Chocolate is so popular as a snack and a dessert that you might think it is as unhealthy as any other popular snack that actually tastes good. However, if you indulge in moderation, are choosy about your chocolate, and eat it as part of a healthy diet, it can actually be as beneficial as any healthy snack option. In fact, chocolate is technically a kind of fruit although most people just think of it as a tasty treat. Researchers have recently concluded that cocoa powder is an antioxidant-rich superfood. So any time you get a craving for chocolate, go right ahead and indulge yourself.
Choosing Your Chocolate
If you are a complete chocolate lover, you probably already know that not all chocolate treats are created equal. Which one is the best? Well, here’s a few general guidelines:
- Go for dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has a high percentage of cocoa powder. Studies show that choosing dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate can reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. The high cocoa powder content also means it is packed with antioxidants.
- Unadulterated dark chocolate is best. “Dark” chocolate drink mixes are diluted when you mix them with water or milk, which reduces their benefits. Ditto for mixing dark chocolate with peanut butter or baking it in cookies. Your best bet is to go for the dark chocolate bar.
- Avoid White Chocolate. White chocolate is essentially a fraud masquerading as your favorite snack. It might contain a token amount of cocoa butter but mostly consists of milk solids and sugar. That pretty much negates any beneficial results of the cocoa, so you might as well opt for the dark chocolate bar.
- Read the labeling. Don’t be fooled by the color of the “dark” chocolate bar. Be sure to read the labeling to make sure it’s really dark chocolate.
- Look for “Fair Trade” labeling. The chocolate industry is the main source of income for fifty million people around the world. “Fair Trade” basically means that the cocoa farmers are being paid a fair price for their cocoa so they can pay their bills and also pay their workers a fair wage. This helps improve living conditions around the world so you can feel good about indulging in chocolate.
Where Does Chocolate Come From?
The cocoa bean is native to Central and South America, where it was cultivated for at least three millenia. The word “chocolate” may come from the Aztec word for a drink made with cocoa, xocolatl, which translates as “bitter water.” Pure cocoa is very bitter and, when Europeans discovered it, they sweetened it with sugar and milk to give it the flavor most people are familiar with today. Most modern cocoa is grown in Africa, some using child labor. It is harvested by using a machete to cut the pods from the tree or striking the tree with a stick to knock them off. The pods are then allowed to ferment, roasted, graded and ground up and liquefied to form chocolate liqueur. The liqueur can be processed to form cocoa butter and cocoa solids, and then sent to candy companies to make the candy.
Elizabeth’s Extreme Chocolate Lover’s Cake
Ingredients for Cake
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup water
- 6 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 2 (9 inch) pans. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In the top of a double boiler, heat 6 ounces chocolate, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in the melted chocolate. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
- Make the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: In the top of a double boiler, heat 6 ounces chocolate, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl, whip the butter for about 10 minutes until it is super fluffy, beat in egg yolk. Gradually blend in the confectioners’ sugar, alternating with 2 tablespoons vanilla and 2 tablespoons cream, then blend in the melted chocolate. Beat in the softened cream cheese.
- Make the Ganache: In a large saucepan, combine chocolate chips and 1 cup heavy cream. Heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Assemble the cake: When cake is completely cooled, cover the bottom cake layer with as much ganache as desired. Refrigerate for 5 minutes, or until ganache has set. Spread frosting over the ganache. Cover with top layer of cake. Frost top and sides with buttercream, and garnish with more ganache.
Chocolate Ice Cream
Coconut Macaroon Brownies
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 4 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
- 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Combine the flour, cream of tartar and cocoa; stir into the egg mixture until well blended. Fold in walnuts. Spread half of this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Make the middle layer. In a medium bowl, stir together the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Carefully layer this over the chocolate layer in the pan. Top with the remaining chocolate batter. Spread to cover evenly.
- Bake for 45 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until top is no longer shiny. Cool in the pan before cutting into bars.