Red Land Community Library in Newberry Township takes the "community" in its name seriously.
The repository for books and knowledge is a gathering spot for all ages — and, on one special Saturday every February, it's a chocolate lover's dream.
"Chocolate Fest is a fun way to check out the library and see what we have to offer," says branch librarian Mary Beth Long. "People will find we are not a quiet library. We are more of a community center."
Year-round, the library provides programs and opportunities to bring excitement out of the pages and into the real world.
"We offer our members reading materials, Internet access, a never-ending pretzel jar, and a place to sit and relax while children play at our train table," Long says. "Many new friendships have formed during our programs when neighbors get a chance to meet and talk. Chocolate Fest is our way of saying thank you to our members for their support throughout the year."
Cookbook: The library's annual Chocolate Fest has been commemorated this year in the "Library Lovers Chocolate Cookbook," which features selected recipes from library patrons and others.
Library staffer Karen Hostetter, who designed the cookbook, brings the sights and smells of the communal Chocolate Fest into the home kitchen.
"Outside may be cold and snowy but step through our doors and you smell chocolate everywhere," she says. "We sample coffee with chocolate milk, chocolate fondue, cakes, cookies and all kinds of desserts that people bring to the event. Now we have the recipes to share with each other."
Copies of the spiral-bound book — perfect for lying flat and not slipping shut while the kitchen magic is happening — are available now at the library, 48 Robin Hood Drive in the Green Valley Shopping Center, for $5. The book features more than three dozen chocolate-themed recipes for appetizers and beverages; cakes; cookies, brownies and bars; and candies and desserts.
Also included are tips for handling chocolate and recommendations for further reading.
Choosing just one recipe to share was tough. I'll let you discover for yourself the chocolate cakes with their caramel toppings and eclair-style fillings, the whoopie pies, the Irish cream brownies, the various types of fudge, the chocolate bark and more. But here's one you can try right now, a recipe for Turtle Cookie Cups from Nancy Duncan, a librarian at Red Land.
Turtle Cookie Cups
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup Kraft caramel bits
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
48 pecan halves (about 3/4 cup)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease a mini-muffin pan.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
In a second bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt.
Gradually beat the dry mixture into the creamed mixture.
Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place in greased mini-muffin cups. Press evenly into the bottoms and up the sides of the cups.
Bake the dough 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
With the back of a measuring teaspoon, make an indentation in each cup and immediately sprinkle with 3/4 cup chocolate chips and the chopped pecans.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove the cups to wire racks to cool.
In a small saucepan, melt the caramel bits with the cream and stir until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the cups and top each with a pecan half.
Melt the remaining chocolate chips in the microwave (30 seconds to 1 minute at a time, stirring until smooth). Drizzle the melted chocolate over the pecans.
Makes 4 dozen.
— Reach Mel Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org.