Big boy dreams and chocolate kisses
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
St. Paul doesn't mention in his famous letter to the Corinthians whether he quit eating like a child when he entered manhood, but these days when it comes to chocolate, that's what lots of people are aiming to do. Thus, dark chocolate seems to be all the rage, even among those, which includes most of us, who grew up on milk chocolate.
You can now get a Snickers bar covered in dark chocolate, M&M's likewise come in a dark variety and even the venerable Hershey's Kiss (manufactured by a company that chose Pennsylvania dairy country as its headquarters because milk chocolate was its principal product) is available in a dark version. And as if that weren't enough, in Switzerland, the place where some 130 years ago Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle invented milk chocolate, they sell Toblerone bars, the Swiss counterpart of a Hershey bar, in dark as well as milk chocolate form.
Perhaps all this shouldn't be surprising in a market where even Wal-Mart brags about the cacao content of its house-brand chocolate right on the front of the package. The higher the percentage of cacao, the darker the chocolate, and dark chocolate is definitely in demand. Gourmet brands of chocolate routinely tout percentages of 70, 80, 90 or more. (Chocophiles should note, however, that it's the quality of the cacao more than the percentage that makes for good eating.)
So it's easy to dismiss milk chocolate, which, indeed, was initially intended for children, as mere child's play, unsophisticated and unworthy (especially if you're a chocolate snob) because typically it contains only about 30 percent cacao. In fact, the FDA allows milk chocolate to be sold with as little as 10 percent cacao. (Moreover, cheap milk chocolate often incorporates excessive amounts of milk and sugar to mask inferior-quality cacao beans.) So in a sense, some milk chocolate bars are not so much milk chocolate as they are chocolate milk in solid form. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)
But now some high-end manufacturers of milk chocolate are attempting to beat the chocolate purists at their own game. They're upping the cacao content of their milk chocolate to make a product that still exhibits the lush, creamy mouthfeel of milk chocolate but in which the chocolate itself is not overshadowed by the milk and sugar. They call it "dark" milk chocolate. Typically these bars contain anywhere from 40 percent to 70 percent cacao. National Milk Chocolate Day, which is coming up July 28, might be a good time to try one to discover how grown up milk chocolate can be.
Milk Chocolate Cheesecake
One taste of this cheesecake, adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse, will disabuse anyone of the notion that milk chocolate is not sufficiently sophisticated. For best results, use a milk chocolate with a relatively high cacao content.
2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
5 tablespoons butter
2 pounds cream cheese
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/3 cup heavy cream, divided
5 1/2 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces "dark" milk chocolate
20 to 25 chocolate kisses
Melt milk chocolate and let cool. Melt butter and combine with cookie crumbs. Press on bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Mix in 2/3 cup cream, flour, salt and vanilla. Add melted milk chocolate and stir until well combined. Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes until center of cake is set. Cool and refrigerate. Whip remaining cream to stiff peaks and place in pastry bag with fluted tip. Pipe whipped cream in lattice-work pattern on top of cake and place a chocolate kiss in each opening. Unmold cake and serve.
Tom Harte's book, "Stirring Words," is available at local bookstores. A Harte Appetite airs Fridays 8:49 a.m. on KRCU, 90.9 FM. Contact Tom at semissourian.com or at the Southeast Missourian, P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702-0699.