Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Dark Chocolate Cherry Ganache Bars: National Dark Chocolate Day

Today is National Dark Chocolate Day. What exactly is Dark Chocolate? The following is from the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine site.

What is Dark Chocolate?

Dark Chocolate is also known as "bittersweet" or "semisweet" chocolate. It contains a high percentage (60% +) of cocoa solids, and little or no added sugar. Dark chocolate has a rich, intense flavor, and is found in chocolate bars, candies, and baking chocolate.

Why choose Dark Chocolate? 
  • Contains flavonoids called procyanidins & epicatechins; flavonoids are part of a group of antioxidants known as polyphenols and are found in a variety of foods including dark chocolate, tea, red wine, and various fruits and vegetables 
  • Decreases LDL (“bad”) cholesterol oxidation 
  • Reduces the risk of blood clots 
  • Increases blood flow in arteries and the heart 
  • May lower high blood pressure 
  • Cocoa may have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels because it consists mainly of stearic acid and oleic acid. Stearic acid is a saturated fat, but unlike most saturated fatty acids, it does not raise blood cholesterol levels. Oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat, does not raise cholesterol and may even reduce it. 
  • May improve mood and pleasure by boosting serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain 
  • Regular intake is associated with better cognitive performance in the elderly 
  • Contains a number of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium 
***
These Dark Chocolate Cherry Ganache Bars are perfect for today's holiday or any day. This easy recipe is adapted slightly from Melissa Clark at the New York Times. I use Bon Maman Cherry Preserves. I like the slightly tangy flavor.

DARK CHOCOLATE CHERRY GANACHE BARS

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4  cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
12 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cherry jam (whichever you like--I prefer Bonne Maman Dark Cherry Preserves)
12 ounces dark chocolate (62 percent or higher), chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp Kirsch
1/2 tsp fleur de sel, for sprinkling

Directions
In food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and fine sea salt. Pulse in butter and vanilla until mixture just comes together into a smooth mass.
Line 8-inch square baking pan with parchment or wax paper. Press dough into pan. Prick all over with fork. Chill for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 days.
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake shortbread until firm to  touch and just beginning to pull away from sides, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in  pan for 20 minutes on wire rack.
Brush jam over shortbread’s surface and let cool thoroughly.
Place chocolate in heatproof bowl. In saucepan, bring cream to a simmer. Pour over chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk in Kirsch. Spread over shortbread. Sprinkle fleur de sel on.
Cool to room temperature; cover and chill until firm. Slice and serve.

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