Chocolate is a very complex food, not only in how it is made, but in how it is perceived. Chocolate stirs up emotions, especially pleasure, when we receive and eat it. You may have indulged in chocolate yesterday in celebration of Valentine's Day. Was it store-bought chocolates? If so, that's lovely, and you have a sweet, yet traditional partner. But working with chocolate at home really isn't as complex as it may seem. There's no fancy equipment or crazy ingredients needed, just good quality chocolate required.
Before we explain why you should be working with chocolate more at home, let's look at the power of chocolate in the body. No one really needs a reason to eat chocolate, but it certainly helps that science backs us up when we do!
Chocolate's Therapeutic Powers
The belief in the power of chocolate has existed since the 17th and 18th centuries. The Aztecs used it as an antidote to exhaustion and weakness. Soldiers drank a bitter beverage made from cacao beans to keep them going during long periods of physical endurance.
We now know that is it the fat carbohydrate in chocolate that provides fuel for the body. Since that fat is digested slowly, you actually feel full when you eat chocolate. In addition to nutrients, chocolate contains alkaloids - organic substances found in plants - that affect your body. These stimulate the kidneys and central nervous system. Chocolate does contain caffeine, though in much smaller doses than a cup of coffee.
Chocolate and the Mind
We often say we're addicted to chocolate, but how true of a claim is that? Some medical experts believe the presence of caffeine is the cause of the so-called addictive properties, but it actually may be due to another substance called phenylethylamine. This is one of a group of chemicals known as endorphins. When endorphins are released into the bloodstream, they lift your mood, creating positive energy and feelings of happiness. So when we eat chocolate, we feel good.
Let's go back to craving vs addiction. A craving is an unmet desire for a pleasurable substance, such as coffee or chocolate. Addiction is defined as the habitual use of a substance, such as alcohol or drugs, which becomes less and less effective at satifying the need and results in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. So while we may think we could experience withdrawals from chocolate, physiologically it's just not possible. We crave chocolate rather than have an addiction to it.
The Pleasure of Chocolate
One of the reasons we love eating chocolate so much is the sensory pleasure it provides in addition to the taste. The smell, look and feel of chocolate simply adds to the pleasure of popping a piece in our mouth and letting it melt slowly on our tongue. All of these factors are why we use chocolate as a common gift. Whether to say "I love you," "Sorry," "Thank you," or "Congratulations," chocolate as a gift goes a long way.
That's why you should consider making your own chocolate candies (cakes, cookies and cupcakes too!) at home for your loved ones. To help you do that, The Chopping Block has created a comprehensive, photo-rich guide to everything you need to know about chocolate, appropriately called Chocolate Craze.
In this free download, you'll understand what you should look for in a chocolate, including:
- How to taste chocolate (think like a sommelier tastes wine),
- How to buy chocolate, and
- How to store chocolate.
We also cover techniques on working with chocolate such as:
- Melting chocolate,
- Tempering chocolate (and why you should do it), and
- Piping chocolate.
You'll get a lesson on the history of chocolate and how chocolate goes from a bean to a bar. There's also eight recipes that focus on different techniques to jump start your chocolate craze at home and how you can continue your education in our kitchens, including our new Chocolate Boot Camp. Download Chocolate Craze today to get your fix!
Source: The Cook's Encyclopedia of Chocolate by Christine McFadden and Christine France, 2000