Τετάρτη, 23 Δεκεμβρίου 2009

A Dark Chocolate a Day, Keeps the Doctor Away!

The Aztecs and the Mayas were wise. Chocolate, the food of the gods, as they called it, became something of a god-sent gift for them. And for a very good reason too. It was believed to fight fatigue, an element that today’s scientists believe is most probably attributed to its theobromine content.

Chocolate contains theobromine and phenethylamine , two elements that have physiological effects on the body and have been found to be linked with the serotonin levels in the brain. Chocolate and especially dark chocolate has a number of positive effects, it can lower blood pressure and has a substantial amount of antioxidants that reduce the formation of free radicals which control the aging process. Dark chocolate also benefits the circulatory system and may reduce arterial hardening, it is a good brain stimulator and cough preventer, it has anticancer and antidiarrhoeal effects.

- Dark chocolate is good for pregnant women because it protects them from high blood pressure problems and secures them against the chance of contracting preeclampsia, which is a major pregnancy complication that involves hypertension in 8 out of a 100 pregnancies.
- Dark chocolate is good for athletes because it speeds up their muscle recovery after rigorous training and prevents muscle damage.
- It can delay brain function decline especially among aged people
- Cocoa-based prescription drugs can potentially solve a host of other diseases like diabetes and dementia.
- Chocolate can also act as a stimulant. While it is a mild stimulant for humans, it is a lot more potent for horses and its use is prohibited in horse races.
- Cornell University food scientists have discovered that cocoa powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidants of green tea. Raw cocoa on the other hand has the highest antioxidant value than all the natural fruits in the world. 

What is it with women and chocolate?

58% of women crave chocolate when they want something to boost them. 53% of adult women in the UK have confessed they would rather have chocolate than sex! One in 5 admitted they couldn't go a day without chocolate.

Cocoa is a good medicine against depression. Isn’t that, after all, the reason we reach for a delicious bar of chocolate every time we feel down?

But the million dollar question is…

Is chocolate responsible for acne?

Contrary to what we may have heard from various sources, the truly pure dark chocolate is actually good for the health of your skin, hair and nails. Scientists do not point to chocolate for the cause of acne, but rather to the high concentration of sugar, corn syrup and other carbohydrates, chocolate products may contain. Chocolate itself is rich in sulfur, the so-called “beauty” mineral and promotes a healthy and beautiful skin, it helps detoxify the liver and regulates the healthy functioning of the pancreas. Studies have shown that it can also protect your skin from sunburns, premature aging and skin cancer.

And if you still do not believe me, click on the underlined link to read the following article about:

Acne Care Chocolate Bars  by the Daily Mail

Slimming chocolate

Dark chocolate has got appetite-suppressant properties which can help you lose weight!

And if you still worry about keeping fit and slim, you shouldn’t. A great majority of the fats contained in a bar of dark chocolate does not have any negative impact on your cholesterol. As a measure, it is advisable to consume:

- 100 grams of dark chocolate a day ( a 65% cocoa concentration at least) or
- A cup of hot cocoa (2 ounces of cocoa)

It seems there isn’t a thing that dark chocolate won’t do!

Having said that, milk chocolate and white chocolate cannot claim any of the above healthy benefits.

To give you an example,  let at this moment compare two different kinds of chocolate to get an idea : a) quality chocolate and b) mass-produced milk chocolate

Quality chocolate

56-70% cocoa solids, to include 31% cocoa butter
29-43% sugar
1% lecithin and pure vanilla extract

Mass-produced milk chocolate

11% cocoa solids
3% vegetable fat
20% milk solids
65% sugar
1% lecithin and synthetic vanillin

Source: McFadden, C. 2000. Chocolate - A Celebration of the World's Most Additive Food. London:Hermes House.

Only a teensy weensy problem

Toxicity in animals, such as cats, dogs, parrots, horses, rodents, etc. can be a problem because their body is unable to metabolize the theobromine contained in chocolate, correctly. This, in turn, can lead to heart attacks, vomiting, epileptic seizures, internal bleeding and eventually death. The good news is that white chocolate (but not milk chocolate) which does not contain theobromine, if given in small amounts, should pose no threat to animals.

Κυριακή, 20 Δεκεμβρίου 2009

A cinematic chocolate recipe

Do you remember the Woodhouses and the Castavets from “Rosemary’s Baby”? In my last post, I recounted all "chocolate films", since the early age of cinema. Now, I want to share a chocolate recipe with you. A famous cinematic chocolate recipe from Roman Polanski’s masterpiece “Rosemary’s Baby”.

Scene: Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse are enjoying a quiet meal at home with desserts provided by the friendly old couple next door, the Castavets. Do you remember the strange “chalky undertaste” in Rosemary’s “mouse” chocolate?

The recipe actually comes from Fergus O’ Sullivan’s book Pulp Kitchen, a book about the writer’s two greatest passions in life, food and cinema. If you are a foodie and want to make your own cinematic recipe at home from one of the 65 films and food recipes, included in this book, then I cannot think of a better gift to give yourself. This one of course is a chocolate recipe.

Chalky Mint Chocolate Mousse
120 g best quality bitter
chocolate (such as Valrhona)
2 tablespoons crème de menthe
2 tablespoons double cream
4 eggs
80 g icing sugar
2 spearmint Rennies (for that chalky undertaste, optional)
Pinch of salt
Fresh mint leaves to garnish

Break up the chocolate and put into a bowl. Rest this bowl over a pan of gently boiling water and melt. Stir in the crème de menthe and cream and leave to cool. Separate the eggs. Sieve the icing sugar into the yolks, beat this in firmly and then add to the chocolate. If using them, crush the Rennies in a mortar, then stir into the chocolate. Add the salt to the egg whites and whisk them until they are stiff. Fold the whites gently into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to deflate the mousse by stirring too hard.

Turn the mixture into four china ramekins (or similar small straight-sided china bowls) and leave in the fridge for a at least four hours before serving, garnished with the mint.

Κυριακή, 13 Δεκεμβρίου 2009

A little bit of cinema

Of course, chocolate could not leave the masters of the 7th art indifferent. Here's a list I got from imdb of all the TV and film work that has ever been made worldwide, according to the site, on the subject of chocolate. Or just films that have the word chocolate in their title.

Who doesn't know...

-Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory(1971) with Gene Wilder; a musical film adaptation of Roald Dahl's book "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory", a childhood favourite.
-Like Water for Chocolate (1992); an adaption of Mexican writer Laura Esquivel's book "Come agua para chocolate"
-Chocolat(2000) with Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche, based on a novel by Joanne Harris
-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory(2005) with Johnny Depp; a new adaptation of Roald Dahl's book.

And that's not all. Here's a long list from the early years of cinema until 2010.

The early years - Silent movies

(1912) Lem's Hot Chocolate (USA)
(1912) The Chocolate Revolver (USA)
(1912) The Fatal Chocolate (USA)
(1913) La Petite Chocolatiere (France)
(1914) Chocolate Dynamite (USA)
(1914) The Chocolate Soldier (USA)
(1918) The Chocolate of the Gang (USA)

The 20's - Silent movies

(1923) O Castelo de Chocolate (Portugal)
(1925) A Chocolate Cowboy (USA)
(1927) La petite chocolatiere (France)

The 30's

(1932) Chokoreito Garu aka Chocolate Girl (Japan)
(1932) La petite chocolatiere (France)
(1938) Chocolate to hetai "Chocolate & Soldier (Japan)

The 40's

(1941) The Chocolate Soldier (USA)

The 50's

(1950) La petite chocolatiere (France) - These Frenchmen don't give up, do they?
(1955) The Chocolate Soldier (TV) (USA)

The 60's

(1967) A Metafisica do Chocolate (Portugal)
(1967) The Chocolate Covered Diamond (TV) (USA)
(1968) 5 de chocolate y 1 de fresa (Mexico)

The 70's

(1973) Pane e cioccolata (Italy)
(1977) Herowork "The Life and Times of the Chocolate Killer" (USA)
(1978) Ciocolata cu alune "Hazelnut Chocolate" (Romania)
(1979) Chokoi Boko- Avtomat za shokolad "Choko and Boko: Chocolate Machine" (Bulgaria)
(1979) Cola, Candy, Chocolate (West Germany)
(1979) Éclair au chocolat (Canada)

The 80's

(1980) The Chocolate Chase (TV) (USA)
(1983) A 20th Century Chocolate Cake (Canada)
(1984) Operacion chocolate (Venezuela)
(1986) Shen tan zhu gu li "Inspector Chocolate" (Hong Kong)
(1987) Kid Chocolate (Cuba)
(1988) The Chocolate war (USA)
(1988) Mousse de chocolate (Argentina)

The 90's

(1991) Max's Chocolate Chicken (USA)
(1992) Amour et Chocolat (France/Belgium/USA)
(1992) Butterscotch and Chocolate (USA)
(1993) Chocolat amer "Bitter chocolate" (France)
(1993) Zefir v shokolade "Zephyr in Chocolate" (Ukraine)
(1994) Fresa y chocolate (Cuba/Mexico/Spain/USA)
(1994) Bosque chocolate (Argentina)
(1994) Chocolate City (USA)
(1995) Chinese Chocolate (Canada)
(1997) Chocolate Babies (USA)
(1997) Sex & Chocolate (UK)
(1998) Chocolate for Breakfast (USA)
(1998) GWAR: Surprising Burst of Chocolate Fudge (USA)
(1998) Pain au Chocolat "Plain or Chocolate" (France)
(1999) Pain au chocolat - Chocolate Pain (Germany)
(1999) Better than chocolate (Canada)

The 00's

(2000) Chocolate con Mostarda (Brazil)
(2000) Merci pour le chocolat (France/Switzerland)
(2000) Heather Locklear Chocolate (Australia)
(2001) Chocolate Sperm (France)
(2001) Covered with Chocolate (Germany)
(2001) Creme glacee, chocolat et autres consolations (Canada)
(2001) Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (USA)
(2002) Mothers and Daughters "The Chocolate Fairy" (USA)
(2002) Rocks and Chocolate (USA)
(2003) Chocolate con Marilusa (TV series) (Argentina)
(2003) Chocolate con pimenta (TV  series) (Brazil)
(2003) Menta y chocolate (TV series) (Spain)
(2003) Sex, Toys and Chocolate (TV series) (Canada)
(2004) Atun y chocolate (Spain)
(2004) Chocolate Girls (USA)
(2004) El chocolate del loro (Spain)
(2004) From Chameleons to Chocolate (USA)
(2004) Hot Chocolate (USA)
(2004) The Chocolate Fetish (USA)
(2005) Bigotes de chocolate (Argentina)
(2005) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (USA)
(2005) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Designer Chocolate (USA)
(2005) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Different Facts, Different Flavours (USA)
(2005) Chocolate con churros (Spain)
(2005) Helados de chocolate (Spain)
(2005) Lo amargo del chocolate (Mexico)
(2005) Ten most excellent things: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (TV) (USA)
(2005) The making of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' (TV) (USA)
(2006) Chocolate Girl (Austria)
(2006) Doce fugitiva "Coracao de Chocolate) (TV series) (Portugal)
(2006) Qiao ke li zhong li "Chocolate Rap" (Taiwan)
(2007) Beer, Chocolate or You (USA)
(2007) Blood and Chocolate (USA/UK/Romania/Germany)
(2007) Chocolate Cake (Australia)
(2007) Chocolate Country (USA)
(2007) Chocolate, Sunshine (Japan)
(2007) Coklat stroberi "Chocolate Strawberry" (Indonesia)
(2007) Dame Chocolate (USA)
(2007) Gumi.Chocolate.Pine (Japan)
(2007) The Chocolate Wars (TV) (USA)
(2007) Tokyo Marble Chocolate (Japan)
(2008)  Aunt Fanny's Instructional Video "Aunt Fanny's Chocolate Factory" (USA)
(2008) Chocolate Land (Australia)
(2008) Chocolate News (TV series) (USA)
(2008) Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods (USA)
(2008) Dark Chocolate (USA)
(2008) Death, Taxes and Chocolate (USA)
(2008) The Chocolate, the Shit, the Vomit and the Blood or the Making of "Hank and Mike" (Canada)
(2008) Un poco de chocolate (Spain)
(2008) Willie's Perfect Chocolate Christmas (TV) (UK)
(2008) Willie's Wonky Chocolate Factory (TV series) (UK)
(2009) A Lot of Chocolate (USA)
(2009) Chocolate City Burning (USA)
(2009) Chocolate Death (USA)
(2009) Chokoreto andaguraundo "Chocolate Underground" (Japan)
(2009) Chokoreto derinja "Chocolate Derringer" (Japan)
(2009) The Mayor Elaine Scruggs Chocolate Football Challenge (USA)
(2009) Willie's Chocolate Revolution "Raising the Bar" (TV series) (UK)
(2010) Hard Chocolate (in development)

Σάββατο, 12 Δεκεμβρίου 2009

Types of chocolate

There are many types of chocolate; white chocolate, dark chocolate and everything in between.

White chocolate is based on milk, sugar and cocoa butter or vegetable oils. It doesn’t contain any cocoa solids and there are those who think that white chocolate should not even belong to the chocolate family for this reason. White chocolate tends to be sweet but should not be mistaken for a sweet chocolate which can be dark in color too as there is usually no restriction in milk with the latter. As it can be deduced, the more milk a chocolate contains, the whiter it becomes.

Milk chocolate contains milk powder or condensed milk.

Semisweet chocolate is usually used for cooking. It is dark with low sugar content.

Bittersweet chocolate contains more cocoa and less sugar, (typically a third). Vanilla and sometimes lecithin are also added. The rule goes that the higher the percentage of cocoa, the bitter the chocolate will be. Bittersweet and semisweet chocolate contain at least 35% of cocoa.

Dark chocolate does not contain milk as an additive and for this reason it is also called plain chocolate or black chocolate.

Unsweetened chocolate also known as bitter, baking or cooking chocolate comes from pure, ground, roasted cocoa beans that can be used for cakes and confections with the addition of sugar.

Couverture is used by professional pastry chefs and is rich in cocoa butter, sometimes 70% and more with a percentage of 30-40% of fat.

Cocoa powder is another type of baking cocoa and compound chocolate is used in a lot of candy bars as a replacement for cocoa butter. It translates into poor taste and can cause health problems.

A little bit of geography

This is a map I found on the CocoaPlan website. I wanted to use it here to show where cocoa is produced in the world. Apparently, it is not just in Central America. This amazing trade is practiced in Western Africa and South East Asia too. Two African countries in particular are responsible for over half of the world's cocoa production, Cote d' Ivoire and Ghana. The total number of cocoa producing countries in the world are 33 and they are:

1. Mexico
2. Costa Rica
3. Panama
4. Jamaica
5. Cuba
6. Haiti
7. Dominican Republic
8. Grenada
9. Trinidad & Tobago
15.Sierra Leone
16.Ivory Coast
21.Equatorial Guinea
23.Fernando Po
24.Sao Tome
26.Sri Lanka
31.Papua Nea Guinea
32.Fiji islands
33.West Samoa

Hey! What happened to Europe? :-(

Παρασκευή, 11 Δεκεμβρίου 2009

A little bit of history...

What is it about chocolate that we love so much? They say that 9 out of 10 people love chocolate. The other one is probably lying…

Chocolate came to Europe through Spain. Until the 16th century, no one in Europe had heard of the magical cocoa beans that were once used as currency among the Aztecs. Cacao, however, has been cultivated for at least 3000 years in Mexico and Central America while in Europe, we started relishing this god-sent gift five centuries ago! How unfair!

The word itself is said to derive from the Nahualt “xocolatl”. Many translations have been attributed to this word. Some say it comes from the word “xococ” for bitter and “atl” for water. Apparently, the “ xocolatl” back then tasted completely different from what we know and love today. It was a bitter, spicy concoction that was served as a ceremonial drink with a touch of vanilla and chilli pepper.

After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, chocolate was imported for the first time to Europe. It became a very popular drink among Spanish royalty and was generally quite expensive to obtain.

It was the Industrial revolution in the 19th century however that made chocolate easily available to everyone. With the advent of machinery and mass production techniques, people started consuming chocolate worldwide.

The experience had just begun! Enjoy chocolate!