By Shannon Latimer • Research Kari Collard
Photography & Styling C&D Heierli
Recipes Diane Heierli • Food Assistant Nelleke Elston • Original wine match text from The Company of Wine People
Chocolate and Romance
According to legend, chocolate is a powerful love potion. This goes back to the ancient Aztec culture. It was used as a Stimulant for passion and to increase sexual satisfaction. We’re talking about a dark, bitter chocolate, quite different from what we eat today. And it was mainly drunk as a hot beverage mixed with water and even some spices. Montezuma, the Aztec Chief, supposedly drank the equivalent of 50 cups of chocolate a day to increase his stamina before meeting with his female companions—and we can imagine he had quite a few of them.
Then there was Casanova, known as ‘the greatest lover of all time and a true lover of women’: he too drank a chocolate drink daily, supposedly to increase his amorous energy.
But there’s no great scientific proof that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. At most it would have only a very small amount of libido-enhancing chemicals and not enough to have any significant effect. Maybe it is all in the mind. But who cares—especially when it comes to a product that is so tasty?
Saintly or Sinful?
White Chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids. It also doesn’t have any non-fat ingredients from the cocoa bean, which gives it an off-white colour.
Milk Chocolate normally contains between 10 and 20 per cent cocoa solids, which includes cocoa and cocoa butter, and more than 12 per cent milk solids. When you buy milk or white chocolate, remember to check the cocoa butter content. It should be the only fat listed on the label. Animal and vegetable fat tends to leave a greasy feeling on your tongue.
Dark Chocolate has a high content of cocoa solids with no or very little milk. It can either be sweet, semi-sweet, bittersweet or unsweetened. Don’t buy over 75 per cent cocoa solids just to snack on, unless you’re looking for something more bitter than sweet. It’s a much better idea to bake with chocolate that has such a high cocoa content. Bittersweet Chocolate is a dark, sweetened chocolate. It must have about 35 per cent cocoa solids. Top of the range bittersweet chocolate usually contains 60 to 85 per cent cocoa solids, giving it an intense bitter flavour.
Wine Pairing with Chocolate
It has become quite popular recently to pair wine with chocolate. Purists say these two are not a good match. Others disagree. Why not try it out for yourself? When pairing chocolate and wine, typically the wine should be at least as sweet if not a touch sweeter than the chocolate you are serving with it. Otherwise, the taste may quickly become bitter or sour. Another good trick to remember is that you should match lighter, more elegantly-flavoured chocolates with lighter-bodied wines. And the stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine should be.
Milk Chocolate should go well with a light-bodied Merlot. Also pair Merlot with a creamy chocolate mousse or chocolate cheesecake.
Dark Chocolate needs a wine that offers a roasted, slightly robust flavour (with perhaps its own chocolate notes?) Cabernets are a good option.
White Chocolate tends to be more mellow and buttery in flavour, and here a Chardonnay may be the best partner.
How to Melt Chocolate
Although it sounds easy enough, melting chocolate can be tricky. Here are a few tips to help things go, er, smoothly. Always chop the chocolate first as this helps to melt it more evenly. Exposing chocolate to direct heat is a recipe for disaster—it will almost always burn.
Rather place it in a heatproof bowl in a shallow pan of boiling water. Stir the chocolate occasionally and make sure all your utensils are dry. The slightest amount of moisture can cause the chocolate to turn lumpy.
Decorations Add a Little Something
Chocolate shavings and swirls add that little something—or, as the French say, je ne sais quoi—to desserts. It’s easy to look like a pro. Just melt some chocolate and pour onto a flat non-stick baking tray. Spread it evenly into a 3mm thick layer. Leave to cool. Just before the chocolate turns solid, hold a long chopping knife at both ends and drag the knife towards you at an angle, scraping off a thin layer of chocolate into a curl. Place the curls in the fridge to set. Drinking Chocolate If your libido needs a kick-start, why not follow Casanova’s lead and use dark chocolate in a drink. Melt the chocolate and add equal parts cream and full fat milk. This will result in a thick, rich drinking chocolate. Rather than using a microwave, froth the milk by hand or with a blender to create a luxurious feel—and a decadent taste.
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