Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chocolate ... mmmmmm

Chocolate is a product made from cacao solid and/or cacao fat and is one of the world’s favourite foods. It is also the favourite among our readers.

Chocolate is an amazing ingredient that can be prepared in many ways but it must be treated carefully. It is very sensitive to temperature changes and care must be taken when melting them. A few generally rules to remember:
1. do not let it come into contact with water while melting
2. never melt chocolate over direct heat
3. be careful to never over heat chocolate. Do not heat it over long duration in the microwave

Dark chocolate health benefits
Chocolate (I mean unsweetened and without milk) is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables, including flavonoids, which act as antioxidants that protect our bodies from aging caused by free radicals. Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide and balance certain hormones in the body.

Other health benefits of dark chocolate include:
1. Lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) by up to 10%
2. Stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure
3. Contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant

The fats in chocolate 1/3 oleic acid, 1/3 stearic acid and 1/3 palmitic acid. Oleic acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil. Stearic acid is a saturated fat but one research has shown a neutral effect on cholesterol. Palmitic acid is also a saturated fat, one which raises cholesterol and heart disease risk. So as usual, eat everything in moderation.

And as much as possible, go for dark chocolate. If dark chocolate is too bitter for you, make your own milk chocolate with rice, soy, almond or hazelnut milk instead of animal milk to greatly reduce the fat content. Also use your own natural sweeteners to reduce the amount of empty calories your body takes.

Selecting chocolate
Good chocolate should have a glossy surface and is free from blemishes. If the surface is scarred, cloudy, or gray, this may be a sign that the chocolate is old or has been subjected to extremes in temperature or handling. Good chocolate also has a clean, hard snap. If it bends or crumbles, either the quality is low or the chocolate is old. Good chocolate will also smell strongly of chocolate and taste velvety and smooth.

Storing chocolate
Chocolate should be stored in a slightly cool, dry, dark place with low humidity and preferably away from food with strong odors that could be absorbed by the chocolate.

For my readers living in warmer climates in Asia, you will need to keep your chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent it form melting. To freeze the chocolate, place it in an airtight container until it has been brought up to room temperature, to prevent condensation from forming on the chocolate. The water droplets will prevent the chocolate from melting smoothly and might affect the texture of the melted chocolate.

1 comment:

Mitch said...

Wow, they're marvelous! I love chocolates! They just give me a feeling of delightfulness. More exciting food!