All About Chocolate | Food and cooking
Chocolate is one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world and its melt-in-your-mouth goodness is something to absolutely enjoy.
Chocolate is used to enrich scrumptious desserts, create special drinks and treats, enrich stews and season roasts. You can find chocolate for cooking in the form of baking bars, chips or cocoa powder. Cocoa is a dried chocolate liquor from which most of the cocoa butter has been removed. We usually think of chocolate for desserts, but it also adds depth to Mexican Mole (a spicy meat stew) and can be used to form a flavored mixture for meats.
Chocolate can sometimes get a bad rap because of weight gain, but chocolate has some nutritional benefits, especially dark chocolate, as it contains less saturated fat and sugar than milk chocolate. It is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids. Chocolate is also a good source of magnesium, iron and calcium. Some studies suggest that chocolate may lower cholesterol levels, prevent memory loss and reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. Look for chocolate containing 60-70% cocoa for the greatest health benefit. Although chocolate has nutritional benefits, remember that moderation is key. Think 1 ounce when you indulge.
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A traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal
Banana and chocolate bread
Try this recipe that combines the popular banana bread with chocolate to make it doubly delicious. It combines whole-wheat flour with all-purpose flour and uses baked cocoa rather than melted chocolate. I reduced the sugar a bit in the recipe. This bread has great flavor and is a favorite of my grandchildren.
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, bananas, milk and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the pecans. Pour into a greased 5 x 9 inch loaf pan. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Source: “Living Well, More Than a Cookbook,” National Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences.
Chocolate, cereal and nut clusters
These chocolate cereal clusters are a treat I’ve made frequently when I want a sweet treat that’s healthier than many other choices. It’s also very simple and quick to do. I use different types of cereal that I can have on hand, different types of dried fruit, and I sometimes add ¼ cup of peanut butter to melt with the chips.
2 (10 oz) packet. chocolate chips, 1 dark and 1 bitter or semi-sweet
4 cups dry cereal (assorted such as Bran Flakes or other flakes, Kix, Cheerios)
2/3 cup dried cranberries, raisins, cut apricots or dried cherries (or a combination of)
½ cup sliced almonds or other chopped nuts
Cover a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper. Melt the chocolate chips in a bain-marie over hot water or melt them in the microwave. Stir frequently and be careful not to burn them. Remove from heat and stir in cereal, dried fruit and nuts. Mix well so that all ingredients are coated in melted chocolate. Add additional grains, fruits or nuts if needed. Drop mixture by spoonful onto prepared baking sheet. Place in the fridge to firm up the bunches. Once firm, remove the bunches from the waxed paper and store them in a zip lock bag.
Eating a heart-healthy diet doesn’t have to be boring and bland
Flourless olive oil chocolate cake
For those who are gluten and lactose intolerant, this cake, made without flour and using olive oil rather than butter, is the perfect choice. It has a rich chocolate flavor and the espresso powder also gives you a taste of coffee. For the best cake flavor, use a good brand of olive oil.
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons espresso powder
5 large eggs, room temperature
Optional: vanilla ice cream, mixed fresh berries and whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper; attach the spring-like ring to the top. In a double boiler, mix chocolate and oil until smooth. Remove from fire; stir in espresso powder. Put aside. Beat eggs and ½ cup sugar on high speed until eggs are pale; put aside. Beat remaining ½ cup sugar into chocolate mixture. Add egg mixture and beat until combined (batter will be thick). Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake until puffed and set, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with icing sugar; serve with desired toppings. Source: “Taste of Home”, April/May 2022.
Flourless Triple Chocolate Cookies
Here’s another great recipe for gluten-intolerant chocolate lovers. Three different types of chocolate are used in cookies. Enjoy!
5½ oz. semi-sweet or semi-bitter chocolate, finely chopped
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1½ cups powdered sugar, plus 1 to 1½ tablespoons for dusting
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2¼ oz. bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped
¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Melt the semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water, stirring frequently and scraping the sides with a rubber scraper to prevent burning. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Beat egg whites in large bowl with electric mixer over medium-high heat until soft peaks form. Gradually stir in 1 cup powdered sugar until mixture resembles marshmallow creme. Whisk together ½ cup powdered sugar, cocoa powder and ¼ tsp salt in bowl; fold into egg white mixture on low speed until soft peaks form. Stir in the cooled melted semi-sweet chocolate until the batter has a thick, melty consistency. Stir in the chopped bittersweet chocolate. Drop dough in 2 teaspoon portions about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt and sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons caster sugar. Bake until edges of cookies are set and tops begin to crack, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be cooled in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Source: “Allrecipes”, December/January 2022.
Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She served as a Yellowstone County Extension Officer for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.