Expert Alice Medrich's Tips on Cooking With Chocolate

By Joyce Hendley, M.S., "The Queen of Chocolate," January/February 2011

Tips for how to make healthier chocolate desserts.

At first, the idea of creating “healthier” chocolate desserts may sound—well, plain vanilla. But in the hands of a chocolate artisan like Alice Medrich, it’s anything but. Fabulous chocolate treats don’t need to pack in the calories, as she has been proving since she first published her classic cookbook Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts in 1994.

Medrich, an oft-decorated dessert authority, knows chocolate intimately. Ever since she introduced chocolate truffles back in the 1970s at her ground-breaking Cocolat dessert shop in Berkeley, California, she’s been working magic with her favorite ingredient. Over those years scientists have been working hard, too, making sweet discoveries about the health-enhancing properties of cacao, the phytonutrient-packed solids extracted from cocoa beans that give chocolate its flavor, color and—for lack of a better word, chocolitude. Chocolate’s image has, likewise, evolved.

Chocolate was once considered a wicked, guilty pleasure—remember “Death by Chocolate,” the over-the-top chocolate dessert made popular in the ’80s by Bennigan’s restaurants? But today, chocolate—particularly the darkest types that boast sky-high cacao percentages—is beginning to seem more and more like a health food. (“High-flavanol cocoa in Aisle 3!”) Eating a little bit of chocolate at least a few times a week, in fact, can be downright good for your heart, not to mention your soul. The trick is to make the most of that little bit of chocolate, while dialing down the fatty, sugary ingredients chocolate so often keeps company with. That happens to be Medrich’s stock in trade, as her glorious chocolate creations show.

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