Chocolate - The Back Story

by Vicki Brunsvold, Tastemaker in Residence

Indulge yourself with some decadent chocolates for Valentine’s Day with my Chocolate Caramel Almond Tart.

The Spanish Explorers brought chocolate to Europe in the 16th century. Chocolate became a passion - stirring emotions and debate. Doctors proclaimed its nutritional and medicinal values, religious leaders condemned it and poetic romantics could not resist the allure of the “brown gold”.  

Cocoa pods are harvested and roasted and the nibs are ground into a thick brown paste which is noted as “cocoa” in packaging in the following forms:

Dark chocolate, semi-sweet, and bittersweet represent any sweetened chocolate with at least 35% cocoa. The higher the %, the stronger the taste.

Milk chocolate must contain 12% milk solids and 10% cocoa.

Unsweetened or baking chocolate contains around 50-58% cocoa and no sugar.

White chocolate is actually cocoa butter, milk, milk solids, vanilla, and sugar and does not have any cocoa in it.

A great chocolate is worth the cost as a little taste goes a long way in flavor. Note the ingredients when making your choice: they are listed according to quantities, with the best tasting chocolate having the fewest ingredients added to the base of cocoa or cocoa liquor, sugar, and cocoa butter.

Chocolate plays upon serotonin levels and it helps you feel better - scientists are documenting the effect on moods - however, any chocolate lover knows research isn’t needed to blissfully enjoy the wonderful taste of chocolate.