“Who, being loved, is poor?” ~Oscar Wilde
Rather vague origins
Celebrating St. Valentine's Day is a familiar and widely recognized holiday in America, but one with rather vague origins. The holiday as we know it is primarily a western traditional, although many other global cultures have occasions in which romantic love is celebrated. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes at least three different Saints named Valentine, and stories and legends abound.
188 million Valentine cards
Apparently, greetings, love messages and other gifts (especially chocolates, flowers and jewelry) have been exchanged in Great Britain and the US for some 300 hundred years. Our modern Valentine customs date from the 1840's, when it was basically reinvented as a marketing ploy to sell greeting cards. With the introduction of mass produced cards around 1900, our card exchanging habits were permanently established. Permanently established to the tune of 188 million Valentine cards exchanged annually!
Theobroma cacao, the Food of the Gods
I certainly do not expect jewelry or care about greeting cards but, sign me right up for the chocolate part! So a pre-Valentine's day chocolate cooking class at La Cucina seemed appropriate. We selected several luscious recipes that celebrated three different approaches to appreciating Theobroma cacao, the Food of the Gods. Legends recount that the Mayan God Quetzalcoatl stole the sacred cacao seeds and gave them to mankind, and was punished by the other Gods because this miraculous beverage had been reserved for their exclusive use. In fact, the Mayans were among the first to cultivate cacao trees over a thousand years ago.
The modern chocolate with which we are familiar is a mixture of cocoa butter (the fat part of the cocoa seeds), cocoa powder and sugar. Dark Chocolate is a mixture of cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and sugar, with a 50% to 90% percentage of cocoa. Basic chocolate contain at least 35% cocoa and not over 65% sugar. Milk Chocolate is a blend of sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk or milk powder, and vanilla. It should not be less then 25% cocoa. White chocolate is not really chocolate because it doesn't contain any cocoa solids. White chocolate is a concoction of at least 20% of cocoa butter, sugar, milk or milk powder, and vanilla.
Our menu for the class included Chocolate Raspberry Truffles, Dark Chocolate Balsamic Ice Cream and Queen of the Cumberlands White Chocolate Cake with Sour Mash Chocolate Icing. We will share the recipes for the Truffles here and post the others during the week of St. Valentine's Day.
Chocolate Raspberry Truffles
These confections are so named because the rather misshapen cocoa coated candies resemble the famous fungus of the same name.
Servings: 25 to 30 pieces
- ½ Cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
- 9 Ounces 65% Chocolove Rich Dark Chocolate*
- 3 Tablespoon Raspberry liqueur
- 1 Teaspoon Silver Cloud Raspberry Natural Flavor*
- Cocoa powder (or powdered sugar) for coating
- Combine cream, butter and corn syrup in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer; remove from heat and cool for about 5 minutes.
- Break chocolate into small pieces and stir into the cream mixture. Stir until melted and add Raspberry liqueur and Raspberry Flavor.
- Cool 2 to 3 hours at room temperature.
- Whip truffle mix with an electric mixer, on medium for about 1 minute.
- Use a mini ice cream scoop to shape truffles. Place truffles on a tray lined with parchment paper and chill for 1 hour.
- Roll chilled truffles in cocoa powder and enjoy.