Good Food Blog
Choc tacticsPosted at 11:45AM, 02 September 2008 by Carol Wilson - Food writer
When it comes to indulgent treats and cheering ourselves up, chocolate is high on the list. It seems we just can't get enough chocolate - in the UK we eat more than any other European country - around 10kg per head every year. But... most British chocolate is very different from the chocolate enjoyed by our European neighbours.
Commercial chocolate, mass-produced in factories, is highly sweetened, often contains artificial flavourings and emulsifier, and some of the cocoa butter is replaced with cheaper vegetable fats, such as palm or soya oil. It's also made quickly, usually in a few hours, in contrast to superior quality chocolate which may take up to two days. It may also contain as little as 30% cocoa solids, compared to top quality chocolate which contains a minimum of 70%. The end result is, for the most part, unexciting and mediocre chocolate.
Real chocolate on the other hand is made from carefully selected top quality cocoa beans, cocoa butter and natural flavourings such as vanilla. It has a deep intense flavour and literally melts in the mouth as it releases its complex flavours and volatile aromas. The best chocolate is an expert blend of different beans, although in recent times, the trend has been to label some chocolate by the origin of its dominant cocoa bean and also to use single estate cocoa beans.
Who'd have thought of combining dark chocolate with black pepper or chilli pepper? Or milk chocolate with sea salt or rose or lavender?
Fortunately in the UK, the tide is slowly turning as discerning consumers with more sophisticated tastes want to experience the rich, intense flavours of real chocolate. The UK is undergoing a chocolate renaissance, with skilled artisan chocolate makers springing up throughout Britain. The technical expertise, creative expression and skill of the chocolate maker in balancing flavours are necessary to transform the raw ingredients into an unforgettable and unique product.
Fresh handmade chocolates offer a real taste experience for chocolate connoisseurs, whether your preference is for traditional silky-smooth truffles, luxurious filled chocolates or innovative intriguingly flavoured chocolate. Who'd have thought of combining dark chocolate with black pepper or chilli pepper? Or milk chocolate with sea salt or rose or lavender? Or white chocolate with cardamom? But when you taste these, you realise that however odd they seem, the combinations do in fact work very well.
But that's not all - the good news is that chocolate is good for us! Good quality chocolate contains over 300 different chemicals thought to effect neurotransmitters in the brain, including theobromine, a substance related to caffeine. This heady bouquet acts on our emotions and stimulates and excites - and also arouses the same feelings as when we are in love!