…For a very special Valentine’s Day
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, have you wondered how the connection between love and chocolates was made and how the tradition of giving chocolates on Valentine’s Day was formed?
While the history of Valentine’s Day stretches back to the Roman era, the addition of chocolate as the staple fixture for the day dedicated to the celebration of love is more recent.
It was in the mid-1800s that one Richard Cadbury was looking for a way to utilise cocoa butter extracted during the making of chocolate liquor and came up with the humble chocolate bar. Previously, chocolate was an expensive item that only the wealthy were able to buy, but Cadbury was able to produce chocolate that was affordable to all. His next step was to create beautiful boxes – decorated with cupids and roses – to entice buyers, and it was these that became the must-have Valentine’s Day gift of the day.
Besides the great taste and texture and the attractive wrappings, there are other reasons why chocolate is linked with Valentine’s Day.
Chocolate has been deemed an aphrodisiac since the time of the Aztecs, containing a substance that inflames desire and make the beloved one more open to romance. According to science, there might be some truth in this as recent studies show that those who eat chocolate show more desire for romance as compared to those who don’t. This might be because chocolate releases brain soothing chemicals which increase energy and desire levels. Chocolate is proven to produce a natural high which can elevate mood and often equated to feeling in love.
Chocolate comes from cocoa tree which is also known as ‘Theobroma cacao’ which is a Greek way of saying ‘food for the Gods’. In the ancient Maya civilisation, for which the cacao God was sacred, the Aztecs used cacao beans as currency and as a food for only the privileged. Thus, if chocolate was deemed fit for the Gods then it had to be the perfect gift for a loved one.
It’s also a fact that chocolates have a huge physiological and emotional effect on people. Giving chocolate is not just a sign of love but also given as ways to express delight, initiate desire, expresses your apologies and rekindle friendship. Or even given just to simply uplift the mood as it’s a powerful mood enhancer.
So what better way to delight your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day than with more than a box of chocolates, but rather a chocolate creation made by you to show just how much you really care?
With that in mind, here are four chocolate-themed recipes – suggested by chefs from Capsicum Culinary Studio – that are guaranteed to impress your loved one.
Flourless Chocolate Cake, courtesy Chef Eoin Shiell
675g dark chocolate
350g salted butter
Spray & Cook
Cocoa powder for dusting
Preheat oven to 220°C.
Spray a cake or bread tin well with Spray & Cook and dust with the cocoa powder, making sure to cover the entire surface area of your tin.
In a bowl over a double boiler, whisk eggs over a medium to low heat until the mixture starts to take on a custard like consistency. Make sure you are whisking constantly and that the water in the pot never makes contact with the base of the bowl. Your sabayon is ready once there are no longer bubbles visible in the custard.
Strain the egg mixture through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a separate bowl over the double boiler, stirring occasionally.
Stream the melted chocolate mixture into the sabayon while whisking until both mixtures are well incorporated. Strain again.
Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and gently tap the tin on your counter to level out the mixture.
Place the tin in a deep tray and pour hot water that it comes to about halfway to the height of the tray.
Cover the tin with foil and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake for a further 5-10 ten minutes.
The cake should be set but be slightly wet in the centre, you can use a skewer to check.
Remove from the water bath and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and set in the fridge for at least 8 hours before serving.
Warm the exterior of the tin by dipping it in boiling water to help remove the cake from the tin before slicing. Use a knife dipped in hot water to slice the cake.
*Chef’s Notes: This flourless cake goes well with vanilla ice cream, peanut brittle and caramelised banana, or Chantilly cream with a berry compote.
Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies, courtesy Chef Lungile Makiza
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbs cocoa powder
1½ tsp cornstarch
½ tsp bicarb of soda
¼ tsp salt
125g unsalted butter (room temperature)
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup of white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
2-3 tsp red food colouring
¾ cup chocolate chips (dark, milk or white)
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, corn starch, bicarb and salt.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.
Beat in the egg, vanilla and food colouring.
Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix until fully combined.
Stir in the chocolate chips
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Scoop equal size balls with a tablespoon and place in the lined tray about 5cm apart.
Bake the cookies for 7-10 minutes.
Remove from the oven, cool on the tray for about 10mins before transferring to a wire rack.
Ginger Chocolate Fudge, courtesy Pierre van Heerden
115g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
6 pieces of ginger (in syrup)
300ml full cream milk
150g plain milk chocolate, roughly chopped
450g granulated sugar.
Grease a square shallow dish. Dry the syrup off the pieces of stem ginger on kitchen paper, then chop finely.
Pour the milk into a large, heavy-based saucepan and add the chocolate, butter, and sugar. Heat gently, stirring all the time, until the chocolate and butter have melted, and the sugar has completely dissolved.
Bring to the boil and boil for about 10 – 15 minutes stirring occasionally, until a little of the mixture, when dropped into a small bowl of cold water, forms a soft ball when rolled between the fingers.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the chopped ginger. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then beat the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon, until thick, creamy, and grainy.
Immediately pour the mixture into the prepared dish, leave to cool, then mark into small squares. Leave the fudge until cold and set, then cut up the squares with a sharp knife.
Decadent Chocolate Truffles, courtesy Pierre van Heerden
175g milk chocolate, chopped
3 tbs butter, unsalted
4 tbs icing sugar
50g ground almonds (optional)
50g grated chocolate (any kind)
Melt the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water.
Add the butter and stir until melted. Stir in icing sugar and the ground almonds (optional).
Leave the mixture in a cool place until firm enough to roll into balls.
Place the grated chocolate on a plate and roll the truffles in the chocolate to coat them thoroughly.
Place the truffles in paper sweet cases (mini muffin cups) and chill in the refrigerator.