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Everything you want to know about chocolate
Whether you stay in or spend a night on the town, chocolate-covered strawberries have become a ubiquitous part of almost any Valentine's Day menu. Despite the fact that strawberries are out of season, the dessert makes a lot of sense: A vibrant splash of red and a hearty dose of America's favorite aphrodisiac, served in a way that sounds downright pornographic, what with all the running juices and finger-licking.
But what's great in theory doesn't always pan out. The cold strawberries chill the chocolate so that it doesn't melt as quickly as it should, creating a waxy, tongue-coating mouthfeel. The chill also mutes the flavor of the chocolate, since you can't let it melt on your tongue and swallow a chewed-up strawberry at the same time.
At home, this can be solved by bringing the berries to room temperature, but only if the chocolate's been tempered right to begin with. If you're super comfortable with chocolate and/or sous vide, tempering's not a big deal, and these problems can be overcome (here's our guide to tempering chocolate). But for those who are new to the process or just trying to pull off a quick 'n easy but romantic dessert, tempering probably isn't in the cards.
So if you have your heart set on chocolate-covered strawberries but aren't inclined to temper, there's a simple alternative: ganache. It gives you all the romance of fondue, minus the special equipment, so you can enjoy something gooey and warm. And a bowlful of ganache can be a thing of beauty if you swirl two types of chocolate together.
It doesn't have to be a mix of dark and white chocolate, although that'll provide some great contrast; dark and milk chocolate work well together, too. The process is simple: pour some hot cream over two bowls of chocolate, one light and one dark, then whisk each until smooth, and walk away. By the time you've washed up some strawberries, the ganaches will be thick enough to swirl together in a bowl.
There are just a few things to bear in mind when making ganache. First of all, use good quality chocolate rather than chips—the palm oil that replaces cocoa butter in chips and cheaper chocolates can give the ganache an oily sheen. Second, don't actually bring the cream to a boil; it only needs to be about 190°F to melt the chocolate, and working at lower temperatures will let the chocolate maintain its natural temper, giving the ganache a smooth, even sheen. Finally, always pour the cream over a bowl of chocolate rather than adding the chocolate to the pan of cream, an arrangement that also helps keep the chocolate from getting too hot (which can make the ganache look greasy and broken).
With those tips in mind, marbled dipping ganache is a fast and foolproof dessert perfect for a cold winter's night.
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