Something more about chocolate

Written by Veronica Lavenia

Wellness is closely related to the quality of life and, therefore, to the quality of nutrition. Quality doesn’t necessarily have to do with expensive food. On the contrary. It has to do with the consumer’s knowledge, with what we consciously buys by selecting real, under-processed food.

Knowledge makes a difference is my motto. It helps to make informed choices.
Many of the foods that naturally contain benefits lose their nutritional properties once they are threatened by modern industry. Chocolate (and even bitter cocoa powder) is one of them.

In recent years, scientific studies have shown that a moderate daily consumption of bitter chocolate (from 70/75% upwards) is beneficial for our body. The benefits are such if the chocolate is bitter, not very sweet and processed.

Already in the Aztec era, cocoa was considered beneficial for health.

Recent studies have confirmed that cocoa’s health benefits come from epicatechin, a flavanol found in cocoa.

©The Wolf Post- Veronica Lavenia

Choosing lightly processed, dark chocolate with few ingredients, possibly soy lecithin free, allows you to reap all the benefits of an ancient food, precious and also useful for a good mood.

Everything starts from the cocoa beans. They are precious gems, perfect to be consumed as dried fruit (one or two per day, if you are used to very strong and bitter flavors) from which cocoa mass, cocoa butter and cocoa powder are obtained.

Not all cocoa beans are the same. Those coming from Latin America are the most valuable and, within that Continent, there are more or less valuable varieties, according to the country of origin.
After harvesting, the cocoa beans are fermented and left to rest for two to six days, covered with banana leaves. Fermentation reduces the sugars present in the pulp, while the heat given off (about 50°C) prevents the beans from sprouting.

After this, the beans are dried in the sun and mixed frequently. Once the water has evaporated, the beans have a darker color and more intense aroma.

©The Wolf Post- Veronica Lavenia

The next step is the quality control where fava beans are cleaned with sieves and mechanical brushes from any residue. With the cacao break machine, the beans are reduced to pieces that give rise to the cocoa grain.

The next phase of roasting is used to release the aromas.

The first product derived from beans is the cocoa mass. The cocoa mass only contains cocoa butter but is not still processed at high temperatures, nor does it contain added additives.

©The Wolf Post- Veronica Lavenia

The definition of “raw” is often used in food with little knowledge. The risk is in conveying misleading messages. As regards chocolate, for example, it is not possible to have unprocessed cocoa, even minimally.

Raw chocolate is defined as such if the temperature of 42 °C is not exceeded in the entire production process.

The process that from the cocoa beans leads to the creation of the chocolate bar is long. A process during which the temperature of fermenting cocoa exceeds 42°C. This increase in temperature during fermentation is not a limitation at all. It reduces the bacterial load of cocoa beans.

The roasting process is equally important as it serves to enhance the aroma of cocoa.

These processes are basic to guarantee food hygiene and safety. These processes can equally guarantee high quality and taste if: cocoa beans have been adequately fermented; roasted for a short time and not too high; if the chocolate made from them is cold processed, without a conching phase.

©The Wolf Post- Veronica Lavenia

Bitter cocoa powder, a key ingredient in many recipes, is one of those foods so rich in benefits, as various studies show. Rich in polyphenols, it is useful for fighting cholesterol, for strengthening the immune system and is also recommended for those who need to control blood pressure.

Yet, even this wonderful powder is sometimes chemically treated.
Do you know what is alkalized cocoa? It is the cocoa powder treated, usually used in the preparation of cakes, cookies (biscuits), especially non-organic. This method corrects the acidity of the product and increases its pH (measurement scale used to establish and measure the acidity or basicity). Used to mitigate the bitterness of cocoa, you recognize it because it has darker color than untreated cocoa (first photo: untreated cocoa. Second shot: treated cocoa). Alkaline cocoa is more attractive but in the alkanisation phase it loses many of its properties (but it is also true that less acidity is useful for some preparations). If you want to enjoy the benefits of cocoa, for example by dissolving a teaspoon of cocoa in milk at breakfast, prefer the untreated cocoa that keeps its properties intact. And remember that, especially in food, appearance is not everything.

©The Wolf Post- Veronica Lavenia

Tasting quality dark chocolate requires a basic knowledge of the product, made up of studies and tastings. Yet, some basics tips, to start enjoying a good dark chocolate from 70%/75 upwards, can be useful to better appreciate a quality chocolate bar:

  1. A good tasting must be done in small bites;
  2. A good chocolate must never be sour;
  3. The ingredients must be of superior quality;
  4. The list of ingredients must be short and contain a high percentage of cocoa mass;
  5. The tasting must be carried out on an empty stomach, early in the morning with a clean palate;
  6. At other times of the day, the tasting should be carried out without having smoked at least thirty minutes before tasting and at least forty minutes after brushing your teeth;
  7. The ideal liquid to combine after each tasting is water (not sparkling water).

About the author

Veronica Lavenia

Her scientific papers have been published in some of the most renowned international literary academic journals.
Italian based writer and magazine contributor.
Author of six books, some of her works have appeared in the most popular International Food magazines.
Food Connoisseur.
EVOO Communicator. Founder of the EVOO Column at "The Wolf Post".
Writer| Translator| Communication Manager at "The Wolf Post", since the birth of the platform.

She has always lived in the countryside. She has learned to "get her hands dirty", working and reaping the benefits of the fields, since she was a child. She participated in grape harvests, olive picking and assisted in the subsequent stages of production.
Food & Wine tourism were the family holidays that educated her on the subject.

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