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Going Gourmet With Your Hot Chocolate

A cup of hot chocolate offers warm comfort in the cold of winter. Christopher Brooks, executive chef of the Blantyre restaurant in the Berkshire Mountains in Lenox, Mass., stopped by The Early Show to give hot chocolate a gourmet make-over.

He prepared two very special versions: A hot chocolate with Valrhona and Cointreau, and a white hot chocolate with espresso. Plus, learn how to make homemade marshmallows and banana bread to accompany your gourmet treats.

Hot Chocolate with Valrhona and Cointreau

French Valrhona chocolate traces its origins back to 1922 in the Rhone.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup grated Valrhona chocolate
1 cup of milk
1 shot of Cointreau (optional)

Preparation:

Put the chocolate and milk in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring or whisking to blend properly. Once blended, add a shot of Cointreau and mix into the hot chocolate. Then drop in some marshmallows and serve with banana bread and a side of whipped cream.

Makes 1 cup

White Hot Chocolate with Espresso

White hot chocolate is something that not everyone has tried, but it is truly delicious. For this recipe the chef recommends Callebaut white chocolate, but if you cannot find it, your favorite white chocolate will do.

Ingredients:

1/3 cups of grated white chocolate
1 cup of milk
1 shot of espresso

Preparation:

Put the white chocolate and milk in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring or whisking to blend properly. Once blended, add a shot of espresso and mix into hot chocolate. Then drop in some marshmallows, or serve on the side. Banana bread and a side of whipped cream make great companions to the chocolate.

Makes 1 cup

Homemade Marshmallows

Ingredients:

¼ cup cornstarch
1/3 cup of confectioners' sugar
2 egg whites
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
½ cup of hot water
1 cup of superfine (bar) sugar
1 tablespoon of light corn syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

First sift the cornstarch and confectioners' sugar together. Grease an 8 inch square pan with flavorless oil, such as canola. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Alternately, add a tablespoon of the cornstarch mixture to the pan, and toss it around so the pan is thoroughly coated.

Whisk the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until they form soft peaks.

Pour ¼ cup of the hot water into a small bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Stir and leave in a warm spot until the gelatin has dissolved. It will look clear rather than grainy. If it sets, simply reheat it by standing it in a dish of hot water.

In a medium frying pan with a heavy base, mix the remaining ¼ cup of water and the superfine sugar. Heat over a medium heat, and stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. When the water looks completely clear, stir in the corn syrup, the liquefied gelatin and the vanilla extract; it will be a creamy white color.

Now with the electric mixer running, pour this mixture into the egg whites and beat for another 15 minutes, or until the mixture is pure white and very stiff. Turn into the prepared pan, smooth it out as best you can with a spatula, and sift about 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch mixture on top. Let it set for about 2 hours.

Sprinkle the remaining cornstarch mixture on a clean cutting board. Using a wet knife, cut the marshmallow mixture in 2-inch squares, and ease them out of the pan onto the cutting board. Cut each square into four equally sized pieces, and toss them in the cornstarch mixture until they are dusted on all sides. Let them sit on a wire cooling rack or something similar to dry them out for another couple of hours. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 64 marshmallows

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

4 very ripe bananas
2 ½ cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking soda
3 cups flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature
4 eggs
½ cup of sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup broken walnuts (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and set a rack in the center. Thoroughly grease three 3 inch by 7-inch loaf pans or two 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Mash the bananas with a fork, sprinkling them as you go with the with two teaspoons of sugar (the sugar helps develop the flavor.) Set aside. Mix the baking soda with flour and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one at a time, adding 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture with each one. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla extract and the remaining flour mixture. When thoroughly blended, stir in the mashed bananas and the walnuts if you are using them.

Turn the batter into the prepared pans, and bake. In 3 inch by 7-inch pans, the banana bread will take 30 to 40 minutes to bake. Larger pans will take 50 to 60 minutes to bake. To test for doneness, poke a skewer into the center, and when it comes out clean the banana bread is ready. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes; then remove from the pans to finish cooling.

Makes 3 small or 2 large loaves.