For the Love of Chocolate
Who doesn’t love chocolate—especially this time of year?
One of my fondest memories of Easters gone by is the image of my father taking a meat mallet at the end of Easter dinner and smashing a solid, chocolate, two-foot-tall darling Kewpie doll into edible chunks.
I have always loved chocolate in any form—from cakes to cookies, to puddings and candy. So when Easter rolls around, I make no excuses for the parade of chocolate desserts and my indulgences, if only for a day (or two).
Chocolate has been referred to as the “food of the gods,” and it has an ancient history. On his fourth trip to the Americas, Columbus was the first European to taste an Aztec native drink made from cocoa beans and to learn that cocoa was also used as a type of currency.
he drink was bitter tasting with chili peppers added as well as annatto seeds that gave it a reddish color. That was a far cry from the sugar-, cinnamon- and vanilla-added treatment that the Spaniards used to modify the drink into what would become more like the hot cocoa we know today. That drink, with continued modifications, became fashionable in the courts of Europe by the sixteenth century.
What is chocolate anyway? It is made from the seeds of the cocoa tree that only grows in the tropics where humidity is a big factor for its survival. The pods are harvested by hand and opened; the seeds removed and dried. The seeds are then roasted to develop their flavor and ground into a liquid called “cocoa liquor.” “Cocoa” is the term used to refer to the heated form of cacao in powder form.
Buying the right chocolate for eating, cooking and baking can be confusing. When purchasing chocolate, look for the cacao percentage that is listed on the package—that will tell you the actual amount of the cacao bean components in the chocolate. Those components are:
• Chocolate liquor (cocoa paste);
• Cocoa butter, natural fat in the cacao bean; and
• Cacao solids, bits of the cacao bean that are ground to a powder.
With the addition of sugar, lecithin (an emulsifier) and vanilla, we have chocolate. There are many kinds of chocolate, from unsweetened baking chocolate to sweet milk chocolate.
• Bitter chocolate has about 58 percent cocoa butter and no added sugar.
• Semi-sweet chocolate has about 55 percent cocoa butter with added sugar.
• Bittersweet chocolate must have at least 35 percent cocoa butter but can contain more. It has added sugar.
• Milk chocolate must have at least 10 percent cocoa butter, and contains sugar, vanilla, lecithin and at least 12 percent milk solids.
Buying chocolate, like wine or olive oil, is a personal preference in taste, so buy the best you can afford. Look for chocolate that is smooth and shiny without a grainy-looking texture. Keep the chocolate in a dark place, not too hot or cold. Never freeze chocolate, as this causes a gray cast, which means that the cocoa butter has come to the surface.
Chocolate needs to be treated with respect and enjoyed with abandon.
Mary Ann's heavenly chocolate recipes:
A Passion for Chocolate
Richard Tango-Lowy, of Dancing Lion Chocolate in Manchester, handcrafts one-of-a-kind chocolate eggs that are finished in brilliant colors; studded with cacao nibs, candied fruit or gold; and often filled with marshmallow or chocolates. In 2016, Tango-Lowy was recognized by Dessert Professional Magazine as one of the top-ten chocolatiers in North America.
Thankfully for us chocophiles, there are many places to buy delicious and unique chocolates right here in the Granite State:
Ava Marie Handmade Chocolates
(603) 924-5993 • avamariechocolates.com
Byrne & Carlson
(888) 559-9778 • byrneandcarlson.com
Dancing Lion Chocolate
(603) 625-4043 • dancinglion.us
(207) 358-9681 • ennachocolate.com
Granite State Candy Shoppe
(603) 225-2591 • granitestatecandyshoppe.com
L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates
(603) 756-2882 • burdickchocolate.com
Van Otis Chocolates
(603) 627-1611 • vanotischocolates.com
(603) 924-2040 • vicunachocolate.com