By Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet
“You can deprive the body, but the soul needs chocolate” – Frederick Shilling
Oh chocolate, how I love thee! And it seems I am not alone, over 35 million boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s day in the USA alone. The world is in love with chocolate since it started seducing humans over 2000 years ago.
It is believed to have been discovered by those all knowing Mayans who loved to drink it when they wanted to have some romantic robust! Every culture, starting with the Spaniards, that came in contact with chocolate, fell hopelessly in love. Even the scientific communities have fallen in love with chocolate lately and have proven what devotees have known for years, chocolate is good for you.
There are many varieties of chocolate to get captivated by and it is all determined by their chocolate to sugar ratio. The more chocolate present the less sugar so consequently the stronger the chocolate flavor.
Super dark chocolate has very little sugar and 70-90% chocolate. It has a deep and sexy flavor to it that is not that sweet but very rich. The causal consumer is unaccustomed to this complex flavor, but is the preferred fix of chocophiles. It is also the chocolate that has the most nutritional qualities in it.
Dark chocolate is loaded with so many antioxidants that blueberries don’t even hold a candle to it. The fat content of chocolate is made up from cocoa butter which is a friendly fat that is cholesterol neutral. It is also mineral rich with potassium, magnesium and many others. If you needed more reasons to eat chocolate, there they are.
On the opposite spectrum is milk chocolate, which most of us grew up with. It has the highest sugar and the least amount of chocolate, 20- 25 %. Semi-sweet chocolate, which we love in our chocolate chip cookies, is a nice middle of the road variety with 30- 60% chocolate, depending on the quality.
White chocolate actually has no chocolate in it. It is made of cocoa butter, milk and of course, sugar. The United States had to adopt a law that if something is labeled “white chocolate” it has to have at least 20% cocoa butter. It seems the candy companies were selling a product that had no cocoa butter in it and calling it white chocolate.
Now the question we all have been waiting for, why does chocolate make us so happy? It seems that it contains a substance called theobromine that stimulates the body to release endorphins, which are our natural opiates. (Oddly enough, it is the theobromine that also makes chocolate toxic to dogs and cats.)
Chocolate also has a wonderful chemical in it called phenylethylamine that is also called “chocolate amphetamine”. It works like amphetamines to increase mood and decrease depression, Phenylethylamine is called the “love drug” because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when someone is in love.
A recent discovery about chocolate is that it has its own “terrior”. Which means the chocolate is imbued with the flavor of the land it is grown on, like wine. If you look, fine chocolates are beginning to be labeled with where they are grown. There are also many chocolate companies that are beginning to buy “fair trade” chocolate, which means they are paying the people who grow it fair wages. No matter what form chocolate comes in, it has a special place in all of our souls.
This recipe is a sure fire way to create blissful sparks with your valentine. It has the perfect balance of dark chocolate with the snow white chocolate. Use the highest quality chocolate possible for this recipe, as the chocolate is in the spotlight. My favorite brand of chocolate, hands down, is “E Guittard”. Have your own chocolate tasting party however and decide for yourself!
Chocolate Hazelnut Love Torte
You may use any type of nut you like in place of the hazelnuts. 3 tablespoons of a berry jam can be substituted for the liqueur.
1 cup of dark chocolate chips or chopped
3 tablespoon of cream
1/4 tablespoons of chopped toasted hazelnuts
4 ounces of white chocolate
¾ cup or 6 ounces of cream cheese, at room temp
1 tablespoon of a liqueur of choice
(such as Chambord or Frangelico)
First things first, take out a piece of waxed paper and draw 12 x 3” inch circles or hearts on it. Lay the wax paper on a flat cookie sheet. Time to melt the dark chocolate. Now there are a few ways to do it, in a double boiler or the microwave. I prefer the double boiler since I feel that the microwave is an insult to good chocolate, but in a pinch the microwave works great. To do this, heat the chocolate in a microwave friendly bowl in 30 second intervals, then take out and stir. Repeat this till the chocolate is melted. After the chocolate is melted, stir in the cream.
Spread the melted chocolate on the wax paper in your pre-drawn patterns. Sprinkle with some of the hazelnuts and let it set up at room temperature. Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate and then mix in the cream cheese and liqueur till well blended. (I did it in the mixer) Blend in the rest of the hazelnuts and let cool till the mixture holds it shape. (I do this the day before and keep everything in the fridge.)
Carefully remove the dark chocolate shapes from the wax paper and prepare to create your masterpieces! Get out four beautiful dessert plates and layer one dark chocolate shape, then a dob of white chocolate mix. Repeat one more time and finish with a dark chocolate shape. Put a small dob on top and sprinkle with hazelnuts and/or colorful nonpareils. A little raspberry sauce on this is amazing! Chill before serving. Enjoy your chocolate!