All chocolates are not created equal. And dark chocolate is a kind of chocolate prepared without any addition of milk, with a stronger chocolate taste than in a milk chocolate. Hence, dark chocolate is drier, chalkier with a bitter aftertaste.
Dark chocolate is a plant derivative and is recommended for a healthy heart just as fruits and vegetables. Dark chocolates contain the basic ingredients of cacao beans, sugar, an emulsifier like soy lecithin for preserving texture, and choice flavors like vanilla. The cocoa content in a dark chocolate could range from 30% to 75% or even above. Dark chocolates could be bittersweet, semi sweet or sweet dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate health benefits
Dark chocolate is excellent for the heart. A small bar of dark chocolate daily helps to keep your heart and cardiovascular system healthy. Studies reveal that dark chocolate can help reduce blood pressure in individuals with hypertension. Dark chocolate can reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 10%.
Dark chocolate tastes good and therefore stimulates the endorphin production which gives a feeling of pleasure. It contains serotonin, which acts as an anti depressant. The chocolate also contains theobromine, caffeine and other substances which are stimulants.
The fats in the dark chocolate are healthy ones - oleic acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat that is found in olive oil. Recent research studies opine that eating dark chocolates could prevent cancer and heart disease and quite contrary to popular belief, they also help fight tooth decay, and help prevent mouth bacteria.
Dark chocolate antioxidants
Chocolates contain flavonoids which act as antioxidants. The antioxidants protect the body from aging which is caused by free radicals that lead to heart disease. Dark chocolates contain nearly 8 times the number of antioxidants found in strawberries. Flavonoids help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide and balance certain hormones in the body. The antioxidants catechins and phenols contained in chocolates help prevent heart diseases and cancer.
Tea is said to contain the largest amount of antioxidants but chocolates contain four times as much as compared to tea. Chocolate, much like red wine contains phenols which can reduce heart disease. Phenols can act as deoxidizing agents and prevent clogging of the arteries. This helps to avert heart attacks.
Cacao plant from which chocolate is derived boosts the immune system and restricts the formation of the type of cholesterol that damage heart.
Studies reveal that eating chocolate neither causes nor aggravates acne and in fact not eating it does not produce any significant changes in acne conditions.
But, as is the case with any other food, consuming too much of chocolate can cause health problems. Cocoa butter in chocolates does contain saturated fat and can increase blood cholesterol levels and high cholesterol can contribute to heart disease. Overeating of chocolates can contribute to obesity as chocolates are high in calories.
Dark chocolate recipes
Dark chocolate cake: A dark chocolate cake is irresistible to all. Find out how to bake a decadent dark chocolate dessert which blends brewed coffee and cocoa.
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold brewed coffee
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a 9 x13 inch pan. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, coffee, milk, oil and vinegar. Mix until smooth. Batter should be thin. Pour into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 -40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.
Dark chocolate brownies:Nothing to beat these homemade chewy brownies which can satisfy any sweet tooth and chocolate carving.
2 oz unsweetened chocolate chopped
2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup of butter
1 cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 ½ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt butter and chocolate in a large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugars, eggs, flour, salt, vanilla and nuts. Spread batter into a greased 9 x9 x2 baking pan and bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes. Cool for at least ½ hour before slicing.
Dark chocolate butter cream frosting
2 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
6 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
Combine confectioners' sugar and cocoa in a small bowl. Cream butter with 11/2 cups of the cocoa mixture in a small bowl. Alternatively add remaining cocoa mixture and milk. Beat to spreading consistency. Stir in vanilla. For glazed frosting stir in 1 tablespoon corn syrup.
Sandwich dark chocolate cupcakes
Unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces ¼ lb
2 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped
½ cup Dutch processed cocoa
¾ cup unbleached all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon table salt
½ cup sour cream
2/3 cup soft cream cheese
2 teaspoon clear sugar
2 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 oz bitter sweet chocolate chopped
Adjust oven to lower or middle position and preheat oven to 350 degree F. Line muffin pan with baking cup liners. Combine 1st three ingredients in heat proof bowl Melt ingredients using a double boiler or a saucepan over simmering water. Whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool, until just warm to the touch.
Whisk flour baking soda and baking powder in a small bowl to combine. Whisk eggs in medium bowl to combine with sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until fully combined. Alternate about 1/3 flour mixture with sour cream into chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Divide batter among muffin pan cups. Bake until tooth pick comes out clean.
Cool in pan on wire rack for about 15 minutes before icing. For topping, whip cream cheese, syrup, sugar and cocoa. Melt chopped chocolate in bowl over boiling water. Mix melted chocolate into the whipped mixture. Using a butter knife gather enough topping onto the top half.
Dark chocolate cococans
1 ¼ ounce bag of sweetened shredded coconut
1 bag of dark chocolate chips
6 ounces condensed milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 pound of large pecan halves
¼ cup of honey
¼ teaspoon salt
Mix the condensed milk with the sugar, add extracts and salt and mix well. Press this mixture evenly into 13 x 9 pan covered in aluminum foil with extra foil on sides for easy removal. Place in a freezer for an hour and remove the pan from the freezer and remove the candy from the pan using the foil. Cut into small 2 inch squares.
Using butter hands roll the candy into small log shaped pieces; rounding off the edges slightly. Dip only the bottom of one pecan half slightly into the honey and press on top of each coconut piece. Place all the candy on a wax paper and melt the dark chocolate in a glass bowl. Using 2 forks quickly dip each candy and pecan into the chocolate and allow excess to drip off. Place the dipped candy back on foil to dry and set.
Dark chocolate peppermint bark
1 pound bittersweet chocolate
6 peppermint patties
2 cups hard peppermint candies
Prepare a baking sheet by buttering and covering with parchment paper. Break up peppermint patties and melt with the bitter sweet chocolate in a large bowl over simmering water. Crush the candies in the food processor. Spread the melted chocolate on the prepared sheet. Cover with the crushed peppermint candy. Softly press the candy on to the chocolate with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for 2 hours until hard. Cut into pieces and pack layered between wax paper.
Dark chocolate cooking tips
- It is important to balance the calories. Chocolate is a high calorie, high fat food and not more than 100 grams of dark chocolate a day should be consumed to get the benefits.
- It is necessary to take time and enjoy biting into the chocolate as it is a complex food with over 300 compounds and chemicals in each bite.
- Dark chocolate has about 65% or higher cocoa content and it has far more antioxidants than milk.
- It is essential to skip nuts, orange peel or other flavorings with chocolate and anything caramel, nougat and other fillings. These add sugar and fat which will erase the benefits of eating dark chocolate.
- Although a small quantity of milk is used in the recipes given above, as milk tastes good especially in preparations, if a glass of milk is taken it could prevent the antioxidants being absorbed or used by the body.
And the good news, according to researchers in University of California is that eating a small 1.6 ounce bar of dark chocolate every day is good of you as it is packed with flavonoids and it increases blood flow in the artery and better blood flow is good for the heart.