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With evidence of cacao cultivation dating back to 1400 BC, it is safe to say that chocolate has been beloved for over 3000 years. Back in those early days, chocolate was consumed as a liquid beverage. In fact, it appears that hard edible chocolate as we know it today was not developed until the 1700's when mechanical mills could be used to squeeze out the cocoa butter. With the pervasive nature of chocolate in our society today, it isn't hard to believe that it has been around for such a long time.
In this article, I share a little history and some facts about chocolate as well as a few of my favorite recipes and some tips on making your own chocolate. And with Valentine's Day right around the corner, I'm really hoping for someValentine chocolatefrom my sweet hubby.
From one chocolate lover to another... ENJOY!
Classification of Chocolate
As you are letting a fine piece of chocolate melt in your mouth, have you ever asked yourself what the difference is between milk, white and dark chocolates and who decides how they will be classified? It turns out that chocolates are classified by the percentage of cocoa in the mix as well as the other ingredients that are included. I've consulted theNodeworks Online Encyclopediato get the facts.
Unsweetened, Bitter or Baking Chocolate is the solid form of unadulterated pure chocolate liquor. The center of the roasted cocoa beans is literally ground into liquor and nothing is added which results in a rich, deep and strong straight-from-the-bean chocolate flavor. This type of chocolate isn't normally eaten straight up because it contains no sugar. However as bakers know, this unsweetened chocolate is the base for many delectable chocolategourmet dessertssuch as cakes and brownies.
Bittersweet Chocolate is unsweetened chocolate liquor mixed with some sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin, and vanilla. Bittersweet chocolates must contain at least 50% chocolate liquor.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate is essentially the same as bittersweet chocolate in that it has sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin and vanilla all mixed in. However, semi-sweet must have on 35% or more chocolate liquor in the mix. In other words, it is a little less pure than the bittersweet chocolate.
Dark Chocolate is a plain or sweet chocolate that contains no milk additives, but has cocoa butter and sweeteners in the mix. The definition of dark chocolate varies a bit in the world. For instance in Europe,dark chocolatemust consist of at least 35% cocoa solids while in the U.S., it must have a 15% concentration of chocolate liquor.
Milk Chocolate is made with condensed or powdered milk just as the name implies. Again, the definition of this chocolate varies from continent to continent in the world. But in Europe, milk chocolate must consist of at least 25% cocoa solids. While in the US, the definition is a bit more stringent in that the milk chocolate must have a 10% concentration of chocolate liquor and a minimum of 12% milk solids. The most popular form of chocolate in the United States, milk chocolate is primarily used for eating.
Couverture Chocolate are true gourmet chocolates that are rich in cocoa butter (upwards of 35%). Of course, this makes them extremely high in fat because cocoa butter itself is actually the fat that is extracted from chocolate liquor. Most of the world's finest gourmet chocolatiers such asGodiva, Scharfenberger, Valrhona, Lindt, Coco Barry and Esprit des Alpes fall into this gourmet chocolate category.
White Chocolate is not really 'chocolate' at all because it doesn't contain any cocoa solids. Strictly speaking, chocolate is defined as any product 100% based on cocoa solid (white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, milk solids and sugar. That said, it doesn't really matter what it is called, white chocolate is one of the most popular forms ofgift candyin the U.S.
10 Reasons to Love Chocolate
- It's a PMS requirement - what woman doesn't feel better after having a little chocolate?
- It's Healthy - dark chocolate contains antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of heart disease as well as other health benefits.
- It's cheaper than Prozac - chocolate increases the production of serotonin, a natural antidepressant in our bodies.
- It melts in your mouth - chocolate makes your mouth (and you) happy.
- It's better than sex - at least that is what I've heard from some people.
- It's an addiction that isn't illegal - chocoholics won't get arrested for buying a 'fix'.
- It's full of surprises - as Forrest Gump said 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'
- It satisfies every time - some might say that it is better than a man in that way.
- It's a gift she'll love - if you are a man, you can just about guarantee that she'll know just how much you love her when you show up with or send her a pretty box full of chocolates.
- It's an aphrodisiac - chocolate releases the chemical Phenylethylamine which has been shown to bring feelings like those of being in love.
Found this recipe in the Original Cake Doctor Cookbook 10 years ago and we've been happily devouring it ever since! It is sooooo easy to make.
- 1 package (18.25 oz) Devil's Food Chocolate Cake Mix
- 1 package (3.9 oz) Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (we use Guittard)
- 1 stick (8 TBSP) butter
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup milk (whole is best)
- 4 cups sifted confectioners (powdered) sugar
Grease and flour a standard 12 cup bundt pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, blend all of the ingredients (except the chocolate chips) with an electric mixer on low for 1 minute, then on medium for an additional 3 minutes. Be sure to scrape down the mixing bowl as needed. After beating for the required amount of time, the batter will be thick and well blended. Fold the chocolate chips into the batter until they are evenly distributed.
Pour the batter into the bundt pan leveling with a spatula and place the pan in the preheated oven. Bake 45 - 50 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and springs back when touched lightly with a finger tip.
Cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Turn cake onto a wire cooling rack to cool for 20 more minutes (use a knife to run around the edge and loosen cake if necessary).
While the cake is cooling make the frosting by placing the butter in a medium sauce pan over low heat for 2-3 minutes until it is completely melted. Stir in the cocoa powder and the milk, bringing the mixture to a boil (stirring constantly) and immediately remove from the heat. Stir in small amounts of the confectioners sugar until the frosting is thickened, smooth and the desired consistency.
Pour the warm frosting over the cool cake. Work quickly to spread it with a spatula so it reaches all sides of the cake (sets up quickly). Slice and serve.
NOTE: We always heat the slices up in the microwave for a few seconds so that thechocolate chipsin the batter get melty and gooey.
Making Your Own Chocolate Candy
Creating your own moldedchocolate lollipopsor other chocolate treats can be a fun and satisfying experience if you remember a few rules and follow the candy making instructions to the letter. The two most important things to remember are that water and chocolate do not mix. If you get water in the chocolate, it will seize up and look dull as well. Secondly too much heat burns chocolate and at that point, the chocolate is trash.
Making greatholiday chocolateis truly an art form so I recommend buying a good chocolate making book or visiting some of the following online sites to get step-by-step instructions, recipes and excellent tips. You can find great tips for making chocolate candy atEssortment, tips for making molded chocolate can be found at Candy Land Crafts, and step-by-step instructions for making chocolates and candies can be found online.
Chocolate Candy Making Books
Awesome Chocolate Truffles
The key to making greatchocolate trufflesis starting with a premium chocolate for the base. We generally use Sharfenberger or Guittard chocolate. This recipe makes about 50 truffles (adapted from an old Bobby Flay recipe that I had).
- 3 cups (18 oz) bittersweet chocolate (coarsely chopped) or chocolate chips
- 1 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Various toppings to roll the truffles in like fine unsweetened cocoa powder, finely chopped roasted almonds, shredded coconut, or sifted powdered sugar
Place the chocolate and heavy cream in a double boiler or in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir constantly until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour mixture onto the center of a baking sheet spreading into an even layer. Place in refrigerator for 30-40 minutes until completely cooled.
Remove from refrigerator and let stand until slightly softened. Use a small ice cream scoop to form mounds of chocolate on a clean, wax-paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate the mounds for about 10 minutes until firm. Remove and roll mounds into balls between hands. Place back in refrigerator for about 5 minutes until they set again.
Remove from refrigerator and roll in your favorite topping (e.g. coconut or cocoa powder). Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, but bring them to room temperature before serving. Be sure to use wax paper to separate the layers in the container so that the truffles don't stick together.
TIP 1: If you prefer flavored truffles, substitute hazelnut, cherry, raspberry or orange liqueur for the vanilla extract.
TIP 2: If you are getting married, consider buying some favor boxes and placing one of these truffles inside each one to create a unique mouth-watering chocolate wedding favor for your guests to enjoy.