The seventh chocolate story
A new study finds that people who eat chocolate frequently have lower body mass indexes than those who eat it less often. If you are a chocolate lover, chocophile, or chocoholic, isn’t this a great news?
Read this article about chocolate and body mass index:The Chocolate Diet? (from The New York Times Blog)
The sixth chocolate story
When setting out to write about toffee, I thought it would be an easy enough topic to research. Wow, was I wrong! Toffee, taffy, butterscotch, buttercrunch, caramels...these are before even beginning to discuss English-style versus American-style toffee. Of course, they are all great confections whether we know which is which or not. However, the more we know abou them, the more we appreciate them (and that's one of the purposes of our blog). Let’s try to clarify what’s what.
All of the candies start out with the same three basic ingredients: sugar, water, and butter. Cooking temperatures, additional ingredients and presentations are what set those sweet treats apart from one another. Let’s start with the most basic and move on from there.
|English Toffee is simply a mixture of water, sugar (often brown sugar) and butter that is cooked to the hard-crack stage of sugar cooking (298 to 313 F). It is poured out on a flat surface and cooled. The toffee is broken up into smaller pieces and served unadorned. The texture is hard and slightly chewy.
|Butterscotch starts the same as English toffee but can contain vanilla and other flavorings. It is cooked to the soft-crack stage (270 to 289 F) and usually poured into molds and wrapped in individual pieces. It is slightly softer than toffee but still chewy.
|American-style toffee also contains vanilla or additional flavors but it is cooked to the hard-crack stage and then poured flat to cool. It is also hard and chewy in texture. Unlike English Toffee, it is usually embellished before being broken in to smaller pieces which leads us to…
|Buttercrunch is American-style toffee that is covered on both sides with chocolate and roasted, chopped nuts. Although, it is commonly referred to “toffee” in the United States (and here at Choicolate), it is technically buttercrunch.
|Caramels have the addition of milk or cream in the recipe and sometimes flavorings. The mixture is cooked at a lower heat to the soft-ball stage of sugar cooking (235 to 239 F). The resulting candy is much softer and chewier than toffee or butterscotch.
|Taffy is a softer version of toffee that has been stretched or pulled after reaching the soft-ball stage. Pulling the taffy aerates it and produces a softer, opaque candy that can be rolled and cut into pieces. It is usually colored, flavored and presented wrapped in wax paper.
I hope this helps your understanding of these sweet, buttery treats, as it did mine. I invite you all to come try our version of buttercrunch, which we call Choi’s Toffee
The fifth chocolate story
Not only is chocolate a sweet treat for the stomach, new research suggests that cocoa can help protect against intestinal diseases like colon cancer.
In what they claim is the first study of its kind in relation to intestinal pathologies, a research team out of Spain has concluded that cocoa can act as a defense system for the body by interrupting the cell-signaling pathways involved in cell proliferation, a process which results in the formation of tumors.
Their study also found that a cocoa-rich diet can help increase a natural process known as apoptosis or cell death, in which the body eliminates old, unhealthy cells, to make way for new ones, a "chemoprevention mechanism" that helps ward off cancer advancement.
For eight weeks, researchers fed rats a cocoa-rich diet, 12 percent, and then induced the effects of cancer.
Results showed that the rats that consumed a diet high in cocoa had significantly reduced aberrant crypts, a common manifestation of colon cancer. Crypts are tube-like glands found in the lining of the colon and rectum and, when functioning normally, renew the lining of the intestine and produce mucus.
Scientists also noted an improvement in the rats' antioxidant defenses and a decrease in oxidative damage induced by the carcinogens.
According to the WHO, colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and is the fourth most common cancer after lung, stomach and liver.
Cocoa is rich in flavonoids and antioxidant properties.
A study published last year in the British Medical Journal also found that high levels of chocolate consumption could be associated with a reduced risk of developing heart disease by up to 37 percent.
The Spanish study was published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research and announced January 24.
(Source:AFP Relax News – Fri, Jan 27, 2012 / Yahoo News)
The fourth chocolate story
As St. Valentine's Day approaches, the rush of gift giving is on everyone's mind. What does one give to the special person in their life? Chocolate is the obvious answer. But, why chocolate?
Chocolate has long been thought of as valuable, decadent and even divine. The Maya were the originators of a bitter, brewed drink made from cacao beans. This drink was a great luxury that was enjoyed by kings and noblemen or used in sacred rituals.
The Aztecs valued chocolate more highly than gold. They believed it to be a source of spiritual wisdom, energy, and a sexual enhancer. Montezuma claimed the chocolate drink was an aphrodisiac. It was used as a nuptial aid and served at wedding ceremonies, thus linking chocolate with love.
In the 1860's, Richard Cadbury started the tradition of selling chocolates in a heart shaped box. His genius marketing idea has forever fused the connection between chocolate and Valentine's Day.
A box of chocolates is a wealth of sensory pleasures. Unwrapping the box and removing the translucent papers pleases the sense of touch. The eyes feast on the loveliness of the chocolates as the enticing aroma of the candies reaches the nose. The sound of the chocolate snapping with the first bite foreshadows the exquisite flavors that are released as the chocolate melts on the tongue.
What better gift to give than an heavenly indulgence?
The third chocolate story
Chocolate is processed from cacao beans that grow on the evergreen tree Theobroma Cacao. The name of the tree comes from the Greek words theos (meaning gods) and broma (meaning beverage) - Drink of the gods. These trees thrive in tropical climates located between 20° north and 20° south of the equater. They are usually grown under the protection of larger trees, resembling the conditions in their natural jungle habitats.
Cacao beans are found inside pods that grow on the trees. The pods are about 8 inches long when ripe and can range in color from red, purple, green and yellow. Each pod contains about 20 to 40 beans surrounded by a soft white pulp.
When the pods are ripe, they are harvested by hand. They are removed from the trees by cutting through the stalks. Next, they are carefully split open with a machete and the pulp is scooped out into piles atop of banana leaves. Once the piles are large enough, the beans and pulp are wrapped up inside the banana leaves and the fermentation process begins. Fermentation can last 3 to 6 days and is crucial in reducing bitterness and developing the familiar chocolate flavor.
After fermentation, the beans are spread out under the tropical sun on bamboo mats or wooden floors for drying. This process usually takes 10 to 20 days, in which the beans are turned regularly.
Drying is the last step at the cacao plantations. From there, the beans are shipped to chocolate factories for further processing.
The second chocolate story
1. Dark chocolate is good for your heart.
Studies have shown the regular chocolate eaters have blood platelets that clump together more slowly. This can help reduce the occurrence of blood clots, which can cause heart attacks.
2. Dark chocolate may make you smarter.
The antioxidants found in dark chocolate called flavonoids may increase the blood flow to your brain.
3. Dark chocolate keeps your blood flowing.
Chocolate consumption has been linked to lower blood pressure, greater prevention of the formation of artery plaques, and less inflammation of tissues in the circulatory system.
4. Dark chocolate makes you happier.
Chocolate contains serotonin which is a natural anti-depressant. It also stimulates endorphin production which causes feelings of happiness and pleasure.
5. Last but not least. Dark chocolate tastes great!
The first chocolate story
What is biscotti?
Biscotti is an Italian cookie that is baked in logs and then sliced diagonally and baked a second time until it is firm and crunchy. The word biscotti comes from the Latin words “bis” for “twice” and “coctun” meaning “baked.”
Where did biscotti originate?
It was originally made as a food for travelers and carried by the Roman legions. Biscotti reemerged in Tuscany during the Renaissance, credited to a Tuscan baker who served them for drinking with a sweet wine called Vin Santo. It continued to be a popular food staple for soldiers, sailors and fisherman who could take it on long journeys.
Why is biscotti so popular today?
Biscotti gained its popularity in the 1990’s with the boom of the coffeehouse industry. It is served as a drinking cookie with coffee, cappuccino or black tea. It comes in many flavors as well as the traditional almond and is often dipped in chocolate.
What’s in the name?
In North America, we call any long, hard, twice baked cookie biscotti. Italians would call this cantucci or cantuccini, meaning “nooks” or “little nooks.” The Italians refer to all cookies as biscotti much like British people call cookies “biscuits.”