Kitchen Focus

There is a saying that goes: "Money talks. Chocolate sings!" There is some truth to that. Think about the simple joy that can be had when savoring chocolate in its many forms. It's one of life's pleasures that can be enjoyed in so many forms. So this month, when millions will be enjoying chocolate for Valentine's Day and the weeks to follow, I thought it wise to spend some time talking about the versatility of chocolate.

In particular, I'm showcasing three recipes that show how it can be melted, molded and frozen.

Our first recipe takes a classic chocolate fondue and pairs it with marshmallow cream, resulting in a molten masterpiece that's reminiscent of s'mores. While graham crackers and marshmallows are natural dippers, also consider chunks of angel food cake and slices of banana. Whatever you are dipping, it's sure to bring out the kid in you!

S'mores Chocolate Fondue

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup marshmallow cream

Slowly warm the cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When hot, add the chocolate pieces, stirring until melted. Stir in the marshmallow cream and warm the mixture. Transfer to a warm fondue pot.

Serve with graham crackers and marshmallows, of course.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Candy-making and chocolate go hand in hand. While there are some very involved candy making recipes and techniques out there, I'm offering a simple recipe for turtles -- named for their shape, which reminds us of a sweet little turtle. Once you realize how easy it is to make these little morsels, you will be making sure that there are some on hand at all times!

Turtle Candy

  • 18 soft caramels
  • 72 pecan halves (about 1.5 cups)
  • 5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Prepare a cookie sheet by covering it with waxed paper or a silicone baking mat.

Arrange the pecans in clusters of 4 with each pecan pointing in a different direction (like turtle legs).

Place a caramel on top of the center of each cluster.

Put the cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven for 3-4 minutes, until the caramels have softened and mostly melted over the pecans. The tips of the nuts should still be showing.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or over a double boiler. Spoon the melted chocolate over the cooled caramel, being careful not to cover tips of the nuts.

Allow to fully set. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.

  • Yields: 18 candies
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes, plus cooling time

This rich, creamy gelato is a chocolate lover's dream. Try using Dutch process cocoa powder for the most intense chocolate flavor. While you can add mix-ins like mini chocolate chips or chopped nuts, there's something truly delightful about the smoothness of this recipe when made as indicated below. Enjoy and make sure you thank everyone that gives you chocolate for Valentine's Day!

Chocolate Gelato

  • 2 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup minus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 large egg yolks

Coarsely chop the chocolate. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan bring the milk, cream, and about half of the sugar just to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cocoa powder and chocolate, whisking until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Have ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. In a bowl with an electric mixer, beat the yolks and remaining sugar until thick and pale. Add the hot chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking, and pour into the saucepan. Cook the custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 170°F. (Do not let boil.) Pour the custard through a sieve into a metal bowl set in ice and cold water and cool. Chill the custard, covered, until cold.

Freeze the custard in an ice-cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in the freezer to harden, 1 to 3 hours.

  • Yields: 1 quart
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus chilling and freezing time