Food Topic: Chocolate I
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Chocolate is a very popular Valentines gift.

 Cocoa beans were first discovered in southern Mexico and are actually the beans of a bright orange to brown colored pod.  The pods are harvested; split open and the beans are removed and left to ferment, to help develop the chocolate flavor.  They are then roasted, crushed and have their husks removed.  At this point, the nibs, as the crushed cocoa beans are called, are then processed by chocolate companies around the world into the different chocolates we know today.

 There are many forms of chocolate on the market today:

 

  • Cocoa powder- Alkalized cocoa (or dutch process) has a stronger chocolate flavor. used in baking, making candies, beverages.
     
  • Powdered or ground chocolate- this chocolate is ground from semi-sweet chocolate w/low cocoa butter content.  Cocoa butter is the fat in cocoa beans. It is best used for flavoring whipped cream or as a beverage mix.
     
  • Baking chocolate- comes in 1 oz squares in semisweet and unsweetened varieties.
     
  • Couverture chocolate- the name means covering.  This type of chocolate can be used for candy making and baking but because of its high cocoa butter content, it is used mostly for molding and dipping.
     
  • Eating chocolate- the most commonly found chocolate, though may contain vanillin- an artificial vanilla flavor and lecithin which is a soy-based emulsifying agent that helps the keep the chocolate mixture from separating in the manufacturing process.  A good imported chocolate bar will not have these additives
     
  • Compound coatings- these are not really chocolate, but chocolate flavored products is which the cocoa butter is replaced with hard vegetable fats.  Some mistake compound coatings for white chocolate because of the package labeling, but it isnít. We know them as candy melts.  Because the little disks come is assorted colors, they are popular for candy mold making.  They are an inferior substitute for chocolate.
     
  • White chocolate- quality white chocolate isnít really chocolate, according to the FDA, because it doesnít contain chocolate liquor, which is what gives it the biter intense chocolate flavor (and color) to dark and milk chocolates.  White chocolate contains cocoa butter, milk solids, sugar, lecithin and vanilla. Cocoa butter is the fat from cocoa beans, extracted from the cocoa beans during the process of making chocolate and cocoa powder. Cocoa butter has very little 'chocolate' flavor.   The cocoa butter gives chocolate the ability to remain solid at room temperature, yet melt easily in the mouth.
    Cocoa butter is one of the most stable fats known, containing natural antioxidants that prevent rancidity and give it a storage life of 2 to 5 years. It is used for its smooth texture in foods (including chocolate) and in cosmetics and soaps.

For those who love chocolate and nuts together try this yummy recipe: 

Chunky Nut Chocolates

1 Ĺ # chocolate
2 ĺ c nuts of choice, preferably unsalted
1 ĺ c rice crispy cereal

optional ingredients: Ĺ # raisings, 1 c mini marshmallows

 Melt chocolate in the microwave on the defrost setting, stirring every 2 minutes until just melted.  Stir in rest of ingredients.  Evenly spread in a 13x9 inch pan and chill for 30 minutes before cutting into squares or drop by tablespoons onto a parchment covered sheet pan and chill for 15 minutes before serving. Yields 30 pieces.

 

For those who love sweets, but need to watch what they eat try this light, crisp treat:

Meringue Kisses

3 egg whites at room temperature
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
ĺ c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 c mini chocolate chips (opt)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line 2 cookie sheet pans with parchment paper

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks begin to form.  Slowly pour the sugar in and continue whipping until the mixture forms stiff, shiny peaks.

Gently fold the vanilla and chocolate chips (is using) into the egg whites.

Use a pastry bag with a 1-inch opening and pipe 1-inch round kisses of meringue onto the parchment lined cookie sheet pans.  A kiss is a swirl of meringue with a peaked tip.  If you donít have a pastry bag, dollop tablespoons of meringue onto the parchment and call them meringue rocks or hugs.

Bake the meringues for 25 minutes, rotate the sheet pan 180 degrees and bake up to 25 more minutes until the meringues are light tan and firm to the touch.  Cool completely.  They will become crisp as they cool.  Can store for more than a month in an air tight container.

 

 

 

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