Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are a match made in heaven. We reached out to the Lowcountry’s top chefs and restaurants for their favorite recipes using chocolate. Wow your sweetie by making one or more of these items on Feb. 14 (or any day of the year). First, we offer the top 5 things to dip in chocolate – yum!
Top 5 Things to Dip in Chocolate
1. Strawberries: Often associated with romance and decadence, chocolate covered strawberries are highly sought after on Valentine’s Day at The Chocolate Canopy. Add chocolate drizzle or chopped nuts to make them even more attractive.
2. Oreos: The world’s best selling cookie tastes even better when drenched in chocolate, but what do you do with all the broken ones? Add them to a bowl of white chocolate, mix, and spread on parchment paper to make cookies and cream bark.
3. Pretzels: Three ring, rods, or minis, the combination of sweet and salty makes chocolate covered pretzels one of our favorite things. Add M&Ms or toffee bits for a variety of flavors.
4. Peanut butter: Spread it between two Ritz crackers before dipping or use grandma’s buckeye recipe — the combination of chocolate and peanut butter can’t be beat. There’s a reason Hershey’s sells more than $500 million of Reese’s annually.
5. Dried fruit: Pick your favorite and make it even sweeter by dipping it in chocolate. We feature ginger, apricots, kiwi, and mangos and also recommend dipping dried pineapple in white chocolate for a sweet version of a piña colada.
The Pearl Kitchen + Bar: Dark Chocolate Avocado Truffles
12 ounces 70 percent dark chocolate discs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Combine chocolate discs, vanilla paste and sea salt over a double boiler. Melt and stir until smooth. Mash avocado into smooth paste. Remove chocolate mix from heat, add avocado and refrigerate until firm (around 20-30 minutes). Roll into 1-inch by 1-inch balls. Dust with cocoa powder and serve.
— From chef Nathanial Clepper
Poseidon: Flourless Chocolate Torte
6 ounces butter
1 pound 10-ounce dark chocolate
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup toasted and chopped macadamia nuts
 Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Melt butter in stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water (double broiler).  While butter is melting, in a mixer using whisk attachment on high speed, beat the 6 egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form.  While egg whites are whipping, return to melted butter and slowly whisk in chocolate chips until fully melted. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in eggs yolks one at a time.  Add egg whites to chocolate mixture in thirds. Whisk in the first third until fully combined, then fold in the second third using rubber spatula. Finish by folding in the last third until the mixture is streak-free.  Spray a 9-inch cake pan and coat with granulated sugar. Place cake pan in a water bath to go halfway up the sides of the pan. Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. Once cooled, add toasted nuts. Cut, serve and enjoy!
— From executive chef Christopher Carge
The Cypress: White Chocolate Raspberry Tart
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups ground chocolate cookie crumbs (this recipe shown with crumbled Chocolate Oreos)
2 pounds, 4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup butter, very soft
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pint raspberries, washed and dried
4 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
Directions  Spray tart pans and combine melted butter with finely ground cookie crumbs. Mix well. Place one cup of crumbs in each tart pan and spread crust evenly on bottom and up the sides. Sprinkle raspberries on the crust, saving a few for the garnish. Refrigerate while preparing the chocolate filling.  Place finely chopped white chocolate in large dry bowl and add butter. Bring heavy cream just to a boil and pour over white chocolate. Let sit for three minutes then stir with whisk. Stir until mixture is very smooth. In the beginning it may appear to break, but keep stirring. It will turn into a smooth mixture. Once chocolate mixture is completely melted and smooth, pour mixture over crust and berries.  Carefully heat milk chocolate in microwave or over double boiler until completely melted. Place in a pastry bag or cone and drizzle over tart. Chill for 2-4 hours or until chocolate is set. Garnish with additional raspberries.
Chef’s note: This recipe makes one 10-inch tart or two 5-inch tart pans. Use shallow tart pans with removable bottoms.
— From executive chef Eric Sayers
Charlie’s L’etoile Verte: Pave Au Chocolat
1 pound high quality dark chocolate (either chips or shaved)
1 pound butter, cut into small squares
4 liquid ounces espresso
1/4 pound light brown sugar
8 whole eggs
Directions  In a large bowl crack the eggs and beat together. Set aside.  Over a double boiler, melt all other ingredients until smooth.  Once the chocolate mixture is smooth, pour a small amount into the eggs, stirring constantly with a whisk. Then pour the rest of the mixture, continually mixing.  Pour the batter into 4-5 small loaf pans. Place the loaf pans in a hotel pan with high edges. Create a water bath by filling the hotel pan with about 2 inches of water, or until the water comes up halfway on the sides of the loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes or until set in the middle.  Allow to rest in pan for 10 minutes. Remove pans from water, and cool in refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours. Slice thin and serve over crème anglaise.
Callawassie Island: Chocolate Laced Ancho Chile Soup
Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
3 dried ancho chiles
4 medium plum tomatoes, cored
1 small white onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups good quality chicken stock
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Queso fresco (or sour cream), sliced avocado, and cilantro leaves for serving
Directions  Heat a 6-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add chiles and cook, turning once, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, pour over 1 cup boiling water, and let steep until soft, about 30 minutes.  Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid, and remove and discard stems and seeds. Transfer chiles to a blender and set aside. Return pot to heat, and add tomatoes, and onion; cook, turning as needed, until charred all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer to blender, along with garlic, cinnamon, sugar, and cumin; puree until very smooth and set aside.  Return pan to medium-high heat, and add oil. When hot, add chile purée, and fry, stirring constantly, until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Add stock, and bring to a boil; remove from heat, stir in chocolate, and season with salt and pepper. Serve ladled into bowls, topped with a couple of tablespoons of queso fresco, a few slices of avocado, cilantro leaves.
Michael Anthony’s Cucina Italiana: Chocolate Soufflé Cake
1 pound extra bitter chocolate chips (64 percent)
1 pound unsalted butter
8 large egg yolks
8 whole eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Ice cream, for garnish
Powdered sugar, for garnish
15 four-ounce ramekins or aluminum soufflé cups
Flour for dusting
Directions  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a double boiler, mix chocolate chips and butter. Melt chocolate, turning it to liquid, stirring occasionally, being careful not to burn. Remove melted chocolate mixture and cool slightly.  In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar rapidly for approximately 1 minute.  Combine the melted chocolate with the egg mixture, whisking thoroughly. Add the 1/4 cup flour and cocoa while continuing to whisk.  Grease soufflé cups generously with softened butter and dust with flour. Fill cups with chocolate mixture below the rim or lip to allow room for rising.  Bake for approximately 8 to 10 minutes until the cakes are slightly puffed. Invert cakes onto a plate. Serve with ice cream and a dusting of powdered sugar. Makes 15 individual cakes.
Java Burrito: Chocolate Affogato
1 scoop of vanilla bean ice cream
1 shot of espresso
1 pump of chocolate syrup
1 handful of chocolate chips
Place ice cream in your favorite bowl and drizzle with the espresso and chocolate syrup.
Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and enjoy!
Moss Creek: Pots de Crème au Chocolat
Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
11 ounces high quality semi-sweet chocolate chips/coins
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
7 egg yolks
1/3 cups sugar
Directions  Place chocolate in a bowl and set aside.  Put milk, cream, and half the sugar on stove in a thick bottomed sauce pan and begin to heat.  Place yolks in a separate bowl with half the sugar and all the salt and whisk vigorously until pale yellow.  Once cream mixture is hot, slowly add to yolk mixture while whisking constantly.  Return all ingredients to sauce pan and put over medium-low heat and stir continuously with a rubber spatula, being sure no part of the pan is allowed to sit unstirred. Cook until 180 degrees or thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Immediately pour hot mixture over chocolate and whisk until smooth.  Mixture can then be poured into service vessels. Ramekins, martini glasses, shot glasses, soup cups…whatever strikes your chocolate fancy.  Set in refrigerator for at least four hours.  Top with whipped cream and toasted nuts of your choice and serve. Other garnishes could include shaved dark chocolate, berries, or cocoa nibs.
— From executive chef Lenny Giarratano
Oldfield Club: Chicken Mole Tamales with Bittersweet Chocolate (gluten free)
Chef’s Note: This is a bit prep-intensive, but it does have the advantages of being a make-ahead recipe. It’s also one that could be cooked ahead and kept hot until you’re ready to serve, which is ideal for a dinner party. With this recipe, I’ve also gone a little Sandra Lee-esque in utilizing prepared mole, which we’re “doctoring up.” If you want full splendor of making mole, you could do a lot worse than mole poblano in Rick Bayless’ cookbook “Authentic Mexican,” with all of its 23 ingredients. Just be sure you’ve got the time. The best place to shop for Mexican ingredients is a Mexican supermarket. It’s a fun foodie experience and you are much more likely to find everything you need in one spot. It’s also cheaper.
3 tablespoons lard (can substitute vegetable oil)
1 pound boneless chicken thighs
Salt to taste (for chicken)
1/2 cup lard (can substitute shortening)
1 pound Masa flour (for tamales)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt to taste (for tamal dough)
2/3 cup chicken broth
8 ounces tomato sauce
5 tablespoons prepared mole
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons almonds, slivered
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 pack banana leaves
Queso fresco, as needed for garnish
Cilantro leaves, as needed for garnish
Valentina salsa, suggested condiment
Directions (Preparing the chicken)
 Lightly season the chicken on both sides with salt.  Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat. Add the lard allow to slightly smoke. Add chicken thighs and reduce heat to medium. Cook on both sides about 5-7 minutes, depending on the thickness (check with a meat thermometer. It should be 165 degrees internal temperature.  When done, place chicken in a stainless-steel bowl. Use two forks to shred chicken. You could also use a mixer with a paddle attachment, just don’t over mix it.
Directions (Making the tamale dough)
 Place the masa flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the lard and use your finger tips to mix. Use the palms of your hands to rub it together to fully incorporate.  Add the chicken broth and mix it together for a pizza dough consistency. Add more liquid or masa as needed.
Directions (Preparing the sauce)
 In a small skillet, slowly heat the tomato sauce on medium low heat with the mole paste. Use a whisk to break up the paste and dissolve into the tomato sauce. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Cool slightly so you don’t break the chocolate.  Stir in the chocolate.
Directions (Mixing the chicken)
 Toast and chop up the almonds. I prefer the oven for about 5 min at 300 degrees.  Mix about 3/4 of the sauce to the shredded chicken and mix fully to coat. Taste to see if more salt is required. If it’s dry, add more sauce. Please note, you may not need all of the sauce  Lay mixture out of cookie sheet and refrigerate to cool. This makes it easier to fill the tamales.
Directions (Forming the Tamales)
 Prep banana leaves by cutting into approximately 24 8×8-inch squares. Extra banana leaves can be wrapped and frozen. Lay out the banana leaves on a large countertop to make in large batches (not one by one). This makes it go much faster.  Scoop or break off 2-3 ounce balls of tamal dough (like a large golf ball). Roll into a smooth ball. Lay in the center of the squares and use your thumb to form into a cup shape.  Scoop or break off 1-2 ounce balls of the chicken mixture into your tamal dough “cups.” Close the cup so it’s a thin layer of dough on the outside (this doesn’t have to be perfect).  Fold up the banana leaves in a box shape. Flip it over and the weight of the full tamal will keep it closed. If you want to tie it with a string or strip of banana leaf, you can.
Directions (Cooking the Tamales)
Two different methods are perfectly fine. Steam on low for 2-3 hours or Crockpot on high for 4-6 hours. Either way, just open and check to make sure the dough is firm and fully cooked. To serve, be sure to let your guests know not to eat the banana leaf. Put the (crumbled) queso fresco and cilantro in separate bowls and offer the valentina to spice things up.
— From executive chef Jason Winn
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen: Chocolate Almond Popcorn
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons salt
25 cups unsalted popped popcorn
3 cups roasted salted almonds
Directions  Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Mix together the sugar, corn syrup, butter, cocoa powder, and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat until the mixture is smooth and begins to simmer. Place the popcorn into a very large bowl, mix with the almonds, and then pour the chocolate syrup over the mixture. Stir until all the popcorn and almonds are coated. Spread the chocolate popcorn out onto several large baking sheets in a single layer.  Bake in the preheated oven until thoroughly dry, about 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so to dry all sides of the popped corn. Allow to cool on the sheet, then transfer into sealed containers.
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen: Chocolate Martini Cocktail
1 1/2 fluid ounces chocolate liqueur
1 1/2 fluid ounces creme de cacao
1/2 fluid ounce vodka
2 1/2 fluid ounces half-and-half
1 cup ice
Combine chocolate liqueur, creme de cacao, vodka, half-and-half and ice in a cocktail shaker. Cover and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.