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Ultimate Chocolate Desserts

Ultimate Chocolate Desserts

Valentine's Day menus should include chocolate. Make yours memorable with these chocolate inspired recipes.

Research tells us that chocolate is the top flavor for desserts. According to Technomic's Dessert Consumer Trend Report (August 2010), chocolate is found in 27.9% of all limited-service menu descriptions for dessert and appears as a flavor in 35.7% of full-service menu descriptions for dessert. On Valentine's Day, chocolate is elevated to hero status. On this day, chocolate is quintessential, marking romance, indulgence and the sweeter side of life in one perfect celebration. And for chefs, chocolate desserts are a sure way to tempt and delight diners.

Distinguishing chocolate-dessert menus from the competition can be tricky—chefs should look beyond chocolate flourless cakes and molten lava cakes…but not too far beyond. Indeed, Valentine's Day requires a tender balance between special occasion and familial. Between extraordinary and familiar. We charged our chefs with that very task, even pitting one against the other for the Best Valentine's Day Dessert (see Which Dessert Reigns Supreme below). Read on for romantic chocolate-dessert recipes inspired by Cupid's muse itself—chocolate.

Which Dessert Reigns Supreme?

We challenged two certified master bakers, both renowned for pastries, to develop special-occasion recipes with chocolate. In one corner: Patty Mitchell, senior executive chef for Kraft Foodservice. In the other corner: Peter Greweling, consulting chef for Kraft Foodservice. The challenge? Create a unique, memorable chocolate dessert perfect for Valentine's Day and other special occasions.

Patty Mitchell - Senior Executive Chef - Certified Master Baker - vs. - Peter Greweling - Consulting Chef - Certified Master Baker

Molten Chocolate Cheesecake

Molten Chocolate Cheesecake

Chef Mitchell spent more than a week creating the perfect formula for this recipe. "I had to get the center element to flow nicely without overheating the cheesecake exterior," she says. But the result was worth the trial and error. "Molten chocolate cakes are not new, but they're huge on menus," says Chef Mitchell. "I wanted to reinvent the molten cake—without taking away what makes it so wonderful—the flowing chocolate in the middle. Diners know and love molten cakes, but this one will add the wow factor, too." Our internal research backs up their popularity: Of all recipes searched for on the Kraft retail site, molten chocolate cake had the highest recipe views – with a whopping 312,747 (Kraftrecipes.com - Q1, 2010).

To update this favorite dessert, she replaces the cake batter with cheesecake batter. She makes a luscious chocolate cheesecake by combining room temperature Philadelphia Cream Cheese with sugar and cornstarch (to prevent clumping). "Beat the cream cheese first on a lower speed, then add the sugar slowly while still beating," she says. Separately, she mixes eggs, egg yolks and then vanilla. She melts Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate with heavy cream, adding it slowly to the wet ingredients, then incorporates the batter into the dry ingredients. "When melting the chocolate, make sure it doesn't go above 115 degrees," says Chef Mitchell.

She makes the ganache filling with Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate, heavy cream, corn syrup, water and butter, scooping them into little balls and freezing until final prep.

To assemble, Chef Mitchell lays down an Oreo Cookie crust in an individual ring mold, adds the chocolate-cheesecake batter, then pushes a ganache ball to the bottom of the batter. "Because we can't do a water bath on this, I put a pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven," she says. "The moist heat will stop the cheesecake from cracking or buckling." Once baked and chilled, for service, she reheats the individual cheesecake in a microwave briefly, making the chocolate ganache soft and warm. "When I develop a dessert recipe for Valentine's Day or for other special occasions, I'm trying to hit both indulgent and familiar," says Chef Mitchell. "I want something familiar and cozy, not overcomplicated."

Decadent Cherry Bombe

Decadent Cherry Bombe

Peter Greweling answered the challenge with a delicious interpretation of the classic cherry bombe. "I wanted a warm dessert for February, and soft fillings are universally liked," he says. Of course, cheesecake and cherries are a classic combination. "I added depth to the cherries by making a filling laced with brandy and enriched with butter," he says. "And remember: cheesecake is essentially a custard, which is such a sensual food. Serving it warm elevates that experience."

He makes both a chocolate sponge cake and a New York-style cheesecake, relying on Philadelphia Cream Cheese to give him a custardy texture for the cheesecake. He cuts out individual, thin circles of the sponge cake to fit the ramekins. Chef Greweling makes the cherry-bombe filling by simmering cherries with sugar, nutmeg, a cinnamon stick, white wine and lemon juice. He then slowly pours a slurry of cornstarch and water to thicken. Once the mixture boils, he removes it from the heat and stirs in butter, finishing with brandy. The cake sits at the bottom of the ramekin with the cherry-bombe filling over it, leaving a ½-inch for the cheesecake. He places the cheesecake atop the sauce with the graham-cracker crust facing out.

After refrigerating overnight, this individual dessert is ready for service. To order, Chef Greweling heats the ramekin in a microwave, and turns it out onto the plate, decorating the plate with chocolate sauce and perhaps a flourish of whipped cream. "The trick is to not over-bake the cheesecake," he says. "It should set like a custard, not rise like a cake."

Set the Mood

According to a 2010 opentable.com survey, the factors that contribute to a romantic dining experience include a private table (28%), exceptional service (16%) and a beautiful view (13%).

Consumers say that they eat chocolate cake more often than any other cake variety measured by the Technomic's Dessert Consumer Trend Report (August 2010). Nearly two in five consumers (38%) report that they eat chocolate cake once a month or more often.

Behind the Recipes: More Valentine's Day Inspiration

Chocolate & Coffee Mousse Mini Pudding Parfaits

Chocolate & Coffee Mousse Mini Pudding Parfaits

A sweet ending to a romantic dinner, these mini parfaits deliver a textural symphony—in miniature. Our chefs layer chocolate mousse in a glass, then sit a chocolaty brownie atop, and add a dollop of coffee mousse.

Gevalia Chocolate Mocha Mini Cakes

Gevalia Chocolate Mocha Mini Cakes

Mocha fans will swoon at this dessert. Strongly brewed Gevalia Kaffe laces the chocolate cake, then the creamy frosting stars a magic combination of Philly, Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate, sugar and Gevalia Kaffe.

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Brownies & Easy Vanilla Sauce

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Brownies & Easy Vanilla Sauce

This recipe marries the perfect elements of sweet comfort foods into one glorious dessert. The comforting, nostalgic bread pudding gets taken to a higher level with an Oreo Brownie, eggs, milk, cream, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and vanilla. Once baked, it's served warm and gooey, with a drizzle of Easy Vanilla Sauce, ice cream and a flourish of whipped cream. Heaven.

Brownie Cookie Sandwiches with Peanut Butter-Cream Filling

Brownie Cookie Sandwiches with Peanut Butter-Cream Filling

Chocoholics will love this one. Decadent, whimsical and delicious, theses brownie cookies are sandwiched by an inspired blend of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, cream, peanut butter, icing sugar and prepared whipped topping. Adding the cream cheese to the filling ensures a smooth, rich mouthfeel.

Mocha Cupcakes with Mousse Filling

Mocha Cupcakes with Mousse Filling

A dessert designed for the playful Valentine's Day. These cupcakes have a luscious filling made with Philadelphia Cream Cheese, whipped cream and semi-sweet chocolate. The white-cake batter gets a refined, complex profile from an infusion of Gevalia Kaffe Dark Roast. Decadence defines the topping — Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Gevalia Kaffe Dark Roast mirror the cupcake's flavor, while Jell-O Vanilla Instant Pudding & Pie Filling adds a velvety mouthfeel.

Simple-Elegance Truffles

Simple-Elegance Truffles

Easy-to-execute yet sophisticated and romantic. Our chefs combine Philadelphia Cream Cheese with Oreo Pieces, shape into truffles, then roll in melted Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate. Once refrigerated, they pull them out and top with a white-chocolate drizzle, Oreo Pieces or chopped nuts.

Individual Chocolate Cheesecakes

Individual Chocolate Cheesecakes

Capitalizing on the trend of individual and smaller-sized portions, this no-bake chocolate cheesecake uses a single Oreo as its crust. Perfect for buffets or catered events, our chefs blend Philadelphia Cream Cheese, melted Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate and sugar. They add whipped topping, beating on low just until blended.

Chocolate