A Match Made in Chocolate

Herbal flavors enhance the romance in sinfully rich desserts.

| February/March 2001

  • Photography by Anybody Goes

Herbal flavors enhance the romance in sinfully rich desserts for...

Ask anyone, “When you think of romance or love, what food comes to mind?” Most everyone gives the same answer: chocolate.

Chocolate has been called an aphrodisiac, a stimulant, and an addiction. I agree with all of these descriptions. Botanists must have concurred; they gave the cocoa bean tree the name Theobroma cacao — “food of the gods.” The word chocolate comes from the Aztec and Mayan xocoatl, which translates as “bitter drink.” In the early sixteenth century, Hernán Cortés recorded how the Aztecs ground cocoa beans to make a paste that they used to prepare a beverage they believed gave them power and energy. They mixed the paste with chiles, vanilla, and spices. The Aztec ruler Montezuma and his court were purported to have consumed copious amounts of it daily, especially when the sovereign visited his harem. When Cortés returned to Spain and introduced this hot chocolate drink, the Europeans added sugar to it. The sweetened chocolate eventually took Europe by storm.


The following recipes use unsweetened, semisweet, and bittersweet chocolate as well as unsweetened cocoa solids. Chocolate manufacturers differ enormously, so you need to taste and compare brands. Lesser-grade chocolates may be made with vegetable oil rather than cocoa butter, may have synthetic substances added, and may be cut with lecithin for a smooth texture.

Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles with Orange Mint 
Chocolate Pudding with Bay Leaf 
• Chocolate Butter Cookies with Anise Hyssop 
Chocolate Rose-Scented Soufflé 
Chocolate Ice Cream with Basil 

Many people crave chocolate, especially during times of emotional duress, because it gives them not only an energy boost but also a sense of well-being. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA). Because PEA is a brain chemical that circulates during periods of euphoria such as being in love, biochemists theorize that chocolate provides the same mood boost. Although this theory has not been proven, chocolate is still regarded as a restorative for the human spirit. It just makes people happy.

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