The Aztec king Montezuma believed chocolate to be an aphrodisiac (perhaps explaining its popularity on Valentine’s Day). With its antioxidants, a bit of dark chocolate may even be literally good for your heart.
How to Choose Chocolate
Chocolate should be evenly colored and slightly shiny. A light powdery coating means the chocolate is old or has not been stored properly. Good chocolate should break cleanly, not crumble or splinter. White chocolate is not true chocolate; it contains cocoa butter but none of the chocolate liquor the other chocolates have. The percentage on chocolate's packaging tells you how much of it was derived from the cacao bean (in the form of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder). Generally, the higher the percentage, the more intense the chocolate flavor.
How to Store Chocolate
All chocolate should be stored wrapped in a cool, dry place. Dark chocolate can last up to 10 years, but milk chocolate and white chocolate (because they contain milk solids) keep no longer than 9 months.
How to Prepare Chocolate
To melt a block of chocolate, chop it with a chef's knife, place in a heatproof bowl, and set the bowl over a pot with about an inch of simmering water. Stir the chocolate occasionally; remove the bowl from the pan when just a few small chunks remain (the residual heat will melt it).
How to Use Chocolate
Try stirring a small chunk into your favorite chili to impart a rich, mole-like flavor.
Real Simple Chocolate Recipes:
- Chocolate-Hazelnut Sandwiches
- Chocolate Chip Meringue Kisses
- Classic Chocolate-Chip Cookies
- Classic Chocolate Layer Cake
- Double-Chocolate Profiteroles
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Find out what's in season in your area right now, then locate a farmers' market near you.