Smooth, rich, velvety, deeply dark…can you guess what it is? I crave it daily, maybe you do, too. I’m only a little bit of a snob about it. If it were possible, I’d live in a house made of it just to inhale its dusky, lusty scent. I’d have clothing made of it, because it would create an aura of impossible attraction and desire. It would be part of every meal and I would drink the liquor it comes from.
You’re right! It is CHOCOLATE.
You would be hard pressed to find many who don’t like the silky texture or its buttery sweetness. Yet, in its natural state, it is bitter. Its name is derived from the Aztec, xococatl, meaning bitter water. Chocolate was used in food and drink as early as 1100 BC.
It begins as a seed from the cacao tree. It is fermented, dried, cleaned, roasted, shelled, ground and liquefied. In processing the chocolate for eating, it is blended with sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor and vanilla to create dark chocolate. Milk or milk powder is added for milk chocolate. It is then conched and tempered to create the satiny, smooth texture.
Now, come with me as we step into the Dark Side…Dark Chocolate Romance.
Chocolate has the power to captivate unlike any other food, and our taste for chocolate grows darker and more complex as time moves forward. Dark chocolates are meant to be savored for their deliciously bitter underlying citrus, caramel, or tobacco-like notes.
Close your eyes and bring to mind that bewitching, silken confection…
Try this rich and decadent, Chocolate Creme Brulee’ (Courtesy of http://MyRecipes.com):
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup milk
- 6 large egg yolks (at room temperature)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 ounces each semisweet and bittersweet chocolate (or 8 oz. of semisweet), chopped
- 1 tablespoon Amaretto or other almond-flavored liqueur
- 1 tablespoon Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur
- Chocolate praline
- 1. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise; scrape seeds into a 2- to 3-quart pan. Add vanilla pod, cream, and milk. Stir occasionally over medium-high heat until mixture just begins to boil, 14 to 18 minutes.
- 2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Place chocolate in a small, microwave-safe glass bowl and heat in a microwave oven at half-power (50%) until soft, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir chocolate until smooth.
- 3. Lift vanilla pod from cream mixture; rinse and dry for another use or discard. Whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture into egg mixture, then whisk egg mixture into remaining cream mixture. Add hot melted chocolate (if it has cooled to room temperature, reheat briefly in microwave oven just until hot to touch; do not overheat). Pour mixture into a blender and whirl until no chocolate flecks remain. Pour through a fine strainer into a 1- to 2-quart glass measure. Stir in Amaretto and Kahlúa.
- 4. Set six to eight soufflé cups, ramekins, or teacups (1/2 to 3/4 cup) in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Fill cups equally with chocolate mixture. Set pan in a 300° regular or convection oven and carefully pour about 1 inch of boiling water into pan around cups.
- 5. Bake until centers of custards barely jiggle when pan is gently shaken, 30 to 35 minutes. With a slotted spatula, lift cups out. Chill until custards are cold, 1 to 1 1/4 hours (see notes).
- 6. Garnish each crème brûlée with a large chunk of chocolate praline.
- The chocolate shouldn’t be sweeter than the wine.
- The darker the chocolate, the more likely it will taste good with red wine (partly because chocolate with a higher percentage of cacao has less sugar).
- The darker chocolates, with deep-roasted flavors, pair well with wines with dark, toasty notes themselves.
- Port-style and sweet late-harvest reds tend to be the best matches for chocolate desserts.
For the most delicious chocolate dipped fruits to eat with a great wine, you have to Experience Bissinger’s. Oh, the dipped apricots and blackberries are heavenly! (Making a note to order more for myself.)
Make it easy on yourself and order chocolate bars that tell you which wine to pair it with…Brix Chocolate.
Here are a couple of ideas for pairing dessert with wine:
Give Chocolate-Chip Shortcakes with Berries and Dark Chocolate Sauce a try with Red Zinfandel.
Now all you need to complete the setting are several lit candles, your most feminine lingerie and your sexiest smile beckoning him to the Dark Side. Slide in the sensual DVD, Chocolat, and settle in for a sinfully, delicious romantic evening. Here’s a teaser:
If you prefer just eating and serving excellent chocolates, try the other varieties of chocolates at Bissinger’s and indulge guests at a chocolate soiree. You could add chocolate covered strawberries, a chocolate fondue with fruit and cookie dippers, or chocolate body paint, depending on your party theme–tame or spicy!
My final tip: Chocolate is just too good to be stuffed in your mouth without really tasting…savor every luscious nibble.
Big time benefit: Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants that wrestle with the trouble-making free radicals. It also is claimed, anecdotally, to be an aphrodisiac. It boosts healthy serotonin levels and lowers blood pressure. Need any more reasons to indulge?
Is chocolate one of your sweet obsessions? What’s your favorite?
You know I love hearing from you and anxiously await your comments!
Names of all commenters on the interview with Jody Hedlund have been submitted to an independent judging organization and, not one but TWO winners have been chosen! Winners, please send your mailing addresses (no P.O. boxes, please) to my email – marichards320 AT yahoo DOT com.
Winner #1 Amber Willingham!!
Winner #2 Jess Witkins !!