Valentine’s Day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of poet Geoffrey Chaucer, when the tradition of courtly love was very much in vogue. The day evolved into an occasion where lovers expressed their feelings for each other by giving flowers, sending cards, and offering confectionery, especially chocolate, which has grown to become synonymous with February 14. Buying a box of chocolates is always a good bet, but making a chocolate dessert is even better. This chocolate confection is delicious with warm fruit compote, a sauce you can also use to top pancakes when Shrove Tuesday rolls around. This recipe originally appeared in Flavors of Ireland, still available at www.irishcook.com
Chocolate Mousse Cake with Warm Fruit Compote
Serves 8 to 10
9 ounces (9 squares) bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, roughly chopped
10 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds
5 large eggs, separated
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Warm Fruit Compote
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1 cup pear nectar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium firm, ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons pear brandy
1. Make cake. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9 inch spring form pan and dust with flour; tap out the excess.
2. Microwave chocolate and butter and in a large glass bowl on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir once, and then return to microwave for 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in sugar. Remove from the heat, add almonds, and then stir in egg yolks, one at a time.
3. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Spoon one quarter of whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, and then gently fold in remaining.
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is firm. (Cake will rise, form a crust, the fall again.) Cool completely, and then run a knife around inside of the pan and remove sides.
5. To serve, cut cake into slices, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve with compote.
6. Make compote. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine wine, pear nectar, brown sugar, zest and juice of orange and lemon, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Remove cloves. Set aside.
7. Reduce heat, add apricots, raisins, cranberries, apples, and pears, and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until apples and pears are nearly tender.
8. With a slotted spoon, transfer fruits to a bowl and return cooking liquid to pan along with cinnamon sticks and cloves. Boil for about 15 minutes, or until mixture is syrupy and reduced to about 1 cup. Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves and stir in brandy.
9. Pour liquid over fruit and stir gently to combine. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature and rewarm before serving. (Makes about 2 cups)
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