With this post, we kick off the second annual Love Rules! All Chocolate! All Month! celebration at LunaCafe OtherWorldly Kitchen. To check out the wonderful chocolate creations we debuted last February, be sure to visit the All Chocolate! recipe archive.
Beginning now, every post until the end of February will feature, you guessed it, CHOCOLATE. In fact, I’ve been covered in unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate, as well as cocoa, for many weeks now, trying to come up with the world’s best, truly CHEWY (not fudgy, not cakey) brownie. And finally, after many attempts, I succeeded. In all the testing, I also serendipitously hit upon a wonderfully silky, light, and luscious fudgy brownie that turned me, the swamp boogie queen of chewy brownie lovers, into a fudgy brownie convert.
But before we get to the brownies, let’s start this year’s celebration of love with an absolutely over-the-top breakfast indulgence, shall we? Just the kind of romantic tête-à-tête you might want to surprise your Honey with on Valentine’s Day morning.
If you make the Orange Caramel Syrup, Toasted Almond Praline, and chocolate egg batter in advance, you will need to disappear only briefly to the kitchen to brew the coffee and throw this divine medley together.
Oh, and it is so worth seeking out Cara Cara oranges. The flavor is wonderful and the coral-pink hue is beautiful with the dark chocolate and amber brown hues in this dish.
And, as every celebration deserves a mantra, I propose for this year: A little too much chocolate is just about right. On that note, and without further ado, I give you…
Bittersweet Chocolate Orange French Toast with Orange Caramel Syrup & Toasted Almond Praline
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (natural or alkalized)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup cream, cold
½ cup milk, cold
2 ounces bar premium-quality bittersweet (62-%-75% cacao) bar chocolate, chopped (about ½ cup chopped)
finely grated zest of 1 Cara Cara orange
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon Starbucks Via Italian Roast instant coffee (or other instant espresso)
1/8 teaspoon orange oil (or ¼ teaspoon orange extract)
4 large eggs
1 large soft-crust loaf uncut brioche, sourdough or French bread, cut into eight, ¾-inch-thick slices
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Cara Cara oranges, peeled and segments neatly removed
½ cup Orange Caramel Syrup (recipe below)
½ cup Toasted Almond Praline, crushed to coarse shards (recipe below)
powdered sugar in a shaker
1 cup lightly whipped and sweetened heavy cream
- In a medium saucepan, whisk the cocoa, sugar, and brown sugar until all lumps are removed, and then slowly whisk in the cold cream and milk, a little at a time to ensure no lumps form.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the cream mixture just to a simmer.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted and smooth. Then stir in the orange zest, vanilla, salt, instant coffee. and orange oil. Let cool to room temperature.
- Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl, and whisk the eggs, one at a time, into the mixture. Cover and frig until ready to use, within two days.
- When ready to serve, dip each slice of bread for a minute or so into the batter. The batter should permeate to the center of the slice. You can check by making a small cut in the slice. Soak for a minute longer if necessary. As you are ready to sauté each slice, lift the slice from the batter and let the excess batter drain back into the bowl for a few seconds.
- In a nonstick skillet set over medium heat, melt ½-1 tablespoon of butter and sauté one or two slices of batter-soaked bread at a time, making sure not to crowd the slices. Sauté about 2-3 minutes per side, until both surfaces are nicely browned.
- Serve immediately on a hot plate. If desired, accompany with Cara Cara orange slices, drizzle with Orange Caramel Syrup, dust with powdered sugar, top with crushed Toasted Almond Praline, and dollop with whipped cream.
Makes 1 2/3 cups custard (enough for 8 ¾-inch-thick slices bread); Serves 4.
Toasted Almond Praline
Praline is a delicious, lean (no butter or cream) caramel and nut brittle (usually broken into small shards or pulverized into a powder) that is often used in desserts. It’s easy to make and wonderful to have on hand.
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup water
1 cup slivered almonds, light toasted
- In a small saucepan, whisk the sugar and water and set over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the syrup clears. To prevent crystallization, do not rush this first step; use a pastry brush dipped in cold water to wash down the sides of the saucepan.
- When the sugar is fully dissolved, raise the heat, bring the syrup to a boil, and stop stirring. Continue cooking until the syrup turns an amber color (almost the same color as dark honey). An instant-read thermometer will read 340° but color is the best indicator.
- Add the sliced almonds and stir gently with a metal utensil.
- Pour this mixture onto a buttered baking sheet and let cool to a nut brittle.
- When hard and cool, break the brittle up into shards and serve as a garnish or pulverize in a food processor, in which case the mixture should be very fine.
Makes 1½ cups coarse shards or 1 cup powder.
Orange Caramel Syrup
This lean caramel syrup tastes purely of burnt sugar and orange. There is no butter or cream, which makes this syrup an excellent choice for pancakes,
French toast, bread pudding or even as a drizzle accompanying fresh Chevre and artisan crackers. I love having it on hand in the frig.
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup water
2 cups orange juice, reduced to ¾ cup
- Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the syrup clears. To prevent crystallization, do not rush this first step; use a pastry brush dipped periodically in cold water to wash down the sides of the saucepan.
- When the sugar is fully dissolved, raise the heat, bring the syrup to a boil, and stop stirring. Continue heating without stirring until the syrup turns a dark amber color. (An instant-read thermometer will test at 340° but the color indicator is just as reliable and easier to gauge.)
- Carefully stir in the reduced orange juice, keeping your distance, as the mixture will rise up and splatter.
- Now, over low heat, stir until the caramel and orange juice are blended, making sure to dissolve any resistant patches of caramel at the bottom of the pan.
- Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. If the sauce is a little too thick for your intended purpose, thin it progressively with a small amount of additional orange juice.
- To store, refrigerate in a covered container. Reheat gently before serving.
Makes about 1¼ cups syrup.