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Food for Thought - Rapids' Blog
National Chocolate Candy Day
December 28th is National Chocolate Candy Day. Few people would dispute that chocolate is worth celebrating, and even fewer would argue that chocolate candy is one of the best ways to eat it! Chocolate addiction is a real thing, and December 28th is a day that chocoholics can freely feed their addiction without guilt.
A Quick History of Chocolate
If you worship chocolate, you are not alone. In fact, the worship of chocolate dates back to 1900 BC with the Aztecs. They believed the Cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoati, their god of wisdom. So revered were the seeds that the Aztecs even used them as a form of currency. The Aztecs also used them to prepare a fermented alcohol drink, bitter and frothy, that was believed to have aphrodisiac powers. Today in Southern Mexico you can purchase a similar (though non-alcoholic) drink from locals called "Chilate."
This worship eventually spread to Europe through the travels of Christopher Columbus. He introduced the Cacao seeds to Spain on his return from the Americas in 1502. Eventually, after finding that sugar or honey would counteract the bitterness of the seeds, drinks made of chocolate become a favorite of the Spanish Court. From Spain, the chocolate craze moved throughout Europe, reaching many different countries and all economic classes. This craze unfortunately added to the growth of an already thriving slave market. As Cacao plantations spread, so did the use of slave labor.
Although chocolate remained popular, it would take centuries before it would move to the form that is so loved today. In 1828, Dutch chemist and inventor Coenraad Van Hoten introduced his Dutch Press that removed half the natural fat from chocolate liquor. This invention was instrumental in the transformation of chocolate to its solid form. Many of the chocolate companies that we know today got their start in the mid- and late 1800's. That includes Nestle, Hershey, Cadbury and Lindt!
Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate
If milk chocolate is your favorite, I am sorry to tell you that dark chocolate is much more healthy for you. If you are like me, you already knew that and you don't care. If, however, you like both and will eat eat either happily, here are the many reasons to choose dark chocolate:
Dark chocolate is heavy with monosaturated fatty acids (MUFAS) which are good for you.
Dark chocolate has fewer carbs.
Dark chocolate has half the sugar.
Dark chocolate has four times the fiber.
Dark chocolate has four times the iron levels.
Dark chocolate has three times the level of magnesium.
Dark chocolate has twice the potassium and phosphorus.
If it is quick energy you seek, dark chocolate has four times the amount of caffeine compared to milk chocolate.
If you prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate despite the overwhelming evidence that dark chocolate is better for your health, you are in good company! Most surveys show over 50% of the population prefers milk chocolate. 33% state they prefer dark chocolate, and 8% prefer white chocolate. Despite these results, though, the sale of dark chocolate and artisanal-quality chocolates is still growing at a rate of about 15% a year.
Tips for Melting Chocolate for Homemade Confections
Melt chocolate low and slow - always! You can use a microwave or a double boiler, but either way, it must be low and slow.
Make certain the chocolate pieces you are melting are uniform in size!
Make certain the bowl or saucepan you use is completely dry, as well as your spoons and scrapers. One drop of water will clump or streak your chocolate!
Constantly stir and use a bowl scraper to effectively scrape the sides and bottom of bowl while you are stirring.
If you use a microwave, melt your chocolate at 50% power for no longer than 1 minute. Take out, stir, and return to microwave to continue melting at 1 minute intervals at 50% power.
You can make a homemade double boiler by placing a sauce pan of water on the burner and placing a glass or copper bowl on top of the sauce pan. The bowl should be a tight fit, You don't want the water in the saucepan to get into the bowl, melting the chocolate.
Use your melted chocolate to dip strawberries, biscotti, or nougat candies in, whatever your heart desires. For some easy chocolate truffle recipes that are as pretty as they are delicious, check out our link to Mr. Food's website and his chocolate truffles.