Friday, May 30, 2014

Chocolate Bars Studded with Walnuts

Readers of my golden retriever mysteries may recall the cafe in the center of Stewart's Crossing, The Chocolate Ear, where Steve often visits. The proprietor, Gail Dukowski is like Steve a returnee to Bucks County after a career as a pastry chef in New York. She prepares delicious sandwiches and desserts for her human customers, and always has some fresh-baked biscuits for Rochester, too.

In the first chapter of Whom Dog Hath Joined, Steve and his girlfriend Lili take Rochester with them to the Harvest Fair at the Friends' Meeting in Stewart's Crossing. Gail is there, selling her walnut-studded chocolate bars as an introduction to new customers.

One of the great things about belonging to the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America has been meeting and becoming friends with lots of other terrific authors. One of those is yacht chef Victoria Allmann, who has already published two volumes of her foodie adventures on the high seas. She was kind enough to develop this recipe for me, for chocolate bars very much like those Gail sells. With only two ingredients, they're easy enough for any home chef to prepare.

Chocolate Bars Studded with Walnuts
I don’t have plastic chocolate molds so I use square tart pans (sold as individual brownie pans) lined with parchment paper as molds but you can use mini muffin tins or any metal mold as well. The chocolate shrinks slightly when setting so they will slip out of the molds easily.
* 8 ounces semi-sweet good-quality dark chocolate, chopped finely
* 3/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place the walnuts on a cookie sheet in a flat layer and bake for 5-7 minutes to toast them.

3. Remove from oven and cool completely.

4. Melt 6 ounces chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.

5. Once the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the pan and add 2 ounces of finely chopped chocolate, stirring constantly to melt it.

Victoria's note: This two-step process of melting chocolate in stages is called tempering the chocolate. For reasons that I don't understand, chocolate gets a white chalky bloom if you melt it straight. Tempering chocolate is what gives it that shiny look of finished chocolates instead of the dull chalky look of raw chocolate out of a package. Like a lot of cooking/baking, there is a science behind it that has to do with molecular structure but I can not fathom it or explain it, I just know you have to do it ;-) 

6. Pour a layer of chocolate the molds, then, working quickly, top with 

7. Shake the pan slightly to level chocolate.

8. Put the bars in the refrigerator until firm, five minutes.

9. Remove from molds and store at room temperature for up to one month…or eat instantly.

Learn more about Victoria's career at her website, where you can see her awesome photographs and read about her two books, Sea Fare: A Chef's Journey Across the Ocean and SEAsoned: A Chef's Journey with her Captain.

Thank you very much, Victoria!

1 comment:

Nancy J. Cohen said...

These sound sinfully delicious and have just given me a craving for chocolate.