What’s the most effective remedy for depression? Okay – perhaps not for the clinical condition but for what we commonly call it, and what is otherwise described by ‘a bit down in the dumps’.
Of course it is chocolate, the star of this week’s feature. I realise that it’s not exactly topical to ‘what to cook this week’, but I do believe chocolate merits its own, dedicated article, especially with the festive season approaching.
What is it about the product created by fermenting, roasting, grinding and otherwise molesting the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree, that always gets everyone excited?
There is anecdotal evidence that chocolate stimulates release of endorphins to the brain, and production of serotonin. Both those chemicals are well-known to be in charge of happy feelings. But most probably it is just its sugar content that our brains relate to the feeling of pleasure. Plus the centuries-long reputation of chocolate being an aphrodisiac, which already the Aztecs believed, works on our minds while we experience the sensuous feeling of chocolate melting all over our taste buds.
Anything that makes us happy is good for us, healthwise – as long as it’s not immediately followed by guilt, regret and dread of the bathroom scales. That’s so wrong: chocolate should never be a guilty craving; such association messes with your mind and in effect makes you unhappy.
Chocolate is good for us, in sensible quantities and preferably the dark kind. It contains flavonols, chemicals that act as antioxidants, aid the immune system and make us clever (seriously).
Don’t forget though that chocolate is a highly processed food: it needs to go through complex stages of fermentation, roasting, grinding, melting and shaping before even the crudest high cacao content, raw chocolate is obtained. So if your preference is for white chocolate truffles, there won’t be an awful lot of health benefits to you in a box of those. White chocolate is pure pleasure: it doesn’t have any cocoa solids but only cocoa butter in its content.
But a little of the good thing is better for you than unfulfilled craving, so here we go with recipe ideas.
Making your own chocolate truffles, including actually MAKING the chocolate must be the most satisfying kitchen endeavour. Try making the marzipan truffles or go further and make the marzipan chocolate bars!
Definitely the most beneficial are the cocoa nibs – the initial product of cacao processing. And they are gorgeous in cakes, like the orange and cacao sour cream cake, or in biscuits: sables with cacao nibs.
From the sophisticated towards crowd pleasers: brownie! Easy, classic or marshmallow, you can pick the recipe you fancy. Traditional chocolate cakes like the Silver Palate one or the one with apricot glaze are all-time favourites. And then there is chocolate filling: for macarons, for meringues and for profiteroles.
I can’t fail to mention cookies, obviously: triple choc chip or very unusual but mighty fine black hearted cookies made from buckwheat flour.
White chocolate is chocolate too though some dispute it. But a piece of burnt chocolate blondie or Swedish kladdkaka will stop you from caring about the technicalities.
Dive into more chocolatey recipes if you wish. And if it’s all becoming too much and too sickly, try making the chocolate sauce for your next venison dish. It’s a revelation! Happy chocolating!