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Chocolate comes from the fruit of the Theobroma cacao tree (colloquially known as the cocoa tree). The cocoa tree belongs to the mallow family and is sensitive to the cold. It originally only grew in the Amazon. It was brought over to Central America by animals. Here, the Olmecs were the first people to use it, in 1000 BC. Their descendants, the Maya and the Aztecs, began to blend the cocoa with water. The drinking chocolate that this produced was, however, very different from what we drink today. Both peoples spiced the drink with chilli or pepper. The sweetened version of hot chocolate was first invented in Europe, probably after the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez brought the cocoa back from Central America in 1529. For a long time, chocolate remained a luxury item of the European aristocracy. In the 19th Century, however, it became possible to manufacture chocolate on an industrial scale, making it available to the wider population in the form of chocolate bars.
The ovoid-shaped fruits of the cocoa tree are around 15 to 25 centimetres long. To make chocolate, both the pulp and seeds (also known as cocoa beans) are removed from the fruit, laid out on large plant leaves and covered with other leaves. The fermentation process begins within five to six days, whereby the pulp falls apart and the beans start sprouting briefly. Sprouting lets the cocoa beans develop their typical, slightly bitter taste. After this has developed, the bean is dried, roasted and ground up until it turns into a viscous brown cocoa paste. To turn this into chocolate, cocoa butter and sugar are added to the paste, along with, possibly, powdered milk and other ingredients. Finally it is rolled, heated, poured into a mould and cooled. The paste hardens during the cooling process and results in chocolate.
Different proportions of cocoa solids can be used when manufacturing chocolate, which will produce various sorts of chocolate. Milk chocolate, for example, contains at least 25% cocoa solids, while whole milk chocolate must contain at least 30%. The more bitter-tasting dark chocolate, which is also known as black chocolate or plain chocolate, contains a minimum of 50% cocoa; extra-dark chocolate has at least 60%. White chocolate contains no cocoa, only cocoa butter, milk and sugar. In diabetic chocolate the sugar is replaced with fruit sugar or sorbitol. Chocolate is not only available as pure chocolate however. There are many different flavours and fillings available, such as strawberry or nougat.
Ingredients and nutritional values
Chocolate is a real heavyweight when it comes to being a source of energy. A 100 gram bar of milk chocolate provides 531 kcal. Diabetic chocolate also contains a similar amount of calories. The sugar substitutes it contains do not allow the blood sugar level to rise as much as glucose does however, which is what is used in other sorts of chocolate. Chocolate doesn’t contain significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. It is more of a treat than a foodstuff. Many chocolate fans even claim that it makes them feel happy. Phenethylamine and anandamide could be the substances responsible for this. They act on those parts of the brain that influence how happy we feel. Phenethylamine is an alkaloid that causes dopamine (which eventually converts to adrenaline) to be released in the brain. However, these two substances occur in such tiny concentrations that it cannot be proven scientifically that chocolate has the power to make us feel happy.
based on 100g whole milk chocolate, this corresponds to approximately one bar
|Energy:||531 kcal/2221 kJ|
|Vitamin B2:||0.35mg (27%)*|
|Vitamin E:||1.9mg (15%)*|
|Vitamin B1:||0.1mg (9%)*|
Source: The large GU Nutritional Information table, 2006/07. The recommended daily intake amounts correspond to the reference values for nutrient intake (2000) for an adult. * of the daily recommended intake.
In Germany, there is a chocolate and cocoa products regulation governing which ingredients chocolate may contain. The consumer can trust in this law. In some circumstances there may be differences in quality, since up to 5% of the cocoa butter may be substituted with other vegetable fats. In this case, cheap fats such as mango seed are usually used. Whether this actually leads to a loss in quality is ultimately a matter of taste.
Chocolate retains its flavour best when kept at temperatures between 13°C and 18°C. It does not last well where temperatures fluctuate significantly. If this happens, a white coating called a fat bloom will form on the chocolate. The chocolate can still be eaten, although it is less attractive to both the eye and the palate. Chocolate should also be kept dry and, where possible, stored wrapped in airtight packaging. Because it will easily absorb other flavours, it should not be stored together with strong-smelling foods such as fish or cheese. Stored according to these conditions, chocolate will keep fresh for about six months.
Cooking with chocolate
Many chocolate recipes require the chocolate either to be broken up or melted. Breaking chocolate is straightforward and it can be either grated or chopped up into pieces. When melting it, the chocolate is broken into small pieces and warmed in a pan at a temperature of between 45°C to 50°C. A bain marie is the best method of doing this. It is important to avoid direct contact with the hot pan. If the molten chocolate is then to be used as a glaze it should first be left to cool slowly. This process is known as tempering. This involves spreading around two thirds of the molten chocolate onto a cool work surface for as long as it takes for it to become viscous. This paste is then mixed with the remaining chocolate in a pan and heated again to approx. 30°C to 32°C, before being ready for further use. The tempering means that the chocolate retains its colour, shine and hardness.
Since chocolate contains a comparatively large amount of fat and sugar, it should not be eaten too often, but enjoyed as a special treat. When eaten in large quantities it can lead to excess weight gain. Dark chocolate has a small health advantage over milk chocolate. It contains antioxidants, which are phytonutrients and are said to have various beneficial effects on health. These effects are removed by milk, however, so they only come into play with milk-free plain chocolate. Drinking a glass of milk while eating plain chocolate also prevents the antioxidants from being effective. Nowadays, diabetics are no longer specifically advised only to eat diabetic chocolate.