What You Need to Know About Chocolate – In 3 Minutes or Less
With Valentine’s Day being tomorrow I figured that it would be very fitting to talk about the very thing we women seem to crave more around this time. Chocolate. So what is it about this Hallmark holiday that makes us go nuts over this cocoa concoction? Here is everything you ever wanted to know about chocolate in two minutes or less.
Is it Really and Aphrodisiac?
Yes, I went there. Very à propos if you ask me. This is probably the question on the minds of many significant others this time of year, so I figure I had better put it out there. Scientifically speaking, there is no known proof that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. Yeah, I know. So where did all of the hype and the rumors come from? Well, the neurotransmitters serotonin and anandamide both contribute to feelings of happiness and euphoria during sex – and both are found in chocolate. Tricky, tricky! But the way I see it, when good chocolate is involved in Valentine’s Day, someone’s getting lucky.
Types of Chocolate
Who knew there were so many types of chocolate? We all have our favorites. I am a milk chocolate person myself. Some people are more partial to white chocolate or even dark chocolate – which is said to have health benefits. More on that later. Here is a list of the types of chocolates we know and love.
- Unsweetened chocolate - also known as “bitter”, “baking chocolate” or “cooking chocolate” is pure chocolate liquor mixed with some form of fat to produce a solid substance.
- Dark Chocolate - also called “plain chocolate” or “black chocolate”, is produced by adding fat and sugar to cocoa. It is chocolate with zero or much less milk than milk chocolate.
- Semisweet - frequently used for cooking purposes. It is a dark chocolate with half as much sugar as cocoa.
- Bittersweet - chocolate liquor (or unsweetened chocolate) to which some sugar (less than a third), more cocoa butter, vanilla and sometimes lecithin has been added. It has less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate, but the two are interchangeable when baking.
- Milk Chocolate - solid chocolate made with milk in the form of milk powder, liquid milk, or condensed milk added. The U.S. Government requires a 10% concentration of chocolate liquor.
- Hershey Process - milk chocolate that is popular in North America. It was invented by Milton S. Hershey, founder of The Hershey Company, and can be produced more cheaply than other processes since it is less sensitive to the freshness of the milk.
- White Chocolate - a confection based on sugar, milk, and cocoa butter without the cocoa solids.
- Cocoa Powder - used for baking, and for drinking with added milk and sugar. There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: natural cocoa, and Dutch-process cocoa.
- Compound Chocolate - the technical term for a confection combining cocoa with vegetable fat, usually tropical fats and/or hydrogenated fats, as a replacement for cocoa butter. It is often used for candy bar coatings.
- Raw Chocolate - chocolate that has not been processed, heated, or mixed with other ingredients. It is sold in chocolate-growing countries, and to a much lesser extent in other countries, often promoted as healthy.
Where does it Come From?
A product of the cacao bean, chocolate grows in pod-like fruits on tropical cacao trees. Can you guess where most of our chocolate hails from? 70% of it comes from Africa. We also get some from the Caribbean and Latin America, but that chocolate is made in smaller quantities and have more distinctive flavor notes.
Here’s what we really want to know! You mean if I eat chocolate I will be healthier? Hold on there, everything in moderation. But, you can indulge and then take some comfort in these facts:
Since chocolate is made from plants, an easy way to remember the health benefits is to associate them with dark vegetables. Things like flavonoids and antioxidants are found in chocolate. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants – nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries. Did you know a small bar of dark chocolate DAILY is good for heart health? It’s true! Helps lower your blood pressure and your bad cholesterol (LDL).
More good news:
- it stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure
- it contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant
- it contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are stimulants
- It may decrease your risk of stroke
But, remember the facts. This is about dark chocolate – not milk chocolate. And if you wash your chocolate down with a glass of milk, that also reduces any health benefits because the absorption is dramatically lowered. Not to mention, chocolate is caloric, so please…everything in moderation.
Deciding on a wine for dinner but want to make sure it compliments your chocolate selection? Hmmm, but do chocolate and wine really go well – can you pair them? Yes, you can pair wine and chocolate – how’s that for a fantastic Valentine’s Day? As a general guide, pair full-bodied red wines with dark chocolates.
Dark, bittersweet and semisweet pair well with Syrah, Zinfandel and Tawney Ports.
Milk chocolates pair well with dessert wines, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
Eat it Straight Up or Cook With It?
Both! I’m not just talking baking either. You will find chocolate in savory dishes like Mole Sauce (Mexican) or even with a rub on a pork belly or pot roast. The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating dishes with this versatile ingredient.
Need to Satisfy A Chocolate Craving?
Here is a great article from Sparkpeople - 27 Sensible Ways to Satisfy Your Chocolate Cravings. These treats are only 60 – 160 calories per serving, including Silk Light Chocolate Soy Milk (90 calories), Skinny Cow Fudge Bar (100 calories), and Chocolate Cheerios & skim milk (140 calories).
Try This Recipe on for Size:
Not only will you get a good kick out of my husband making his first dessert, these will satisfy your chocolate cravings and your Valentine’s dessert. If this has peaked your chocolate curiosity, visit allchocolate.com for more things chocolate.