Let me start out by premising this article with this question… who loves chocolate? Wait… scratch that… who “doesn’t” love chocolate? If you are not a lover of one of the greatest inventions on this planet, then this read will not be for you. Chocolate has been around. seemingly, since the begin of the world, in a galaxy far, far away… sorry, was waiting for the day I could use a Star Wars reference (I’m sure even Yoda loves chocolate). Chocolate used to be a decadent treat, or dessert, but over the years, has since taken the thrown as a “superfood”, reaching the echelon of culinary supremacy in countless ways and forms.
Is chocolate a food or a dessert? Well, call it a food to someone baking chocolate chip cookies and call it a dessert to someone who is sprinkling chocolate shavings in their salad or dish, and see how far you get. Chocolate is a revolutionizing culinary food, errr… dessert. You get it, I hope. It is multi-functioning, multi-purposed and loved by so many. And, to top it off, chocolate can be healthy for you! No, seriously, it does have health benefits. Don’t believe it? Keep reading!
Here are a number of things you may or may not have known about Chocolate…
Cash Crop – Yes, at one point in history, chocolate was used as a form of currency. In the day of the Mayans, chocolate grew on trees in the form of cocoa beans. These cocoa beans were extracted from trees and used directly as forms of currency. The Aztecs followed suit.
As Body Paint – Don’t think I need to go into much further detail… use your imagination, and please, keep it to yourself.
With Cheese – Nothing too new or bold here, but adding a sweetness to cheese, even chocolate, can heighten the flavor of both the cheese and the chocolate. And, as old school as it may be, chocolate-swirled cheese cake is an incredible dessert.
Chocolate and Bacon – If you are not aware of this amazing culinary marriage, it’s about time to familiarize yourself with the existence of this fine creation. Bacon coated in chocolate might be the best thing ever created by the people, and for the people.
Dental Health – You’ve got to be kidding, right? Actually, not so much. A cocoa extract has recently been found to be more effective than fluoride in maintaining a healthy set of teeth.
A Happy Heart – Dark chocolate, studies have shown, actually improved coronary circulation. If that isn’t incentive to eat chocolate, I’m not sure what is.
Happy Skin – Cocoa Butter is said to improve the rich, smooth qualities of your skin with an added aroma that will make you the center of attention, in a good way, of course!
Put an End to Hypertension – Studies have shown that consuming dark chocolate can actually lower your blood pressure due to its link with polyphenol-rich chocolate.
Increasing your IQ – Yes, dark chocolate contains higher levels of flavanols that are known to improve blood circulation throughout your body and even your brain. This helps combat mental fatigue, making you more alert and responsive.
Putting that Smile on Your Face – Feeling a bit down? It’s almost natural and a cultural habit to go for that box of chocolates to make you feel better. But it there merit to this? Studies have shown that eating chocolate has similar physiological effects as that of kissing. Chocolate improves bodily circulation and serves as a mild stimulant, making you become more euphoric, which essentially, turns that frown upside down!
Who doesn’t love cheese or chocolate? But together? Believe it or not, they’re actually the perfect combination for a tasting!
Cheese and chocolate are so different that the thought of pairing them seems difficult. The key to this type of tasting is keeping it simple. Both are super-rich foods and a little goes a long way. Choose quality over quantity and limit to three to five pairings.
Learning how to taste cheese and chocolate will deepen your appreciation for the foods and makers. Start with your basic senses and expand from there. Be sure both are room temperature before tasting. Remove the cheeses from refrigerator at least 20-35 minutes before the tasters arrive to maximize flavors and aromas. Cold cheese does not release flavors and aromas as quickly and alters the taste.
Cheese: Some cheeses are intense in color while others are not. Look at the cheese rind. Is it uniform? Any cracks? Is the cheese dry like a walnut shell or moist like a sliced apple? Chocolate: For chocolate, color depends on the origin of the beans. Quality chocolate will be shiny, glossy, and have clean edges. Look for bloom or grayish white steaks caused by poor temperature and improper storage.
Second, smell to appreciate…
Cheese: Cheese offers a full spectrum of aromas such as fresh butter, boiled milk, yogurt, fermented hay, nuts, caramel, chocolate, spices, mold and animal (yes, animal!) Chocolate: There is an incredible array of scents and aromas in chocolate. Milk chocolate aromas may include milk, caramel and malt. Dark chocolate may include nuts, coffee, dried fruits and wine.
Cheese: Is the cheese dense, compact or light? Is it smooth, grainy or crunchy? The higher the butter fat content, the creamier the mouth feel of the cheese will be. Chocolate: Never chew chocolate. Chocolate should melt in your mouth. Good chocolate will feel silky and smooth. Subpar chocolate may feel grainy, waxy or greasy to the tongue.
Last, the finish..
. Allow the cheese and chocolate to linger to fully appreciate the finale of the flavors. The finish is important as many of the early flavors may be masked by other ingredients.
Not all your cheese and chocolate pairings will be a success, but tasting is half the fun. Take your time and try different pairings. Host a cheese and chocolate event, and guide your friends on a delicious journey. Just remember, keep it simple.