Five recipes to help you celebrate your sweet tooth
Man may not live by bread alone, but I think women could survive solely on chocolate. Let’s face it, ladies, chocolate is our guilty pleasure. We crave it, and sometimes we cannot get enough of it. Eating chocolate can affect our disposition and makes us feel good (albeit temporarily). One reason, scientists believe, is that chocolate increases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which stimulates feelings of well-being and improved mood in your brain.
As quoted by nutrition researcher Michael Levine in “The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars” by Joël Glenn Brenner, “Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.”
British neuroscientist Adrian Owen says, “Both smelling and eating chocolate activate areas of the brain that are known to be involved in creating feelings of pleasure. It seems chocolate has a unique blend of sensory qualities which make us feel good, activating pleasure centers in the brain.”
If you’d like to test these scientific theories, here are a few chocolate-inspired recipes by Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz to help with your research. Prinz is the author of “On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao” (Jewish Lights).
Chocolate Haroset Truffles
Passover may have ended, but the combination of chocolate and haroset is a delicious pairing long after the haggadah is put away.
3 pounds dark or bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup pecans
1/8 cup almonds
1/8 cup pine nuts
1/2 tart apple
1/4 navel orange, with rind
A few drops sweet white wine
A few drops honey
Pinch fresh or ground ginger (or to taste)
Pinch ground cinnamon (or to taste)
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Grind the nuts, apples and orange separately in a food processor. The nuts should be as close to a powder as possible without becoming “butter.” Combine the nuts, apple, orange, wine, honey, ginger and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well. The haroset filling should have a smooth, thick texture.
Roll the haroset into 1-inch balls. Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; remove from the heat. Using 2 forks, dip the balls into the melted chocolate and place on the prepared baking sheet; refrigerate until the chocolate has set. Makes 24 truffles.
These delicacies stay in the oven overnight, but they are not easily forgotten when you taste them.
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips, cocoa nibs or both
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Pinch salt (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
30-40 chocolate buds or kisses
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, and beat until stiff. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and/or cocoa nibs, and nuts. Add the salt and vanilla.
Drop teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. Cap each cookie with a chocolate bud or kiss. Place the pans in the oven; after about 1 minute turn off the heat. Leave in the oven for several hours or overnight. Carefully peel the cookies off the paper or foil using a spatula. Makes about 35 cookies.
Wake Up Chocolate Chunks
1 pound dark chocolate, chips or broken into pieces
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup raisins, dates or other dried fruit
1/8 cup coffee beans
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Matzah meal (optional)
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, aluminum foil or waxed paper. Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; remove from the heat. In a food processor with the chop blade, combine the almonds, raisins, coffee beans and cayenne. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Stir the cocoa into the melted chocolate. Once the mixture is even and getting stiff, add the chopped nuts and fruits; keep stirring. Taste to check the spice level.
If the mixture is too moist and sticky, add more nuts or matzah meal, or wait until firm enough to handle. (Cooling in the refrigerator will firm the mixture faster.)
Roll the mixture into balls, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Cool completely. Remove from the baking sheet, and store in a covered container. Makes approximately 20 chunks.
Cocoa Nibs Citrus Salad
Cocoa nibs harken back to the most basic form of the cocoa bean and may be the healthiest form of eating chocolate. Nibble on this salad as a snack, part of the meal or a dessert.
1 grapefruit, peeled (membrane removed, optional)
2 navel oranges, peeled
3 blood oranges, peeled
4 clementines, peeled
Pomegranate syrup (optional)
Several tablespoons cocoa nibs (try your local health food store or online)
Pistachios, roasted and chopped
Cut the fruit into bite-size pieces and place in a large serving bowl, preferably glass. Add the pomegranate syrup to taste.
When ready to serve, sprinkle the cocoa nibs and roasted pistachios over the fruit salad.
Chocolate Matzah Brickle
Don’t know what to do with all the extra matzah after Passover? Don’t fret.
2 pounds dark chocolate broken into pieces or chips
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2-1 teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract
1 box matzah sheets, broken into quarters
1 cup nuts, chopped
1 cup dried fruits, chopped
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, thin the chocolate with the vegetable oil; stir in the vanilla or almond extract.
Coat the matzah, nuts and dried fruits with the chocolate, and spread coated matzah onto the prepared baking sheet. Place the sheet in the refrigerator for at least half an hour to cool.
Once brickle is cool and hardened, remove from the pan and break into bite-size bits. Store in a closed container. Serves 10.