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Adorn & Adore With Chocolate
Adorn & Adore With Chocolate

In the United States, it's your mom's best fudge recipe. In Mexico, it's a tower of sugary Ibarra chocolate for the table. No matter where you're celebrating the joy of the season, chocolate comes home for the holidays.

Why? It's the magic of the cacao bean. For centuries, it's given warmth and comfort in a cup of steamy hot chocolate, as well as alertness to the senses. But it's the unsurpassed sweetness in a mouthful of chocolate that has won chocolate its hands-down popularity worldwide. So those of us bakers making treats this holiday have so many kinds of chocolate to choose from - and so many ways to dazzle our holiday guests with luscious, irresistible desserts.

Start with a Big Chocolate Bar
Ring in the holidays with these four recipes from Publix! Or if you're whipping up brownies, cookies, cakes, or fudge, start the holidays off by buying solid bars of dark chocolate - dark Belgian chocolate is wonderful for melting and baking as are Nestle's and Hershey's unsweetened chocolate from America.

For garnish, that big bar still comes in handy. And whimsical garnish is just one step away. For chocolate curls, use a potato peeler to curl chocolate from the bar for the top of a cake. For chocolate shavings, cut a chunk of chocolate from the bar, and use a standard cheese grater to create shavings for the top of your dessert.

Glazing a cake is only two steps away. First, melt your favorite chocolate on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Stovetop Melting: Place coarsely chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water. Melt the chocolate, stirring frequently with a spatula until smooth to prevent sticking to the pan. Remove the top part of the double boiler from the bottom.

Microwave Melting: Place coarsely chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe container and microwave at medium (50 percent power) for 1-1/2 to 4 minutes, until the chocolate turns shiny. Remove the container from the microwave, and stir the chocolate until completely melted. Stir milk and white chocolates after about 1-1/2 minutes. Because of their proteins, they need to be stirred sooner than dark chocolate.

Secondly, stir about 1-1/2 to 2 cups of confectioner's sugar into the melted chocolate slowly, alternating with teaspoons of milk to make your icing. You can use a hand mixer at high speed, too. Use your best judgment to make a thin, consistent glaze. Then drizzle it across the top and down the sides of your cake.

Hollies and Berries
To create chocolate holly leaves, dip waxy holly leaves in the melted chocolate and freeze them on a sheet of waxed paper. With the berry of your choice - strawberries or cherries - dip half of the berry in the melted chocolate, and freeze them, too. After the chocolate has frozen, gently peel the leaves off the chocolate, and arrange them with the chocolate-covered berries in the center of a glass serving plate.

And why not add some sparkle? Sprinkle some holiday confetti over the presentation - and let a few fall on your tablecloth!

Let Kids Create Holiday Trimmings
Create contrast with confectioners' sugar on a chocolate cake or cocoa powder on a moist yellow cake in a delicate or holiday design for a finishing touch. Using stencils, you can make patterns of stars, poinsettias, Christmas trees, or snowflakes. To make your own stencil, enlist the help of your kids!

Ask your children to trace a pattern on a piece of waxed or parchment paper or a plastic lid from a coffee container. They can cut snowflakes from a round piece of parchment. Cut with scissors or, if using a plastic lid, a utility knife.

If you are dusting the top of a cake, place parchment paper on the sides of the plate before transferring the cake to keep your cake plate free from excess powder or cocoa. After you've decorated the cake, carefully remove the parchment for a polished presentation.