Not only did I do my best to consume as much wine and cheese as possibly while living in France for the month of October, I also did a pretty great job of sampling some fine French chocolate.
It actually baffles me that with chocolate shops on every corner (that may just be an under exaggeration), France does not seem to have the diabetic or obesity epidemic that has become a standard descriptive of the good old U.S. of A.
I believe this to be for a few reasons:
- The French (and all Europeans – yes, a terrible blanket statement) eschew the crap and savor the finer things in life. a.k.a. they use REAL ingredients.
- Because the food is REAL and actually delicious, it is savored, and appreciated, rather than scarfed down with guilt, fear, and self-loathing.
- Fine chocolate is eaten in large quantities with the vast consumption of beautiful wines!
While the French do make fine chocolates, they are not actually those who are responsible for the highest degree of devouring. As you’ll see ~ those Swiss chocolatiers seem to bask the best.
sshhh…the best chocolate I found while in France was actually Lindt.
All of those details aside, more delightful than a “chocolately mass melting on your tongue as you chew,” is the opportunity I have to share the thoughts and musings – as well as an astounding recipe – from my dear friend Lize.
Lize is an exquisite woman. I’ve had the privilege of knowing her heart and soul for years and years and years.
And while our kindred spirits have lived some distance apart for the vast majority of those years, I am honored to forever have a connection with her intelligence, talent, and supreme being.
Thank you for all that you are, Lize.
(Oh, and you can also check out Lize’s blog at www.trainingonempty.blogspot.com)
With the World Master’s Chocolate Competition recently behind us, I got to thinking about all that goes into making, savoring and transforming chocolate into all the wonderful, edible treats and gourmet creations one sees in the world. If you’re part of the chocoholic community, you know. There’s just something about chocolate. Whether you’re drinking it, baking with it, sampling it or indulging in it, chocolate is unlike any other food. Even if you’re not one of the truly addicted, you probably have some idea chocolate is something that captures people’s attention.
Yes, I’m aware that there’s a very small group that doesn’t like chocolate or isn’t that into it, but, generally speaking, chocolate has the power to grab your attention and keep you hooked. It tickles every sense and gives your brain a boost of feel-good chemicals, and it even contains healthy antioxidants, especially dark chocolate. There’s a lot to love about this luxurious treat.
As much as we may want to blame the addictive qualities of chocolate on what goes on in our brains, there’s more to chocolate craving that neurotransmitters causing a shift in mood. In fact, the psychoactive chemicals tyramine, anandamines and phenylethylamine, and the stimulants theobromine and caffeine can only be measured in low concentrations in chocolate. These alone aren’t enough to lift your mood. So why is it so darn addicting?
Chocolate craving has more to do with a whole sensory experience than the minimal changes in brain chemistry. The unique texture, taste, look and smell of chocolate all play a role in why people long for it. If you disagree, try swallowing a few capsules of cocoa powder next time you’re craving a good chocolate bar, and see how satisfied you are afterward. This cruel experiment was done in 1994, and it was discovered that the way chocolate feels in the mouth has a lot to do with why people crave it. Let’s face it, how many times have you drooled at the thought of eating a big chunk of quality chocolate? You imagine your teeth sinking into the firm but yielding treat and can almost feel the chocolate mass melting on your tongue as you chew. I know I’m guilty.
While Americans will spend over 18 billion dollars on chocolate this year, the Swiss will once again take the title of top chocolate consumers. They generally consume over 20 pounds a year each. Americans consume far less than the Swiss, the Germans and the citizens of several other countries, ranking around 20th place in the race for most chocolate consumed. I know I’m doing my part to bump this country up in the rankings, but for me, consuming chocolate comes naturally.
Next to a high-quality chocolate bar, one of my favorite chocolate treats is chocolate ice cream. Many years ago, I worked in an Italian restaurant, and I created a decadent chocolate truffle ice cream, which I made in the restaurant’s kitchen. Despite its richness, the dessert was so popular, I couldn’t keep up with the demand. Of course, it didn’t help that the staff, including the owner, couldn’t resist it and ate more than their fair share! Enjoy this gourmet treat as is or with your favorite cookies on the side:
Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream
2 good cups** quality whipping cream (**good cups are extra full cups)
2 good cups milk
6 egg yolks
A scant 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups bitter-sweet chocolate (about 16oz)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. chocolate extract (optional)
A pinch instant coffee (optional)
Scald the cream and milk in a thick-bottomed pan over medium-high heat and set aside. Beat the yolks in a metal bowl. Add the sugar and pour in the cream/milk mixture while beating. Transfer into a clean heavy-bottomed pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring until the mixture coats the spoon. Stir in chocolate and stir over very low heat until chocolate is completely melted. Add in remaining ingredients and cool. When mixture is cool, freeze according to directions on the ice-cream maker.