Chocolate & Love: A Valentine's Day Recipe from Chef Elizabeth Landry
Posted by Elizabeth Landry on 2/7/17
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz
Around the world chocolate is adored and loved by millions. It is used to helps us celebrate the good times, as a gift to someone special, as a reward for a job well done, as a form of art and creativity, and, when times are tough, it can also be comfort. But the chocolate that many of know and love has come quite a long way, and for much of its known existence it has not been so readily available to the masses, like it is today. Let’s take a quick look at how we have arrived at our place in time with this love affair.
The tree that is responsible for giving us the amazing gift that is chocolate is called Theobroma cacao, which translates to “food of the gods.” And it’s no wonder that it received this name.
The first known evidence of chocolate is traced back to as early as 1900 B.C. in what we now know as Mexico. It is said to have been discovered in the Central American rainforest by the Mesoamericans, who cultivated, fermented, roasted and ground the beans into a paste which they would combine with spices such as chili and sometimes honey and then brew it into a frothy beverage. In fact, the word “chocolate” can be traced back to the Aztec word “xocoatl” which is a bitter drink that is brewed from cacao beans. This beverage was found to be energizing and some even thought of it as an aphrodisiac. As a chef and someone that follows culinary trends I love to find tidbits of information such as this. I had known that it was roasted and brewed into a beverage, but was unaware of the fermenting. Fermenting has become such a popular trend over the past few years, and I always find it so intriguing to see how the “new and big” trends almost always tie back into processes that have been used for centuries.
The Mayans would reserve this exceptional treat for their most noble citizens, priests, warriors and rulers. And when the Spanish conquistadors brought it back to their homeland it was only enjoyed by the most elite, who adapted it slightly by adding the sweetness of cane sugar and sometimes a hint of cinnamon. Throughout so much of its life, chocolate remained a treat for the aristocrats and privileged of society, and minus the addition of sweeteners and some spices was enjoyed in a similar way as the Mesoamericans.
It’s not unforeseeable that chocolate would have remained as an elitist treasure for even longer, but in 1828 a Dutch chemist named Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented the cocoa press which would extract the rich and fatty cocoa butter from roasted beans leaving behind a dry substance that was easily processed into a fine powder....cocoa powder. The creation of cocoa powder enabled chocolate to be a much more affordable and accessible product, and put its innovation on the fast track.
Less than 20 years after the invention of the cocoa press, and centuries after the Mesoamericans had discovered this magical bean, J.S. Frye & Sons, a British chocolate company, created the first solid edible chocolate bar. And it wasn’t long afterwards that in 1879, the now world renowned Rodolphe Lindt created the conching machine, which would produce chocolate with an extremely velvety texture and superior taste. Since then we have had many more advances which have made chocolate one of the most popular foods in the world. It is reported that in America alone, on average each consumer eats about 12 pounds a year!
It’s hard to imagine a life without chocolate, at least in my book. Technically speaking, I don’t NEED chocolate to survive. And if memory serves me then I’m pretty sure that chocolate didn’t have its own category as part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Yes, it is a food and therefore it’s included in the basic physiological needs, but it’s more than just...food.
It is said to truly love you must understand, so now that we understand a little bit better I feel it’s high time that we have an opportunity to enjoy our love of chocolate!
I’m sharing with you my recipe for chocolate mousse. Yes you can buy packaged easy prep mousse in your grocery store, but you’ll find this much more indulgent and once you get the hang of making it you’ll see it’s not that hard at all. I feel that chocolate mousse is the perfect dessert for someone who is craving rich and indulgent chocolate but not something that is heavy, such as a cake. It’s similar to a pudding or custard but much lighter and more airy. It’s just classy enough for entertaining and simple since you can make it a day ahead. Plus it looks very beautiful with just simple garnish of a few berries. You’ll be hard pressed to find a lover of chocolate turn their nose up to a cute cup filled with such a delicate and satisfying treat!
Yield: approximately 6 servings
• Heavy Cream ½ cup
• Egg Whites 4 whites
• Sugar 2 ½ Tbsp
• Bittersweet Chocolate 1/2 pound
• Butter, cold & cut into 4 4 Tbsp
• Egg Yolks 4 yolks
1. Whip heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Whip this until it forms stiff peaks.
3. Set up a double boiler. A what? How do I do this?
a. Find a small sauce pot and fill with about 1 ½ - 2 inches of water. b. Find a metal mixing bowl to sit over the pot. It should be slightly larger than the pot.
4. Heat the water over medium heat until boiling: then reduce heat to low.
5. Add the chocolate chips to the bowl and let melt while stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula.6. Add the butter and stir until melted and fully incorporated; Remove from the heat.
7. In a separate bowl, gently whisk the egg yolks.
8. Very slowly drizzle the warm chocolate mixture into egg yolks while gently and continuously whisking the yolks. (This is called tempering the yolks.)
9. Gently fold ½ of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, then repeat with ½ of the egg whites. Repeat with remaining whipped cream and egg whites.
10. Portion into serving bowls, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
11. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and some fresh berries.
- Elizabeth Landry
Corporate Executive Chef