Cooking with Chocolate

Cooking with chocolate

Chocolate Nutritional Profile*
Energy value (calories per serving): Moderate

Protein: Low (cocoa powder) High (chocolate)
Fat: Moderate
Saturated fat: High
Cholesterol: None
Carbohydrates: Low (chocolate) High (cocoa powder)
Fiber: Moderate (chocolate) High (cocoa powder)
Sodium: Moderate
Major vitamin contribution: B vitamins
Major mineral contribution: Calcium, iron, copper


* These values apply to plain cocoa powder and plain unsweetened chocolate. Adding other foods, such as milk or sugar, changes these values. For example, there is no cholesterol in plain bitter chocolate, but there is cholesterol in milk chocolate.

About the Nutrients in Chocolate
Cocoa beans are high-carbohydrate, high-protein food, with less dietary fiber and more fat than all other beans, except soy beans.

The cocoa bean's dietary fiber includes pectins and gums. Its proteins are limited in the essential amino acids lysine and isoleucine. Cocoa butter, the fat in cocoa beans, is the second most highly saturated vegetable fat (coconut oil is number one), but it has two redeeming nutritional qualities. First, it rarely turns rancid. Second, it melts at 95F, the temperature of the human tongue. Cocoa butter has no cholesterol; neither does plain cocoa powder or plain dark chocolate. Cocoa beans have B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin) plus minerals (iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and copper).


One ounce sweet dark chocolate has 1 g dietary fiber, 9 g Eat (5.9 g saturated fat), 0.59 mg iron (4 percent of the RDA for a woman of childbearing age), 33 mg magnesium (9 percent of the RDA for a man, 12 percent of the RDA for a woman), and 0.42 mg zinc (2.8 percent of the RDA for a man, 3.5 percent of the RDA for a woman).

Cocoa beans, cocoa, and chocolate contain caffeine, the muscle stimulant theobromine, and the mood-altering chemicals phenylethylalanine and anandamide (see below).

The Most Nutritious Way to Serve Chocolate
With low-fat milk to complete the proteins without adding saturated Eat and cholesterol.


NOTE: Both cocoa and chocolate contain oxalic acid, which binds with calcium to form calcium oxalate, an insoluble compound, but milk has so much calcium that the small amount bound to cocoa and chocolate hardly matters. Chocolate skim milk is a source of calcium.

Diets That May Restrict or Exclude Chocolate
Antiflatulence diet
Low-calcium and low-oxalate diet (to prevent the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones)

Low-calorie diet
Low-carbohydrate diet
Low-fat diet
Low-fat, controlled-cholesterol diet (milk chocolates)
Low-fiber diet
Potassium-regulated (low-potassium) diet


Buying Chocolate
Look for: Tightly sealed boxes or bars. When you open a box of chocolates or unwrap a candy bar, the chocolate should be glossy and shiny. Chocolate that looks dull may be stale, or it may be inexpensively made candy without enough cocoa butter to make it gleam and give it the rich creamy mouth-feel we associate with the best chocolate. (Fine chocolate melts evenly on the tongue.) Chocolate should also smell fresh, not dry and powdery, and when you break a bar or piece of chocolate it should break cleanly, not crumble. One exception: If you have stored a bar of chocolate in the refrigerator, it may splinter if you break it without bringing it to room temperature first.


Storing Chocolate
Store chocolate at a constant temperature, preferably below 78F. At higher temperatures, the fat in the chocolate will rise to the surface and, when the chocolate is cooled, the fat will solidify into a whitish powdery bloom. Bloom is unsightly but doesn't change the chocolate's taste or nutritional value. To get rid of bloom, melt the chocolate. The chocolate will turn dark, rich brown again when its fat recombines with the other ingredients. Chocolate with bloom makes a perfectly satisfactory chocolate sauce.

Dark chocolate (bitter chocolate, semisweet chocolate) ages for at least six months after it is made, as its flavor becomes deeper and more intense. Wrapped tightly and stored in a cool, dry cabinet, it can stay fresh for a year or more. Milk chocolate ages only for about a month after it is made and holds its peak flavor for about three to six months, depending on how carefully it is stored. Plain cocoa, with no added milk powder or sugar, will stay fresh for up to a year if you keep it tightly sealed and cool.


What Happens When You Cook Chocolate
Chocolate burns easily. To melt it without mishap, stir the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of hot water or in the top of a double boiler or put the chocolate in a covered dish and melt it in the microwave (which does not get as hot as a pot on the store).

Simple chemistry dictates that chocolate cakes be leavened with baking soda rather than baking powder. Chocolate is so acidic that it will upset the delicate balance of acid (cream of tartar) and base (alkali = sodium bicarbonate = baking soda) in baking powder. But it is not acidic enough to balance plain sodium bicarbonate. That's why we add an acidic sour-milk product such as buttermilk or sour cream or yogurt to a chocolate cake. Without the sour milk, the batter would be so basic that the chocolate would look red, not brown, and taste very bitter.

How Other Kinds of Processing Affect Chocolate
Freezing. Chocolate freezes and thaws well. Pack it in a moisture-proof container and defrost it in the same package to let it reabsorb moisture it gave off while frozen.

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