For those who are deep into chocolate


Luscious Chocolate Desserts ($19.95, Chronicle Books, 2004) is for the chocolate enthusiast.

There is an excellent recipe for brownies (Katharine Hepburn's, no less), and recipes for basic cakes and cookies, but the book is set apart by its instruction in the finer nuances of chocolate.

There is a history of chocolate, a section on how chocolate is made, instruction on how to make chocolate using cocoa nibs and advice on how to taste chocolate.

The recipes include a Chocolate Panna Cotta that is rich without being overly sweet and a dark-chocolate tart that lives up to its billing as "perfectly simple."

Some of the ingredients may be expensive and hard to find. But plenty of recipes use ingredients available in any grocery store's baking aisle.

Chocolate Panna Cotta

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (divided use)

1 1/4 teaspoons plain gelatin

1/4 cup marscapone cheese or additional heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Coat four 5-ounce ramekins or 6-ounce custard cups lightly with flavorless oil.

Pour 1/4 cup of the whipping cream into a small heat-proof bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it, and let stand for about 10 minutes, or until softened. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water, and stir until the gelatin has dissolved.

Meanwhile, bring the remaining 1 1/4 cups cream, the marscapone, sugar and salt just to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Add the gelatin mixture to the chocolate mixture, and stir until well-blended.

Pour through a fine strainer into a 4-cup glass measure or a bowl with a pour spout. Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins, and let cool to room temperature.

Refrigerate the panna cotta, loosely covered, until set and thoroughly chilled - at least 3 hours, or up to 1 day.

To serve, dip the ramekins one at a time into a bowl of hot water for about 5 seconds, then run a table knife around the edges of the custard and invert onto a chilled serving plate.

Per serving: 457 calories; 4 grams protein; 45 grams fat; 27 grams saturated fat; 16 grams carbohydrate; 1 gram fiber; 143 milligrams cholesterol; 77 milligrams sodium

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