Thyme for Tea

Tea Parties: February: A Chocolate Tea


Lore

We’re not the only civilization to treasure chocolate. The Mayans (whose civilization peaked about a thousand years ago) worshipped the cacao plant (Theobroma cacao), used its beans as currency, and brewed them into a medicinal drink called xocolatl. The Aztecs (about five hundred years ago) believed that the god of agriculture carried the cacao plant to earth and used it (mixed with chiles) as an aphrodisiac. The Spanish explorers knew a good thing when they saw it, and took the cacoa beans home to make a drink for their wealthy patrons. The French realized that chocolate had a stimulative effect and feared that it might raise passions to a frenzy. The Brits, however, loved it enough to take the risk, and chocolate-loving English emigrants carried the stuff with them to North America in the late 1700s. As you savor your favorite Valentine chocolates, think of the long travels of this fascinating plant and its rich cultural history—and remember that chocolate is an herb, too!

Decorations

Decorating for this tea-party ought to be easy, because there are so many wonderful ideas in magazines and in the stores. Here are a few, to spark your creative thinking.

  1. Make a Chocolate Tree. Use your Easter Egg tree and tie on wrapped chocolate candies in the shape of hearts. Or push a branch into a terra-cotta pot filled with sand and tie the candies on the twigs.

  2. Chocolate-covered fruit étagère: For a deliciously-edible centerpiece, pile chocolate-dipped fruits (strawberries, mandarin orange segments, grapes, cherries) onto a tiered plate. Garnish with rosemary and mint sprigs and chocolate curls (cut with a potato peeler from a chocolate block or grate a piece of chocolate with a hand-held grater).

  3. Chocolate hearts: on a foil-lined tray, drizzle melted chocolate in the shape of hearts, large and small. Refrigerate, the pull off foil. Use to decorate your tea foods and tea tray.

  4. For individual favors, make Rose Cones (see January tea party), but instead of filling with roses, fill with chocolate-covered fruits or chocolate candies, with tiny silk roses and bits of tulle tucked in too.

Menu

Recipes

Chocolate Mint Puff Sandwiches

Filling:
  • 6 oz chocolate chips
  • ½ c powdered sugar
  • 2 tblsp Margarine
  • 1 tblsp water
  • 2-3 drops Wilton's mint flavoring
Bars:
  • 5 c mini marshmallows
  • ½ c peanut butter
  • ¼ c margarine
  • ¼ c light corn syrup
  • 5 c Coco Puffs cereal
  • Mint leaves for garnish

Grease 9x13" pan. In small saucepan, combine all filling ingredients except mint flavoring; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted. Stir in mint flavoring; set aside. In large saucepan, combine marshmallows, peanut butter, margarine and corn syrup; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted. Remove from heat. Add cereal; stir until well coated. With metal spatula, spread half of cereal in greased pan. Spread filling over cereal mixture. Press remaining cereal mixture over top. Refrigerate at least 10 minutes. Cut into bars and add mint leaves for garnish.

Chocolate Lovers Mini-Cheesecakes

  • 18 to 24 vanilla wafer cookies
  • 2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1-¼ c sugar
  • 1/3 c cocoa
  • 2 tblsp all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 container (8 oz.) dairy sour cream
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • Sour Cream Topping (see below)
  • candied cherries

Heat oven to 325°F. Line muffin tins (2½ inches in diameter) with foil bake cups. Place onevanilla wafer (flat-side down) in bottom of each cup. Beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, cocoa and flour; blend well. Add eggs; beat well. Stir in sour cream and almond extract. Fill each muffin cup almost full with batter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until set. Remove from oven; cool 5 to 10 minutes. Spread heaping teaspoon of sour cream topping on top, top with 1 candied cherry Cover; refrigerate leftover cheesecakes. 1½ to 2 dozen cheesecakes.

Sour Cream Topping:
  • 1 container (8 oz) dairy sour cream
  • 2 tblsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Stir together sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract in small bowl until sugar is dissolved.

Chocolate Oatmeal Tea Treats

  • 2 c sugar
  • ½ c (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • ½ c milk
  • 1/3 c cocoa
  • 1/3 c crunchy peanut butter
  • 2½ c quick-cooking rolled oats
  • ½ c chopped unsalted peanuts
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine sugar, butter, milk and cocoa in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to rolling boil; boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat. Immediately add oats, peanut butter, peanuts and vanilla; stir to mix well. Quickly drop mixture by heaping teaspoons onto wax paper or foil. Cool completely. Store in cool, dry place. About 4 dozen treats.

Orange Chocolate Tea Bread

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • ¾ c Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tblsp plus 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 tblsp orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier
  • ¾ c half and half
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tblsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ c chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 7 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tblsp water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or spray a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Cream together thebutter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Beat in orange zest and 1tablespoon of liqueur. Pour in half-and-half and beat to combine. (This may curdle, but that'sokay.) In another bowl, stir and toss together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to buttermixture and gently beat just to combine. Stir in nuts and 4 ounces chopped chocolate. Spoonbatter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake 1 hour, until top is golden. Cool in pan on rack. Invert onto serving platter and cool completely. When bread is cool, combine remainingchocolate with water and remaining tablespoon of orange liqueur in heavy saucepan. Place over low heat and melt, stirring constantly. Spread evenly over top and chill to set. Yield: 1 loaf.

Chocolate Fizz

  • ¼ c cold chocolate syrup (recipe follows)
  • ¼ c cold light cream or half-and-half
  • ½ c cold club soda, freshly opened

Place chocolate syrup into tall glass; stir in light cream. Slowly pour soda down side of glass,stirring constantly. Serve immediately. One 8-oz. serving.

Chocolate Syrup:
  • 1 c cocoa
  • 2 c cold water
  • 1-½ c sugar
  • 1 c light corn syrup
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1-½ tsp vanilla extract

Stir cocoa and water until smooth in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Add sugar, corn syrup and salt. Return to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer, partially covered, 5 minutes. Cool; stir in vanilla. Cover; refrigerate. About 1 quart syrup.

Chocolate Coffee

  • 2 tblsp instant coffee
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 c water
  • 3 c milk
  • whipped cream

In saucepan combine coffee, sugar, salt, chocolate, and water; stir over low heat until chocolate has melted. Simmer 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly until heated. When piping hot, remove from heat and beat with rotary beater until mixture is frothy. Pour into cups and sail a dollop of whipped cream on the surface of each. (Makes 3 servings)