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Cocoa - Some Facts About Chocolate, a Favorite Ingredient

Updated on February 3, 2012
A beautiful chocolate and chili dessert
A beautiful chocolate and chili dessert
These are pressed chocolate with sugar and cinnamon, from Mexico
These are pressed chocolate with sugar and cinnamon, from Mexico

Cocoa, one of my favorite ingredients

I have done other hubs, and highlighted a few other ingredients that I say I love, but to be honest, nothing quite compares with chocolate. Whether you are using chocolate chips or cocoa as an ingredient, one thing is for sure, your recipe will be tasting pretty good.

Brief History of Chocolate

Chocolate, also known as theobroma cacao or "food of the gods" was one of the huge discoveries from the New World that has made a larger impact over time than anyone probably imagined. I bet they had no idea how the love and interest in chocolate would only grow over time. It all started with the Cacao tree from South America. Living in river valleys it grows the coveted bean which later was carried into what is now known as Mexico. The Mayans are to blame, I mean to thank for this wonderful bean! Colombus helped to spread these great tidings of joy when he took the beans back with him to Spain. Here is an interesting tidbit. Spain could care less about the cacao bean at that time (grabbing smelling salts here) , and it wasn't until much later that that people really caught on. Thank heavens it did catch on, for we benefit from this discovery often. There is much more that could be said on this, but I will save that for another time.

Types of Cocoa and Chocolate

Natural Cocoa This is used most often to make hot cocoa itself, but also frostings, chocolate sauces and fudges, etc. I had a good friend once invite me over for "chocolate", and to see her "chocolate pots and cups". These are beautiful antique pots and cups that are used specifically for serving cocoa. It dates way back, but is a fun tradition to remember now. It was wonderful chocolate, and now I am collecting chocolate cups and pots as well. Anyway, cocoa in the U.S. contains about 11 - 24 percent cocoa butter. Our supermarket cocoa we buy here in the U.S. is in the 12-16 percent range. In the past, when they sampled dropping the percentage of cocoa butter, they found that the chocolate taste diminished as well. This makes sense, as you need fats to get the full flavor of certain things, it is a flavor carrier.

Dutched Cocoa

Dutched, is a process that cocoa goes through in this case. It is great in cakes and cookies. It is either neutral or a little bit alkaline. People will opt to use baking powder rather than baking soda because of this, as the baking powder contains the acid that was removed from the chocolate. There are ways you can test to see if your cocoa is natural or dutch processed.

Black Cocoa Ever wonder what makes the outer part of an Oreo cookie so dark? This is it, Black Cocoa, which really is cocoa that has been severely "Dutched" (see above). This intensifies the color and the flavor both. I found that really interesting about the Oreo cookies.

Solid Chocolate

As for solid chocolates, many of us are familiar with the following: Bitter baking chocolate, Sweet chocolate, Bittersweet chocolate, Milk Chocolate, "White" chocolate, and chocolate chips. Coating Chocolate, or Couverture, contains no other fat than cocoa butter and is tempered so that it performs in a certain way. Tempering can be tricky and there are other options that include vegetable fats that help it to not be so heat sensitive. The only downside, is they lack the flavor, shine and texture that is usually desired of chocolate made solely with cocoa butter. This is not to be confused with chocolate coating, by the way. That is something altogether different.

Hybrid Chocolates

These chocolates contain more fats than just the common cocoa butter fat that you usually find. This creates a different melting point for the chocolate and can result in a waxy texture. The chocolates that have just the cocoa butter are almost always considered the higher quality chocolates. It depends on the individual, what you personally like and judge as best.

Chocolate Extract

Many may not know, that there even is a chocolate extract . It makes sense though that they should make an extract out of such a wonderful ingredient! I recall my grandmother who was quite the baker, to have this among some other extracts and boy was she proud of her extracts! The extract is natural and comes from the blending together of different beans. You can find these usually at specialty shops and through mail order.


Master Chocolatier at work

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Comments

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    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      LOL that is too funny, but it does look good doesn't it? haha

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 8 years ago from USA

      That top cake looks awesome , I bet I gain a pound just looking at it . I think I chipped a toof on my screen lol

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Well, thank you Pheonix, that helps to clear things up even more. Always great to learn something new. Thanks for stopping by.

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 8 years ago from USA

      White chocolate is pale yellow or ivory in appearance, which has led to the popular belief that white chocolate does not contain cocoa. However, since it is in the form of cocoa butter rather than cocoa solids derived from chocolate liquor (a necessary ingredient in all types of chocolate), white chocolate is most definitely chocolate as defined by the WORLD Food and Drug Administration.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thank you very much Anginwu. That sounds like a very nice friend! I would be equally delighted. Thanks for stopping by

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 8 years ago

      Great information. I have to go with Belgium chocolates. I had a friend from Belgium as a house guests once and was totally delighted that he brought cases of all kinds of Belgium chocolates. Thanks. Rated up.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thanks Mysterylady. I had put white chocolate in quotes, for just the reason you mention. White chocolate is however, made from cocoa butter. It wasn't ever mean to be presented as being made from cocoa. You are right that it isn't. Thanks for stoppping by :)

    • mysterylady 89 profile image

      mysterylady 89 8 years ago from Florida

      Especially since I am a "chocoholic," your hub has me craving a chocolate treat. I thought I read somewhere that white chocolate is not made from cocoa.

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