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Gourmet Chocolate

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Gourmet Chocolate
Interesting facts about gourmet chocolate, be it Swiss or Belgian. Find out about chocolate fountains and chocolate gift baskets.

The taste of smooth milk chocolate melting in the mouth... licking the remaining off the sticky fingers - brings back memories of childhood. The allure of chocolate holds millions in its sway, adults and children alike.

Thick smooth slabs of dark chocolate, crunchy nut chocolate, gourmet chocolate truffles, yummy caramel fillings, chocolate - the range is wide. If you are a chocolate gourmet, read on and find out interesting trivia about Belgian chocolates and Swiss chocolates and the goodness of dark chocolate.

Gourmet chocolate

Chocolate lovers of the world, there's good news for you! While chocolate has always been associated with tooth cavities, weight gain and acne, it has now been proved that it offers many positive possibilities. Chocolate contains essential trace elements such as iron, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, B1, C, D and E.

Chocolate offers high magnesium content that alleviates premenstrual symptoms by increasing progesterone levels. Dark chocolate containing about 70% cocoa can be beneficial for health, sans excess sugar and saturated fats. Any chocolate lover would vouch for the 'feel good' factor that it gives. This has been attributed in part to certain chemical combinations that provide a pleasurable effect.

Caffeine, theobromine and phenylethylamine are found in chocolate and contribute towards increasing neurotransmitter activity. It keeps you alert and perked up. Most chocolate lovers experience a happy feeling which can be attributed to called phenylethylamine (PEA) - a mild mood elevator. This could be the reason that chocolate is credited with being an aphrodisiac.

Chocolate must be stored in a cool and dry place that is away from direct heat and sunlight. Temperatures between 15 - 21 degrees C are ideal. While dark chocolate can last for years, white chocolate and milk chocolate keep for about 10 months on account of the milk solids they contain.

Selecting chocolate

  • The chocolate must have a smooth and glossy appearance that is not marked with streaks and dots. Typically chocolate stored in a very warm and humid temperature tends to develop bloom - an appearance of fat in the form of grayish-white streaks.

  • Chocolate must give off an aroma of rich cocoa smell and must not exude a chemical odor. Chocolate that is not correctly stored may pick up the odor of other foods.

  • Chocolate must snap when broken and not crumble or bend.

  • Finally comes the real test for a chocolate gourmet - the chocolate must melt in your mouth and possess a velvety texture. The overriding taste must be of chocolate, neither too sweet nor too bitter. The chocolate must not leave an aftertaste in the mouth.

Chocolate gift basket

Chocolates are a popular gift item for many an occasion - give them to the woman you love along with a bunch of flowers, wish your friend for her birthday with a chocolate gift or send a chocolate gift basket to your parents on their anniversary. A gift basket bursting at the seams with delicious Godiva chocolates or an assortment of chocolate biscuits and chocolate fudge can convey your warm feelings effectively. Who can resist the seductive lure of rich handmade gourmet chocolate? You can even create your own chocolate gift baskets - team up Kahlua truffles with smooth chocolate crunch with roasted cashews.

Gourmet chocolate comes in a bewildering array of options - crème bruee, chocolate covered nuts, milk chocolate with almonds, English Toffee or Belgian chocolate truffles. Other favorites with chocolate gourmets are Almond butter crunch chocolates where the sweetness of milk chocolate blends with the buttery crunch of caramelized toffee and the goodness of roasted almonds. Sink your teeth into chocolate flavors such as Caramel, Java Truffle, Jamaican Rum Caramel and Raspberry Truffle.

Chocolate fountain

Have you had a fun time at a wedding reception or party with a chocolate fountain? A multi-layered fountain with yummy chocolate cascading down…all ready to eat! A chocolate fountain resembles a chocolate sculpture. It is easy to operate and assemble. The stainless steel chocolate fountains have corkscrews that rotate and bring molten chocolate from the basin to the top reservoir bowl.

The chocolate begins to overflow once the bowl is full and cascades down to the basin. Keep topping up the basin and you will have a continuous flow of delicious chocolate. How do you enjoy and savor the delights of the chocolate fountain? All you need are tidbits of juicy strawberries, fresh pineapples, apple slices, melons or cookies, pretzels or marshmallows. Dip them into the chocolate fountain with a skewer and bite into the crunchy goodness, coated with chocolate.

Chocolate fountains are popular at birthday parties, proms, corporate events and anniversary celebrations. It also doubles up as a wonderful centerpiece - be it with milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate or flavored chocolate. A small chocolate fountain serves up to 150 guests while a large one can cater for about 800 guests. This type of fountain is not recommended for outside use since it might attract insects and cool breeze might cause the chocolate to harden, thus affecting its flow down the fountain.

Godiva chocolate

Godiva chocolates are an epitome of gourmet chocolates, coming as they do in shell-molded designs and exquisite packaging. Joseph Draps, the founder of Godiva chocolates named his chocolates after Lady Godiva. These handcrafted Belgian chocolates have earned a reputation for their rich smoothness and delicious fillings. Enrobing and shell-molding are the processes used at Godiva chocolates for manufacture. The Gold Ballotins and seasonal boxes are a hallmark of Godiva. Dried fruits and cherries and nuts are used in these Belgian chocolates. The hazelnut praline is a specialty of Belgian chocolates. In fact the 'Ballotin de pralines' makes a wonderful chocolate gift for someone special.

Hershey chocolate

Think Hershey chocolate and what comes to mind are famous Hershey's Kisses. Popular American chocolates, Hershey also manufactures and sells all Cadbury chocolate brands in the U.S. Hershey chocolates contain low cocoa content and have a higher concentration of vegetable oils and chemicals.

Cadbury chocolate

Since 1824 when John Cadbury opened his first chocolate shop in Birmingham, the name has been associated with popular chocolate brands the world over. The smooth richness and flavor of Cadbury chocolates have been enticing kids and adults alike. Be it Cadbury Snaps or Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate or Double Decker and Picnic, you cant help biting into one of these delicious temptations.

Swiss chocolate

Swiss chocolate has acquired a reputation for being among the best in the world. The best quality cocoa beans, the painstaking process and the dry Swiss climate contribute to the wonderful silken texture. Swiss chocolates owe their special flavor to the pioneering chocolatiers and plentiful milk from the Swiss cows. A process called 'conching' is responsible for the smooth texture that comes after house of being smoothed by granite rollers. The liquid chocolate paste loses its bitter flavor and a soft film of cocoa butter is formed over each of the particles to impart homogeneity.

Lindt chocolates are available in delicious options - Suisse Au Lait or Chocolate Truffles. Lindt Suisse Au Lait is a concoction of sugar, cocoa butter, milk, dried malt extract and vanilla. This lends it a unique light brown color. Pick up Swiss Lindt chocolates in attractive gift baskets - ideal for a birthday or anniversary for someone special.

You can choose from different Lindt chocolate varieties such as Mint, Amaretto or Hazelnut. One can't talk of Swiss chocolates and not mention Toblerone - a unique chocolate known for its triangular shape and goodness of milk chocolate with honey and almond nougat. Indeed a chocolate gourmet's delight! Swiss chocolates are governed by regulations that specify blending ratios that allow each chocolate to develop its own unique character.

White chocolate

The term white chocolate is a misnomer since it does not contain chocolate liquor. White chocolate is made with cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, vanilla and lecithin. This ivory-colored chocolate with its characteristic creamy subtle flavor is popular with many. White chocolate tends to be softer than dark chocolate since the chocolate liquor is missing. Store it in a cool dry place and it will keep well for about 6 - 10 months.

History of chocolate

The history of chocolate can be traced back to the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations. The Aztecs consumed the hot chocolate beverage for its stimulant and restorative properties. The Aztecs made a frothy beverage spiced with chili peppers and flavored with honey or vanilla. Made from the cocoa beans obtained from the cocoa trees, it then found its way to Europe where it was first used only for drinking.

The Europeans preferred the chocolate drink with sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and other spices. In the mid 1800s, the Industrial revolution led to the mass production of chocolate bars that are popular all over the world. Chocolate bars owe their history to Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt. Cocoa butter was added and it could be set into bars that would melt in the mouth.

There are three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolates. The most prized, rare and expensive is Criollo. Forastero is a hardier variety of the Criollo seeds. Trinitario is a natural hybrid of the above varieties. The Forastero variety accounts for the bulk of the cocoa produced.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate does not contain milk as an additive. As per US Government specifications, dark chocolate requires 15% concentration of chocolate liquor. European rules specify at least 35% cocoa solids. Milk chocolate contains milk powder or condensed milk as an additive. While the US government specifies 10% concentration of chocolate liquor in milk chocolate, European standards are a minimum of 25%.

Dark chocolate is now lauded as a potent antioxidant. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. No. 3 2004, dark chocolate helps blood vessels expand. This in turn reduces the chances of heart attacks, strokes and circulatory diseases. Since chocolate contains phenols and flavonoids, it may facilitate blood circulation and lower the risks of vascular and heart disease. Since milk chocolate contains milk, it may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate and inhibit the potential health benefits that can be derived from dark chocolate.

Ghirardelli chocolate

One cannot mention gourmet chocolate and not mention Ghirardelli. Ghirardelli chocolates are known as one of America's Premium chocolates. They have been on the chocolate scene since 1852. Open a Golden Bag of Ghirardelli chocolates and savor the premium chocolate squares that come in an assortment of fillings - caramel, almond, double chocolate and white mint. Sink into the delicious Ghirardelli creams, nuts and crisp covered with premium milk and dark chocolate.

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