Valentine’s Day is on a Friday this year! That makes it so much more fun, even if you are just planning to stay home.
I think the perfect way to spend a Friday Valentine’s Day would be by celebrating it with chocolate, all day long. Chocolate in the morning, chocolate at meals, and chocolate dessert. Which reminds me, the Mount Airy Main Street Association is having the annual Chocolate Crawl throughout historic downtown Friday night, from 5 to 8 p.m. What a fun way to try all kinds of chocolate and visit local businesses!
Back to my day of chocolate recipes. I thought I would start with these chocolate peanut butter banana muffins. These muffins have cocoa in the batter, then a cup of chocolate chips (I would suggest using minis because they’ll get better dispersion throughout the batter), and will be nice and moist from a cup of buttermilk and two mashed bananas. After you get the batter in the muffin tins, microwave some peanut butter to soften it and swirl it throughout, making it like a peanut butter icing on the inside. Mmmm, peanut butter icing — that might be the perfect way to make these muffins into cupcakes, wink, wink.
For dinner or lunch, Mexican chocolate mole sauce can transform meat into having a delicious earthy taste with a hint of chocolate. I’ve used homemade mole for the base of my chili once, and my friends thought it was amazing. Mole, like chili, can be made many different ways, with sometimes up to 40 or so ingredients. This recipe keeps it pretty simple, but gets deep flavor from dried chiles, prunes, brown sugar, almonds and beef stock, and chocolate in the form of a chocolate stout. I can’t wait to try this one, even with some pulled chicken, maybe over nachos?
And while it was so hard to pick just one dessert, I had to, because of space. And I decided to go with simple and classic chocolate mousse. I’ve never made homemade mousse because the idea of raw eggs weirds me out, and I’m much happier to order it in a restaurant where I don’t have to think about it. But I’ve eaten more than my share of raw cookie dough, so I should just get over it and do it. Putting this on the list of cooking goals for this year!
Chocolate peanut butter banana muffins
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 medium bananas, mashed
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, microwaved 15 seconds to soften
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper liners, then set aside.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until thick and lighter in color.
Add the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, banana, and peanut butter, and whisk until combined.
Add the dry ingredients in thirds and fold in until just combined - do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips. The mixture will be thick and somewhat lumpy.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan (filling to the tops).
For the peanut butter swirl, spoon a small dollop of runny peanut butter on the tops, and use a knife or toothpick to create swirls.
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 5 - 10 minutes in the pan before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
*Note: To make your own buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup milk. Stir to combine, and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until slightly thickened and curdled.
Chocolate mole sauce with chocolate stout
4 dried Guajillo chiles or other mild dried chiles such as ancho
12 ounces chocolate stout*
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon raw almonds (use slivered or chop whole ones small)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons mild vinegar such as rice or sherry
Remove the seeds and tops of the dried chiles and dry toast them in a hot skillet for a few seconds per side until they puff up. Soak them in hot water for about 10 mins, then discard the water and place the reconstituted chiles in a cold sauce pan, preferably at least 4 inches deep and 8 to 10 inches wide.
Add the stout, prunes, cinnamon, beef stock, brown sugar, chili powder, almonds, stir and bring to boil.
Lower the heat to low and simmer until the liquid reduces by about half, about 10-12 minutes.
Remove from heat and blend the sauce with immersion blender. (Alternatively use food processor or blender, but be careful as you are dealing with hot liquid).
Add the salt and vinegar to the blended chocolate mole and stir to incorporate. Works great as a barbecue sauce or substitute for other sauces in any Mexican dish.
If you have leftover mole sauce you can store it covered and refrigerated for about a week. When you need to use it again reheat it with a couple of tablespoons of broth in order to loosen it.
Notes: The alcohol from the stout will cook off during the simmering leaving you with concentrated chocolaty, roasted malty goodness. If you really cannot use a chocolate stout or porter, increase the beef stock by 10 ounces and add 1 1/2 teaspoons of organic cocoa.
Classic chocolate mousse
1 2⁄3 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 egg whites
1⁄2 cup sugar
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6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Chocolate shavings, to garnish
In a large bowl, beat cream, vanilla, and salt with a whisk until stiff peaks form; chill.
In another large bowl, beat egg whites with a whisk until soft peaks form. While whisking, slowly add sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Add melted chocolate to egg whites, and fold until almost incorporated; add whipped cream and fold until completely incorporated.
Divide among 4 serving cups; chill. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings before serving.