Whatever be the season, whatever be the reason, the very thought of chocolate can make us lick our lips in eagerness. The sweetest day of the year, World Chocolate Day, sometimes called International Chocolate Day, is celebrated annually on July 7.
We crave chocolate because it is good! It tastes good, it smells good and it feels good when it melts in your mouth! And all of these ‘feelings’ arise because our brain releases chemicals in response to each chocolaty experience. The experience of eating chocolate results in feel-good neurotransmitters Dopamine. Chocolate triggers the brain to release endorphins — hormones that cause your pulse to speed up and give you a pleasant high feeling, rather like being in love. This can boost your mood and ease depression.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go all out and consume lots of chocolate every day. It is still loaded with calories and easy to overeat. You can have a square or two after dinner and try to really savor them.
If you want the benefits of cocoa without the calories in chocolate, consider making hot cocoa without any cream or sugar. Choose quality stuff — dark chocolate with 70% or higher cocoa content.
Guilt-Free Chocolate Pairings
Chocolate Alone Is Good, but Chocolate With These Foods Is Better.
- Flirty Fruity: The darker the chocolate, the more bitter. The more bitter, the more it’s needs to be complemented by something very sweet. That’s why dark chocolate goes great with ripe strawberries, pears, mangoes, bananas — the sweeter the better! White chocolate on the other hand is already very rich and sweet. Pairing white chocolate with fruits that have a higher acidity or more mild flavor, such as tart berries and citrus, or mild melons and passion fruit, compliment this type of chocolate very well! If ever in doubt, milk chocolate is the best middle ground.
- The Naughty Nutty: Chocolate enhances the flavor of some nuts better than others. Peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans have very distinct flavor components that go great with dark chocolate! They may be a little overpowering for some milk and most definitely white chocolates. It’s all about balance.
- Let’s Get Cheesy: Rich, buttery, nutty, creamy — terms you can use interchangeably when talking about cheese and chocolate! It doesn’t initially seem like an obvious match, but certain cheeses and chocolates have flavor components that complement each other very well! A cheese that is more acidic and pungent, like blue cheese or goat cheese, would go better with darker chocolate that can stand its own among those intense flavors.
- Crispy Coffee: A more obvious pairing of chocolate would be with coffee! Both nutty and bold flavors go phenomenally well together, especially when paired correctly! Darker chocolates go with darker and bolder roasts, like Italian roast. A breakfast blend is sensational with a few pieces of creamy milk chocolate! Lighter roasts, like Costa Coffees, pair well with the lightest of “chocolates” — white chocolate!
- The Romantic Wine: Chocolate and wine both have very intense flavors! A bite of good chocolate can easily overpower the taste of a light red or white wine — as does a sip of good dry wine to less bold chocolates. The key to successfully pairing wine with chocolate is to match sweetness with sweetness! Pairing milk chocolate (or sweeter dark chocolates) with dessert wines, like a Vintage Port, Madeira, or sweet sherry, is the easiest way to make a successful pairing. These types of wine bring a natural sweetness to help keep up with the sweetness of the chocolate. And when paired right, chocolate and wine can be extraordinary!
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s celebrate this World Chocolate Day with our near and dear near ones! Do let me know which combination you tried.
Do you know more combinations? Share them in the comments below!