Leading up to the biggest chocolate-selling day of the year, Dupont Circle-based Divine Chocolate—the world’s first farmer-owned fair-trade chocolate brand—posted a recipe contest on its Web site. The only rule: Desserts had to incorporate Divine chocolate, which comes in flavors ranging from 70-percent-cocoa dark chocolate to milk chocolate with hazelnuts.
Divine is partially owned by the small-scale cocoa farmers in Ghana who grow the cocoa beans used in its chocolate bars, which are sold in pretty gold-accented wrappers. The company’s mission is to increase the benefits these farmers receive from the multibillion-dollar chocolate industry.
Bakers from around the country submitted recipes to the Hungry to Change the World contest, and a panel of local judges—including Rock Creek at Mazza consulting chef Ris Lacoste and DC Central Kitchen founder Robert Egger—tasted the finalist desserts last week. We also got to sample the contenders at a tasting at Rock Creek at Mazza, and can vouch for the deliciousness of Colorado resident Clara Coleman’s Divine Chocolate Velvet Cheesecake, which took the top prize.
Coleman is a home cook who says she uses fair-trade and organic ingredients whenever possible. (In addition to Divine chocolate, this recipe uses fair-trade-certified sugar and vanilla and organically produced pecans, butter, eggs, and cream cheese.) Her rich cake would be a terrific Valentine’s Day dessert for any chocolate lover.
Divine Chocolate is sold at Whole Foods (multiple area locations), 10 Thousand Villages (Bethesda, Rockville, and Alexandria), and other independent stores.
Divine Chocolate Velvet Cheesecake
For the crust:
1¼ cups (about 20) chocolate-snap cookies or chocolate biscotti
½ cup pecans
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
2 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each) at room temperature
2 containers Mascarpone cheese (8 ounces each) at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 bars (3.5 ounces each) Divine 70 percent dark chocolate
1 bar (1.5 ounces) Divine milk chocolate
4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk at room temperature
Make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Tightly wrap the outside of a nine-inch-diameter springform pan with three layers of heavy-duty foil. Finely grind the chocolate snaps, pecans, and sugar in a food processor. Add the melted butter and process until moist crumbs form. Press the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust until it’s set and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool. Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Make the filling:
Using a double boiler or a glass bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate after breaking it into pieces. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, Mascarpone, and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in the cooled melted chocolate and vanilla. Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan. Place the springform pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cheesecake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour and 5 minutes (the cake will become firm when cold). To prevent cracking, leave it in the oven with the oven door ajar for 30 minutes. Transfer the cake to a rack; cool for 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least eight hours and up to two days. Serve the cake by itself or with fresh raspberries.