Sweets For Your Sweet

A brief history lesson before we delve into the sweet reason of Chocolate on Valentine’s day…

St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus.  The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”
– Aristotle

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.)

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
– Lao Tzu

Our infatuation with chocolate first began 2,000 years ago when it was discovered in Latin America. The Maya and Aztec elites infused cocoa beans with water to form frothy chocolate drinks – the first frappuccinos, if you will – for special occasions and as sacrifices to the gods. The Aztec ruler Montezuma believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac and routinely drank it before entering his harem, thus increasing chocolate’s popularity and its association with love and romance. As it turns out, he was ahead of his time. Modern-day scientists have linked the chemical phenylethylamine in chocolate to feelings of excitement, attraction and even pleasure.

“Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.”
– Henry Ward Beecher

 Christopher Columbus saw how the Aztecs revered cocoa when he entered the picture in the sixteenth century and immediately took the luxury product back to Queen Isabella of Spain. Chocoholics sprouted up all over Europe, sharing the legend of their new obsession’s alleged mythical powers. At one point in time, chocolate was believed to be so potent that nuns were forbidden from eating it and French doctors used it to treat “broken hearts.”

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.
– Zora Neale Hurston”

So whatever your reason is for celebrating Valentine’s Day make sure that your heart is filled with love and your hands are filled with chocolate.

This information was collected from the History Channel and from other sources.

 

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Holiday Baking Ideas: Mrs. Vickie’s Dark Chocolate Shavings Cookie

 

My family was a big fan of chocolate chip cookies until one of our employees at Cocoa Mill started using Cocoa Mill’s Bittersweet chocolate shavings in their cookies… They are now converts and will accept nothing less. This is the perfect cookie for the Holidays.

Cocoa Mill’s Bittersweet Chocolate is perfect for baking. In this recipe you will need 1/4 lb of dark chocolate and a good sharp knife to shave the chocolate into small pieces.

You will need:

2/3 cup of butter (or shortening)

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 cup  of brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1  3/4 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. of baking soda

1/4 to 1/2 a tsp. of salt (depending on how sweet you like your cookies)

1/4 lb shaved bittersweet chocolate

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cream butter and sugars together, add egg and vanilla, mix well. Add flour, baking soda and salt, mix well. Add the Chocolate shavings and mix well one more time. Spoon cookies onto a greased cookie sheet.

Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. When golden around the edges take out and cool on a wire rack. Enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk.

These cookie freeze well, this allows you to pull them out and enjoy them whenever you wish. They also make a beautiful and delicious gift for loved ones and friends during this season of giving.

Milk Hazelnut Truffle vs Dark Hazelnut Truffle

The series continues with The Milk Hazelnut Truffle and The Bittersweet Hazelnut Truffle. This truffle is very sweet with light nutty undertones. Crisscrossed white chocolate stripes adorn this simple but pure treasure, letting you know there is more than chocolate to be desired in this round ball of decadence.

These two truffles have the same hazelnut base flavor and both have milk chocolate centers. The hazelnut paste that is used in this truffle is made from crushed hazelnuts, nothing more, nothing less. These two initial observations may cause you to think this truffle is best when enjoyed in milk chocolate, because of the milk centers. You may also ask since they have the same base what is the use in comparing them? Let us delve a little deeper into this natural goodness that is The Hazelnut Truffle.

The Milk Chocolate Truffle is very sweet but balances nicely with the earthy hazelnut flavoring. The flavor delivered in this truffle is very natural and it almost has a woody quality in taste, but is smooth as velvet in texture.  This truffle pairs nicely with a cream sherry such as Amontillado. This sherry is noticeably darker than other sherries. Amontillado offers notes of  hazelnuts and even light cedar, enriching the earth tones already present in the truffle. When these two are a paired the flavor changes a bit giving up more of a roasted hazelnut with a hint of honey. This is a complex sherry that opens up as it sits in the glass, it is one of the most prized sherries for the connoisseur. When coupling the Anmontillado and the Hazelnut Truffle it creates an experience that will be cherished all the more.

The Bittersweet Chocolate Truffle still has the same the same center with earthy natural undertones but when dipped in the dark chocolate you loose a bit of the sweetness. The dark chocolate only enhances the woody, earthy  flavors creating a stronger hazelnut experience. This truffle pairs nicely with Ethiopia Amaro Gayo  coffee. This coffee offers a date and pastry spice aroma, with raspberry, citrus, and chocolate flavor notes. This is full-bodied coffee leaves you with a winey fruit and cocoa finish. Combining these flavors offers you a deeply sensuous chocolate experience.

I hope you will enjoy these two pairings. If you try them please let us know what you think.

Holy Mole: Chocolate Chicken

 The windows were down and a nice summer breeze was blowing through the car as we were driving home from work.  My girls asked their usual question, “Mommy, what’s for dinner?”

“I’m not sure what we are having tonight, but tomorrow we are having Chocolate Chicken.”  I responded nonchalantly, knowing this information will provoke some sort of contorted face and then perhaps a discussion.

“Ewwww. That’s gross.”  My nine and five-year olds say in unison.

“Chicken and chocolate do not go together Mom.” My nine-year old states as if she’s been cooking for years.

“Well if that’s what you’re cooking then I’m not eating it.” My five-year old informed me.

The girls continue to question my sanity and I just smile as we continue our ride home.

The following day we make our way to the grocery store to gather the ingredients for our chocolate chicken dish.  The girls watch very intently as I carefully select the chiles, spices, and tomatoes.

” Is that all we need?”  My nine-year old asks?

“Yep, that’s it!” I respond

“Does that mean we can go home now?” My five-year old asks impatiently.

“Yep, let’s go.” I answer, and just like that we are off on our journey to make the chocolate chicken.

Braised Chicken with Chocolate Mole Sauce:

You will need:

10 dried Ancho chiles

4 dried Chiles Negros

1/3 cup sesame seeds

1 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. coriander

1/4 tsp ground cloves

20 black peppercorns

1 tsp cinnamon stick

5 Tbsp of butter or lard

1/4 cup of raisins

1 corn tortilla broken into pieces

4 tomatillos

10 cherry tomatoes

5 garlic cloves peeled

1 small onion chopped

5 1/3 cups of chicken stock

3  ounces Cocoa Mill Bittersweet Chocolate; coarsely chopped

Salt, pepper, garlic powder, dry mustard

1 large package boneless skinless chicken thighs, 3-4 large chicken breasts

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees F

1. In a medium bowl cover the dried chiles with boiling water and let stand for 30  minutes.

2. In a large skillet combine the spices: sesame seeds, all spice, ginger, chili powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Toast the spices over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to blender or food processor and grind to a fine powder.

3. In the same skillet melt 1 Tbsp of butter. Stir in raisins and tortilla. Cook the mixture until the raisins are nice and plump and the tortilla is lightly toasted (about 5 minutes). Transfer into a bowl.

4. In the same skillet add tomatillos and cherry tomatoes. Blister the skins for about 12 minutes. set aside.

5. Staying with the same skillet add onions and garlic cloves, cook until lightly browned (about 10 minutes)

6. In a food processor chopped all the tomatoes, onion and garlic. 

7. Blend the raisins and tortilla and 1/3 cup of stock in the food processor.

8.  Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in skillet, add vegetable mixture, spice powder and cook five minutes, drain chiles and 5 cups of chicken stock, cover and let simmer for 1 hour.

9. In a bowl add 1 Tbsp of salt, 2 tsp pepper, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp dry mustard. Mix together and rub on chicken.

10. In a skillet  heat a splash of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter until melted. Add chicken and brown on each side for 3-4 minutes. Transfer into a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

11. Chop the 3 ounces of Cocoa Mill Bittersweet Chocolate and place in food processor, remove chiles for the sauce and place in food processor over chocolate, mix until you have a thick paste, add back into the sauce, heat for an additional 15 minutes.

12. Take half of the sauce and spoon over the chicken, cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven and cook for 3 hours.

Serve with rice and a nice summer salad. Enjoy!

Side note: My girls thoroughly enjoyed the “Chocolate Chicken” and cleaned their plates.