Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.  – Genesis 1:11-12

There is good news for our chocolate cravings. Research now shows the importance of eating a diet high in antioxidants and dark chocolate makes the list. This doesn’t mean we should inhale pounds of dark chocolate. The key is moderation and thankfully, dark chocolate is so intensely flavored and pleasantly bitter it is difficult to overindulge. Milk chocolate, however, is a different story.  In college, I regularly consumed uncontrolled amounts of cheap milk chocolate late at night while studying or writing a paper.

Fortunately for my health, I discovered the wonder of dark chocolate.  Only a few bites and I am freed in the face of temptation. Harvested from the cacao tree, cacao beans undergo several layers of processing by hand before resembling something recognizable. For true, dark chocolate, select chocolate containing 60 or 70% cacao or higher. The higher price is worth it; you will find you eat less and are more satisfied than with equivalent amount of milk chocolate. Additionally, your conscience will be glad to support the fair trade chocolate industry.

And if you are up for dessert possibilities from high quality dark chocolate, then try this simple recipe from classically trained pastry chefs called “chocolate ganache.”  It is a ratio of chocolate, cream, butter, and flavorings such as vanilla or liqueur. For starters, ganache is delicious served warm over ice cream or as a dip with fruit, but many discoveries await, including applications which can raise the dessert status to a higher level.

My examples include whipping ganache with heavy cream and watching it transform into a mousse-like frosting and filling for a layered cake or chilling ganache and rolling spoonfuls into truffles. After you have explored ganache options, stash any leftovers in a sealed container and store in the refrigerator for weeks. (It’s a perfect emergency dessert with boundaries – only a spoonful!)  Let us then salute the cacao tree and the many people who labor to give us its delights. Above all, let us praise God who made the trees.  – Lauren

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup heavy cream

7 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (preferably 70 percent cacao)

2 tablespoon salted butter, softened

optional: 1 tablespoon (more or less) favorite liqueur

Directions

Bring cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour cream over chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter and whisk mixture until smooth. Mix in flavoring, if using. Ganache is ready to use or let cool while stirring often. Then store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Makes 1  1/2 cups