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Holiday Chocolate

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Holidays evoke gluttony. We gorge ourselves with succulent and seasoned meats, red and pink. We stay up late (perhaps waiting for a certain laughter?) cracking nuts and imbibing various liquors, ciders, and ales. Early morning coffee sweeps the sleep from our eyes as we bumble toward the flashing decorated tree with shiny wrapped packages beneath its boughs.

Wait. Where’s the chocolate? Certainly chocolate must be included in this season of gluttony. And well it should be. Here are two recipes that are sure to satisfy any chocolate-hound. Serve Heather’s Hot Chocolate to the children (several hours before bedtime, as chocolate increases rowdiness) or mix with coffee to gain a double wallop of caffeine. For a delightful desert that tastes like there’s more effort to making it, try Heather’s Mocha Cheesecake (as adapted from Ghirardelli, San Francisco’s famous chocolate factory).

Heather’s Hot Chocolate
I tried making hot chocolate with powders and syrups but was not satisfied with the flavors. So I dug out the old saucepan and started experimenting until I came up with this recipe.

I used 1 oz. of bittersweet chocolate per 2 cups of milk, but you can adjust to your taste. Take a heavy saucepan and melt the chocolate and milk in it over medium-low heat. Stir constantly as the chocolate melts into the milk. When the chocolate is almost completely melted, get a wire whisk and whisk the milk while it is still heating. Try not to bring the milk to a boil. If you desire, add a teaspoon of vanilla, mint, or other flavoring just before serving. Top with real whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

For really rich hot chocolate, use half milk and half cream. It’s a delicious way to meet your holiday calorie quotient!

Heather’s Mocha Cheesecake
Crust Ingredients
1 ½ cups chocolate wafers, crushed
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup finely grated coconut (optional)

Topping Ingredients
4–6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup strong coffee
Chocolate shavings (optional)
Chocolate-covered espresso beans (optional)

Filling Ingredients
2 eight-oz. packages of cream cheese (softened)
½ cup sugar
3 eggs
4–6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
½ cup strong coffee

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the butter and mix into it the crushed chocolate wafers and coconut. Press mixture to create a layer on the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch springform pan. Set aside. Using a mixer blend the cream cheese with the sugar. Add the eggs. Take a heavy saucepan and add to it the coffee and chocolate. Melt the chocolate in the coffee over medium-low heat (be careful not to scorch or boil the chocolate), stirring constantly.

When the chocolate is melted, add it to the cream cheese mixture and blend until smooth. Pour into pan and place back into the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 or 40 minutes, or until the cake is firm in the center. Leave the cake in the springform pan and chill 1 to 4 hours or overnight.

Melt the chocolate for the topping in the coffee, stirring until melted. Add the sour cream to the melted chocolate mixture and stir until blended. This mixture should be warm, but not hot. Pour topping over cheesecake and chill an additional 2 to 4 hours or overnight.

Decorate the cheesecake with the chocolate shavings and chocolate-covered espresso beans, if desired.

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