Watch CBSN Live

Chocolate Heaven For The Holidays

Chocolate is great year-round, but the holiday season provides all the more reason to make your favorite desserts!

On The Early Show Thursday, Dede Wilson of Bon Appetit magazine showed how to use chocolate in new, inspired ways!

Her menu, truly a chocolate lovers' dream-come-true, included Ambrosia Macaroons, Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce, Devils Food Cake with Peppermint Frosting, and Orange Scented Brownies with Dried Cranberries, Pistachios and Ginger!

According to Wilson, what we often think of as chocolate -- the sugar-loaded coating of a candy bar -- is worlds away from the bitter, deeply complex flavors of unadulterated chocolate. Fortunately, more and more chocolate producers are creating bars with less sugar and more real cocoa.

Often, these bars show a percentage on their wrappers, which indicates the amount, by weight, of ingredients in the bar that actually come from the cocoa bean. The rest of the ingredients in the bar are usually sugar, some vanilla, and, frequently, a fatty substance called lecithin.

When cocoa beans are removed from their pods, fermented, dried, roasted, cracked open, and their shells discarded, what results is called a nib. (This is the purest form of chocolate available, and you can buy it in bits from high-quality chocolate producers such as Scharffen Berger and use it to add a subtle, crunchy chocolate flavor to baked goods.) Most nibs, however, are ground into a paste called chocolate liquor. This chocolate liquor can be thought of as a combination of cocoa solids, which provide the flavor, and cocoa butter, which is the fat.

Unsweetened chocolate is essentially the same as chocolate liquor -- it has no added ingredients.

Bittersweet and semisweet chocolates have had a certain amount of sugar, vanilla, and, often, lecithin added. Usually, bittersweet has more cocoa product and less of these additives, so it has a richer chocolate flavor.

Milk chocolate is made by adding dry milk to chocolate that's been sweetened.

Dark chocolate is a term that refers to a range of chocolates: unsweetened, bittersweet, semisweet-any that have no added milk.

White chocolate is technically not chocolate, because it doesn't contain chocolate solids. It's made with a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, milk products, vanilla, and lecithin.


Ambrosia Macaroons

These cookies use the flavors of ambrosia -- the South's favorite sweet salad -- in a new way, adding finely-grated orange peel to classic coconut macaroons, and then drizzling them with bittersweet chocolate for a festive finish.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
3 large eggs
24 oz sweetened flaked coconut (about 6 cups firmly packed)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and salt; beat until blended. Beat in orange peel, then eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in coconut. Drop batter onto sheets by tablespoonfuls, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake macaroons, 1 sheet at a time, until golden on bottom and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on sheets.

Using fork, drizzle chocolate over macaroons. Chill on sheets until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.

Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons Armagnac, Cognac, or other brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine chocolate and butter in medium metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until melted and smooth. Remove from over water.
Bring cream to simmer in small saucepan; gently stir into chocolate. Add Armagnac, vanilla, and salt and stir to blend. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool, cover, and chill. Re-warm over low heat before using.


Devil's Food Cake with Peppermint Frosting

This showstopping cake is layered with dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate cream, then topped with marshmallowy peppermint frosting. To give the final product pastry-shop flair, set a pile of chocolate curls in the center.

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 cups ice water

Dark Chocolate Ganache
1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
14 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

White Chocolate Cream
12 oz high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), finely chopped
3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons pure peppermint extract

Peppermint Frosting
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in yolk. Add cocoa and beat until well blended. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with ice water in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until just blended and smooth after each addition. Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks and cool completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil; store at room temperature.

Dark Chocolate Ganache:
Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Chill until firm enough to spread, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Before using, let stand at room temperature until soft enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

White Chocolate Cream:
Place white chocolate in large heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup cream to simmer in saucepan. Pour hot cream over white chocolate. Let stand 1 minute; whisk until smooth. Whisk in extract. Cover; chill until mixture thickens and is cold, at least 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.

Add 2 cups chilled cream to white chocolate cream and beat until smooth and peaks form. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Rewhisk to thicken, if necessary, before using.

Using long serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally in half. Place 1 cake layer on platter, cut side up. Spread 1/3 of dark chocolate ganache over cake. Spoon 2 cups white chocolate cream in dollops over cake; spread evenly to edges. Top with second cake layer, cut side down; spread 1/3 of ganache over, then 2 cups white chocolate cream. Repeat with third cake layer, cut side up, remaining ganache, and remaining cream. Cover with fourth cake layer, cut side down. Chill while preparing frosting.

Peppermint Frosting:
Combine sugar, 1/2 cup water, egg whites, and corn syrup in large bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer. Whisk by hand to blend well. Set bowl with mixture over saucepan of gently simmering water; whisk constantly with hand whisk until mixture resembles marshmallow creme and ribbons form when whisk is lifted, 8 to 9 minutes. Whisk in peppermint extract. Remove bowl from over water and attach bowl to heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until mixture is barely warm to touch and very thick, 7 to 8 minutes.

Using offset spatula and working quickly, spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle chocolate curls over top and sides. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill.

Orange Scented Brownies with Dried Cranberries, Pistachios and Ginger

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
3 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 21 ounces), divided
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup shelled unsalted natural pistachios
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 oz high-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving overhang. Butter foil. Place butter, 1 cup chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water. Stir until mixture is smooth. Remove from over water and cool to room temperature.
Using electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and coarse salt in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. On low speed, gradually beat in chocolate mixture, then orange peel. Add flour and beat just until blended. Fold in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Spread batter in pan.

Bake brownies until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 cup chocolate chips. Let stand 2 minutes for chips to soften, then spread evenly over brownies. Sprinkle cranberries, pistachios, and ginger over.

Place white chocolate in small glass custard cup. Microwave on low in 10-second intervals until just melted; stir until smooth. Drizzle white chocolate over brownies. Chill until topping sets, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Using foil overhang as aid, lift brownie sheet from pan. Cut into squares.

View CBS News In