I love going to The Apple Store! No, not the one with the flashy iPhones. The Apple Store is a seasonal fruit stand (+ tons of other tasty treats) in Fishers, Indiana – not too far from Endangered Species Chocolate’s factory. Open for two precious months each year (Sept-Oct), this is a spot to fall in love with the tastes of fall. Fresh, crip, locally grown apples – available by the bushel or peck – just imagine the smell that greets you when you walk in!
Apples are the best. But caramel apples are even better! That’s why I make a bee line for the rows of apples enrobed in buttery rich caramel and artfully garnished with (yum) chocolate. Speaking of my favorite topic, chocolate, this year my love affair of The Apple Store has deepened thanks to their new display of Endangered Species Chocolate bars! Live in our area? Plan your trip to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park here.
If you don’t have a place like this in your neck of the woods don’t fret. Caramel apples can be made at home with ease. And who couldn’t use a new family recipe/tradition that involves chocolate?
Chocolate Chunk Caramel Apples6 apples, washed and well dried 1 pkg (14oz) caramels, unwrapped 2 Tbsp water 3 3oz Endangered Species Chocolate Bars, broken into chip-sized bits
Remove apple stems and insert wooden stick into each apple.
Cook caramels and water in saucepan on med-low heat until caramels are completely melted. Stir frequently.
Dip apple or spoon caramel over apples to coat. Roll caramel-coated apple in broken chocolate pieces, gently pressing chocolate into caramel to secure.
Place your apple masterpieces on a waxed paper covered baking sheet; let sit for at least 20 minutes or until caramel is firm.
Tip: The only tricky part is coaxing the caramel to not slide off the apple as you are pressing on the chocolate chunks. To make life easier, refrigerate the apples (while you are cooking the caramels) to cool them slightly – this helps the caramel adhere better.
Photo image by swanksalot via Flickr Creative Commons
1. MAKE A DIFFERENCE
By choosing your chocolate carefully, you can support fair and ethical trade, ensuring cacao farmers a fair price for their crops and supporting responsible labor practices (such as no child labor). Choosing all-natural and organic chocolate supports sustainable farming – which puts fewer chemicals into the earth, protecting diverse forests ecosystems.
2. TRIGGER NOSTALGIA
Can you recall your earliest experiences with chocolate? Have your chocolate tastes changed over the years? What was your favorite chocolate bar when you were a child?
3. TEST THE LIMITS OF YOUR WILLPOWER
Place your favorite chocolate bar (opened) on your desk at the beginning of a workday (for those that feel especially strong – try this on a Monday). See how long it takes you to take a bite. Get co-workers to play along and compare times. My record is 20 (long) minutes.
4. SOMETHING TO HORDE AND HIDE
Good chocolate has a funny way of disappearing. Don’t feel any shame in having a hidden stash somewhere in your home and/or office. Think of a place no one would think to look and horde it away to nibble when an intense chocolate craving hits!
5. A TOKEN OF LOVE
It has been said, “There is nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate.” Even something as simple as showing up at a friend’s house with a chocolate bar is a perfect way to say “you mean the world to me.”
6. MARK YOUR PLACE
The wrapper of your favorite chocolate bar can be quickly crafted into a sweet-scented bookmark. Each time you go to read, you’ll be reminded of your last indulgent chocolate experience. Thinking up ways to reuse things before tossing them in the trash or recycle bin is a great way to be green.
7. IMPROVE YOUR COOKING
Break up your favorite chocolate bar and substitute the chunky pieces for chocolate chips in a cookie recipe. Make amazing hot chocolate by melting 1.5oz or so of a quality chocolate bar into a hot mug of milk/soy milk.
8. SAVOR, APPRECIATE AND ANALYZE
Chocolate is serious business (at least it is at my house)! Flavor of chocolate varies depending on the region in which it grown and type of cacao bean used. Close your eyes, inhale its aroma. Let the bite sit and melt on your tongue. What words come to mind to describe the flavor – earthy, fruity, floral? Bitter, sweet? For more tasting tips, read our previous post, Sensory Tasting.
9. PAIR WITH WINE
As a rule, dark chocolate pairs well with red wine. Read up and drink up after referencing our Wine & Chocolate post.
10. RESEARCH REASONS TO NIX THE GUILT
In moderation, chocolate is healthful. While nibbling your next chocolate bar, surf the web and read about all the health benefits associated with chocolate. Remember, the higher the cocoa content, the greater the health benefits.
For the love of chocolate, this is by no means a comprehensive list. Share other vital uses for chocolate by commenting below.
It starts as a gentle subliminal nudge. “chocolate…” Within minutes, it grows into an insistent full body urge. “Chocolate. Chocolate. CHOCOLATE!” You can’t (and in my opinion, shouldn’t) ignore it. You have a full blown chocolate craving.
What powers the craving?
It is said that people crave chocolate more than any other food. In the U.S., the typical person eats 11.5 pounds of chocolate a year. Why is chocolate craved more than any other food? Sure – it tastes good, has a silky smooth texture and melts in your mouth…but is there more to it? The question is, are chocolate cravings in the body (physiological) or in the heart (psychological)? There are a wide variety of arguments as to why people have chocolate cravings.
Is the body to blame?
Some think certain compounds in chocolate may be physiologically addictive, activating mood-lifting chemicals in the brain (serotonin, dopamine). However, tests have shown that most mood-altering agents in chocolate are broken down before they reach the bloodstream. Others insist that deficiencies in minerals (such as magnesium, iron) cause people to desire chocolate. But it that’s the case, why aren’t we craving snackable magnesium-filled pumpkin seeds or iron-rich savory thyme with equal vigor?
Or is it comfort we crave?
A 1994 study passed out milk chocolate, white chocolate (which contains zero cocoa), cocoa capsules (utterly lacking the sensory components of chocolate) and placebo polls to a group of subjects. The study found that only milk chocolate fully satisfied the chocolate cravings of the subjects. In addition, their cravings were better satiated by the white chocolate than the concentrated cocoa capsules. This suggests that chocolate cravings can be (SHOCKER!) attributed to its taste, aroma, texture and sweetness.
But really, who cares?
Long story short, when it comes to pinning down the reasons for chocolate cravings, research is pretty inconclusive. But do we really need to know the why? Shouldn’t we be focusing our mental energies on how to best satisfy those chocolate urges? I’m off to check on my secret chocolate stashes. I suggest you do the same.
What do you think causes chocolate cravings? What types of chocolate best satisfy your strongest cravings? Comment below; we crave the feedback!
Working at a chocolate company is SUCH HARD WORK! Each week, we are assigned “sensory duty” – meaning we have to drag ourselves away from our desks to sample endless bites of freshly made premium chocolate for the sake of quality control. Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or twelve about chocolate tasting.
First and foremost – chocolate…really good chocolate…deserves to be thoroughly savored and appreciated. Get the most our of your next chocolate experience by involving all of your senses. Pick your favorite fine chocolate (here’s mine) and let the sensory suggestions below guide you.
A glossy shine to the chocolate’s surface shows a good temper – cocoa mass and cocoa butter bonded to perfection. The overall color should be consistent, a feast for the eyes.
A crisp, bright snap indicates quality. When chocolate molecules are aligned (a proper temper) they are harder to break apart, hence the snap!
A sensual step that should never be skipped! Release chocolate’s aroma by rubbing your fingers along the chocolate’s surface. Inhale deeply and focus. What olfactory memories pop into your mind? While smelling the chocolate, prepare your taste buds…
Take a bite and notice the texture of the chocolate. Fine chocolate should feel smooth to your tongue.
Now, close your eyes and cut off all sensory information except the chocolate and your taste buds. Allow the chocolate to overwhelm you. Fine chocolate should have a lasting impact – a slow and lingering flavor experience. BWF2JQHM8AEN
Share what you love about chocolate by commenting below.
Seeking solace from the pine pollen that was kicking my allergies into overdrive, I spent much of my Saturday morning indoors at my favorite coffee shop. In true Monica-style, I set up camp – covering the table with my sketch pad, colored pencils, soy chai and a dangerously dark Endangered Species Chocolate bar. Just as I was about to don a pair of headphones and start drawing, the fellow at the next table pointed at my chocolate bar and asked why it had a picture of a panther on the wrapper. Once I finished waxing poetic about the virtues of all-natural, ethically traded chocolate that supports species conservation, he looked at me with an impish grin and said, “I’m allergic to chocolate.”
Suddenly my itchy eyes, stuffy nose and headache from the pollen seemed like small potatoes. Imagine that for a moment. An allergy to chocolate. No chocolate bars, chocolate cakes, chocolate ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate truffles! “How do you cope?” was the only question I could muster. He laughed and said that he never really developed a taste for chocolate so he didn’t feel like he was missing out on much (unlike this poor soul).
After doing some research, I found out that allergies to cocoa (the bean that is the main ingredient in chocolate) are exceedingly rare. It’s more likely that the fellow I met over coffee had an allergy to one of the ingredients in chocolate. Milk, peanuts and tree nuts, wheat and gluten, and soy are often the ingredients found in some chocolate bars that can trigger allergies. Symptoms of a chocolate allergy can include headaches, heartburn, hives or difficulty breathing. In severe cases, a person can go into anaphylactic shock. It’s pretty serious and there’s no over-the-counter pill that can cure this allergy – the only way to avoid issues is to pass on the chocolate.
Do you know someone that is allergic to chocolate? Comments welcome below!
Luckily, I never took to heart the idea that pairing wine with chocolate is impossible. Some claim that chocolate will dominate your taste buds and ruin the way you taste the wine. Not so! When paired correctly the combination is flirty – with the chocolate complementing the wine and the wine enhancing the chocolate. Ready to give it a go? Here are some tried and true tips to keep in mind as you begin your pairing quest:
1. Think sweet. Choose a wine that is sweet or sweeter than the chocolate.
2. Match hue. Lighter chocolates pair better with lighter bodied wines; chocolates with a high cocoa content blend better with full bodied wines.
3. Practice makes perfect. Keep your favorite chocolate bar on hand (mine’s 72% Supreme Dark) to nibble on whenever you pour a new wine. When you find a bottle that blends well with the chocolate, savor…then share the combination with friends.
Want some examples? Here are some suggestions from the Wine Specialist at our local Whole Foods Market. And does your green-self ever wonder what to do with all those wine corks? Check out these ideas from EcoSnobberySucks.
What’s been your experience pairing wine and chocolate? How about beer and chocolate? Share your findings so we can all reap the benefits!