Anti-inflammatory and good for the soul – American researchers have finally published a study that confirms something we’ve all suspected for quite some time now: chocolate is good for you! The study actually proves just how healthy dark chocolate can be. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which protect the circulatory system and can reduce blood pressure.
That said: ready, steady, eat chocolate!
Dark chocolate has an especially high percentage of cocoa and is darker, more piquant and slightly bitter in flavour. Some dark chocolate doesn't contain any milk, which makes it suitable for vegans. Dark chocolate may also be referred to as ‘plain chocolate’.
As the name suggests, milk chocolate contains a higher percentage of milk or dairy products. It’s lighter in colour and made from cocoa butter, cocoa mass, sugar and, of course, milk.
When it comes to producing white chocolate, the cocoa powder is removed from the cocoa mass, which results in its characteristic light colour. White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, sugar and milk and is the sweetest of the three chocolate varieties.
Milk chocolate is the most popular chocolate just about everywhere in the world. Creamy and smooth, it melts on your tongue and leaves you wanting more. Second place goes to dark chocolate, followed by white. The most popular combinations are delicate nougat and crunchy nuts. Hazelnuts and almonds are all the rage in the chocolate industry, with a preference for whole nuts taking hold in recent years. Biscuits of all kinds are also increasingly popular. Whether it’s butter cookies, Oreos or shortbread, biscuits and chocolate go hand in hand.
Chocolate and sea salt
Generally an effective flavour enhancer, salt is required at least to some degree in every dessert, cake and candy. So it’s no wonder that chocolate is now also available with fine flakes of sea salt. It offers a little kick on your tongue and tastes wonderfully chocolatey.
Chocolate and pink pepper
Pink peppercorns on white chocolate are a real feast for the eyes, but even the combination of pepper and creamy white chocolate is a more-than-welcome treat for the taste buds.
Chocolate and alcohol: gin and rum are making a splash
The combination of sweet chocolate, fruity raisins and bitter alcohol is a true classic. But the new variants such as dark chocolate with gin and lingonberries are especially delectable, tantalising your taste buds with wonderfully piquant and fruity-fresh flavour and leaving you wanting more.
Whether hot, made from ice cream or airy and light, there really aren’t any sweets that you can’t make from chocolate, top with chocolate or dip into chocolate. There’s good reason why chocolate is the clear leader in the flavour chart for flavours of ice cream.
Sachertorte cake comes from Austria, where it can be found on the country’s list of traditional foods. The rich and unbelievably delicious chocolate cake is a staple at every respectable coffeehouse.
The word ‘mole’ describes a variety of zesty, spicy sauces that originate in Mexico, with up to 35 ingredients, including chocolate, chillies and various spices, usually forming the base of the sauce. But some recipes call for as many as 75 different ingredients. The best-known mole is mole poblano, which is traditionally used for enchiladas or served with chicken.
Nothing melts on your tongue quite like chocolate mousse. The recipe of dark chocolate, butter, sugar and egg was first recorded in writing in 1755, and it’s just about impossible to imagine French cuisine without it.
Chocolate was originally called ‘xocóatl’, made by the Aztecs using water, cocoa, chilli and vanilla. The hot beverage was such a hit with the people of Latin America that they were sure there must be a cocoa god.
In 1528 Spanish conquerors brought the plant to Europe, where it was enhanced with cane sugar and honey for the first time. In Europe, cocoa was thought to be healthy and have invigorating powers and was often used an aphrodisiac, which is why it was sold at European pharmacies up into the 19th century.
In 1847 Fry & Sons in Bristol, England, came up with the ingenious idea of adding sugar and cocoa butter rather than water and pouring the thick mass into a mould – and thus the first bar of chocolate was invented.
The Swiss ultimately developed the innovative conching technique, which provides the chocolate with a fine, creamy consistency and allows the flavours to fully develop. Rodolphe Lindt invented this technique and was the first to create fine, smooth chocolate. His method was patented in 1879.
The cocoa plant prefers tropical climates, as it requires sufficient moisture and cannot withstand temperatures below 15 degrees. The primary areas of cultivation can thus be found in Central America, Africa and South East Asia. The primary cultivating countries are Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Indonesia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Bolivia, with around 70% of all cocoa beans coming from West Africa. Though cocoa can also be found in Madagascar, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Venezuela.
Once they’ve been harvested, the cocoa beans are fermented, a process which allows the characteristic flavours to develop for the first time and the beans to separate from the pulp and assume their brown colour.
The beans contain up to 60% water after fermentation and need to dry to enable further processing and extend their shelf life.
The cocoa beans are then transported from their cultivation regions to chocolate factories, where impurities such as sand and jute are removed. The beans are then roasted, which allows their flavour to fully develop. The shell is removed and the bean ground, after which chocolate production can begin.
While conventional bar chocolate can be purchased for little money at the supermarket, premium variants can be quite expensive.
To’ak, the most expensive cocoa bean in the world, grows in the jungle of Ecuador. The trees which bear the Nacional cocoa beans are very old and very, very rare. This Ferrari of cocoa beans boasts a full, complex flavour, with just a hint of fruit, flowers and nuts.
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