RED CROSS BENEFIT Chocolate and charity

The success of last year's event has caused it to be moved to the Holiday Inn MetroPlex.
an you resist chocolate?
How about chocolate-covered cookies, chocolate-dipped ice cream or chocolate cheesecake?
And what if I told you that having a taste of all of the above would be a charitable thing to do? It will, for one sweet evening.
The second annual "For the Love of Chocolate" festival is 5-8 p.m. Jan. 31. Proceeds will go to the Mahoning Chapter of the American Red Cross.
For $10 ($7 for kids under 12), chocolate enthusiasts from all over the Valley will enjoy an entertaining evening -- and plenty of chocolate. Last year's event was such a huge success that this year it has been moved to the Holiday Inn MetroPlex in Liberty.
How it works: For the price of admission, each person gets a card that entitles him or her to any 10 treats from the vendors inside.
Plus, the event's media sponsors like The Vindicator, WFMJ and Mix 98.9 will be passing out freebies that don't even count as one of those 10.
Plenty of choices: Among the vendors are restaurants, bakeries, chocolatiers and florists, and all will be showing off the best they have to offer for Valentine's Day, so shoppers may take care of their lists, and enjoy tasting along the way.
Already lined up for this year is the popular mail-order store Harry and David, which will be giving out samples of its "Moose Munch," a scrumptious chocolate-covered caramel popcorn.
At last year's event, Handel's ice cream was a favorite stop for its popular Handel Pops, and the ice cream store will be back this year with more of the same. And you won't want to miss Cookies By Design, which will be doling out its chocolate-dipped cookies.
Watching the pros: A handful of participating restaurants will be conducting live cooking demonstrations of favorite chocolate desserts at the event. The Holiday Inn Metroplex's own pastry chef, Chris Burke, will be whipping up such sophisticated desserts as his Chocolate Festival Cheesecake and Chocolate Cognac Cream. He has shared his recipes, so you can try to recreate these to-die-for desserts at home.
Mark Bittler of the Avalon Inn will be demonstrating a new recipe, his triple layer Chocolate Truffle Cakes. See his recipe below. And if you stop by his table at the festival, he'll show how he puts the finishing touches on these impressive little desserts.
Also included: The "For the Love of Chocolate" festival will also include a silent auction, with one item donated by each vendor. Prizes will include one-pound boxes of chocolate, a chocolate violin filled with more chocolates, ice cream pies, gift baskets, tins of cookies, flower arrangements, dinner for two at the Avalon Inn and even a weekend stay in a jacuzzi suite at the Holiday Inn Metroplex.
Back for the second year will be a children's fashion show put on by Lil' Sweet Peas. Held twice during the evening, the show will feature spring fashions for kids, and the store will also have a table set up during the event.
The kids will also enjoy something new this year: Local costumed characters will be there to entertain them. Look for Scrappy from the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Pete and Penny Penguin from Youngstown State University, and even the Bumble Bee from Old Country Buffet.
Offering services: The local Red Cross provides clothes, food and shelter for families who have lost everything to fire or flood, here in Mahoning County. The Red Cross also offers classes that teach thousands of local adults and children how to save lives.
Call the Mahoning Chapter of the American Red Cross at (330) 726-6063 to purchase tickets ahead of time, and avoid the lines. Tickets also will be available at the door.
From Chef Chris Burke
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
11/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs
Chocolate crumb crust
Heat oven to 450 degrees. In large mixer bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, cocoa, sour cream and vanilla. Beat on medium speed with electric mixer until smooth. Add flour and eggs; beat well. Pour into prepared Chocolate Crumb Crust.
Bake 10 minutes. Without opening oven, reduce temperature to 250 degrees and continue baking 30 minutes. (Cheesecake may not appear to be set in middle.)
Turn off oven; leave cheesecake in oven 30 minutes without opening door. Remove from oven. With knife, loosen cake from side of pan. Cool to room temperature; remove side of springform pan.
Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Garnish with chocolate curls or sliced fruit and whipped cream, if desired. Cover; refrigerate leftover cheesecake. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
11/4 cups (about 40 wafers) vanilla wafer crumbs
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, stir together vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar and cocoa; stir in butter. Press mixture onto bottom and inch up side of 9-inch springform pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool.
From Chef Chris Burke
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 ounce Cognac
1/2 cup cocoa
Slightly chill a stainless steel bowl. In chilled bowl, mix whipping cream, sugar and cocoa. Whip mixture until soft peaks begin to form. Whip in Cognac and whip back to soft peaks.
Using individual serving dishes and a pastry bag, fill the dishes half to two-thirds full. Top with fresh whipped cream and raspberries. Garnish with mint sprig and serve. Makes 12 servings.
From Mark Bittler (Avalon Inn)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 stick unsalted butter
10 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
11/2 tablespoon kirschwasser
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces dark chocolate
11/2 tablespoons kirschwasser
Good-quality cherry preserves
Powdered sugar or white chocolate shavings
Whipped cream
Fresh mint sprigs
For cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray jellyroll pan with nonstick cooking spray. Melt butter and chocolate, set aside. Whip sugar and egg whites to medium peaks. Fold egg yolks into chocolate and add kirschwasser; fold this into egg whites. Pour evenly onto pan and bake about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
For filling: Bring heavy cream to boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Mix until smooth. Refrigerate until cold. Add kirschwasser and whip until stiff. Set aside.
To assemble: Cut twelve 31/2-inch hearts from cake using heart-shaped cookie cutter. Lay four hearts on table. Place filling into pastry bag and pipe onto cakes. Spread next four cake hearts with cherry preserves and place preserves-side down atop cakes with filling. Repeat with filling, remaining four cakes and preserves.
Presentation: Place individual cakes onto serving dishes and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar or white chocolate shavings, whipped cream and a sprig of fresh mint.
Makes four individual cakes.

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