It takes one lick of chocolate to understand its pull on human nature. The rich cocoa-butter mouth feel coupled with its bittersweet flavor stimulates the body and pleases the senses. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma, allegedly drank multiple cups of a warm herb-infused cocoa drink each day in order to keep his energy up for his many wives. The chocolate concoction was esteemed as a drink only for nobles by the mighty Aztecs, and associated the beverage with the goddess of fertility, Xochiquetzal. Mayans used cacao beans as currency, and though they did not consume the small hard pellets the beans could buy such bawdy experiences as a night in a brothel or fermented beverages to ease inhibitions. As the cacao beans traveled across the ocean to Spain the pellets were coveted as an exotic rarity which only increased its aphrodisiacal lore. Currently, the symbolic ritual of giving chocolate to a lover remains a popular way to procure love and express desire. However, does chocolate possess qualities to heighten romance or is it all a fable?
Cacao beans contains the substances, Phenylethylamine and Seratonin. These two chemicals occur naturally in the brain and produce feelings of pleasure. Once Phenlethlaymine and Seratonin are released through the nervous system they can enhance a person’s mood, increase heart rate, and invoke feel good sensations in the body. However, researchers believe that chocolate possess too few of the substances to cause the desirable aphrodisiac effect. A group of scientist in Italy published an analysis in the journal of Sexual Medicine that studied a random sample of 163 women to see if chocolate had any influence on their rate of arousal. The results concluded that woman who ate up to three pieces of chocolate a day did not have any reports of an increase in their need for passion. Therefore, the result of the study shows that chocolate’s aphrodisiac effects prove to be psychological, not physiological.
Though modern science disproves chocolate as a physical aphrodisiac, a gift of couverture to a lover never goes unappreciated. The coco bean is a part of us, and a part of our history. This Valentine’s Day forget the store bought heart shape boxes filled with candies and conjure up a pack of Raspberry Ganache Filled Chocolates to show your loved one how much you care.
Chocolates Filled with Raspberry Ganache
10 oz frozen raspberries, thawed
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 lb. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp red cocoa butter
Make the filling:
Place the raspberries in a blender or food processor, and process them until they are liquefied. Pour the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a small saucepan to remove the seeds. Add the powdered sugar to the raspberry puree and heat it over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it is thick and syrupy and reduced by half. Remove the puree from the heat and set aside.
Place 1 pound of chopped chocolate into a large bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until bubbles start to form around the edges, but do not allow it to boil. Pour the simmering cream over the chopped chocolate. Whisk the chocolate and cream together gently, until it is melted and the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Add the agave nectar and raspberry puree to the chocolate, and whisk to combine. Cover the surface of the ganache with cling wrap, and set aside.
Temper the chocolate:
Melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over simmering water, to 110 F. Allow the chocolate to cool to 82 F. While cooling, stir frequently. Then, start to heat the chocolate to around 88 F to 91 F. DO NOT EXCEED 91 F. Remove and keep chocolate warm.
Assemble the chocolate candies:
Place a dot of red cocoa butter into the center of each mold compartment. Freeze the mold for 5-10 minutes to set. Add a small spoonful of warm tempered chocolate to your mould and use a paint brush to carefully coat the inside of each compartment. Make sure your coating is even – not too thick, not too thin, and no holes. This will be the outer shell of your candy. Once all the mold compartments have been painted use a scraper to clean it down – clean edges are important to a nicely finished product. Place the mold in the freezer until the chocolate is set. Then, add the filing (raspberry ganache) to a squeeze bottle, being very careful not to spill any onto the mould. Squeeze a drop of raspberry ganache into the center of each compartment. Leave enough space at the top of it for the base-layer of chocolate. Spoon a small amount of chocolate on top of each candy and smooth over with a knife. Lastly, take a hand towel or paper towel and clean around each compartment to ensure a clean cut piece of candy. Return the mold to the freezer and let the chocolates set for 15-30 minutes. Once set, remove the mold from the freezer and free the chocolates by inverting the mold and firmly snapping it down on the countertop. Handle the finished product with clean cotton gloves to prevent marking them with your fingers. Hold and serve at room temperature.