People began enjoying chocolate in Central America at least 3,000 years ago. The Mayans and Aztecs regarded it with reverence and used it to produce a bitter drink which they used in sacred rituals.Credit: By Aztec, 1440-1521 (Brooklyn Museum) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
In the sixteenth century chocolate was introduced to Europeans, who sweetened it with honey or sugar. The Dutch produced cocoa powder in the nineteenth century, and this in turn led to the development of chocolate bars and solid chocolate confections. Chocolate soon became an international favorite and creative chefs around the world have used chocolate to create an amazing array of sinfully rich desserts. Consequently, there is a whole world of desserts to delight the palate of even the most discriminating chocaholic.Credit: Fir0002 via Wikimedia Commons
I generally write articles about healthy food but I do succumb to self-indulgence once in a while. So I decided to embark on a virtual tour of the world of chocolate to discover which country boasts the most sinful and decadent chocolate dessert.
I started in France, the gastronomic capital of the world.
1. French Chocolate Mousse
The French love chocolate. They often indulge in drinking chocolate for breakfast, soaked up with the stale remains of yesterday's baguette, and when I was a home stay student in Paris many years ago I was even offered a chocolate sandwich. The French also created the soufflé, then combined it with chocolate to produce a dessert which is fantastic but temperamental and may present a challenge to an inexperienced cook.
However, the ultimate French chocolate triumph is chocolate mousse, which is not only sinfully rich but is also a snap to prepare from four simple ingredients.Credit: By Lu from Seattle, USA (Chocolate coffee mousse) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ingredients (per serving):
- 1 egg - separated
- 1 oz dark baking chocolate
- 1 tablespoon of milk
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- Separate egg yolks from whites.
- Whip whites until stiff, and fold in sugar.
- Beat egg yolk.
- Melt chocolate into milk by microwaving on “high” for one minute, then slowly add it to the egg yolk while beating mixture with a fork.
- Fold beaten egg white into egg/chocolate mixture.
- Pour into individual dessert dishes, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Not Sure How to Separate Eggs?
This Video Shows a Foolproof Method of Separating Egg Yolks From Whites.
There are a number of different variations on the basic recipe. For example, you can replace the dark chocolate with milk or white chocolate. You can also flavor the mousse by adding a few drops of mint or orange extract or a teaspoon of liqueur such as Cointreau or Amaretto to the egg yolk along with the chocolate.
But as delicious as chocolate mousse is, it did not seem quite sinful enough. Then I remembered ........
2. American Sex in a Pan
This no-bake dessert has a cheeky name that reeks of decadence. It is an indulgent combination of chocolate and cheesecake which sounds perfect for anyone who thinks that eating chocolate is better than certain other adult activities. Here is a recipe that a friend gave me after I sampled her dessert at a pot luck dinner.
- ½ cup butter or margarine
- 1 cup Graham crumbs
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 package (500 g) cream cheese - room temperature
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1 tub frozen whipped dressing such as Cool Whip®
- 3 cups milk
- 1 package instant chocolate pudding mix
- 1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
- 1 small container of whipping cream
- 12 crumbled chocolate wafers
1. Prepare the base one day beforehand. Melt butter in the microwave, mix with Graham crumbs and sugar, and spread in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch cake pan.
2. The next day, beat softened cream cheese with icing sugar. Gently stir in frozen whipped dressing and spread the mixture over the refrigerated base.
3. For the second layer, pour milk into a large mixing bowl, add vanilla and chocolate pudding mixes and beat until thick. Spread pudding mixture over the first layer, and allow to set (about an hour).
4. For the third layer, whip cream until thick and spread it over the pudding layer. Garnish with wafer crumbs.
6. Refrigerate two hours before serving.
But I decided that the name of this dessert was an oversell, nothing but a marketing gimmick for frozen whipped dressing, instant pudding and chocolate wafers. So I decided to travel north in search of ....
3. Canadian Nanaimo Bars
Originating in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Nanaimo bars are one of my favorite holiday treats. In typical Canadian fashion, this west coast delight combines the American love of dessert squares with a typically British ingredient, Bird's® custard powder (which is also a key ingredient in the UK's best-loved dessert, the trifle).
Here is a recipe I found on the Kraft Canada website:
- 6 oz. baking chocolate: 2 oz for base; 4 oz for topping
- butter: 1/2 cup for base, 1/4 cup for filling, 1 tablespoon for topping
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups Graham crumbs
- 1 cup coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 2 tablespoons Bird's® custard powder
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups icing sugar
Melt 2 oz. chocolate with 1/2 cup butter by microwaving at medium for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in egg, vanilla, graham crumbs, coconut and nuts and cover the bottom of 9-inch square pan. Bake 8 minutes at 350 degrees.Credit: By Joy (Flickr: Nanaimo Bar) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Mix custard powder and milk. Add icing sugar and 1/4 cup of butter and whip thoroughly. Spread onto crust cooled crust and refrigerate.
Melt remaining chocolate and butter together in the microwave, spread over custard and refrigerate.
Unfortunately, while Nanaimo bars are rich and delicious, they do not have quite enough chocolate for unashamed decadence. So I decided to head south for Kahlua® , pure vanilla and genuine Mexican chocolate, which are vital ingredients for ...............
4. Mexican Kahlua® Chocolate Cake
Mexicans have a deep historic connections to the birthplace of chocolate, and use it as an ingredient in chicken mole and other spicy dishes. Mexico is also the home of delicious pure vanilla and a divine coffee liqueur which can turn an ordinary chocolate cake into an adult only sensation.
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There are a lot of recipes out there, but I especially like this one (see article references for source).
- 3 eggs separated
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. margarine
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 2 1/4 c. flour
- 1/2 c. cocoa
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. pure Mexican vanilla
- 3/4 c. Kahlua®
- Cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg yolks.
- Sift in flour, cocoa and baking powder
- Blend in vanilla and Kahlua®
- Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, and then beat in sugar. Continue beating until stiff and fold into cake batter.
- Pour into two 9 inch greased and floured cake pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Remove from pans and cool before frosting.
To make chocolate kahlua frosting, cream 6 tablespoons of butter with a pound of icing sugar, 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons of Kahlua®.
But for a real x-rated cake, I headed back to Europe, to the Black Forest in southern Germany to be exact, for ....
5. German Black Forest Cake
This authentic German recipe from the website food (see the reference below) is definitely an adult dessert. Unlike commercial Black Forest cakes sold in North America it shuns cherry pie filling and maraschino cherries in favor of fresh fruit. In addition, it is doused in kirsch or kirschwasser, a potent colorless cherry brandy from the Black Forest region.Credit: By Eric T Gunther (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- 1 2⁄3 cups flour
- 2⁄3 cup cocoa
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 cup margarine
- 1 1⁄2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1⁄2 cups milk
- 1⁄2 cup kirsch
- 1⁄2 cup unsalted butter
- 3 cups icing sugar
- 1 tbsp instant coffee
- 1 1⁄2 lbs fresh black cherries or canned bing cherries
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1⁄8 cup kirsch
- 2 tablespoons powdered milk
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
- 1⁄2 cup shaved dark chocolate
Because it needs to be marinated in kirsch, the cake should be prepared at least two days in advance.
- Pit cherries. Save ten for decoration. Soak the rest overnight in half a cup of kirsch.
- Cream shortening and sugar. Mix in eggs, vanilla and milk.
- Add sifted dry ingredients.
- Pour into three parchment-lined cake pans. Bake for 20 minutes at 350°F.
- Remove cakes from pans and let cool. Prick tops and pour on the Kirsch from the soaking cherries.
- Cream butter. Add icing sugar, salt and coffee, and mix well. If the icing is too thick add Kirsch or cherry juice.
- Cut cherries in half.
- Place the base layer on a cake tray and spread on half the filling. Cover with cherries, top with another layer of cake, spread on the rest of the filling and cherries, and top with the third layer of cake. Cover and put the cake in the refrigerator for two days. This gives the kirsch time to soak in and moisten the cake.
- Whip cream until stiff.
- Fold in powdered milk and icing sugar.
- Add vanilla and enough Kirsch to create a good spreading consistency.
- Spread icing over the cake. Decorate with whole cherries and chocolate shavings.