Archive | July, 2013


Chocolate Recipe: Easy Brownies


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What’s the Significance of Giving Chocolate on Valentine’s Day?

valentine's day chocolate

Giving gifts to your significant other on Valentine’s Day is a widely practiced custom, but why is the act of giving chocolate so popular?  Is it the unique melt-in-your-mouth taste?  Or perhaps the use as a possible erotic stimulant?  Whatever the reason for giving, chocolate consistently dominates the Valentine’s Day tradition year after year.

History of Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac

Chocolate has been considered a potent aphrodisiac by many for a long time.  Mayan emperors would drink chocolate as a way to satisfy the appetites within their harems while French courtesans would feed it to their lovers to encourage stamina and arousal.  As a ritualistic component to Mayan marriage ceremonies, the couples would feed each other chocolate in anticipation of their wedding night.

Pleasure Stimulating Chemicals to Give Love a Chance

The naturally occurring chemicals in chocolate may be exactly the thing to put your Valentine in the mood for love.  The theobromine and caffeine found in chocolate can increase your heartbeat and act as a stimulant.  Phenylehtylamine can simulate the effects of love while serotonin can elicit a sense of well-being.  The idea of giving the object of your desire such a potentially mood altering potion would makes chocolate seem like the only Valentine’s Day choice!

Nutritional Properties for a Healthy Heart

Pure dark chocolate is rich with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  The effects the antioxidants can have on your heart include increased blood circulation, reduced cholesterol levels, and lowered risks of stroke and heart attack.  The magnesium, iron, and vitamin B found in chocolate can also help in preventing illness.  Whether this is a conscious reason lovers give chocolate as a gift or not, it’s certainly a thoughtful way to show you care.  Of course, to enjoy the nutritional benefits of chocolate, it should be consumed only in proper moderation.

Chocolate on the Valentine’s Day Market

For most of the year it’s women who tend to buy chocolate on a regular basis, however when Valentine’s Day rolls around the percentage of men purchasing chocolate jumps to around 75%.  Anyone who does any shopping during the Valentine’s Day season can’t help but notice the overwhelming varieties of chocolate available at that time.  Candy sales go up when love is in the air, so be it the encouragement of lustful desires or just the gesture of giving your sweet something sweet, chocolate at Valentine’s Day is a tradition that has yet to fail love-struck shoppers everywhere.

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Your Guide to Gourmet Chocolate

Chocolate comes in all shapes and sizes, varying degrees of colour and sweetness, and very different levels of production quality.  If you have a discerning palate you probably have some level of appreciation for gourmet chocolate and it’s higher quality of manufacturing practices and ingredient standards.

A big difference between specialty made gourmet chocolate and your typical run of the mill candy bar is the level of care and attention to detail that goes into it.  Gourmet chocolate isn’t something you pop into your mouth and chew like an Oh Henry, it’s meant to be savored.  At the higher price you’re paying for its more complicated production process, you’ll want to take the time to fully enjoy this type of chocolate.

Gourmet chocolate can come in many forms and manufacturers sometimes get very creative with it.  From pralines, to truffles, to bars, even to gourmet hot chocolates, a lot can be done with chocolate.  Additional flavouring such as vanilla, orange, mint, and raspberry may be added.  Or possibly dried fruits and nuts like cranberries, pecans, hazelnuts, or pistachios could be used.

Other variations to the average bar of chocolate people have grown used to include chocolate covered cherries and strawberries, and an array of different styles of fudge.  Because of the level of specialty and exclusivity, gourmet chocolate can make great gifts for birthdays, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas.  Gift baskets that feature an assortment of gourmet chocolates or include suitable additions such as coffees, wines, and cheeses is going to be a hit for any recipient, especially a chocoholic.

Gourmet chocolate is often handmade rather than mass produced or is subjected to more involved conching and tempering processes than average chocolate.  This can have a costly effect on its price, but the extra creaminess and perfect texture that is achieved is often worth the extra money.

Usually made with less chemicals and additives than other chocolate, gourmet chocolate can be much better for you.  The higher the cocoa percentage that’s used, the more nutrients you get from the chocolate.  Gourmet chocolatiers often produce chocolate with high amounts of cocoa rich chocolate liquor so you know you’ll be getting the most out of you chocolate.

The possibilities are endless when it come to great chocolate, so if you plan on exploring the delectable world of gourmet chocolate, take a moment to appreciate the subtleties between the different types and allow yourself to experience the superior consistencies and texture that come with well made chocolate.  Even the pickiest chocolate lovers would be hard pressed to turn down most gourmet made chocolates.

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Health Benefits You Can Enjoy From Chocolate

It may be possible to take some of the guilt out of enjoying one of your favourite foods because guess what, chocolate does have some healthy perks! Careful now, that doesn’t mean you should add a chocolate bar a day to your diet, but eating the right types of chocolate in moderation can be a guilt-free pleasure that helps prevent disease.

Eating the Right Kinds of Chocolate

A lot of the typical chocolate bars sitting next to the gum and newspapers in your local convenience store aren’t the going to meet the healthy chocolate standards. Milk and white chocolate has quite a bit of sugar, fat, and extra additives that give chocolate its “bad for you” reputation. Eating the pure dark chocolate with over 70% cocoa is the right way to benefit from indulging your chocolate craving. Organic dark chocolate is also an option if you want an even healthier approach to chocolate.

Where These Benefits Come From

Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants that come from the flavinoids found in pure cocoa. These antioxidants help to prevent cancer, heart disease, and a number of other illnesses. You’ll also be absorbing vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and vitamin B from eating dark chocolate. While dairy can inhibit the effects of antioxidants, dark chocolate is made with little or no dairy and can be enjoyed by those with dairy allergies or sensitivities.

Good for Your Heart and Body

The nutrients found in dark chocolate can promote a healthy heart and lessen your risk for disease. Because these nutrients can keep blood vessels flexible and reduce blood pressure the risk of stoke and heart attack is lower. Eating dark chocolate can also go so far as to help reduce cholesterol and keep joints lubricated.

Good for Your Mind

As most people would agree, eating chocolate has an undeniable therapeutic aspect. The endorphins chocolate releases in the body cause a pleasurable feeling that can act as an anti-depressant. The heightened mood that comes with a chunk or two of chocolate can go a long way to combating the effects of stress.

Lower in sugar and carbohydrates that lighter chocolate, dark chocolate can make an excellent sweet treat for diabetics or anyone else on a low-carb diet. However, for all chocolate lovers alike, moderation is the key to getting the most out of the benefits chocolate has to offer.

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How To Properly Store Your Gourmet Chocolate

Gourmet chocolate can be quite expensive and in some cases rare so if you plan on storing it for some time it’s important to do it properly.  If you’re a chocolate enthusiast you’ll want keep this elegant treat looking and tasting its finest without the worry of it becoming stale.  Following a few easy tips can keep your chocolate its freshest and will preserve even the most custom blended flavours and aromas.

Blooming Effects

One of the most important reasons for the proper storage of you favourite chocolates is to avoid the effects of blooming.  This occurs when fats or sugars from the chocolate rises to the surface and creates a whitish colour that can resemble mold.  While this substance is completely harmless, it may ruin the visual appeal of your chocolate and for a lot of chocolate lovers that is simply unacceptable.

If blooming does occur, dark chocolate can always be melted and remolded to recover its proper texture and smooth appearance.  Because blooming does not affect taste, this is a perfectly acceptable practice and can also correct any deformation from melting.

Avoid Refrigeration

A lot of people head directly for their fridge when they want to store something to avoid spoilage.  Chocolate is another matter so think again.  Freezing or refrigerating chocolate can expose it to unwanted moisture build up and temperature fluctuation which could cause blooming of its fats and sugars.

In some cases it may be unavoidable to use refrigeration for storage.  Some blends of chocolate, such as white chocolate, are higher in milk content and may go rancid if exposed to too much heat or sunlight.  You may also choose to store your chocolate for a much longer time period than the expiration date recommends.  Living in an area that temperatures can vary may be another reason storage in a controlled, refrigerated environment is necessary.  If refrigeration is necessary, allow it to return to room temperature when removing it from storage to avoid moisture from temperature changes.

Storage Preparation

Whether storing your chocolate on the shelf or in the fridge if it’s required, proper packing will make a noticeable difference in the longevity and sustained quality of your chocolate.  Most chocolate requires proper storage for aesthetic reasons only, but if you’re a chocolate connoisseur, the visual appeal of your chocolate probably play a big role in your enjoyment of it.

Allow your chocolate to remain in any original packaging it came in.  The tightly wrapped foil found sealing most gourmet chocolates does an outstanding job at keeping out moisture and other unwanted particulates.  Adding your pre-packaged chocolate to an additional air tight container or sealed bag will give you a further edge against potential moisture.  If refrigeration is not required, a dark, dry place should do for storage.

The Specifics

If you want to get technical with your chocolate storage, you’ll be looking for a cool, dry location.  Chocolate is very sensitive to light, temperature, and humidity so temperatures between 15 and 17 °C (59 to 63 °F) and areas with less than 50% humidity are ideal.

Chocolate is also extremely sensitive to the aromas of other food and can pick up their flavour.  Properly sealing them can help in preventing any unwanted contamination, but avoiding storage spots near strong smelling food such and meat, spices, garlic, and onions will ensure a much more successful storage.

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