Chocolate

 Chocolate Key facts The word chocolate comes from two Aztec words for 'bitter' and 'water'; cacao has been grown for at least 3000 in central America and Mexico; chocolate is good for you - it contains iron and antioxidants!

Thankfully, people are rediscovering real chocolate and, for eating, it is even possible for the connoisseur to buy chocolate made from single-estate cocoa plantations, each with their own distinctive characteristics. These will be clearly marked 75 per cent cocoa solids and you will find just three ingredients listed: cocoa, sugar and cocoa butter.

Manufacturers usually use the words ‘cocoa solids’, and we need 75 per cent if we want an intensely chocolatey flavour, and if we are cooking with it and adding it to other ingredients (which will dilute it somewhat), it’s essential to get the highest-possible cocoa-solid content. It’s now easy to buy 75 per cent cocoa-solid chocolate, which will contain an emulsifier called lecithin and, sometimes, a flavouring such as vanilla.

Milk and white chocolate: With milk chocolate, the chocolate’s intense flavour is deliberately diluted to produce a creamier taste. This is achieved by adding whole milk solids, sometimes in equal quantity to the cocoa solids. White chocolate is not actually chocolate at all. It is made from milk solids, sugar and fat, with a little cocoa butter added, and has a bland, over-sweet taste. Neither are ideal for cooking as such, but are useful for coating or topping.

Listen to the snap: We had great fun, when I was filming the television series How To Cook, demonstrating how to tell good chocolate from not-so-good. The secret is in the snap. When you break off a piece of good-quality chocolate it makes a sharp, quite definite ‘snap’. With a lesser chocolate it is just a dull break – if you hear anything at all. We found the sensitive microphone picked up the snap superbly, so that none of us could be in any doubt ever again.

 
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