Anél du Preez
“The Chocoholic 12-step program: Never be 12 steps away from chocolate.”
– Terry Moore
After a long day there is little that makes it better than a proper glass of wine with a delicious piece of dark chocolate. When you keep the block on your tongue and it melts, coating your tongue with a thick richness and sliding down your throat to warm up your soul and make you realize that your hard day is over and you can relax. There are of course plenty of other scenarios where chocolate saves the day and if you have been looking for an excuse to eat chocolate then I have good news for you, there are plenty enough reasons!
Am I a chocolate addict? I would consider myself to be one lately. When I was younger I always loved chocolate flavored things and hot chocolate drinks but rarely ate chocolate bars. Then I went to the US and discovered that chocolate bars are divine… only to find out that the only thing that was divine was all the other nonsense they put into chocolates to make them taste like that. Still, you will often see me chomping away on chocolate. What is it about this royal bean that makes it so addictive? Even though studies say that scientifically chocolate can’t be addictive, I feel that the thought of it is. The craving may be a multiple of different reasons but the thought of what you can do with chocolate, the millions of ways you can enjoy it, the smile on someone’s face when you hand them a bar or the feeling of receiving one. Another reason why chocolate is so amazing is that it pairs so well with almost anything. Chocolate goes well with spices (chili, cinnamon, pepper, salt etc), it’s delicious hot or cold, it can cover savory and sweet foods (chocolate sauce over fillet, fruit covered chocolate), and just like coffee, it goes well with nuts and creamy substances. There are very little things you can not enjoy with chocolate and luckily chocolate on its own is still good enough!
With all things that are delicious, valuable, and attractive, there are rules that apply. Do not think that any easy-to-grab chocolate bars are the ones that you can eat daily and will benefit you. Unfortunately, the easy reaching chocolates are the ones filled with other ingredients that render it barely chocolate.
Types of chocolate
∙ Milk Chocolate: Depending on which brand you buy and where you are in the world, Milk Chocolate does not have to contain more than 25% of actual cocoa in it to be called chocolate. Milk chocolate has some form of milk added to it (milk, condensed milk, or powdered milk) for fat content and flavor.
∙ Dark Chocolate: Dark Chocolate contains a lot more cocoa in it and uses cocoa butter as its fat content, for flavor and texture, and not using any milk. You also get Dark Milk Chocolate.
∙ Couverture Chocolate: The professionals use this chocolate. Very expensive, tempered to precision, and used mainly in high-class baking or in dipping, molding, shaping, and chocolate art.
∙ White Chocolate: I am sorry to tell you but this does not actually contain any cocoa, only cocoa butter, milk, and sugar.
∙ Cocoa Butter: This is a vegetable fat that comes from the cacao bean itself and contains no dairy in it. Cocoa butter helps with flavor, texture, sheen, and sna in a chocolate bar.
∙ Raw Chocolate: Not mixed with anything, not processed, and has not been heated.
∙ Cacao or Cocoa? Cacao is the term used for cacao beans that have not been roasted. Cocoa refers to beans that have been roasted.
Where does Chocolate come from?
∙ Chocolate is believed to have been found in modern-day Mexico about 4000 years ago
∙ Cacao beans are big pods that grow on trees (The Theobroma tree) and only grow around 20° from the equator. Popular countries that produce cacao beans are Brazil, Central America, Ecuador, and West Africa (Ghana, Côte D’Ivoire, Madagascar).
∙ The Mayans created the first chocolate drink with a mixture of roasted cocoa and cocoa seeds and was referred to as the ‘drink of the gods’
∙ Later the Aztecs used cocoa as a currency
∙ It is believed that the Spanish were the first to mix honey with the cocoa drink to sweeten it
∙ When chocolate eventually reached the rest of Europe it was mainly consumed by the rich and was consumed regularly for its health benefits
∙ In 1828 a chocolate press was made and there the first form of modern era chocolate was made. The press could extract the cocoa butter and left a cocoa powder behind which we use on a daily basis for anything chocolate.
Whilst doing research for this blog I realized that the most searched questions are whether chocolate is good or bad for you. The answer isn’t that simple, or maybe it is. It all depends on the ingredients in the chocolate. If your main ingredient is cacao and has a large % in the whole product then you are good to go! So what do we need to look for in our bars? This counts for anything you buy from now on, CHECK THE INGREDIENTS. South African food laws are quite strict and companies have to list what ingredients they use so that is the best way to monitor what is in your food.
∙ Sugar! If the first ingredient on the list is sugar then that is what you are eating… sugar. It would probably be better to rather just eat an actual spoon full of sugar than the chocolate bar. There are about 50 different names for sugar in your food products, so be careful.
∙ Soy Lecithin. There are mixed feelings about this and it is used to keep the chocolate from separating. Personally, if it isn’t necessary then it shouldn’t be in there.
∙ Trans fat: Trans fat gives a high risk of heart disease. It shouldn’t be too common in products but if you see it, avoid it!
∙ Cocoa pressed with Alkali: This is called the Dutched method and in this process, it reduces the amount of antioxidants in the chocolate. This method is used to change the color of the chocolate for a more pleasing color.
∙ Artificial flavorings: Though you probably wouldn’t know whether the flavorings are artificial or organic but usually there would be numbers after flavorings.
So the main factor is that you check your ingredients, Google them if you don’t know what they are. It is also better to buy Fair Trade products to ensure that you support fair farming and farmers that are trusted with good products.
Before you run to the store and stock up on chocolates for the house, there are things that you need to consider in order for your chocolate fix to be a good fix.
∙ Raw or Dark Chocolate: For chocolate to be considered good for you it should at least be 75% or more cacao in it. You do get some dark chocolates that have milk in them but the ones without milk are the preferred ones.
∙ In moderation! Just because chocolate is good for you doesn’t mean that you should eat a slab a day. There are still quite a bit of calories in chocolate and some traces of caffeine which is not good for you when consumed in excess.
∙ High in antioxidants: Yes, there are studies that suggest that cacao beans might have more antioxidants than blueberries. Now isn’t this great news!
∙ Improves blood flow: This has a few positives in the body. Increased blood flow contributes to better brain function and can even play a role in protecting your skin from the sun.
∙ Nutrition: Other than antioxidants, chocolate also contains fiber, magnesium, potassium, and copper.
∙ Weight loss: In moderation, chocolate could help with weight loss. Chocolate releases hormones that tell your brain that you are full. Apparently eating chocolate before or after meals can help to curb your appetite.
∙ Reduces heart disease: Eating chocolate can lower your blood pressure and reduces stress, probably because you are treating your soul when you eat the ‘fruits of the gods’. And aren’t we just blessed that the gods sent us this fruit.
Dear readers, I order you to go look for some good dark chocolate and to indulge in some regularly, but in moderation. If you were looking for something to make for yourself, or a loved one, here is one of my favorite chocolate recipes. It’s easy to make and it can get messy so I would suggest you use some gloves and try to make these when it’s cooler and keeping your hands as cold as possible.
Vegan Chocolate Truffles:
125g Dark Chocolate
95g Coconut Cream
1t Vanilla Essence
Pinch of Salt
Brandy/Whiskey (your preference)
Warm the Coconut Cream, not more than 85°C, and pour it over the Dark Chocolate. Leave for a little while so that the Coconut Cream can melt the chocolate and then stir while adding the rest of the ingredients. Let the mixture cool, at room temperature, enough so that you can start rolling little balls. Once the balls are rolled you can roll them in cacao powder, or finely chopped hazelnut pieces, whatever will stick and you prefer.
Until you read again, enjoy your chocolate!
Blogpost by Farci du Preez