Everyone loves a bit of chocolate now and again, but what if you could enjoy it without the guilt?
Chocolate is made from the processed seeds of the fruit of the cacao tree. These seeds, or cocoa beans, are full of antioxidants and are said to have many health benefits from lowering blood pressure and improving circulation to promoting general cardiovascular health and even enhancing brain function. However, cacao seeds are far from the chocolate we know and love. Bitter and woody, they are not quite a melt in the mouth delight!
To get from cacao to the sort of chocolate you might find on the shelf at the supermarket there is a huge amount of work and a number of different processes that have gone into it. First the ripe seed pods are picked, the seeds scooped out and left to dry and ferment, then they are roasted, ground and liquefied. This very pure form of chocolate is then blended in different ways to make different sorts of chocolate. For example, adding milk and sugar to make milk chocolate. This blended liquid is then ‘conched’ – essentially grinding the mixture very finely to make sure the final product is smooth and not gritty. The penultimate stage is tempering where the chocolate is heated to a specific temperature in a very specific way to make sure it has the right sort of consistency. Too low a temperature and the chocolate melts very easily and doesn’t have that nice snap of a good quality chocolate. Too high and the chocolate will not form correctly.
This tempered chocolate is finally poured into moulds and set, giving us the bars that we eat. Throughout this process some of benefits of raw cacao seeds, the nutrients and antioxidants, are lost. To get the most benefit from your chocolate you want to make sure that there is as much cacao in the bar as you can handle, as the cacao is very bitter, and that it is processed as little as possible with as few extra ingredients as possible that can counteract the benefits of the cacao seeds – such as milk and sugar (though nearly all chocolate has at least some sugar in it to make it more palatable).
There is one form of chocolate that takes this preservation of the cacao very seriously and this is what is known as raw chocolate. Raw chocolate tries to keep the temperatures as low as possible throughout the processing in order to preserve as much of the goodness from the cacao as possible. The difference between raw chocolate and regular dark chocolate is that it can tend to be a bit softer and melt more easily due to the lower temperature processing. So if you want to enjoy chocolate without the guilt, then here are our top tips.
- Eat good quality dark chocolate with as much cocoa in as possible (70%+ preferably)
- Eat only a small amount at a time so the amount of sugar and fat in chocolate don’t outweigh the good from the cocoa.
- Look out for producers who offer fair trade chocolate
- Also, keep an eye out for organically sourced cacao so you don’t have all those nasty chemicals.
- If you can find it, try some raw chocolate!
Here at SilverExplorers we are huge fans of a bit of good quality dark chocolate a few times a week, but were fed up of the limited range in the supermarkets, so we have set up a solution called The Chocolate Explorer Club! Please follow this link to find out more http://www.silverexplorers.com/clubs/chocolate/