The thought of chocolate evokes many sensations: excitement, indulgence, temptation and even pleasure. No wonder it's the preferred confection to give and receive during this month's celebration of love. In honor of Valentine's Day and all of its chocolate reverie, we asked four local pastry chefs to recall their most mind-blowing chocolate experiences. They've re-created those memories here with recipes for dishes that will render your loved ones speechless with chocolate delight.Sarah HootonManager, Central Market Fort Worth Cooking SchoolWhile Sarah Hooton's most memorable chocolate experience is probably her grandmother Mary's chocolate sheet cake (which is now for sale at Central Market), chocolate sorbet topped with olive oil comes in a close second. During a visit to Jean-Georges in New York City, the Central Market Cooking School manager indulged in a dessert sampler offering richly bittersweet, icy sorbet made creamy with a drizzle of high-end olive oil. "Out of every complicated mousse, cake and pastry on that plate, that simple combination stood out the most," she says. Hooton has combined the unforgettable dish with an element from another of her most memorable chocolate menu items -- caramelized, salted brioche, a dessert that her pastry chef friend serves in New York City with malted-chocolate pudding. As a final decadent touch, Hooton garnishes her custom creation with a salty, crunchy chocolate-hazelnut topping, noting, "I am a real big fan of savory, salty-sweet and crunch."Barbara HarrisOwner, Silver Spoon Cafe & BakeryIntemperance is defined as a lack of moderation, or even drunkenness, and in the case of Barbara Harris' signature dessert, chocolate is the intoxicant. The Silver Spoon Cafe & Bakery owner has made the three-layer, Tia Maria liqueur-infused brownie cake for more than 30 years, primarily for the birthday of her husband, Bill. "It was always his dessert of choice," she says. "And sometimes you want something other than just a regular birthday cake." The dense dessert is offered on occasion at Harris' pink banquette-filled Southlake eatery, which opened last summer with a colorful menu of salads, sandwiches and soups. The restaurant isn't Harris' first dabble in dining. The San Antonio native moved to Dallas in 1989 to establish the famed Celebrity Café & Bakery in Highland Park Village, which she owned for nearly 20 years. At 78, Harris admits baking is still in her blood, and she feels obligated to re-create this memorable dessert for any chocoholic's fix, including her own. "It's a chocolate-lover's dream."Hans MullerOwner, Swiss Pastry ShopHans Muller, the teddy bear of a baker and owner of Swiss Pastry Shop, recalls waking up to fresh bakery bread and treats every morning during his frequent trips to Switzerland as a child, courtesy of an aunt who would rise before everyone in the house. "My absolute favorite was schoggi brot, or chocolate-stuffed brioche," Muller says. "I just remember it as perfect, rich buttery dough with creamy chocolate inside." Muller has re-created the memorable indulgence with this easy-to-follow recipe. He adds chopped hazelnuts to this version (because he likes to "gild the lily," he says), which provide soft crunches amid the pastry's buttery, bready bites. But it's the hazelnut butter-based chocolate, or gianduja, tucked inside the dough that makes this dessert (or breakfast) an instant addiction. "I made sure my kids got some the last time we were there and that's all they talked about," Muller says. "It's like a Christmas present with another one inside."Sally SchwartzPastry chef for Tim LoveSally Schwartz recalls one thunderous camping night during which she experienced the chocolate highlight of her life. Lightning killed the power to her and her husband's RV, so she was forced to bake her brownie batter (prepared midstorm) inside a gas grill. "I'll never forget the smoky chocolate decadence of that barbecue brownie topped with creamy dark chocolate ice cream. It blew our heads straight off," she says. Schwartz adds white chocolate meringue to her version pictured here, creating a riff on the classic baked Alaska dessert. "Just like everything coming out of chef Tim Love's kitchens, my baked Alaska has been given a Texas twist."Chocolate sorbet with olive oil & caramelized, salted briocheChocolate sorbet:2 1/4 cups water1 cup sugar2 tablespoons corn syrup, light or dark3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (Hooton recommends Valrhona brand)Pinch of salt6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Valrhona1. In a medium saucepan, heat the water, sugar and corn syrup together until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in cocoa powder and salt.2. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Stir until dissolved and chill.3. Freeze, following your ice cream machine instructions.Caramelized salted brioche:Butter, as needed8-10 slices brioche, sliced about 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapePowdered sugar, as neededSalt, as neededIn a saute pan over medium heat, melt a few tablespoons of butter. Add brioche and flip immediately so both sides get soaked with butter. Sprinkle each side with powdered sugar, just to coat, and a small amount of salt. Brown both sides, remove from pan and let cool.Chocolate crunch:2 cups milk chocolate (Hooton recommends Valrhona or Callebaut brand)4 tablespoons Nutella1 cup Feuilletine, crushed ice cream cones or wafer cookies, or rice cereal1. Over a double boiler, carefully melt the chocolate and Nutella together. Once melted and smooth, remove from heat and add Feuilletine, crushed cones or cookies, or rice cereal.2. Take approximately 1 cup of the mixture and press between two sheets of parchment or wax paper until it is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Use a rolling pin if necessary.3. Place on a sheet tray and freeze until it sets.4. Break into large pieces to serve. Pieces can be stored in the refrigerator.Assembly:Place brioche on a plate, scoop sorbet on top, drizzle with a high-quality olive oil, and garnish with chocolate crunch and even colored sea salt.Nutritional information per serving, based on 8: 772 calories, 38 grams fat, 109 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 211 milligrams cholesterol, 374 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber, 42 percent of calories from fat.-- Sarah Hooton, Central Market, 4651 West Freeway, Fort Worth, 817-989-4700; www.centralmarket.comChocolate intemperanceBrownies:1 cup butter, softened2 cups sugar4 eggs2 teaspoons vanilla1 1/2 cups flour2/3 cup cocoa1 teaspoon baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)1. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla and blend. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in pecans, if using.2. Pour into greased 10-by-15-inch baking pan and bake at 325 degrees 20-25 minutes.Chocolate frosting:3 cups semisweet chocolate chips1/2 cup whipping cream4 1/2 tablespoons butter1/4 cup Tia Maria liqueur1. Melt chocolate chips with whipping cream in a microwave. Stir until smooth. Whisk in butter. Add Tia Maria and let sit for 20 minutes.2. Beat with a mixer on medium speed 4-5 minutes until stiff peaks form.Assembly:Cut brownie into three 5-by-10-inch pieces. Spread frosting onto one layer. Add second layer and spread frosting. Add third layer and frost top and sides with remaining frosting.Garnish with white chocolate curls and/or chocolate-dipped strawberries, if desired. Keep refrigerated.Nutritional information per serving, based on 15: 515 calories, 31 grams fat, 60 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 110 milligrams cholesterol, 290 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 51 percent of calories from fat.Texas Tornado barbecue brownie baked Alaska with homemade dark chocolate ice cream & white chocolate meringueDark chocolate ice cream:Makes about 1 quart16 ounces milk2 ounces cornstarch3 egg yolks2 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature4 ounces dark chocolate, melted (see note)10 ounces heavy cream1 ounce light corn syrup2 1/2 ounces sugar1 teaspoon kosher salt1. In a medium mixing bowl, gently whisk together 4 ounces of the milk and the cornstarch. Set aside.2. Whisk egg yolks, cream cheese and melted chocolate together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.3. In a medium pot approximately 3-4 quart size (stainless steel is best), gently whisk together the remaining milk, heavy cream, light corn syrup, sugar and salt. Bring this mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook 3-4 minutes, whisking continuously. Add the milk/cornstarch slurry mixture and whisk continuously until thickened, about 2-4 minutes. Remove from heat.4. Slowly add thickened mixture to reserved cream cheese mixture, still whisking all the while.5. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or place cooled mixture in a gallon-size plastic bag and chill in an ice bath until very cold. Follow manufacturer instructions for ice cream maker.Note: Schwartz prefers a high-quality chocolate between 60 and 70 percent cocoa. Chocolate can be melted slowly over a double boiler or in a microwave at 10- to 20-second intervals, stirring after each interval.Barbecue brownie:Makes 12 brownies2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, for greasing4 large organic eggs, room temperature13 ounces dark brown sugar8 ounces cocoa powder, extra brute (dark), sifted3 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (see tip)8 ounces unsalted butter, melted1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract1. Preheat gas grill to 300 degrees. Grease an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish with 2 tablespoons butter.2. Beat eggs in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light in color. The eggs will resemble the color of a ripe lemon and will appear slightly fluffy.3. In a separate bowl, combine dark brown sugar, cocoa powder, flour and salt.4. With mixer on low, slowly add combined dry ingredients to the eggs. Add melted butter and vanilla.5. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and bake inside the gas grill for 45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow brownie to cool completely.Tip: Schwartz does not sift kosher salt because it doesn't fit through the sieve. So, add it after you sift the cocoa powder and all-purpose flour.White chocolate meringue:Makes enough for 12 servings6 ounces light corn syrup12 ounces granulated sugar8 ounces water, filtered8 ounces egg whites, at room temperaturePinch cream of tartar2 ounces white chocolate, gently melted over double boiler (Do not use white chocolate chips)1. Place corn syrup, sugar and water in a two-quart stainless-steel pot. Wipe down sides of pot with pastry brush dipped in water. Over low heat, start bringing this mixture to 245 degrees (use a digital or candy thermometer to measure temperature).2. When syrup reaches 240 degrees, place egg whites and cream of tartar in a stand-mixer bowl and, using the whisk attachment, mix on medium speed until egg whites have soft peaks.3. Once syrup has reached 245 degrees, mix egg whites on low speed and slowly pour hot syrup into egg whites. When all of the syrup has been added to the egg whites, increase speed to high and whip until stiff and shiny. Fold melted white chocolate into meringue by hand with a rubber spatula.Assembly:Place a round or square-cut brownie on a plate and top with a scoop of ice cream. Pipe or spoon meringue around and on top of the ice cream. Caramelize meringue with a kitchen blowtorch or place in the oven under the broiler until meringue is golden.Nutritional information per serving: 772 calories, 38 grams fat, 109 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 211 milligrams cholesterol, 374 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber, 42 percent of calories from fat.
3 pounds bread flour
1 pound butter
8 ounces sugar
1 ounce salt
1 ounce yeast
3 cups milk
8 ounces roasted hazelnuts or almonds, chopped
2 pounds gianduja chocolate pieces (recipe follows), or 8 dozen Hershey's Kisses or fudge balls
1. Add everything but the nuts and chocolate to a mixing bowl with dough hook attachment. Mix 8-10 minutes on medium speed until dough is stretchy and pliable. Add nuts and mix only until incorporated.
2. Take dough out and let rest for 20 minutes. Divide dough into 3 dozen even pieces and round into balls. Stuff about a half an ounce of gianduja or fudge balls, or 2-3 Kisses, in the center of each dough ball and pinch dough around chocolate to seal it inside. Let dough poof until the balls double in size.
3. Bake at 350 degrees on a nonstick cookie sheet until golden brown.
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
8 ounces hazelnut or almond butter
1. Scald heavy cream and add the chocolate pieces. Melt over very low heat and then stir in the nut butter.
2. Pour into a small cake pan and let cool. Cut into small squares to add to the brioche.
Nutritional information per serving: 387 calories, 21 grams fat, 45 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 38 milligrams cholesterol, 425 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 48 percent of calories from fat.
-- Chef Hans Muller, Swiss Pastry Shop, 3936 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-732-5661; www.swisspastryonline.com
Schoggi brot (Chocolate-stuffed hazelnut brioche)
Makes about 3 dozen