Moms

Raise your glass, and your fork, to love with classic pairing of champagne, chocolate

There's no sexier couple than chocolate cake and sparkling wine. Luscious and decadent, sophisticated and celebratory, this pairing is an obvious favorite for Valentine's Day and any other time you want to toast a special occasion in sumptuous, grown-up style.

We asked a few area chefs to indulge us with their favorite chocolate cake-and-champagne pairings. Their responses were as varied as their restaurants, but all brought together the deep flavors of chocolate with the effervescent contrast of bubbly -- one of them even has champagne in the dessert recipe itself.

Walnut chocolate torte

with warm chocolate glaze

From: Charles Youts, chef, The Classic Cafe, 504 N. Oak St., Roanoke, 817-430-8155; www.theclassiccafe.com

"This is a dessert that has a mix of light and heavy components and different textures -- it really is a total package," says Classic Cafe co-owner Curtis Wells, adding that customers describe it as "rich, decadent and delicious."

Bubbly pairing: Domaine Chandon, Etoile Brut Rosé Napa/Sonoma, Calif. ($34.99). "The wine is light and a little bit sweet. It's also beautiful in the glass," says co-owner Chris Wells of the rose-hued sparkling wine. "The sweetness of the wine and the richness of the torte play off each other beautifully."

Oaxacan chocolate cake

with brown butter ice cream

From: Chef Lanny Lancarte, Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana, 3405 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth, 817-850-9996; www.lannyskitchen.com

Lanny Paul Lancarte II is known for using Mexican ingredients to turn out upscale, creative food, so it's fitting that he gives the molten chocolate cake a spicy spin with cinnamon-scented Mexican chocolate. Lancarte serves the cake with a scoop of his house-made brown butter ice cream, bringing its rich, nutty flavor to the plate.

Bubbly pairing: Secco Italian Bubbles, Rosé ($32). "It is a fun wine with just enough fruit to pair next to the dessert," says Lancarte. The sparkling wine also pairs well with shellfish, steak or pizza, so feel free to break it out before dessert, too.

Chocolate mascarpone cheesecakes

From: Kevin Rodewald, executive chef and managing partner, Brio Tuscan Grille, 1431 Plaza Place, Southlake, 817-310-3136; www.brioitalian.com

For Valentine's Day, one of Rodewald's favorite chocolate desserts is this individual chocolate mascarpone cheesecake, made with Nutella, a chocolate-hazelnut spread that foodies and children alike go nuts over. "Also, the mascarpone cheese really adds a new depth of creaminess to the cheesecake. It's like smooth silky chocolate on the palate."

Bubbly pairing: Lunetta Prosecco, Veneto, Italy ($29). "Something about bubbles and chocolate just makes people happy," he says.

White and dark chocolate volcano cake

From: Bobby Albanese, chef-owner, Piola, 3700 Mattison Ave., Fort Worth, 817-989-0007; www.fwpiola.com

While you won't find Bobby Albanese's white and dark chocolate volcano cake on the menu every day, the chef has prepared this molten chocolate cake with a white chocolate center for such romantic occasions as wedding rehearsal dinners and bridal luncheons. It has made an appearance on Valentine's Day menus, too.

Bubbly pairing: Moët Nectar Imperial ($70), because of its honey and toasted aromas and berry flavors.

Viennese chocolate torte

From: Louise Lamensdorf, executive chef and owner, Bistro Louise, 2900 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth, 817-922-9244; www.bistrolouise.com

While Louise Lamensdorf, executive chef and owner of Bistro Louise, is known for her French cuisine, her broader European training and travels produce bold fare from farther afield, too. Take her Viennese Chocolate Torte, inspired by one that she sampled at a pastry shop in Vienna. Lamensdorf describes her version as a heady combination of nuts, chocolate and amaretto. Look for the Viennese Chocolate Torte at Bistro Louise on Valentine's Day (as well as her Strawberry Craquelin).

Bubbly pairing: Nicolas Feuillatte Brut ($87.50). Why not pair such a decadent and celebratory dessert with real French champagne? "It has subtle hints of fruit and nuts," Lamensdorf says. "It's an elegant champagne with a smooth, balanced finish."

Oaxacan chocolate cakes with brown butter ice cream

With molten chocolate cake recipes, timing is everything: You want the cake to be puffed and set on the top, but still liquid at the very center. Ovens vary widely, so begin checking the cakes after 12 minutes, but be aware that it can take up to 20 minutes. Note that this recipe can easily be halved for a smaller group. Look for Mexican chocolate at Central Market or Fiesta. Lancarte uses Mayordomo chocolate, but Ibarra and Abuelita, both available locally, also work well.

8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

8 ounces Mexican unrefined chocolate, coarsely chopped

15 ounces unsalted butter

4 cups brown sugar

4 tablespoons cornstarch

10 eggs

10 egg yolks

Nonstick cooking spray or butter (for coating soufflé dishes)

Brown butter ice cream (recipe follows)

1. Using a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (water should not touch the bowl), melt dark chocolate, Mexican chocolate and butter, whisking until fully melted. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. Add brown sugar and cornstarch to chocolate mixture, whisking to combine.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks together. Add eggs to the chocolate mixture, whisking well. Strain through a sieve; cover and refrigerate until ready to bake (can be prepared up to three days ahead of time).

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 12 4- to 6-ounce soufflé dishes or ramekins with nonstick spray, or butter each dish. Pour cake batter into prepared dishes and bake until puffed and set on top, but with a runny, molten center, about 14 minutes.

4. Unmold onto plate and serve warm with ice cream.

Nutritional analysis per cake (served with 1/3 cup brown butter ice cream): 995 calories, 76 grams fat, 78 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 577 milligrams cholesterol, 263 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 65 percent of calories from fat.

Note that the ice cream base needs to chill overnight, so begin preparing it at least one day ahead (or substitute purchased ice cream).

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 vanilla bean

8 ounces (1 stick) butter

6 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1. Combine milk and cream in a heavy medium saucepan.

2. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the milk; add bean. Bring mixture to a boil, then remove from heat and let steep 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a heavy saute pan over medium heat, slowly cook butter until milk solids turn brown; remove from heat immediately.

4. Remove vanilla bean from milk mixture and discard bean. Whisk the browned butter into milk mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk together yolks and sugar. Add 1/4 cup warm milk mixture to egg mixture and whisk to combine well. Add remaining milk mixture and whisk well. Strain through a sieve.

5. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

6. Using an ice cream maker, follow manufacturer's instructions to freeze ice cream.

-- chef Lanny Lancarte, Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana, Fort Worth

Brown butter ice cream

Walnut chocolate

For the torte:

Nonstick cooking spray

14 ounces semisweet dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup cognac (can substitute brandy)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes

6 eggs

3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the glaze:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

6 tablespoons dark Karo syrup

1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons cognac

Fresh berries (optional, for garnish)

1. For torte, preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray 10-inch round cake pan (with at least 2-inch-high sides) with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Place chopped chocolate in a dry stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (water should not touch bottom of bowl), and stir gently until melted.

3. Meanwhile, combine sugar and cognac in a heavy saucepan. (Stir carefully, avoiding getting the alcohol up the sides of pan, as it can ignite.) Place saucepan on burner over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Once alcohol mixture has come to a boil, reduce heat to low to hold.

4. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, transfer melted chocolate to mixer bowl. Pour hot alcohol mixture over chocolate and mix at low speed until completely incorporated.

5. With mixer running on low, add cold cubed butter to mixture one piece at a time, continuing to mix on low until fully incorporated and butter is melted, never increasing mixer speed.

6. Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl. Add two of the eggs and beat until blended in, repeating with remaining eggs, two at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition.

7. In a separate bowl, combine walnuts and flour, then fold into chocolate mixture. Transfer filling to prepared pan, filling approximately three-quarters of the way up the pan sides. Place filled pan on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until torte is almost completely set and toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

8. For glaze, bring the cream and Karo syrup to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the chocolate and cognac and whisk until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes.

9. Cut around sides of torte pan and turn out onto cooking rack. When ready to serve, slice torte into 12 wedges and transfer to dessert plates.

To serve: Ladle generous amount of warm glaze over each piece and garnish with fresh berries, if desired.

Nutritional analysis per serving : 852 calories, 54 grams fat, 89 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 176 milligrams cholesterol, 65 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 55 percent of calories from fat.

-- chef Charles Youts, The Classic Cafe, Roanoke

White and dark chocolate volcano cake

6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (plus additional butter for ramekins)

3 large eggs

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup flour

3 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup champagne

Fresh berries (optional, for garnish)

1. Butter 6 ramekins.

2. Using a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (water should not touch the bowl), melt the dark chocolate. Add 11 tablespoons softened butter, whisking to combine. Remove from heat.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and the egg yolks. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture, whisking well. Add the flour 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition. Spoon the dark chocolate mixture into prepared ramekins, dividing equally, using about 4 ounces for each. Refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes.

4. Using a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (water should not touch the bowl), melt the white chocolate, adding champagne gradually while stirring constantly. Remove filled ramekins from refrigerator. Using your finger, make a little hole in the center of the dark chocolate mixture in each ramekin. Add the white chocolate mixture slowly, dividing equally among cakes.

5. Refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes. (Can be prepared up to three days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to bake.)

6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake cakes until tops puff and crack, but centers are still liquid, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cut around each of the cakes and turn out onto dessert plates. Garnish with fresh berries, if desired, and serve immediately.

Nutritional analysis per cake: 491 calories, 39 grams fat, 31 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 257 milligrams cholesterol, 39 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 70 percent of calories from fat.

-- chef-owner Bobby Albanese, Piola, Fort Worth

Viennese chocolate torte

This advanced cake recipe has three components and takes some time to put together (begin at least the morning before you plan to serve it), but your efforts will be rewarded with an elegant torte that's large enough to serve a crowd. Anticipate leftovers? The chef notes that this cake freezes well.

For the cake:

3/4 pound (about 4 cups) toasted almonds

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

6 egg yolks

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Juice of one lemon

9 egg whites

For the mocha filling:

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

2 tablespoons amaretto

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

4 egg yolks

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

For the chocolate glaze:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

6 tablespoons (about) boiling water

1. For cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rectangular sheet pan (12-by-17-by-1-inch) or three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour paper.

2. Grind almonds in food processor. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and egg yolks until light and lemon-colored. Add baking powder, cornstarch and lemon juice. Fold in ground nuts.

3. Using electric mixer fitted with clean bowl and wire whisk or beaters, beat egg whites, starting out slowly and gradually increasing speed of mixer to form soft but firm peaks. Lighten nut mixture by folding in one-third of beaten egg whites. Fold in remaining egg whites.

4. Transfer batter to prepared pan or pans. Bake until tester inserted comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool completely. If using rectangular sheet pan, cut horizontally into three equal size rectangles. (If using three round cake pans, do not cut.)

5. For filling, use a small bowl to dissolve coffee granules in amaretto.

6. Make a sugar syrup with the 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Boil until mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, about 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.

7. Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks until creamy. With mixer on high speed, add hot sugar syrup. Continue beating until bottom of bowl is cool. With mixer still at high speed, add melted chocolate. Continue beating at high speed and add soft butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. Add coffee-amaretto mixture. (Mocha cream should be spreadable; if not, refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes until proper consistency occurs.)

8. Spread half of mocha cream on one cake layer, topping with second cake layer. Spread remaining mocha cream atop second cake layer, topping with third cake layer. Cover and refrigerate until layers are firm, about 6 to 8 hours.

9. For chocolate glaze, melt butter and cocoa over low heat. Add coffee granules and vanilla, stirring until coffee is dissolved. Remove from heat. Whisk cocoa mixture into powdered sugar. Thin glaze to desired consistency with boiling water. Immediately glaze the cake, pouring over top and spreading over sides. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 15: 657 calories, 48 grams fat, 55 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 216 milligrams cholesterol, 237 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber, 62 percent of calories from fat.

-- chef-owner Louise Lamensdorf, Bistro Louise

Chocolate mascarpone cheesecakes

These can be baked a day ahead, covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.

For the crust:

Nonstick cooking spray

16 graham crackers

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

For the cakes:

16 ounces cream cheese

16 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 eggs

1/2 cup Nutella

1. For the crust, spray 13 6-ounce ramekins with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Pulse graham crackers in food processor to create fine crumbs. Add cinnamon and melted butter and blend until crumbs are moistened. Spoon 2 tablespoons graham-cracker mixture into each ramekin, patting down to form crust.

3. For cakes, use a mixer to beat cream cheese and mascarpone until smooth. Add sugar, vanilla and lemon juice and beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add Nutella and mix just until incorporated. Fill ramekins with cheesecake filling, dividing equally. Transfer ramekins to roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with enough warm water to come halfway up sides of ramekins.

4. Bake cakes 20 minutes. Turn pan and bake until cakes are set in centers, about 20 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Cool, then cover and refrigerate at least two hours.

Nutritional analysis per cheesecake: 492 calories, 37 grams fat, 34 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 153 milligrams cholesterol, 239 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 66 percent of calories from fat.

-- chef Kevin Rodewald, Brio Tuscan Grille, Southlake

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