Delicious recipes often sacrifice health for flavor. And “healthy” recipes often sacrifice flavor for perceived health benefits. Can you maximize flavor and health? I believe so. The “perfect” recipe series explores the recipes I’ve developed over twenty years as a passionate home cook, personal caterer, and recipe developer.
Alchemy is remembered as a medieval chemical philosophy having as its asserted aims the transmutation of base metals into gold, the discovery of a panacea, and the preparation of an elixir of longevity. Carl Jung, among others, saw alchemy as something more: a symbolic system for spiritual transformation. The great alchemists, he noted, were not really working to transforms metal, but to transform their own souls, from a lead-like state of ignorance to one of golden enlightenment.
The preparation of chocolate can be compared to alchemy: the astringent, bitter and otherwise bland seeds of a tropical tree are transformed into a dense, smooth, and somewhat sweet food, with an unrivaled, complex taste—a golden food.
Chocolate is a transformative food, capable of igniting passion and romance and fervor. When we work with chocolate, we embody Jung’s idea of the ancient alchemists. In this case, the asserted aim of our work is to transmute the raw ingredients into food, but the real aim of our work is to inspire romance and bravado.
I first encountered chocolate bravado in Barcelona; now that I am back in the states I find myself dreaming of a return to that city, to the famous pastry shop, Escriba, where, one morning I saw two gorgeous women sharing a chocolate cake with a beast of a man. The beast was clad in black leather from head to toe. The trio looked as if they were on the tail end of a long night, and they smoked while they ate, purposefully, as if they were battling for a last chance at recognition. It was my first day in Barcelona and it was my first sight of a Catalan. I couldn’t explain to myself why I felt so amazed. Nor could I tear my eyes away from the enormity of the piece of chocolate cake the beast was eating.
He stopped and returned my gaze. Then, with the odd braggadocio of someone who is still drunk, he pointed at my plate and laughed. I was eating a granola bar and I had the impression, looking at this monster in leather, that I was witnessing a stellar engagement—the same engagement that hits me now, after eating my final meal of the day, when I sit to eat a truffle and sense the absurd affinity that humankind has developed for chocolate–a relationship initiated by an Aztec king and propagated ever since, by kings and lovers alike.
½ c. coconut milk (coconut milk must be full-fat; try Thai Kitchen’s)
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (For truffles, I prefer Chocolove Chocolate; or Endangered Species’ Supreme Dark Bar)
1/2 cup dried coconut
Place chopped chocolate in a medium-sized bowl. Create a double boiler by placing bowl over a simmering pot of water. Gently melt the chocolate.
Pour coconut milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and pour over chocolate. Gently stir until smooth, chocolate is completely melted, and coconut milk is incorporated. Rest until firm, 1-3 hours.
Place coconut into a bowl. Using a measuring spoon, scoop up 1 teaspoon of chocolate, and quickly roll into a ball about 3/4 inch across. Drop into coconut; roll each truffle to coat.
Let rest until firm, 30 minutes.