As August rolls around, slowly I may add, those of us who live with seasonal heat and humidity are tempted, like a caricature of the eternal Southern Belle, to clutch our sweat-soaked pearls, and announce with mournful self-indulgence, “I just don’t know if I can make it through the summer!”
Hot dry summers, like California’s Mediterranean climate and the desert environments of the American Southwest, also have a misery all their own as the temperatures soar above one hundred degrees day after day and dry winds and wildfires lurk around every corner. And the Eastern Seaboard has its own set of summer horrors with a seemingly endless pipeline of rain storms, flooding and hurricanes.
Three months ago, in my May 2021 blog, I wrote about the lovely and ubiquitous Lemon, the fruit that complements every kind of meal in every season. Chocolate, which on the surface may appear to be Lemon’s polar opposite, is in fact its fraternal twin. Chocolate is also fabulous in every season. It can be enjoyed hot, warm, cold or frozen, to help us through every weather challenge. And in Mexico, the birthplace of Chocolate, this luscious brown substance, the child of the cocoa bean, is used to prepare both savory and sweet comestibles.
For a perfect hot weather birthday presentation, you will need to add ice cream, preferably chocolate, but don’t stop there. Spend a little quality time in the frozen foods aisle of your local air-conditioned grocery store and peruse the chocolate treasures that beckon. The ice cream industry has expanded exponentially beyond the old vanilla, chocolate and strawberry options that were once all we could hope for. Ben and Jerry, the patron saints of ice cream, have developed an astonishing number of flavors that include chocolate, starting with the ever-popular Cherry Garcia, composed of Cherry Ice Cream with Cherries and Fudge Flakes. According to the Ben and Jerry’s website, Cherry Garcia, is their most famous flavor and the “First ice cream named for a rock legend.”
This website features a breath-taking array of cleverly named and innovatively composed ice creams. Here is a sampling:
Chocolate Malt Milkshake Ice Cream with Chocolate Cookie-Covered Fudge Truffles and Marshmallow Swirls
Karamel Suta Core
Chocolate and Caramel Ice Cream with Fudge Chips and a Soft Caramel Core
Netflix and Chill’d
Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Sweet and Salty Pretzel Swirls and Fudge Brownies
Oat of the Swirled
Buttery Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Fudge Flakes and Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookie Swirls
Brewed to Matter
Coffee Ice Cream with Fudge Chunks and Brownie Butter Swirls
In 2011, Magnum, a Belgian brand of ice cream and ice cream bars was launched in the United States. Magnum advertises their dark chocolate-covered ice cream bar as the “#1 indulgence ice cream bar in America.” Magnum also produces a wide variety of ice creams made with Belgian chocolate. One flavor, Double Chocolate and Ganache, made my head spin, just reading about it: “Chocolate Ice Cream with Swirls of Chocolate Ganache Sauce and Milk Chocolate Shards in a Crackling Milk Chocolate Shell.”
Alternatively, you can buy a pint of Talenti Dark Chocolate Sorbetto at Safeway for $4.50 ($6.49 in Hawaii.) This delicious tasting dairy-free but non-vegan frozen dessert is marketed to sound like an Italian Gelato but is in fact an American product made by Unilever in Dallas, Texas and Marietta, Georgia. I liked it, but food purists might be disturbed by the long list of ingredients, including water, sugar, cocoa, dextrose, coconut oil, egg yolks, egg whites, chocolate liqueur, carob bean gum, sea salt, pectin and the ever popular “natural flavor.”
(Filipino Vegan Chocolate Coconut Pudding)
I adapted this recipe from one I found in Bon Appetit magazine. To make this pudding, you will need a double boiler. I have never owned one, so I usually make do with a large saucepan and an aluminum mixing bowl. Fortunately, I now own an electric whisk which comes in handy, as the pudding needs to be whisked constantly as it thickens. The idea is that the water in the bottom saucepan should be simmering briskly before the pudding in the top of the double boiler is placed over the water, but the simmering water should not touch the bottom of the pudding pan. This is the only aspect of making Tibok-Tibok that is even remotely stressful, as the rest of the process is simply pouring the ingredients into the bowl.
- 2 (13.5- ounces each) cans unsweetened coconut milk (not reduced fat)
- ½ heaping cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1-2 cups toasted angel-flake coconut, optional
Makes: 6-8 servings
- Fill the bottom section of a double boiler with water and bring it to a steady simmer (or use a large saucepan filled about half full of water.)
- Into the top section of a double boiler (or a large aluminum mixing bowl,) whisk together the coconut milk, cocoa powder, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add the chocolate chips and set the double boiler pan or bowl over the simmering water, taking care that the bottom is not touching the water.
- Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula until the chocolate chips melt and the mixture is completely smooth. Switch to a whisk, scraping the bottom often, and keep whisking for approximately 10-12 minutes until the mixture has thickened to a pudding-like consistency.
- Remove the Tibok-Tibok from the stove, stir it with the spatula to cool slightly, and carefully pour it into the trifle bowl or individual dessert bowls. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, a minimum of one hour or overnight.
- While the Tibok-Tibok cools, preheat the oven to 350 F and spread the coconut evenly on the foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes and stir carefully with the rubber spatula to prevent burning. Bake about 3 minutes more until the coconut is just starting to turn a pale tan color. Do not overbake, as coconut burns easily. Cool on a wire rack and store in a tightly sealed container.
- When ready to serve the Tibok-Tibok, sprinkle the toasted coconut on top of the trifle bowl or individual serving bowls. A few slices of fresh ripe strawberries or other summer berries on top of the pudding would also make an attractive and delicious presentation. And for those who are neither vegan nor lactose-intolerant, a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Shake It Truffles ice cream would take this dessert to the next level in true extra-abundant Filipino fashion.
Chocolate Mocha Cake with Fresh Cherry Sauce
Chocolate Mocha Cake also supports my theory that chocolate is wonderful in all four seasons and that chocolate is good with everything. The original recipe, entitled Chocolate-Espresso Cake with Mocha Glaze, which I found in the 2001 December issue of Bon Appetit magazine and have adapted, was part of a Swedish Christmas menu that also included Beet and Apple Salad with Creamy Chive Dressing and Swedish Ginger Cookies. Obviously, this cake was intended to be part of a sumptuous Christmas feast. I hope you will save this recipe when Christmas rolls around, as it is ridiculously easy to make. You can adapt it for a winter presentation by topping or surrounding the cake with candied cranberries or marrons glace, festive European style candied chestnuts. I think this cake is great in the summer with Fresh Cherry Sauce, as chocolate and cherries are a classic combination that can never be surpassed. But as the seasons roll by, dried cherries can also be paired with chocolate with delicious results.
Start making this fabulous cake a day before you plan to serve it, as it improves with a night in the refrigerator.
For the Chocolate Mocha Cake:
- 14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter
- 10 ounces of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (not unsweetened,) broken into pieces
- 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup flour (plus a little extra for the pan)
- cooking spray for the pan
- Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice Cream for serving
For the Mocha Fudge Icing:
- 6 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
- 3 tablespoons brewed espresso (or 3 tablespoons of hot water mixed with 1 heaping teaspoon of instant espresso powder)
- ¼ cup (half a stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar, firmly packed
For the Fresh Cherry Sauce:
- 4 cups sweet red cherries (approximately 1-2 pounds,) stemmed, pitted and cut in half
- ¼-1/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoons cornstarch
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Serves: 10-16, depending on serving size
Preheat Oven to: 350° F
- Make the Chocolate Mocha Cake: Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Cut 2 nine-inch rounds of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan. Put the parchment rounds in the bottom of the pan one at a time spraying each. Sift a little flour over the bottom and sides of the pan. Set aside.
- Place the 10 ounces of broken chocolate, 14 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces, and the 4 teaspoons of espresso powder into a quart-sized glass measuring cup and microwave for 1-2 minutes at 30-second intervals, stirring with a rubber spatula until all the ingredients are melted, mixed together and smooth. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into a large mixing bowl and cool to room temperature.
- Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla to the mixing bowl and whisk until well blended. Whisk in the flour just until no white clumps of flour are visible. Do not overbeat. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan, place the pan on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for 45-55 minutes until a bamboo skewer inserted into the center comes out with moist but not wet crumbs attached. Cool the cake completely in the pan placed on a wire rack.
- Make the Mocha Fudge Icing: Clean the 1-quart measuring cup and add the broken chocolate, butter and espresso to the cup. Microwave at 30-second intervals for 1-2 minutes, stirring with the rubber spatula until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into a medium sized mixing bowl to cool slightly. Remove the cooled cake from the springform pan, remove the parchment sheets, and place the cake on an attractive cake platter.
- With a hand-held electric mixer, slowly add the powdered sugar to the melted chocolate mixture and beat until all the powdered sugar is incorporated and the icing is thick but pourable. Pour the icing evenly over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip over the sides. Let the cake stand at room temperature until the icing sets, about 2 hours. Cover the cake with a cake dome or place a sheet of waxed paper lightly over the cake and refrigerate overnight. Both the icing and the cake will harden.
- Make the Fresh Cherry Sauce: Wearing disposable kitchen gloves, stem and pit the cherries with a small paring knife, cut them in two, and place the cherry halves directly into a medium sized saucepan. Add the water, cornstarch, lemon juice and sugar. Stir the mixture and check the taste. Add a little more sugar if you want a sweeter sauce. Cook the mixture on medium heat until it comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for 6-10 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Transfer the cherry sauce to a covered glass container, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.
- To serve the Chocolate Mocha Cake, remove the cake and the Cherry Sauce from the refrigerator, and let them stand at room temperature at least 2 hours. Cut the cake in small wedges with a sharp knife, add a scoop of Cherry Garcia Ice Cream, and pour a ladle of Cherry Sauce over both the cake and the ice cream. Serve immediately.