Valentine delight: Chocolate rocks

February 4, 2009 4:51:22 PM PST
A sweet confection from Coco-luxe in time for Valentine's Day.

Rochers (or Rocks)

¼ c. sugar
¼ c. water
1lb roughly chopped chocolate (bittersweet preferred but milk or white can be used)
dash of sea salt
10 oz slivered almonds

Chopped dried fruit as desired
Suggestions: sour cherries, apricots, crystallized ginger, cranberries, mangos

Special equipment: thermometer, dry towel on hand

Roasting nuts:
Preheat oven to 350F degrees

Combine water and sugar in pot. Heat until sugar is dissolved.

Toss the almonds in sugar mixture until just coated and spread nuts on lightly sprayed sheet pan.

Sprinkle with sea salt as desired.

Toast almonds in oven spreading almonds around evenly every 5 minutes until golden brown, (between 15 and 20 minutes). Set aside almonds and let cool.

Tempering chocolate:
In a clean dry bowl, add three quarters of the chocolate. Set bowl over a water bath on low heat. Melt chocolate until temperature reads between 118- 120F. Remove bowl from water bath and dry bottom of bowl before pouring melted chocolate into another clean dry bowl.* Stir melted chocolate occasional (every 3 minutes) until chocolate reaches 100F. Add additional coarsely chopped chocolate into bowl and stir until the chocolate is 89 - 90F. Test chocolate is in temper by dipping the back of a spoon in chocolate; the chocolate should set up quickly (within 2 minutes) and be shiny and glossy throughout; no streaks or white spots.

Making the rochers:
Working in small batches; mix a few handfuls of toasted nuts and desired dried fruit with enough chocolate to coat evenly. Use 2 teaspoons to scoop out the mixture into 'rock' piles on wax or parchment paper. Repeat in small batches until finished. If chocolate starts to get too cold (below 84F) place on the water bath for a few seconds to heat back up; stirring chocolate constantly.

*Optional if you are short on bowls; pouring the melted chocolate into another bowl helps bring the temperature of the melted chocolate down faster.

About Stephanie Marcon:
Stephanie, the middle child in an Italian-American household, is an avowed foodie and lifelong sweet tooth. She and her siblings grew up helping their mom and grandmother with the daily cooking and celebration meals. They were encouraged to experiment and she recalls making desserts with her Easy Bake oven and creating Easter and Christmas candies and Christmas cookies.

After an MBA and ten years in corporate America, she decided to embrace her passion for fine chocolate as a career. She enrolled in and graduated from the pastry program at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and worked in the kitchen of renowned chocolatier Michael Recchiuti before launching Coco-luxe Confections in January 2006.

"I saw and tasted dozens of super premium chocolates but not many that celebrate classic American flavors," says Stephanie. "I decided to make high quality chocolate in retro American flavors that are whimsical, fun and delicious - better than what you remember having as a child. I think of it as comfort food in a high end form."

About Coco-luxe:
Coco-luxe Confections is a new confection company that creates deliciously playful chocolates inspired by classic dessert flavors. Chocolatier Stephanie Marcon combines artisan dark, milk and white chocolate with natural ingredients for chocolates that satisfy the demanding palate of the premium chocolate lover.

The creation of each new Coco-luxe flavor starts in her kitchen where Stephanie experiments with ingredients and develops recipes. She insists on using the best including local cream, whole vanilla beans, and natural peanut butter. Her sense of fun and insistence on quality comes across in her chocolates. Coco-luxe flavors include After Dinner Mint, dark chocolate ganache swirled with mint; German Chocolate, milk chocolate coconut ganache seasoned with toasted pecans and coconut; Angel Food, white chocolate coats a square of vanilla bean white chocolate ganache; and Banana Split, milk chocolate surrounds milk chocolate-banana ganache studded with bits of dried cherries.

One of her pet peeves is figuring out what flavor a chocolate is so she eliminated the guess work when she designed the Coco-luxe line. Each Coco-luxe chocolate has a charming transfer print image that represents the ganache flavor of each piece (e.g. a gingerbread man for Gingerbread, a cake slice for German Chocolate, an orange for Dreamy Orange, etc.). In 2006, Coco-luxe Confections introduced new flavors including Peanut Butter Bites, peanut butter and milk chocolate ganache sprinkled with toasted peanuts and coarse sea salt and Afternoon Chocolates in "pick-me-up" flavors such as Mocha made with the Bay Area's own Blue Bottle Coffee and Chai Tea made with spices blended with dark chocolate ganache.

The Valentines selection debuted in 2007 featuring 3 new flavors - Rose, a white chocolate ganache flavored with Rose and Honey, Pure Devotion (pure dark chocolate ganache), and Champagne Ganache all enrobed in Dark Chocolate. Also in 2007 Dragées : County Fair Peanuts and Block Party Almonds, as well as 3 Chocolate Bars (Good Fortune, Happy Trails and Monkey'in Around) were added to her collection. Early in 2008 Stephanie created HOT, her all natural hot cocoa mix, which requires only hot water to make a deliciously rich and thick hot cocoa.

1673 Haight Street (@ Cole)
San Francisco, CA 94117