Some foods just seem to go together. From classic pairs like peanut butter and jelly to more modern marriages of ramen and burgers or kale and coconut, fun food mashups can take our favorites up a notch—and also take over our Instagram feeds.
“What lies beneath the obsession of food pairings is the power of anticipation and expectation,” says Matt Johnson, a professor at San Francisco’s Hult Business School. After a decade of studying the relationship between neuroscience and food, Johnson and fellow professor Prince Ghuman discovered that the more unexpected the food fusion, the higher the anticipation—and that leads to more dopamine being released into the brain.
But take an unconventional pairing like dark chocolate and crystallized ginger, and the benefits go way beyond the frontal lobe’s pleasure center.
Health benefits of dark chocolate
Dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao) is loaded with antioxidants and micronutrients that have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke, boost mood and energy, and improve cognitive function. (Get this: Scientific research has actually made a correlation between a country’s level of chocolate consumption and its total number of Nobel Laureates per capita.)
Health benefits of ginger
As for ginger, this spicy, peppery rhizome is used all over the world in culinary and medical applications. Studies have found that ginger can curtail nausea, aid in digestion, regulate blood sugar, ease menstrual cramps, positively affect cholesterol levels, and more. In its crystallized form, ginger root has been enjoyed as a candy and breath freshener since the days of Marco Polo.
Ginger and chocolate together
With surprising flavor combinations holding steady as one of the biggest trends in food (there is such a thing as a “Cheetos Macaron”), it was about time that ginger and chocolate got together. While Trader Joe’s, Godiva, and Chocolove are just a few companies that have crafted a near-cult following for their chocolate-enrobed ginger bars and bites, it’s simple (and possibly more satisfying) to make this uniquely sweet and zingy ginger candy recipe at home.
Says Ghuman: “Exceeding expectations for food pairings we don’t have context for is a pleasure amplifier. It’s the pleasure we don’t predict and anticipate the most, that gives us the strongest ‘mouth-gasm.’"
Where's that apron?
Dark Chocolate-Covered Ginger
Yields: 2 dozen
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (such as Endangered Species, Ghirardelli Intense Dark, or Green & Black’s)
24 crystallized ginger slices (such as Sunbest, Hokan, or Whole Foods)
1. Place a silicone baking mat or lightly oiled piece of parchment or wax paper on a baking sheet or tray on your counter.
2. Using the double-boiler method, add about 1 inch of water to a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Place a heat-safe bowl on top of the saucepan and add the chopped chocolate. Stir frequently until smooth and just melted. Then, turn off the heat.
3. Dip each ginger slice halfway into the melted chocolate. Shake off the excess and place the candy pieces on your prepared mat or paper to dry.
4. Once all the ginger slices are dipped, let the chocolate cool to room temperature. To harden (and eat) the chocolate ginger candy more quickly, transfer your tray to the refrigerator.
5. Gently peel the hardened chocolate ginger candy pieces from your mat or paper and transfer to an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place for up to a week.
To all-out DIY this chocolate ginger candy recipe, you can skip the store-bought and crystallize your own fresh ginger root slices for dipping at home. How's that for Insta worthy?
Diane Bobis is a Chicago-based lifestyle writer and mom. Since graduating from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, she has covered food, fashion, health, wellness, and beauty for dozens of outlets, including Womensforum.com, HowStuffWorks.com, BigOven.com, Hungry? Chicago Family, Winnetka Living, and Daily Dose of Knowledge: America. Wellness Habitat: Ashwagandha, Plant Therapy, Rachel Macy Stafford, Panda Planner, morning snuggles, and laughter.