Every Valentine’s Day, I sneak away to be alone with a new chocolate friend. I am hardly the only one involved in this romantic escapade. The good news is that many nutrition experts recommend a reasonable amount of dark chocolate as part of healthy diet. Here are some of the reasons:
- It boasts plenty of high-quality polyphenol antioxidants that help support a healthy heart.
- It contains a unique kind of fat called “stearic acid” which, although saturated, is thought to be neutral for cholesterol levels.
- Cocoa beans deliver flavonoids, similar to what you find in red wine and tea. Flavonoids act as antioxidants; they can help maintain healthy levels of cholesterol.
Remember, when cooking with chocolate, cocoa butter melts just below normal body temperature of 98.6°F. That’s why the best place to melt chocolate is directly in your mouth, but of course that won’t work for cooking! Carefully avoid scorching by gently melting at 115°F or less. For more tips and information, here’s our Guide to Chocolate.
To make the most of your chocolate romance, Cupid suggests any of the following sinfully luscious recipes:
- Flourless Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Glaze
- Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
- Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chocolate Almond Macaroons
- Flourless Double Decadant Chocolate Cookies
- Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Tart
- Cappuccino Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake
- Triple Chocolate Rum Cake
- Double Chocolate Pancakes
- Chocolate Raspberry Dot Cupcakes
- Cinnamon Chili Chocolate Brownies
- Chocolate Drizzled Pistachio Biscotti
- Southern Chocolate Pecan Pie
- Chocolate Linzer Tarts
- Coconut Fudge
- Chocolate Chai Truffles
- Chocolate Swirl Meringue Cookies
- Chocolate Mocha Sugar Cookies
- Chocolate Mint Fudge Cake
- Heart-Shaped Chocolate Cookies
I’m not sure about other planets, but here on Earth we humans consume somewhere around 600,000 tons of chocolate every year in one form or another. Here’s a sampling of the many varieties:
- Cocoa powder is made from the cocoa solids that are removed from the chocolate liquor then pressed into a “cake” and ground into fine powder. It lives in my pantry. Does it live in yours, too?
- Unsweetened chocolate, aka “baking chocolate,” is pure chocolate without any added sweetener. Don’t let the intoxicating aroma fool you! One bite can be a bitter lesson.
- Bittersweet chocolate is made from a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor. The higher the percentage, the darker and more bitter the chocolate.
- Dark or semi-sweet chocolate is mildly sweet and somewhat bitter, although perfect for me! It usually contains anywhere from 15% to 35% chocolate liquor. It’s healthy in moderation and decadently delicious at the same time.
- Milk chocolate is probably the most beloved, at least here in the U.S. It’s lighter in color because some of the chocolate liquor is replaced with milk or milk solids to give it that characteristic sweet, mild, smooth flavor and texture.
My heart melts for chocolate any day. How about yours? Got a favorite bar or recipe? Let me know.