Chocolate

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Chocolate is a processed food made from the seed of ‘cacao tree’. Cocoa beans obtained from this tree are fermented, processed and grinded to form cocoa powder. Chocolate is made by adding sugar, additional fat and milk to the cocoa powder. Chocolate is usually considered as a ‘feel-good’ food item that provides an instant lift to the energy levels of a person. There is no doubt that eating chocolate and chocolate dishes give a soothing experience. Chocolate cakes, chocolate ice creams and chocolate puddings are some of the most popular chocolate recipes that are well-liked all over the world.

 

History

The cacao tree was indigenous to Mexico and South America. In Mesoamerica, cocoa powder was widely used in beverages. Europeans were unaware of the popular American chocolate drink until the Aztecs imported chocolate to Europe in 16th century. Cocoa beans were used as a form of money by Aztec civilization, some 3000 years ago. In 1657, in London, the most famous chocolate house was opened that was later owned by Cadbury brothers. Joseph Fry & Son have invented the first solid chocolate in 1847 that results in the introduction of today’s chocolate bar.

 

Culinary Use

Chocolate is mainly used in making sweet chocolate dishes such as cakes, puddings, ice creams, sauces and shakes. Unsweetened chocolate is widely used in cooking. Chocolate is mixed with other ingredients such as milk and sugar to make various chocolate spreads. Chocolate sauce is a very popular ingredient used in making various savory dishes such as turkey with chocolate sauce. It sounds unusual but chocolate sauce is often mixed with chili and used to make red meat chocolate dishes. Chocolate drinks and beverages are also world famous. Hot and cold chocolate beverages are made with cocoa powder or sweet chocolate. Chocolate is also added to coffee as a flavoring agent. Famous alcoholic drink, chocolate martini, also contains chocolate as a flavoring ingredient. For garnishing purposes, shaved chocolate or chocolate flakes are used.

 

Popular Chocolate Recipes

Chocolate dishes are always a craze among kids as well as adults. Dark chocolate cake is one of the most popular chocolate recipes around the world. Unsweetened chocolate is used to make this cake. Black forest cake is also another chocolate recipe that is well-liked. Chocolate biscuits, chocolate covered strawberry, choco-chip icecream and hot chocolate fudge are some mouth-watering chocolate dishes.

 

Cuisines Commonly Making Chocolate Recipes

Though chocolate is used in all global cuisines, America is the native place of cocoa beans. American cuisine makes the most out of chocolate. There are several American desserts and sweet dishes that are made up of cocoa or chocolate. Chocolate bars are quiet a popular snack in American cuisine. The European cuisine is also not far behind in using chocolate as an ingredient. Italian tiramisu is world famous and known for its cocoa topping. Belgium chocolates are the finest chocolates found all over the world. Indian chocolate burfi is a nice chocolate dish served as a dessert.

 

Preferred Methods of Making Chocolate Dishes

• Baking – Cocoa powder or chocolate is mixed with flour and other ingredients to make various baked chocolate dishes like cakes, biscuits, pies and pastries.

• Boiling – Chocolate is boiled with butter and sugar to make chocolate syrup or chocolate sauce.

• Blending – Sweet chocolate is blended with milk in food processor to make chocolate shakes.

• Grating – Grated chocolate is sprinkled on top of cakes or desserts as a garnish.

• Mixing – chocolate or cocoa powder is mixed with cream to make icing or used as an ingredient in alcoholic chocolate recipes such as chocolate martini.

• Coating – Chocolate sauce or melted chocolate is used as a coating to cover fruits or candies.

 

Health and Nutrition Facts

Nutritionally, chocolate contains some protein, variable amounts of sugar and certain minerals. Plain chocolate is a useful source of iron, magnesium and potassium. Chocolate is believed to boost endorphin levels in the brain, which have a “high” effect.

Chocolate does have some nutritional value but it is high in fat and so can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excessive amount. Chocolate dishes are high in calories so they should not become a habitual part of diet. Chocolate also contains compounds which acts as mild stimulant and causes migraine in some people.

 

Buying and Storing

Always buy high quality and branded chocolates and chocolate products. Grayish covering and holes in chocolate are the signs of degraded chocolate. Cocoa powder also should be purchased in packaged form after checking the manufacturing date. Storage of chocolate is relatively easier. It can be refrigerated or freeze. A whitish layer on the freeze chocolate is not an issue as it is due to the presence of cocoa butter. The taste of chocolate does not get altered after freezing for a longer period. Chocolate dishes such as cakes and pies should be stored in refrigerator in air-tight container for up to 3-4 days.

 

Types of Chocolate

• White chocolate – This type of chocolate contains very less cocoa solids hence it is white in color. It contains vanilla essence and milk.

• Milk chocolate – It contains 12% milk along with cocoa solids. It is an ideal choice for baked chocolate dishes.

• Dark chocolate – This chocolate contains very high amount of cocoa along with no or very little milk solids. It can be sweet, semi-sweet or unsweetened.

• Sweet chocolate – This is the famous chocolate bar. Usually eaten as a stand-alone confectionery. Sugar and cocoa contents are high in sweet chocolate. It is widely used to make sweet chocolate dishes.

• Semi-sweet chocolate – Cakes, pastries, muffins and cookies are usually made up of semi-sweet chocolate.

• Unsweetened chocolate – It contains 100% cocoa solids with negligible amount of sugar particles.

 

Non-food Use of Chocolate

Chocolate flavor is often used to make beauty products such as soaps, creams and lotions etc. Perfumes and deos are also available in chocolate flavor. Chocolate facial is a new rage among beauty lovers.

 

Trivia

• Chocolate does less harm to the teeth than other forms of sweet confectionery.

• A bar of chocolate contains more caffeine than a cup of coffee

• The caffeine in chocolate can keep some people awake in night.