An ode to bittersweet chocolate

I started eating dark chocolate in my teens because of all the magazine articles I read that told me I would be beautiful and healthy if I consumed a small square everyday. I didn’t dislike it, but it certainly didn’t compare to Reese’s, which I consumed voraciously.

I may have begun eating dark chocolate grudgingly, but over the years I’ve come to crave and love it deeply. I feel like I need to hide or lessen my bittersweet fervor from others because it is almost unseemly. Furthermore, a lot of the people I know do not share my love. They still view dark chocolate and something “saintly” and they believe I’m eating it because I have strong will power, because why else would someone choose such bitter stuff over Hershey’s?

For example, a few weeks ago my colleagues were expressing disgust at some “dark” chocolate bunnies we had laying around the office. Sharon said she had to make chocolate chip cookies with them in order to mask the bitterness, and even then it was too much for her. I felt the need to defend bittersweet chocolate, so I simply said “I love dark chocolate. I just love it.”

“That’s probably because it’s healthier,” said Courtney, quick to dismiss such a ludicrous love.

Well, let me count the ways I truly love and enjoy my bittersweet chocolate:

  • Naked and alone This is one of the best ways to consume dark chocolate, especially with a cortado or cappuccino. I prefer chocolate that has a cacao content of 80% or higher. You need to let the chocolate warm in your mouth a little to truly savor the avalanche of flavor you are about to experience. Also, don’t restrict yourself to one square because of those silly magazine articles. Sometimes, I’m satisfied with just a nibble, but sometimes I’m more voracious and need a few squares to have my lust quenched.
  • With dried fruit I love the contrast of bitter chocolate and the sweetness of dried fruit, especially medjool dates and dried figs. This is a dessert (I hope) I will never tire of, because it is so magical. Sometimes I like an even-higher cacoa content here, like 90%. Lately, I’ve been having fantasies of trying completely unsweetened chocolate with medjool dates, since the dates are so incredibly sweet themselves.
  • With bread or crackers This combination never occurred to my until I was reading M.L.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating. I immediately realized the genius of the combination and tried it with a good country loaf from a local bakery. I will never forget delicious contrast of sweet, yet bitter chocolate and chewy, yeasty bread. For me, this is the epitome of decadence. Sometimes I also enjoy chocolate with whole-grain crackers, my favorite being ak-mak. I make little sandwiches with the grainy crackers and pieces of chocolate, varying the proportion of cracker to chocolate depending on my desire at that moment. Apparently, a bar of chocolate lightly melted (or not) on a baguette is a popular snack in France. I’ve been meaning to try it like this, by melting my chocolate a bit in the oven with some good, buttered bread, and perhaps a sprinkling of sea salt to finish.
  • In hot chocolate Fuck the powdered hot cocoa mixes. I love making hot chocolate my whisking chopped, bitter chocolate with milk or cream in a double boiler until it thickens. When it’s done, I add some honey or sugar and savor. It’s also delicious with a bit of sea salt, of course.
  • In dense chocolate cake I’ve tried many recipes for “flourless” chocolate cake but my favorite thus far has been one made entirely with chestnut flour and some chopped chestnuts mixed into the batter. I found the recipe abandoned in a cart at the grocery store years ago, and I just recently got around to making it. Over the years, I’ve developed a very sensitive sweet tooth. Although I enjoy desserts, most of them are way too sweet for me. This recipe has the perfect amount of sweetness in my opinion. Don’t forget to lick the bowl- the uncooked batter is just as delicious as the final product (it’s basically chocolate mousse- another way to enjoy bitter chocolate). I have tweaked the original recipe:

 

Chocolate Chestnut Cake

4 oz 70% chocolate

4 oz unsalted butter

4 eggs, separated

1/2 cup honey, or sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup chestnut flour (I imagine almond flour would also work)

1/2 cup chopped, cooked chestnuts (optional)

Heat the oven to 350º. Prepare a standard cake pan with butter and parchment paper, or use a springform cake pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and stir to combine. Do not burn the chocolate! Allow to cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs yolks with 1/2 the honey and the salt. Stir in the warm chocolate and set aside. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until frothy. Add the remaining honey in a slow drizzle and beat until stiff peaks form.

Add the chestnut flour and chestnuts to the chocolate batter. Mix in 1/4 of the egg whites to lighten the mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake. Check it after 25 minutes. It is done when a knife in the center comes out clean, but it also tastes amazing ever-so-slightly under-cooked. It tastes best if you let it sit at room temperature for a day or two.

Serve alone or with a bit of lightly-sweetened whipped cream (homemade, of course). After a few days of eating it unadorned, I tried it with some sliced sweet frozen banana, which I allowed to thaw slightly and a drizzle of tahini. It was like a much-improved version of an ice cream cake.

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About Huaccachina

I'm a snob in the kitchen and I enjoy it. I love simple foods in season.
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