Are you a chocolate lover? The good news is that “healthy chocolate” isn’t an oxymoron – there really are a lot of health benefits to this delightful treat. To make sure you’re choosing the type that’s healthiest and most socially conscious, here’s what to look for:
- Organically grown cocoa beans
- Very few additional ingredients
- Fair Trade, environmentally sustainable or local
Benefits to Healthy Chocolate
Although it might take more work to opt for healthy chocolate, there are a lot of benefits. Here are just 10 of them:
- Raw cocoa beans are a source of magnesium, iron and chromium.
- Its monoamine oxidase enzyme inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) actually diminish the appetite and encourage natural weight loss.
- It contains the highest concentration of antioxidants of any food. It’s important to choose raw chocolate, though; raw cocoa powder has 723% more antioxidants than the cooked counterpart.
- Raw cocoa beans also contain omega 6 fatty acids, vitamin C and theobromine, an effective anti-bacterial substance.
- Studies show cocoa beans can positively effect cardiovascular health, vascular functions, aging and cognitive function, in addition to lowering blood pressure.
- Its nutrients create an effect where all of the brain’s chemicals work together to create “positive mood and euphoric feelings.”
- Dark chocolate fights tooth decay.
- It’s been linked to a lower BMI in those that eat it regularly.
- Studies have shown that eating dark chocolate once a day can help reduce the risk of diabetes, reduce stress and relieve coughs.
- Flavanol-rich chocolate has been linked to better-protected skin and higher intelligence.
Cooking with Chocolate
Obviously, eating a raw, vegan bar of dark chocolate is the healthiest way to go, but that doesn’t mean your inner chocolate lover can’t indulge in a few other types of chocolate every once in a while too. In addition to past recipes I’ve shared for chocolate soufflé cake and homemade fudge, I thought it would be fun to share a new recipe for a chocolate tart I recently made. The best part of the tart may just be the crust! See the Chef’s notes below for my new go-to recipe for gluten-free clients.
I originally found the recipe on Bellwether Farms’ website after noticing it on a package of theirs when I made a sour cream cheesecake. I thought it would be great for one of my clients that happens to be a chocolate lover.
- 1 – 9″ precooked pastry shell
- ½ cup milk
- 7 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
- 1 large egg yolk
- 7.5 ounces Bellwether Farms crème fraîche
Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly whip egg yolk with the crème fraîche and set aside. Bring milk to a boil, stirring continuously. Turn off heat and add chocolate to milk. Stir mixture until chocolate is completely melted. Slowly add egg and crème fraîche mixture to chocolate mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed. Place chocolate mix in the 9-inch pastry shell and place in preheated oven for 25 minutes.
Remove tart from oven and cool to room temperature. Chill in refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.
- As I explained earlier, quality ingredients are important – especially when it comes to chocolate! My preferred brand is SCHARFFEN BERGER, a local favorite.
- Making your own pastry shell is very easy. According to America’s Test Kitchen the best dough for their super chocolate tart calls for a sweet pastry dough called pate sucree. Watch this video from Master Chef Jacques Pepin on making sweet pastry dough. However, if you choose to purchase a prepared crust, use refrigerated pie dough that you roll out and place in your pan, rather than one you purchase already frozen inside a pie tin. I’ve found that these frozen prepared pie shells never come close to anything homemade and taste processed/manufactured.
- This chocolate tart recipe is not dairy-free, but you can make the tart gluten-free by using a prepared gluten-free pastry I first tried just a few weeks ago. French Picnic’s pastry, although expensive, is every bit as good as their original product. Here’s my recipe for making a sweet pastry crust that’s gluten-free:
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup ground almonds
- 1 cup gluten-free flour (there are many brands to choose from)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons xantham gum (necessary ingredient for gluten-free baking)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
Combine ingredients either by hand or in a food processor until the butter until is incorporated and the mixture is crumbly, resembling course sand. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water, if needed, so that the dough stays together and easily forms a ball. Chill dough for 30 minutes. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and add to your tart pan. Chill another 15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375°. When ready to bake, cover your dough with aluminum foil and fill your pan with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust until it is dry and lightly browned, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Remove foil and weights or beans and continue baking another 8 to 10 minutes until the pastry is a golden brown and fragrant. Add desired filling once completely cooled.
This recipe will fill one 8- or 9-inch tart pan OR six 4-inch individual tart pans.
- I wanted to use crème fraîche in my recipe because of its silky texture. As Wikipedia explains, crème fraîche “is a cultured cream that is less ‘sour’ than American sour cream; it is also the basis of many desserts and dessert sauces.”
- I took a note from America’s Test Kitchen and added a chocolate ganache topping to the tart after baking. The tart was good using the recipe given, but lacked a good visual presentation; I didn’t like seeing the cracks in the chocolate once baked. You can make your own ganache by meting heavy cream and chocolate together, or add your favorite chocolate sauce when ready to serve.
Download and print the recipe here.
Is healthy chocolate a regular part of your diet? How do you like to enjoy your cocoa beans? Share your favorite recipes below – especially if you’re a chocolate lover!
Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: Dinner-Diva.com for more info.