Imagine a time when chocolate was not as prominent as it is today. The domestication of chocolate occurred about 3,000 years ago with the Olmec tribe in Central America. The Olmecs discovered that they could grind the beans of the cacao plant and heat it with water. Hot chocolate was born.
The Olmec version of hot chocolate was not the same drink as we know it today. “There was no milk or sugar added back then so it was very bitter,” says Kevin Wray of Peterbrooke Chocolatier in Winter Park. Along the way, it was discovered that if you mix the ground cacao beans with milk and sugar, hot chocolate began to take on an indulgent, sweet flavor.
Since it was once considered a royal secret, not everyone had access to chocolate when it was first discovered. Today, the secret is out and chocolate has become a favorite snack for people all around the world. But don’t just limit your chocolate intake to a simple candy bar. There are several trends in chocolate that will be sure to add to your love for this delectable treat and will open your mind to discovering new, unique ways to eat it.
A major trend in chocolate today is infusing different types of herbs and spices into the chocolate. This could range from the sweet sophistication of adding lavender to a ganache to the simplicity of adding lemon pepper to tempered chocolate to create a candy bar all your own. By adding these herbs and spices, it creates a certain complexity that adds to the already delicious flavors of chocolate.
A more adventurous trend is the combination of sweet and spicy. “People add cayenne and chipotle to create a spicy chocolate,” says Wray. Check the ingredients of your favorite mole sauce or chili sauce and you may find a hidden surprise. When mixed with savory ingredients, chocolate creates a balance that is sure to be craveable. If you’re skeptical, stop by Peterbrooke Chocolatier to try one of their many creations.
The company’s best seller is its Chocolate Covered Popcorn. This is a great example of how savory meets sweet. Imagine the creamy sweetness of the chocolate meeting the buttery popcorn and it creates a marriage of flavors that dance in your mouth. If you’re feeling overly adventurous, Peterbrooke Chocolatier has created its own version of Jalapeno Poppers. Imagine a jalapeno pepper stuffed with caramel that is then wrapped in bacon and dipped in chocolate. This one-of-a-kind treat is by special request only, but with the combination of sweet, savory and spicy it is a treat that should not be missed.
Milk chocolate is still the most popular flavor, but dark chocolate is beginning to build momentum in popularity. Although dark chocolate tends to have a more bitter taste, it is being consumed more often because of its health benefits. Combine dark chocolate with the acai berry, a super fruit, and you have yourself a delightful, guilt-free snack.
Chocolate is a versatile ingredient, allowing for endless flavor combinations to enjoy. Right now, you may only use it for sweet and decadent treats, but you can use it for savory dishes too. Try chicken smothered in mole sauce for dinner. Or maybe infuse melted chocolate with herbs and spices from your pantry and turn it into your own sweet and savory chocolate bar. Why not open the door to some unique ways that you can enjoy chocolate in your own kitchen?
Skip the crowded restaurants this Valentine’s Day and make your own chocolate treat – spiked with some bubbly – during an at-home date night with your honey.
Champagne Truffles Ingredients:
-12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
-1/4 cup heavy cream
-2 ounces butter, softened to room temperature
-1/4 cup champagne (reduced by half)
-1 pound of tempered chocolate for coating
Place the chopped dark chocolate in a medium heat-safe bowl. Microwave heavy cream until it just starts to scald (boil). Pour scalded cream over chocolate and let sit for 3-4 minutes, then stir until completely smooth. Add reduced wine and butter and stir until completely incorporated. Set in fridge for a few hours to chill and set.
Using a spoon or scoop and gloved hands, portion ganache and roll into balls. Return to the fridge to set.
Dip truffle in choice of chocolate, decorate, set and enjoy!