(Espresso beans coated in dark chocolate - chocolate/coffee lovers rejoice! Recipe in post)
For those who love their chocolate and coffee, these little babies are like concentrated doses of wake-me-up wonderfulness. You've probably seen them in coffee shops and stores, often sold for the outrageous price of some four dollars per couple ounces, and perhaps you've even treated yourself to them before - but nothing can compare to good chocolate and freshly roasted espresso beans.
As I got to the end of the bowl of melted chocolate, and it began to set up to the point I could no longer neatly coat my beans, I lazily dumped a handful of coffee into the bowl and began eating it by the spoonful like cereal. Delicious, French Roast cereal.
Although caffeine affects everyone differently, let's take a (very simplified) look at what went on over the next hour or so in my brain:
Let's begin with a metaphor. Imagine that my brain is one of those plastic cubes with different shaped holes in it that children play with by putting the appropriately shaped blocks into. Not a far-fetched metaphor, I'll grant you.
These holes, called Adenosine receptors, are there just waiting for the adenosine molecules (blocks) to fall into them. When the adenosine latches into the receptors, I begin to feel drowsy and ready for sleepy-by time. Just like a toddler.
Caffeine, however, is sneaky! The caffeine molecule is an imposter, cleverly disguised to look like adenosine, and it comes in and fills up all the receptors with its blocks before I even know what's going on. It's like the mean kid who comes and ruins the toy you're trying to play with.
Well, when my brain realizes that its adenosine no longer fits into the holes (because they're already filled) it has a little tantrum - a minor panic attack, if you will - and sends out epinephrine (adrenaline, or the 'fight or flight' hormone) and dopamine (happy time/feel good hormone) into my system, giving me the buzz we all associate with caffeine and the energy to kick the rear-end of any other kids who try to mess with my toys. I just went from being a toddler, to being a bad-ass toddler.
Unfortunately, as caffeine wears off (usually within five-six hours for a moderately sized dose in an average person) it leaves behind an exhausted body that is ready to sleep and repair itself, hence the 'crash' that comes with things like caffeine and sugar highs. Plus, dopamine levels return to normal which can leave you feeling depressed as well as fatigued.
Now I'm cranky, cry a lot, and am ready for a nap. Amazing how well this toddler metaphor is working out for me.
The moral of the story is: we're all children inside. Children with access to drugs.
Note: In small and regular doses caffeine is shown to have certain health benefits (such as reducing the risk of diabetes, certain cancers, not to mention increasing alertness and bettering mood), but the usual conclusion that more is better does not apply here.
Caffeine is a drug, surprisingly similar to its illegal cousins (heroin, cocaine...), and should not be overly abused. Caffeine addictions are not uncommon, can be difficult to overcome, and can cause serious difficulties (like insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations, and even psychosis).
As with all things, always in moderation!
Now, if you're ready to partake, all you need is some of your favorite chocolate and good quality beans. A fresh, dark roast is important in making these worlds better than the ones you find in the stores, which are often made with older or lower quality beans.
Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans
(Not a fan of coffee? Try nuts or dried fruit!)
4 oz. good quality chocolate (I used Valrhona 64%, but use what you like)
A few handfuls dark roast coffee beans
Begin by lining a baking sheet or counter top with foil. Chop the chocolate (if in bar form) and melt in the microwave in 20-30 second intervals, stirring in between.
If you're feeling really ambitious, you could temper the chocolate in a double boiler. To do this, heat a pot of water over medium/low, and place the chocolate in a heavy glass or ceramic bowl over the top of the pot. Once the chocolate has begun to melt, use an instant-read thermometer to bring the chocolate to 115f. (for dark) or 110f. (for milk or white).
Remove the bowl from over the water, being careful that steam and condensation DO NOT enter the bowl - even one drop of water will 'break' the chocolate so the molecules won't play nice and you'll have to start from scratch.
Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, stir the chocolate as vigorously as your arm will allow, checking the temperature intermittently, until it cools to 92f. (for dark) or 88f. (for milk or white). This may take a while, so prepare to get a work out. To test if the chocolate is tempered properly, dip the back of a spoon into the chocolate and place in the fridge for 2-3 minutes. If the chocolate is completely set up, smooth and slightly shiny, and not streaky or blotchy, then the chocolate is tempered. If the chocolate still hasn't hardened, it's still too warm - keep stirring. If it's streaky, it needs to be agitated more - keep stirring!
If the chocolate begins to set up while you're using it you can put it back over the double boiler just to re-melt it, but be sure not to let it go above 92f.
Once you have your melted chocolate, add a handful or two of espresso beans and stir to coat.
Using a spoon and your fingers (or a fork), drop the beans onto the foil. I like to drop them individually, if I can, but a few clusters of twos or threes are fine.
Add more beans to the chocolate until all the chocolate is used, reheating chocolate as needed.
Let the chocolate cool and set up (this may take a while depending on humidity, temperature, and temperature of the chocolate), or put it in the fridge to speed up the process.
Pop the cocoa beans off the foil, and store in a zip-top bag or airtight container in the fridge.
Try not to eat them all at once!
Bonus: I'm a winner!
The Liebster Blog Award! I was fortunate enough to receive this award not once, but twice (I suppose that's what I get for being so slow to pass it on), first from Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes and then from Bridget Bakes. Thank you both, I am so honored!
'Liebster' is a German word meaning "dearest" or "favorite", and the award is given by bloggers to bloggers (more specifically, to newby bloggers like me who have less than 200 followers) to give recognition and spread the love. As a recipient, it is my duty to:
A. Thank those who nominated me and link back to them.
B. List five other blogs to receive the Liebster, and let them know they've been awarded by commenting on said blogs, and
C. Proudly copy/paste the Award on my blog and grin like an idiot:
After much head-scratching, I finally narrowed it down to five blogs to pass the honors on to. In no particular order:
1. Fool With Flour - Not just a great name, but a great blog as well. Kendra is currently pre-culinary school, but her forays in the kitchen are by no means sub-par. She's got a great attitude, and her blog has a nice polished look to it that helps make it easy to read.
2. Elena the Epicurean - Elena seems to have a very easy way of writing that's entertaining and engaging. Very easy to relate to and fun to read. On top of that, I love her philosophy about food being 'real' - no synthetics or processing, thanks!
3. Vegetarian Epicurean - as I've said before, I don't adhere to any particular dietary restrictions - but that doesn't stop me from being a huge fan of many vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free/etc. blogs. This Vegetarian Epicurean has lots of great recipes, many including a very clear Mexican or spicy influence which I can't help but drool over.
4. From Valerie's Kitchen - I'm not actually sure how many followers Valerie has (and whether or not she technically 'qualifies' for the Liebster) but her blog is new as of August last year and is more than deserving of a mention. I think it's easy to relate to having a busy lifestyle and being the one in charge of the meals for the family, and somehow Valerie manages not only to take it all in her stride but blog about it to boot.
5. Healthy Kitschy Vegan - once again, I'm not sure on the actual follower count, but HKV is such a unique blog I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share it. The author of the blog, Danni, isn't your average vegan cook/baker... she's a recovering anorexic, who's blog not only documents food and cooking but also overcoming her eating disorder. Clearly, she puts emphasis on clean, healthy eating, which I love - but she also has a very candid way of sharing her struggles that anyone could relate to. Definitely one you shouldn't miss.
Hope you all enjoy flaunting the award, and don't forget to pass it on to your favorite up-and-coming bloggers!
Still grinning like a fool (is it the award, or the caffeine?),