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MAYS LANDING - Experts and students from the Academy of Culinary Arts are sharing tricks of the trade during Savory Saturdays at the Hamilton Mall.

The series of free cooking demonstrations kicked off Feb. 18 with a sweet lesson on chocolate that included tastings and free recipes.

With assistance from ACA students, chef Ruth Latorre prepared Aztec hot chocolate, creamy white hot chocolate with ginger and an easy chocolate fondue.

Briana Husak of Vineland said the cooking demonstrations serve as an extra-curricular activity that expose her to things she might not experience in the classroom, noting that interaction with the public is a key element in her culinary education.

Latorre shared tips and facts about chocolate. She said chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants and that other health benefits are still being discovered. She reminded attendees that consuming pure chocolate is the best way to reap the benefits. She often adds a piece of high percentage baker’s chocolate to her healthy smoothie.

Check the percentage of chocolate on the package to see how pure it is. Lower percentage chocolates have more sugar and less health benefits, said Latorre.

Jamie Dougherty of Mays Landing was excited to learn how to melt chocolate, a task she said is often too tricky to complete without burning.

“You need to heat it slow and get it warm, not hot,” she said, excited to finally learn some tips. “I enjoyed it immensely. This was on my wish list.”

The cooking demonstrations connect the public with the Academy of Culinary Arts and spotlight the specialties offered at the school.

Beverly Stahl of Mays Landing enjoyed the demonstration so much that she plans to mark her calendar for the next two demonstrations. “I’m always trying to learn something,” she said.

Upcoming demonstrations include: Spring Flour on March 18 which focuses on techniques to make Pate au Choux cream puffs and Churros with a European flair, and Fresh and Healthy Smoothies on April 15. Demonstrations are scheduled for 1 p.m. in the first floor main court.

For more information about the ACA, visit www.atlantic.edu/aca or call 800-645-CHEF.

Academy of Culinary Arts recipes:

Easy Chocolate Fondue

Ingredients:

• 1 quart heavy cream

• 2 pounds dark chocolate (60-70%), chopped

• 4 tablespoons light corn syrup

• 1 ounce butter

Directions: In medium saucepan bring cream and corn syrup to just under a boil. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Remove plastic and stir from the middle out with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Stir in butter and place in heat resistant bowl for dipping. If fondue needs to be rewarmed, place over a pan of warm water as needed.

Creamy White Hot Chocolate with Ginger

Ingredients:

• 2/3 cup fresh ginger, chopped and peeled

• ½ cup sugar

• ¼ cup water

• 8 cups 2% nonfat milk

• 1 cup premium white chocolate with cocoa butter, chopped

Directions: Combine ginger, sugar and water in a large saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to turn a soft golden color. Remove from heat and all to cool slightly. Whisk in milk and chocolate and return to stove. Stirring frequently, bring heat up to 180 degrees, or until bubbles start to form around the edges. Do not boil. Strain out solids and serve.

Aztec Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

• 2 cups boiling water

• 1 chili pepper, cut in half, seeds and ribs removed

• 5 cups light cream or whole milk

• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

• 1-2 cinnamon sticks

• 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or 3 tablets Mexican chocolate cut into ¼-inch pieces

• 2 tablespoons honey, or to taste

Directions: Boil water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chili pepper to boiling water and cook until liquid is reduced to one cup. Remove chili pepper, strain water, and set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge. Reduce heat to low and add chocolate and honey. Whisk occasionally until chocolate is melted and sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat; remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Add chili-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the flavor isn’t too strong. If chocolate is too thick, thin with milk. Serve in small cups with a spoonful of whipped cream.

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