Valentine’s Day brings up memories of my very first love affair. I was four, and my true love was a soft-serve vanilla ice cream cone covered in warm dark chocolate that hardened over the freezing cold of the ice cream. I was so in love I don’t think I have ever fully returned to my senses! Alas, I cannot claim mutual exclusivity in this relationship. Annual world consumption of cocoa beans averages about 600,000 tons! And did you know that it takes about 400 of those cocoa beans to make just one pound of chocolate? Not only is chocolate, in all of its myriad forms, indescribably delicious and aromatic, it also can be good for us! Here’s what I mean:
- Dark chocolate is packed with high-quality polyphenol antioxidants that may promote overall cardiovascular health.
- Cocoa beans include flavonoids (like those found in tea and red wine) which support healthy cholesterol levels and act as antioxidants.
- Chocolate delivers stearic acid, a unique fatty acid thought to be neutral for cholesterol levels.
- Bittersweet Chocolate contains at least 35% chocolate liquor. The higher the percentage, the darker and more bitter the chocolate. Bittersweet Chocolate Chips are the best in cookies. Try this recipe for Chunky Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Fleur de Sel.
- Dark or Semi-Sweet Chocolate (my favorite) usually contains 15% to 35% chocolate liquor. It is mildly sweet and somewhat bitter. Here is an amazing Dark Chocolate and Coconut Dessert Sauce.
- Milk Chocolate is likely the favorite among most Americans. Some of the chocolate liquor is replaced with milk and/or milk solids to make sweet, mild, smooth chocolate. You will love this recipe for Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta with Blood Oranges.
- Double Boiler Method: Put chopped chocolate into a double boiler or heatproof mixing bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water and stirring gently until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. (Make sure the bowl doesn't touch the boiling water or the chocolate may burn.)
- Microwave Method: Heat chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl at half power, stopping to stir gently every 30 seconds, until completely melted and smooth.