below are meant for those who dare to try something a little different
with a very high standard of excellence. Yet, they are not difficult to
Mysterious forces drive real-world chocolate buying decisions: in Europe it's usually "quality of product" and a consumer acceptance of "fresh cream truffles" as one of the finer things in life … in America, the things that really matter can be wildly unpredictable, but all too often it’s a "glitz" and "quantity of chocolate" mentality ...
"If you go to Europe, quality and flavor is everything.
They don't care so much about looks and they don't care about size or
a little bruising," says Ed Laivo. . .who holds tastings near Modesto,
California. "In America, we go for eye appeal. We go for size. It's
a reflection of our culture."
How long can I keep chocolate? The answer to that question depends very much on the type of chocolate and the conditions of storage. Milk chocolate, properly stored, will keep for several months (ten months is the maximum I've heard suggested. Dark chocolate, on the other hand, will keep for several years.
Quite some years ago, we were given a tour of a particularly high quality chocolate manufacturing plant. After a fascinating tour and an opportunity to indulge in some awesome chocolate tasting, we sat for a while with the president of the company and chatted about our experience. As we were about to leave, our host handed us a box containing a ten pound block of their finest dark chocolate. He told us that, somewhat like wine, fine chocolate improves with age. He indicated that the chocolate he had given us would reach its peak of quality after about seven years. On one hand I was delighted to learn such an interesting bit of information. On the other hand, I didn't know how I could manage to resist tearing open the box for such a long period of time. As it turned out, we stored the box at the bottom of the linen closet where it stayed as close to constant temperature as we could arrange. The linen closet was an especially fortunate choice because, eventually, all of our linens took on the aroma of chocolate.
So, what is proper storage? To the extent possible, store the chocolate in a cool, dry place. It is best stored at temperatures between 60 and 75F. Humidity levels below 50% are preferred.
If you store the chocolate at higher temperatures you will eventually notice a "bloom" that appears on the surface. This discoloration is just some of the cocoa butter that has softened and diffused to the surface. The taste is barely affected but the interior of the chocolate will feel slightly more dense. If you use this chocolate for baking or cooking, the cocoa butter will blend with the rest of the chocolate and you won’t notice any untoward effect.
If you pick up some chocolate at the market, and it is hot outside (and especially hot in your car), you may find yourself between a rock and a hard place. Unless your trip home is very short, ask the check-out person for a double bag for the chocolate or, even better, an ice cream bag which is usually insulated. We know some aficionados who keep a small styrofoam box on the floor of their cars just for such situations. Put the chocolate in the box and cover it with paper bags or newspapers for insulation and your chocolate will usually survive unscathed.
Chocolate can be refrigerated without deterioration. However, unless it is carefully wrapped, if it is kept in the refrigerator for a long time, it will pick up other food odors. When you remove it from the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature before unwrapping it. This will prevent moisture from condensing on the chocolate and creating "sugar bloom" ( a discoloration of the surface produced by the sugar rising to the surface and crystallizing out in greyish white streaks). Also, the chocolate will be harder and more brittle until it warms up to room temperatures.
PHYSICAL HEALTH AND "REAL" CHOCOLATE:
Dental caries: A study of 3000 thirteen year old Scottish children, classified on the basis of quantities of "real" chocolate consumed, found no correlation between chocolate consumption and dental caries. This study was further supported by research at the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester, New York, in which milk chocolate and chocolate chip cookies were found to be among the snack foods contributing least to dental decay.
Acne: Extensive dermatological studies have discovered no relationship between chocolate and acne.
DOCTORS SAY CHOCOLATE A DAY KEEPS THEM AWAY: September 05, 2001 GLASGOW, 04 (Reuters) ... Flavonoids in chocolate are derived from cocoa, which is rich in the compounds. Some research has shown that a small bar of dark chocolate contains as many flavonoids as six apples, 4.5 cups of tea, 28 glasses of white wine and two glasses of red wine. . .
EMOTIONAL HEALTH AND "REAL" CHOCOLATE:
This is a somewhat more speculative area, but still worthy of consideration: "real" chocolate contains theobromine, caffeine, phenylethylamine and anandamide, chemicals that are known to affect the brain. Theobromine and caffeine are known to be stimulants. Their effectiveness as a stimulant depends on the amount consumed. It turns out that the amount of caffeine in a chocolate bar is about one-third the amount in a cup of coffee. Consequently, it might be thought of as a mild stimulant.
The phenylethylamine combines with dopamine in the brain to produce a mild antidepressant effect.
The anandamide also affects brain chemistry to produce feelings of calm and well being. The effect is quite small but noticeable.
For hundreds of years, women have been comparing chocolate to sex. Now, research has found a scientific link between the two! Italian research has found that women who eat chocolate regularly have a better sex life than those who deny themselves the treat. Women who consume chocolate had the highest levels of desire, arousal and satisfaction from sex. A study funded by a University in Italy reports that women who suffer from a low libido "could become even more amourous after eating chocolate". The paper goes on to say that the researchers believe "chocolate could be particularly medicinal for women who shun sex because they are suffering from premenstrual tension. Chocolate is not like a food, it is like a drug. Women who suffer mood swings as a result of their menstrual cycle may also suffer a dip in their sexual function"
CHOCOLATE IN PREGNANCY KEEPS BABY HAPPY:
According to a study done in Helsinki, Finland, Pregnant women were told to keep track of their stress levels and chocolate consumption. After the babies were born, scientists looked for a connection between the amount of chocolate eaten by the mothers and the babies' behavior. Six months after birth, researchers asked mothers to rate their baby's behavior in various categories, including fear, soothability, smiling and laughter. The babies born to the mothers who had been eating chocolate daily during their pregnancies were more active and positive in their reactions such as smiling and laughter. The babies also showed less fear of new situations than the babies born to women who abstained from eating chocolate. The researchers speculate that the effects observed could be from chemicals in chocolate associated with positive mood being passed on to the unborn baby in utero. They feel that chocolate consumption and baby bahavior are linked. Recent studies tells us that 'dark chocolate is healthy chocolate'. Small amounts of a good, rich dark chocolate is thought to improve the blood flow through the blood vessels. Flavonoids are the reason--they are antioxidants in the cocoa plant that is used to make chocolate. Flavonoids are also crediited in prevent ing certain cancers. Theobromine, which is related to caffeine, is also in chocolate and is a natural cough suppressant. Theobromine is more effective than codeine in controlling coughs. There are also reports that dark chocolate improves glucose metabolism and helps diabetic control and insulin sensitivity. And don't forget, chocolate is an aphrodisiac and helps with depression because it raises serotonin and endorphin levels. It is said to help cure PMS symptoms too because chocolate is high in magnesium with helps raise the progesterone levels that drop during PMS.
Studies have shown that dark chocolate lowers high blood pressure. The good results are from the cocoa phenols that are found in dark chocolate. Dr. Norman K. Hollenberg from Harvard Medical School studied Panama's Duna Indians and found that because members of this group drank an average of five cups of cocoa a day, cases of high blood pressure among them are rare. Dr. Hollenberg says that dark chocolate contains four times the antioxidant qualities found in tea. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants which gobble up free radicals which are implicated in heart disease and other illnesses. But don't drink milk with your dark chocolate! It interferes with the absorption of those good antioxidants. Some other nutrients contained in chocolate are iron, calcium and potassium and vitamins A, B1, C. D. and E and other trace elements. Also, cocoa is the highest natural source for magnesium. Magnesium is linked to such illnesses as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and PMS. The fat in high quality plain dark chocolate can be considered cholesterol free as it does not build up in the arteries or contribute to high cholesterol levels. The darker the chocolate the better. Look for chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids in it. The ability of the sugar in chocolate to raise the blood sugar (glycemic index) is about the same as oatmeal. Chocolate is so successful in combating tooth decay that researchers believe that some components of chocolate may one day be added to toothpaste and mouthwash! (See my other AC article, "Chocolate Fights Tooth Decay" link below) The cocoa bean which is the main ingredient in chocolate seems to be an agent that thwarts mouth bacteria and dental caries. While this all sounds wonderful, care must be taken to not over-indulge. Chocolate has calories! If you eat a chocolate bar, eat fewer calories at your next meal. Chocolate must be eaten in moderation. The ancient Aztec Indians knew about of the health benefits of chocolate as early as the 1400's when Montezuma wrote: Chocolate: "The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food" - Montezuma - Aztec Emperor (1480-1520) Perhaps, someday your physician will tell you to "Take two chocolate bars and call me in the morning"! ….. "This is the longest clinical trial to date to show improvement in blood vessel function from consuming flavonoid-rich dark chocolate daily over an extended period of time," Engler says in a news release. "It is likely that the elevated blood levels of epicatechin triggered the release of active substances that ... increase blood flow in the artery. Better blood flow is good for your heart."
It was a hunch, little more, that launched Daniele Piomelli and his coworkers on their search for marijuanalike compounds in chocolate. But their intuition paid off. These neuropharmacologists not only found one such cannabinoid, but perhaps more importantly, they also turned up two related chemicals that they believe could provide therapeutic insights into treating a host of ails, including depression......When people strongly crave chocolate, Drewnowski's data show, inexpensive, low-quality candy won't do. "They want very high fat, dark chocolate." And this would seem to bridge his findings to Piomelli's, he notes, since the dark chocolate delivers plenty of cannabinoid cousins in a package enriched with natural-opiates-inducing cocoa butter. And who said chocolate was just junk food?
Tomaso, E.d., M. Beltramo, and D. Piomelli. 1996. Brain cannabinoids in chocolate. Nature 382(Aug. 22):677. E-mail: email@example.com
DEMYSTIFYING CHOCOLATE TEMPERING
If you just melt chocolate and let it cool, it will set as an unattractive, dull brown mass streaked with grey: its texture when eaten will be chalky and grainy. Tempered chocolate, on the other hand, is shiny, even-coloured, crisp, smooth tasting..... in short much, much better. The reason for the difference is complicated, and in order to understand it completely one would need to study the behaviour of the chocolate crystals at the molecular level. For our purposes it is sufficient to say that in tempered chocolate the chocolate crystals have formed in a completely uniform way. The trick to tempering is to control the temperature of the melted chocolate very precisely. At each step of the way the temperature of the chocolate must be precise and uniform: even tiny variations can ruin the result.
North American Praline versus the European Praliné
Ask for a "praline" in North America and you'll likely be served a "sweet with pecans and caramel or brown sugar." It is a "traditional sweet" concoction originally made in the kitchens of sugarcane planters in the West Indies. Later, when these planters migrated North to Louisiana from the islands, they brought their "praline" recipes with them and improved on them by adding locally-grown pecans to the blend of brown sugar and butter. They normally do not contain chocolate.
Order a "praliné" (also spelled "praline") in Europe and you'll get an entirely different sweet, a delicate bite-sized "filled-chocolate," usually made with almond paste or hazelnut paste (also called "gianduja"), and often these combinations are then mixed with "ganache," a mixture of "chocolate and very rich fresh-cream," and the resulting tiny creations are then enrobed with chocolate, similar to a truffle. (To complicate things more: in North America we often refer to these chocolate "pralinés" simply as chocolate "truffles" - that is, we do not make much effort to distinguish a praliné from a truffle (which is usually round in shape and made with a perishable rich "ganache" filling). Of course, in the U.S. "chocolate truffles and pralines" are usually referred to simply as "candy" -- but that's another long story, centred around the fact that in North America chocolates have tended to be in the past simple creations with sugary concoctions that have been enrobed in chocolate.)
Master Chef Hans-Ueli Herzig (Culinary Olympic Gold medalist)…Westin Prince Hotel, Toronto. Master Chef Herzig is a legend in the Swiss Community and Canada. Here is a recipe we were lucky to get from him.
Chef Herzig boasts "this is one of the best chocolate cakes ever!" His grandmama taught him to throw in "a little bit of this and a little of that." But he did document the "this and that" for us (note there is no flour):
150 g butter (.3 pound)
pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
6 egg whites
150 g granulated sugar
300 g dark chocolate
150 g ground hazelnuts
1 dl very good kirsch
Cream butter with salt till foamy. Add egg yolks and sugar, and stir till nice and bright. Melt chocolate and add to above mixture. Add ground hazelnuts and kirsch. Beat egg whites till stiff and fold into chocolate mixture. Let sit in fridge for 1- 2 hours. Fill into prepared buttered/floured cake pan (not more than 2/3 full) and bake in preheated moderate 350 — 360 F oven, for 45 — 55 minutes. Let cool. Chef Herzig ends his instructions with "What now happens to the cake is not something I have to tell you."
SWISS "GUGELHOPF" coffee cake "to live for" ...........by Julie Mettler (Gugelhopf fanatics are rejoicing !)
Her cake is a legend in the Swiss community, and her recipe was a closely guarded secret. To describe the cake is difficult: as it is moist and yet it is dry; it is somewhat light and yet the taste demands that it be heavy; and it gets better and better by the day as it sits on the counter (also can be frozen for exceptionally different taste). There is no "yeast," and this is what sets this cake apart and makes it heavenly.
3/4 lb unsalted butter (or less, as desired, to reduce richness)
1 Oetker envelope baking powder (14g) (substitutes tend to sacrifice taste and result in a "heavier" cake)
1 Oetker vanilla sugar (9g); (substitutes tend to sacrifice "taste")
2 cups granulated sugar
rind of 1 lemon
250 g raisins (preferably half yellow Sultana and half dark)
300 - 325 g sifted white flour (depends on size of eggs)
50 g grounded hazelnuts or almonds
few drops of rum
2.5 dl (3/4 cup) milk slightly heated
Coat cake form thickly with butter and dust with ground nuts; then shake out remainder. Cream the butter and both sugars till creamy. Add 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks (set aside the 2 egg whites), and stir till nice and creamy. Slowly add sifted flour, baking powder, and milk (do in 3 steps) while still stirring. Add grated lemon rind, raisins, and rum. Beat remaining egg whites till stiff, and add to entire batter. Pour batter into prepared cake form. Bake preheated 300 F, about 60 minutes. Cake is done when golden brown and baking needle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before turning cake form over onto a "cake grid."
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