It’s no surprise to me that Valentine’s Day is synonymous with chocolate. What celebration of love would be complete without it?
Chocolate starts out as a seed of the cacao tree. As a seed it actually has a bitter flavor, but through a process of fermentation and roasting, the chocolate transforms into the delicious rich-flavored treat we know and love.
Chocolate is made all over the world from France to Belgium, Japan to the United States. But all the cocao seeds come from trees grown in regions 20 degrees from the equator, such as Africa, Madagascar, Peru and Brazil. Like wine, chocolate actually reflects the characteristics of a region’s soil, air and climate, a term known as terroir, which gives it a unique flavor. Room temperature chocolate will tend to show off more flavor. Let a piece melt on your tongue and see if you can detect undertones like vanilla, caramel, yellow fruit, almond, spice, and even bread.
I love it all, but my favorite chocolate is dark chocolate, made with minimum of 70% cocoa solids, which gives it a deep, intense flavor. I’m pretty happy just snacking on it as it is, but chocolate is an amazingly versatile ingredient. Shave it on top of a cappuccino or dip the rim of a martini glass in shaved chocolate and fill with a mint-chocolate martini. Try it in recipes with fresh or dried fruit. Classic pairings for chocolate include strawberries, raspberries and oranges. Those with a more adventurous sweet tooth may want to try it melted over crystallized ginger or dried papaya. Chocolate adds depth to savory dishes too. It makes mole sauces and spice rubs so special.
Ready to fall in love? Pick up some good quality dark chocolate and whip up these Pot au Chocolate with Cinnamon Whipped Cream.