Everything Chocolate: Love at First Bite
The love of chocolate is universal, and it spans time. Long before it was the go-to gift between sweethearts at Valentine’s Day, it was so loved among Aztecs. And, it had such high value in their society, they used it as currency.
Today, the love of chocolate spans across people of all ages, gender and nationality. Whether milky, dark or white, in a bar, liquid or cream form, chocolate’s nickname, “the fruit of the gods,” is just as relevant today as ever.
The chocolate we know and love is a processed, sweetened food that comes from the seed of the Theobroma cacao tree. A tropical tree originally from Central and South America, it’s now grown around the world—the majority cultivated by Ivory Coast farmers.
TREE TO TREAT
From tree to candy bar, making chocolate is a complex process that begins with picking, roasting and then removing the bean’s outer shell. After the edible part, called a “nib” is removed, it’s ground into a paste. From there, the preparation varies depending on the type of chocolate being made. Naturally bitter in taste, sugar, fat and other ingredients like milk are mixed with the paste to create candies, beverages and baked goods.
CHOCOLATE BY THE NUMBERS
Chocolate is big business around the world. Munch on these impressive figures:
•100 Cocoa Beans. That’s what one turkey among Aztec people cost during the 15th century. Similarly, you could buy one fresh avocado for three beans.
•5,000 Pounds. The weight of the largest bar of chocolate ever made. The super-sized snack was made in Turin, Italy in the year 2000.
•$83 billion. The total sales of chocolate in one year.
•$345 million. The amount in sales in the days surrounding Valentine’s Day. That’s more than 5 percent of chocolate sales for the year!
•20. The number of countries that grow the cacao tree. And no, the United States isn’t one of them as most cacao trees thrive in growing zones within 10 degrees either side of the equator.
WEIGHTS & MEASURES
Think you eat a lot of chocolate? Take a bite out of these impressive consumption figures:
-Each year, Americans eat an average of 12 pounds of chocolate. Meanwhile, our friends in Switzerland eat the most chocolate every year, roughly 22 pounds per person. Austria and Ireland follow, at nearly 20 pounds per person.
-In the U.S., more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy are sold during the week of Valentine’s Day. That’s a major business!
-It takes 17,000,000 acres worldwide to cultivate enough cacao to keep up with the current demand for chocolate.
DEATH BY CHOCOLATE
Today it’s talked about as a playful joke—dying from the chocolate we so love—but in the 1600s, a Spanish bishop in Mexico actually died after consuming chocolate. It’s believed his daily cup of chocolate was laced with poison after he forbade people from eating or drinking chocolate during his church services.
Rotten teeth, acne and a caffeine buzz are just a few of the believed side effects of chocolate. But, chocolate has been equally touted for its health benefits, too. Did you know…
•Pure cocoa has been proven to prevent tooth decay. There are naturally occurring chemicals in cocoa beans that can effectively fight the bad bacteria in your mouth. A dark bar, with its high cocoa-to-sugar ratio, may actually discourage tooth decay and lead to fewer cavities and whiter teeth.
•Chocolate is high in antioxidants, the same kind found in tea. Research has even found that it has four times the antioxidant content of tea.
•Eating chocolate can make you happy. No joke! You know that good feeling you get when you eat chocolate? It’s not just the satisfaction of a rich piece of chocolate; it’s phenylethylamine at work. The natural chemical releases the “pleasure” endorphins in your brain, which make you feel good all over.
•Chocolate can fight off a cold. Familiar with the phrase “feed a cold, starve the flu?” Well next time you’re coming down with a cold, you might want to consider eating a “medicinal” piece of chocolate. Research suggests chocolate can boost your immunity, while reducing the chances of infection and inflammation.
•Got a nasty cough? Drink some chocolate. A study in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal says that one of the active ingredients in chocolate can ease a cough. So try hot cocoa instead of cough syrup. Let us know if it works!
Chocolate is so much more than a sweet treat. It works deliciously well in a number of different savory dishes, too. An important ingredient in traditional Mexican mole sauce, chocolate is mixed with 20 to 30 other ingredients depending on the recipe. It’s also makes a flavorful ingredient in barbecue sauce, chili and even steak sauce. The flavor and texture brings a richness and depth to the dish beyond compare.
Thanks to chocolate, we can enjoy microwave-popped popcorn. The microwave was invented during the 1940s after a scientist discovered the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted following a long day of working with a magnetron in his lab. After researching with other foods, he found the giant magnetic device could heat food at super-fast rates.
If all this talk of chocolate has you craving a bit of the goodness, here is a new recipe from Baker’s Secret you’ll want to try.
Raspberry Fudge Cheesecake Bars
YIELD: 15 servings
PREP TIME: 30 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 3 hours 20 minutes
2 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
2 oz white baking chocolate, melted, slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pint raspberries
1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon water
2/3 cup powdered sugar
Heat oven to 300°F. In ungreased BAKER’S SECRET® 9″ X 13″ CAKE PAN, combine all crust ingredients; mix well. Press firmly in bottom of pan.
In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer until fluffy. Add condensed milk, melted chocolate, vanilla and eggs; beat until smooth, scraping side of bowl frequently. Pour filling over crust.
Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until set. Cool 30 minutes.
Arrange raspberries on top of filling. In 1-quart saucepan, heat unsweetened chocolate and 1 tablespoon butter over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Add water and powdered sugar; beat until smooth and drizzling consistency. (If glaze is too thick, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time. If glaze is too thin, add more powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time.)
Drizzle glaze over raspberries. Refrigerate 1-1/2 hours or until cold. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Cut into 5 rows by 3 rows.