Chocolate, Glorious Chocolate

The cacao plant in fruit. Image from Wikipedia
The cacao plant in fruit. Image from Wikipedia

Chocolate Quiz

You think you're a chocaholic, but how much do you really know about that wonderful brown stuff? Take our quiz and find out whether you're really a chocolate expert, or just a wannabe. (Answers are at the bottom of the page, but no peeking!)


1. The word chocolate comes from the word xocolatl, which is derived from two words meaning:

a. Bitter water

b. Tasty food

c. Food of the gods


2 The cacao plant is native to:

a. Central America

b. South America

c. China


3. In Europe, cacao beans were first brought to:

a. England

b. France

c. Spain


4. The first solid form of chocolate was invented by:

a. The Cadbury brothers

b. Joseph Fry

c. Doret


5. Daniel Peter, the man who first introduced milk chocolate, was by trade:

a. A butcher

b. A baker

c. A candle maker


6. Today, most of the world's cocoa is produced in:

a. South America

b. Western Africa

c. The Pacific Islands


7. The cacao tree grows to a height of:

a. 4 to 8 meters

b. 2 to 4 meters

c. 8 to 10 meters.


8. Ideal storage temperatures for chocolate are:

a. Between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius

b. Between 15 and 17 degrees Celsius

c. Between 25 and 31 degrees Celsius


9. The first Cadbury Easter eggs were made in:

a. 1834

b. 1875

c. 1896


10. Chocolate as a gift is best given on:

a. Birthdays

b. Valentine's Day

c. Easter

d. All of the above


A representation of Mixtec kings drinking chocolate from the Codex_Zouche-Nuttall. Source, Wikipedia.
A representation of Mixtec kings drinking chocolate from the Codex_Zouche-Nuttall. Source, Wikipedia.

Chocolate Making Machinery

Chocolate making machinery. Image from Wikipedia.
Chocolate making machinery. Image from Wikipedia.

A Brief History of Chocolate

The first recorded use of chocolate is around 3000 years ago, by the Aztec and Mayan people in South America. Archaeological discoveries in 2007 in Honduras suggest that between 1400BC and 1100BC people used the powdered cacao bean to make a drink, and also used the white pulp as a base for making alcohol.


It is believed the Mayans used it for ceremonial purposes, as well as an every day drink, and also as medicine. Later, chocolate became a luxury, and cacao beans were used as currency. When the Aztecs conquered large parts of South America, they demanded cacao beans as tax or tribute.


It was not until the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs in the 16th century that the European peoples became aware of the existence of chocolate. Once it had been imported to Europe, it quickly became a favorite drink there, and demand grew so high that the Spanish began enslaving the South American peoples to grow cacao for them. Extremely expensive, chocolate was a luxury that only the very wealthy could afford.


London's first chocolate house opened in 1657. In the 1700s, mills were developed which allowed for the extraction of the cocoa butter, which in turn led to the development of chocolate as we know it today, but it was not until after the industrial revolution that the mass production of chocolate, and its availability to the ordinary people, was made possible. The first solid chocolate was made in Turin in the late 18th century, and in 1819 the first Swiss chocolate factory was opened. It is believed that the first chocolate for eating was made in 1847 by Joseph Fry, followed closely in 1849 by the Cadbury brothers - two names that are still large in the chocolate world today. In 1867 Daniel Peter began experimenting with adding milk to chocolate, and in 1875 he marketed the first milk chocolate, the form that is still the most popular form of chocolate today.


Chocolate: The New Health Food

Chocaholics the world over will be delighted to know that chocolate is actually good for your health. After years of decrying it as an unhealthy indulgence, science has finally come around to give chocolate the respect it deserves.


Chocolate contains over 300 chemicals, and has been the subject of a number of studies by universities and other scientific organizations. Here are just some of the findings that demonstrate the health benefits of chocolate. Note however that many of these benefits may be counteracted by the high levels of sugar and milk in commercial chocolate. For the best health results, choose chocolate that is as dark as possible.

1. Chocolate is made from cacao, which contains antibacterial agents that fight tooth decay.


2. Some studies suggest that the aroma of chocolate may increase theta brain waves, resulting in a relaxed state.


3. Chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, a mild mood elevator.


4. The cocoa butter in chocolate contains oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat which is believed to raise good cholesterol.


5. A cup of hot chocolate drunk before meals may help to decrease the appetite.


6. Men who eat chocolate live a year longer than those who don't.


7. The flavanoids in chocolate may help keep blood vessels elastic.


8. Chocolate increases antioxidant levels in the blood.


9. Mexican healers use chocolate to treat bronchitis and insect bites.


10. The carbohydrates in chocolate raise serotonin levels in the brain, resulting in a sense of well-being.


11. Traditionally, chocolate has been understood to be an aphrodisiac.


One of the strongest points in favor of chocolate is the amount of antioxidants it contains. Many of the foods we eat produce free radicals, substances which attack our bodies from the inside and cause premature aging. Antioxidants help to prevent the formation of these free radicals, thus helping to keep the systems of our body functioning as they were intended.


Antioxidants are found in all plants, but some have more than others. You can tell how rich a plant is in antioxidants by its color. The deeper the color, the more antioxidants the food contains. For example, blackberries, blueberries and red grapes all dark in color, all rich in intense antioxidants. Now look at the color of natural chocolate, it is so dark it is almost black, making it one of the healthiest foods you can put in your mouth. Keep in mind this is natural chocolate that has not been overly processed. Researchers have found that raw and / or minimally processed cocoa contains flavonoids similar to those found in green tea. Some of the things these antioxidants are believed to accomplish in the body are:


• Lower blood pressure

• Improve circulation throughout the body

• Decrease death rate from heart disease

• Improve function of endothelial cells that line the blood vessels

• Defend against destructive molecules called free radicals, which trigger cancer, heart disease and stroke

• Improve Digestion and stimulate kidneys


There are two different kinds of flavonoids called catechin and epicatechins. Catechins, which have recently been found to be abundant in cocoa and minimally processed chocolates, could also help prevent heart disease and possibly cancer, as well as boosting the immune system, according to recent studies. Dark chocolate has also recently been found to contain more than 3 times the amount of catechins as that found in tea. Chocolate is also a good source of copper and magnesium, which helps to regulate heartbeat and blood pressure.


So chocaholics rejoice! Your favorite food is actually good for you! Remember, though, that any food, no matter how good, if eaten to excess will cause you to gain weight and experience all the disadvantages to health that being overweight brings. So choose good quality dark chocolate, and enjoy just a small amount each day, perhaps as an end-of-the-day treat.




How Chocolate Is Made

Most common chocolate types are dark, milk and white. Photo from Wikipedia.
Most common chocolate types are dark, milk and white. Photo from Wikipedia.

Types of Chocolate

Many people love a chocolate bar or choc chip cookie, or a nice big helping of chocolate ice cream. Some would even consider themselves chocaholics. However, that's quite a different thing from being a chocolate connoisseur. Here's a quick run down to help you know your couverture from your glace.


- Dark Chocolate can contains from 30% to 75% cocoa solids. The chocolate type most used in cooking, it is, as the name implies, dark in color. The taste can be slightly bitter, and more so the higher the percentage of cocoa solids. For everyday cooking and the majority of the recipes for dark chocolate, choose one with around 50% cocoa solids. However, dark chocolate with a higher cocoa solid content will give a richer, more intense, flavor. This chocolate is often called luxury or continental chocolate and has a cocoa solid content of between 70-75%. Sometimes a recipe will call for this better quality chocolate. Also note that the darker the chocolate, the higher the health benefits will be.


- Milk Chocolate, as its name suggests, contains milk and has a lovely creamy, mild flavor. Because of the milk content and the added sugar that is used in its production, it is much sweeter than dark chocolate, and considerably lower in health benefits. It is mostly used as an eating chocolate, rather than in cooking. However it does have its place in chocolate cookery, especially for decorations, and when a milder, creamy flavor is required. It is more sensitive to heat than dark chocolate so care must be taken when melting it. This is best done in a double boiler, so that the chocolate is not exposed directly to the heat.


- White Chocolate contains milk and cocoa butter but no cocoa solids. It can be quite temperamental when used in cooking. Always choose a good quality white cooking chocolate to avoid problems and be very careful not to overheat when melting it. White chocolate is useful also for color contrast in decoration, creating a dramatic effect when it is placed over darker backgrounds. Because of its lack of cocoa solids, white chocolate does not have the health benefits associated with dark chocolate.


- Couverture is the preferred chocolate for professional use, as it retains a high gloss after melting and cooling. Nevertheless, it requires tempering and is only available from specialist suppliers. Available only in special cooking supply stores, it usually is more expensive than regular milk chocolate.


- Chocolate Glace is a chocolate-flavored cake covering which is an inferior product not generally used by true chocolate lovers. However, it has a high fat content, making it easier to handle when making some decorations such as curls or caraque. If you would prefer not to compromise flavor too much, but have difficulty making the decorations with pure chocolate, try adding a few squares of chocolate-flavored cake covering to a good quality chocolate.


- Chocolate Chips are available in dark, milk, and white chocolate varieties, and are used primarily for baking and as decoration materials.


- Coco Powder is the powder left after the cocoa butter has been pressed from the roasted and ground beans. It is unsweetened and bitter in flavor. It gives good, strong chocolate flavor when used in cooking. It can also be mixed with boiling water to produce a chocolate drink, the original form in which chocolate was used.



Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
1cup butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups yellow cake mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4cup sour cream
3 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together.
3. Sift cake mix, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.
4. In a large bowl, beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
5. Stir the chocolate mixture into the eggs.
6. Stir in the sifted ingredients with sour cream.
7. Mix in chocolate chips.
8. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls cookie sheets.
9. Bake until edges are starting to turn dark brown.


Old Fashioned Choc Cake

Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter or margarine melted
2 pounds cream cheese
1 cup sugar
8 ounces sour cream
1/4 cup cocoa
2 eggs
1 cup flour
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

In a 5 quart mixing bowl place 2 pounds of cream cheese and 1 cup granulated sugar and mix on low speed until cream cheese is softened and smooth, add 8 ounces sour cream and continue mixing until well blended, at this time add 2 eggs, mix for 2 minutes then add 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup cocoa, and 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, mix on second speed until smooth and creamy.

At this time your cheesecake mixture should be fluffy like ice cream as it comes out of the ice cream machine. Prepare your 10 inch x 2 inches spring form pan, in a large bowl place your graham cracker crumbs and 2 tablespoons sugar, and your melted butter or margarine, then with a wire whisk, whisk them together until well combined, brush onto the sides of your spring form pan a little softened butter so the crumbs have something to hold to, place the crumbs on the sides and bottom of the pan. Now you add slowly to the pan your cheesecake mix as not to disturb the crumbs too much, now you should have a full pan.

Preheat your oven to 275 degrease and not more, when your oven is hot place the cake in it and bake for 55 minutes then shut off the oven and let it in there for 3 hours, at the end of this time you should have the most beautiful cheesecake you ever seen. Cool the cake on the table for 1 1/2 hours then place it in the refrigerator for about 2-3 hours. Now remove it from the pan and enjoy. You can put a coconut pecan topping on it if you like.


Radical Chocolate by Eti Peleg

Healthy Choc Coconut Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups wholemeal self-raising (cake) flour
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg, well beaten
1/4 cup lite olive oil
1 cup coconut cream

Pre-heat oven to 200C (400F)
Lightly oil muffin pans

Sift dry ingredients together.
In a separate bowl, add oil to beaten egg and mix together well. Then add coconut cream and again mix well.

Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir only till mixed. Spoon into muffin pans and cook approx 20-25 minutes.


Easter Egg Cartoon

Totally Decadent Black Forest Trifle

I came up with this variation on the old favorite a few Christmases ago, and now it is in demand every year. Be warned: it is very, very rich! If you prefer not to use alcohol, you can replace the cherry brandy with some of the liquid from the cherries, but be sure to reserve 1/2 cup for the final stage.

Ingredients:

1 pre-cooked rich chocolate cake

Cherry brandy or liquer to taste

2 15-oz cans black cherries

2 packets cherry Jello

2 cups milk

2 tbsp custard powder

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 pint cream

1 3-oz block very dark chocolate

Directions:

Cut the chocolate cake in slices and use it to line a large bowl. Pour cherry brandy over the cake. Drain 1 can of cherries, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid, and place the cherries in the bowl. Make up the two packs of Jello using slightly less water than recommended. Allow to cool but not set, then pour over the cherries in the bowl. Refrigerate till set.

Make custard: Place milk, sugar, custard powder and cocoa powder in a saucepan and cook stirring continually until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then spoon over the Jello in the bowl.

Drain 2nd can of cherries and arrange over the custard, reserving a few for final decoration.

Whip the cream to soft peaks. If desired you can add a small amount of cherry brandy as you are whipping it. Spread over the other ingredients in the bowl. Arrange reserved cherries on top.

Place reserved 1/2 cup of cherry juice in a saucepan and break in the dark chocolate block. Heat while stirrring continually till the chocolate has completely melted and mixed with the cherry juice. Allow to cool then drizzle over the top of the trifle. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Quiz Answers

1. a. Bitter water

2. b. South America

3. c. Spain

4. c. Doret

5. c. A candle maker

6. b. Western Africa

7. a. 4 to 8 meters

8. b. Between 15 and 17 degrees Celsius

9. b. 1875

10. d. All of the above


Share Your Favorite Chocolate Recipe 1 comment

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chookylynn 7 years ago from Australia Author

Do you have a favorite chocolate recipe? Maybe one that has been handed down from your mother and grandmother, or maybe one that you have come up with yourself. Get yourself 5 minutes of fame by sharing it here!

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