Strawberry, Pomegranate, Candied Orange, and Rosemary Dark Chocolate Bark
Dark Chocolate has been an epic love of mine for as long as I can remember. Rich and creamy, sweet and slightly caffeinated, boldly bitter in the most soft-spoken way, warm and nutty—it sparks fireworks in my mouth and tosses my taste buds into a colorful dance of flavor.
And while dark chocolate might not be for everyone, there is something about the flavor of cacao that has all of humanity in a hypnotic trance, begging for more. So what exactly is that?
What Makes Chocolate so Addictive?
Humanity first discovered the wonder of cacao beans nearly 4000 years ago, where it was used for different kinds of drinks and spices. But the modern day chocolate bar was only made in the late 1800s. Diluted with heavy amounts of sugar and milk, the concoction was sought out for its sweetness and commercial satisfaction. And while this kind of overly diluted milk chocolate continues to be popular today, the additives in it almost take away from the natural elegance of cacao.
Chocolate, at a chemical level, provides so much more than just satisfaction for a sugar craving. It contains dopamine, phenylethylamine, caffeine, and anandamide, all compounds which naturally occur in the human body. Dopamine, commonly associated with exercising, is a neurotransmitter that helps control attention span, movement, and motivation. Studies have found that phenylethylamine, or PEA, can act as an antidepressant, and it is commonly referred to as the “love molecule.” Caffeine, which so many know and love, is a popular jolt of energy in the morning or afternoon pick-me-up.
Lastly, anandamide is a compound, often referred to as the “bliss molecule,” which essentially creates a naturally produced “high” when consumed. While the molecule is produced regularly in the human body, it stays active for short periods of time, and chocolate can make those time periods last longer.
Anandamide, named after Ananda, the Sanskrit word for bliss, makes people feel blessed. Along with its mental health benefits, Anandamide can also regulate pain relief, and is what creates the feeling of a “runner’s high,” as it floods the brain after intense exercise.
And while all of these compounds must be consumed in large quantities in order to be effective, (no, eating a bar of chocolate every day will not make you unbelievably happy, attentive, or “high”) the small quantities of these compounds in chocolate definitely contribute to the pure joy of eating chocolate. After all, there must be some reason behind why people eat chocolate when they get cramps, and Professor Lupin knew what he was doing when he told Harry to eat chocolate after a Dementor attack. (Did all the Potterheads get my reference?)
In short, the next time you reach for a coveted chocolate snack in the darkest hours of your sweet-tooth cravings, try something new, and indulge in the simplicity and magic of dark chocolate. It might not be as sweet as milk chocolate, but the subtle nuances and intricate notes of dark chocolate are certainly worth the switch.
And what better place to start than with this delicate, fruity, herby, chocolate bark. Infused with tangy, fresh, strawberries, and dressed with pomegranate, rosemary, and cinnamon candied oranges, this bark speaks sophistication, yet caters to the average chocolate lover.
Ingredients (Makes 2-3 bars depending on size):
1 cup of high quality dark chocolate. (I’d recommend at least 70% dark Lindt or Ghirardelli chocolate, but any brand or percent cacao works. And for intense chocolate lovers, maybe even go all the way with 100% dark!)
1 cup strawberries
1 sprig of rosemary
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ cup sugar
A pinch of flaky salt
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Wash the orange, then slice the orange into 2-3 millimeter half-moon slices, or as thin as they can be sliced. Grind the cloves, then sprinkle the ground cloves, cinnamon, and sugar over the orange slices. Bake for 1 hour, or until most of the water in the oranges is gone and the sugar has completely melted onto the fruit. Let cool.
Blend the strawberries in a food processor until completely pureed into a liquid. Then, cook the strawberry puree at a low simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the puree has reduced to ⅓ of its original size. There should be little water left, and the resulting strawberry blend should have an applesauce-like texture.
Cut the chocolate bar into small chunks, then melt the chocolate in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring in between each.
Once the chocolate is completely melted through, stirr in the strawberry sauce until completely mixed. The texture will begin to thicken up a bit.
Pour the chocolate-strawberry mixture into the chocolate molds, slightly below the surface of the mold. Smoothe over the surface with a spatula or knife.
Place the cooled candied oranges into the chocolate, dispersed in each bar. (I cut the oranges into ¼ slices, but you can leave them as ½ slices.) Next, place singular pomegranate seeds among the chocolate, as well as bits of rosemary.
Let the chocolate cool in the fridge for at least 6 hours. Finally, remove the chocolate bars from their molds and sprinkle a pinch of flaky salt over each bar.