though the two are often used interchangeably in baking. In general, you should use the type of chocolate called for in the recipe or risk results you aren't happy with. Unsweetened chocolate, as it says, has no sugar at all -- it's 100 percent cacao -- and milk chocolate has the most sugar and least amount of cacao. Actually, white chocolate has the least amount of cocoa solids: none.
The Food and Drug Administration classifies bittersweet chocolate as containing at least 35 percent cacao, but many brands on the market contain much more than that. You'll find Baker's and Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate in most grocery stores and some bigger markets carry Scharffen, Berger and Lindt.
Now, we are not suggesting that your brunch include all of the recipes here, just that you pick one or two as a centerpiece and build a meal around it.
For instance, the Sugared Chocolate Beignets would be a lovely accompaniment to Greek yogurt, honey and chopped walnuts. Or offer them with mini-quiches and fresh fruit.
These little pastry pillows are a busy cook's best friend because they can be made ahead and frozen. Serve just after they've come from the oven for best results. Did we mention they start with puff pastry, a great convenience item to keep in your freezer?
You can show off your mad baking skills with the homemade crust for Rustic Chocolate Tart or use prepared pie dough. We tested the recipe with prepared dough and it worked well. (Look for the unroll-and-fill variety, not the dough already formed in the pan.) The free-form pie is very rich but would still benefit from a dollop of freshly whipped cream without sugar. Serve as the sweet ending to a traditional omelet-bacon-toast brunch.
Grilled Bittersweet Chocolate Sandwiches are a sophisticated offering that can be tinkered with according to your tastes. Call them panini if you want to be more trendy. Sliced strawberries or bananas change the taste, as would chopped hazelnuts or even peanuts. These are also rich, thanks to the butter on the bread. A wee bowl of fresh raspberries and strawberries would be an appropriate accompaniment.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries will go with just about anything and can easily be made the day before. In fact, they should be. Melt about 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate with 1 tablespoon shortening and dip away. Make sure your strawberries are very dry.
SUGARED CHOCOLATE BEIGNETS
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 sheets (17 ounces total) cold, thawed puff pastry dough
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar
Combine corn syrup and cream in a microwave-safe container. Heat in 30-second intervals until boiling. Put chocolate in a bowl and pour hot cream on top. Stir chocolate until smooth, then chill, stirring often, until firm, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each pastry dough sheet into a 12-inch square. Cut each square into 16 smaller squares and transfer to a baking sheet.
In a bowl, lightly whisk egg and 1 tablespoon water to blend, then brush over pastry squares. Spoon about 1 teaspoon chocolate into the center of each square. Fold 1 corner of each square over to meet the opposite corner, forming a triangle. Press edges to seal. Use a 2-1/2-inch round cutter to trim corners of triangle and form a shape that resembles a three-quarter moon. Wrap trays with plastic wrap and freeze at least 1 hour and up to 1 week. (To save space, after 30 minutes of freezing, put pastries in resealable