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Chocolate Desserts On Demand

For five decadent treats, all you need is a few staples on hand

Fine Cooking Issue 76
Photos: Scott Phillips
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I’m a firm believer that chocolate is the ultimate comfort food, and perhaps that it even possesses medicinal qualities. While the latter might be wishful thinking, I’ll bet that chocolate is the first ingredient that jumps to mind for most of us when planning a dinner party dessert, satisfying an afternoon sweet craving, or whipping up a treat for unexpected guests.

Regardless of the occasion, when I’m in need of a prescription-strength dose of chocolate, I rely on some basic baking ingredients to get the job done quickly and easily (see the list). By keeping my kitchen stocked with the right staples, I can save a trip to the grocery store and be able to pull together dessert at a moment’s notice.

Here, I’ve included five of my favorite emergency chocolate desserts, from homey brownies to a fancier flourless chocolate cake. They’re all pure chocolate indulgences with nothing but a hint of vanilla and salt to highlight their chocolate flavor, and all are made from mostly on-hand ingredients. If you want dessert relatively quickly, go for the Chocolate French Toast, Chocolate Glazed Shortbread Wedges, or Double Chocolate Chunk Fudge Brownies; if your craving isn’t too urgent, try the No-Cook Chocolate Puddings or the Flourless Chocolate Cake, both of which need time to chill in the refrigerator.

Pantry staples

Bittersweet and semisweet chocolate

Unsweetened cocoa powders–natural and Dutch-processed

Baking powder Baking soda

Confectioners’ sugar

Granulated sugar

Pecans, walnuts, or pistachios*

Pure vanilla extract

Table salt

Unbleached all-purpose flour

* For long-term storage, keep these ingredients in the freezer.

Fridge staples

Heavy cream

Large eggs

Unsalted butter*

Whole milk

* For long-term storage, keep these ingredients in the freezer.

How to store chocolate

Chocolate will keep for a year at room temperature, if kept below 70°F. Wrap it in a few layers of plastic to keep it as airtight at possible and put it in a dark cupboard, away from strong-smelling foods. (Chocolate, like butter, will absorb strong aromas.) You can store chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer if the cupboard gets too warm, but a moist environment isn’t the best. If you do chill your chocolate, bring it to room temperature while still wrapped to prevent condensation from forming, as any water on the chocolate can interfere with its ability to melt smoothly.


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