- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Women who eat chocolate every day during their pregnancies are more likely to have happy and lively babies, according to a report from Finnish scientists.

Scientists questioned 300 women before and after they gave birth and published their results in New Scientist magazine recently.

The chocolate-exposed babies were happier overall; plus, stressed women who ate chocolate were more likely to have unstressed babies than women who were frazzled but didn’t eat chocolate.

Some scientists argue that certain plant chemicals in chocolate are the soothing factor; others suggest that chocolate is so delightful that it calms moms, who pass their chocolate bliss on to their babies.

I’d opt for the latter explanation, but you don’t have to be pregnant to enjoy the stress-blasting qualities of chocolate. When that dark, rich chunk hits the roof of my mouth, I’m at peace with the world.

If you don’t believe me, try an experiment.

The next time you’re irritated and ready to scream, take a bite of a fine luxury chocolate. Sit back and let the chocolate dissolve in your mouth.

At the same time, think about something pleasant. By the time you’ve finished the chocolate meditation, I’ll bet, you’re feeling mellow again.

Don’t keep this relaxation technique to yourself. Chocolate stress reduction is beneficial in a Two’s Company household. When the two of you are having a bad day, make it a chocolate night.

Bake chocolate-chip shortcake, using the best-quality chocolate chips you can find.

Stuff the batter with chocolate so you get a taste in every bite. Then, for good measure, serve the cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. It should make you very happy.

Chocolate-chip shortcake

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar, divided

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

½ cup milk

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips or 1 3-ounce semisweet or bittersweet chocolate bar, finely chopped

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

½ cup whipping cream

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and 1 tablespoon sugar in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in the milk to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. Stir in chocolate chips or chopped chocolate. Divide dough in half.

Shape into 2 3-inch disks. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the shortcakes are high and golden brown on the top. Remove from oven; cool on wire rack 10 minutes.

While shortcakes are baking, stir 1 tablespoon sugar into sliced strawberries in a bowl. Set aside. Whip cream with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar to stiff peaks.

To assemble the dessert, split each shortcake in half.

Top the bottom of each shortcake with ½ cup strawberries and any accumulated juices.

Cover strawberries with the tops of shortcakes.

Spoon on remaining strawberries, dividing evenly between shortcakes, and add a generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.


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