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Happy Valentine’s Day two days early. While researching why chocolate is so popular for Valentine’s Day, I found this interesting information.
Chocolate is a unique food as it not only satisfies the taste buds and mouth, but goes on to satisfy the brain, according to Dr. Judith Wurtman, who published “A Valentine Date with Chocolate,” in “The Antidepressant Diet.”
Sugar and butterfat change chocolate from a bitter, dry crunchy food into one that coats the tongue and mouth and has a major impact on the way we feel.
The sugar causes the brain to make more of the feel-good chemical serotonin.
The fat may work on pleasure centers in the brain.
Anecdotal evidence also indicates high-fat foods such as chocolate have an anesthetic effect on emotions, Wurtman wrote.
The feelings of pleasure and comfort last for hours after the last piece has been swallowed, as the brain pumps out the feel-good chemicals.
It’s no wonder chocolate is the confection of choice on Valentine’s Day.
Included today are three suggestions for celebrating Valentine’s Day and getting your fill of feel-good chocolate — Deep and Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake, Valentine’s Chocolate Trail Mix and Caramel Brownies.
Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me,” is a native of Hardin County and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at norasweat@ thenewsenterprise.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.
Deep and Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 ½ c. brewed coffee
3 c. sugar
¾ c. canola oil
2 t. vanilla
2 ½ c. all purpose flour
1 c. cocoa
2 t. baking soda
¾ t. baking powder
1 ¼ t. salt
1 ½ c. buttermilk
16 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 T. + 2 t. light corn syrup
Line bottoms of three greased 8-inch square or round baking pans with parchment paper; grease paper. Place chocolate in a bowl. Pour hot coffee over chocolate; stir with a whisk until smooth. Cool slightly.
In a large bowl, beat eggs on high speed until lemon-colored. Gradually add the sugar, oil, vanilla and chocolate mixture, beating until well blended. In another bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt; add to chocolate mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.
Transfer to prepared pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks; remove paper. Cool completely.
For Ganache, place chocolate in a bowl. In a saucepan, bring cream and corn syrup just to a boil. Pour over chocolate; whisk until smooth.
Let stand at room temperature to cool and thicken slightly, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture will be soft, but thickens on cake. Spread one cake layer with 1/3 cup Ganache. Top with second layer and 1/3 cup Ganache. Add third layer; spread remaining Ganache over top and sides of cake.
Valentine’s Chocolate Trail Mix
1 c. granola
1 c. salted pretzel sticks, coarsely crushed
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1 ½ c. dried cranberries
1 c. cocoa-covered almonds
1 c. dried cherries
½ c. freeze-dried raspberries
Line two baking sheets with waxed paper; set aside. Place granola in a small bowl; place pretzels in another small bowl. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, place 2/3 cup of the chocolate pieces. Microwave on 100 percent power for 30 seconds. Stir chocolate. Continue cooking in 10-second intervals, until chocolate is melted. Stir until smooth. Add remaining 1/3 cup of chocolate pieces; stir until chocolate is smooth again. Pour half of the melted chocolate over the granola; pour remaining half over the pretzels. Stir each until evenly coated.
Place the contents of each bowl on the prepared baking sheets. Separate the chocolate-coated pieces into small chunks. Let stand at room temperature 1 to 2 hours or until set. Break or chop the chocolate-coated granola and pretzels into bite size morsels. Transfer to a large bowl. Add dried cranberries, almonds, and dried cherries. Stir in dried raspberries just before serving.
Makes 6 cups
Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 cup canola oil
1/4 cup 2-percent milk
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts, divided
14 ounces caramels
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
In a large bowl, beat the sugar, cocoa, oil, eggs and milk. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder; gradually add to egg mixture until well blended. Fold in chocolate chips and 1/2 cup walnuts.
Spoon two-thirds of the batter into a greased 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the caramels and condensed milk over low heat until caramels are melted. Pour over baked brownie layer. Sprinkle with remaining walnuts.
Drop remaining batter by teaspoonfuls over caramel layer; carefully swirl brownie batter with a knife.
Bake 35-40 minutes more or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs. Do not over bake. Cool on a wire rack.