There are many types of chocolate out there and consumers like me are getting more choosy lately about the chocolates they eat. So what are the main differences between good and bad quality chocolate?
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One, is cocoa solids content, chocolate with less than 50% cocoa solids will have little real chocolate taste and those are usually filled with artificial sweeteners and flavorings to hide that. Second, is cocoa butter content, chocolate makers tend to use vegetable oil as a replacement of cocoa butter in order to reduce costs, artificial flavor to cover or improve the smell and cheap artificial sweeteners like corn syrup.
Let’s look at ingredients usually present in a low quality chocolate:
Additionally, most of the chocolate sold in the stores has emulsifiers like soy lecithin. It’s role is to keep fat from separating, but that contains solvents and pesticides. Moreover, 90% of the soybeans are now genetically modified and sprayed with herbicides. Even some of the best organic, fair trade chocolate contains “organic” soy lecithin which I’m trying to avoid.
This is the kind of label I’m looking for when it comes to buying a good quality chocolate:
You probably noticed that there are two terms used when it comes to choosing chocolate ingredients: cocoa and cacao, so what’s the difference and which is better ? Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cocoa and removes the fat (cacao butter). Cocoa powder looks the same but it’s raw cacao that’s been roasted at high temperatures. So if you are looking for some health benefits from raw chocolate, you know now what to look for.
Chocolate is actually quite simple to make at home, you need only 3 ingredients: cacao butter, cacao powder and a little honey (or other sweetener) and it can be customized to create unique flavor combinations. You could also substitute agave or have maple syrup if you don’t want to use honey. Just mix all ingredients and use molds for shaping. I personally like silicone moldsbecause they are durable and flexible, the chocolate pops out easily without touching it.
Another option if you don’t have any molds, is to use a baking sheet. Just spread the chocolate and sprinkle with some roasted nuts like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, or walnuts for extra crunch. You can add a little salt if you like, it pairs very well as it brings out the sweetness.
And that’s it! Keep in the fridge until you’re ready to eat and enjoy. Below is a picture of homemade chocolate I made recently with roasted almonds & cashews – really flavorful and crunchy!
Melt cacao butter in a double boiler or in a glass mixing bowl set over a small saucepan with 1 inch of water over medium heat.
Once melted, remove from heat and add honey and whisk to combine. When the mixture is completely fluid with no separation, add cacao or cacao powder and vanilla oil/or extract. Whisk thoroughly.
Taste and adjust sweetness if you like.
Pour the chocolate into molds, coat them swirling it around.
Refrigerate while making the chocolate fillings (anything you like).
Remove the mold from the fridge and fill the molds 3/4 full, top with remaining melted dark chocolate, tap mold lightly on counter top to remove air bubbles and refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour until firm. Remove chocolates carefully from mold and serve.
Or use a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the chocolate on top. Top with roasted nuts.
Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Once completely solid, break or cut into bars. These can be kept at room temperature for serving. But for best freshness, store chocolate in an airtight container or freezer bag in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.
How To Make High Quality Chocolate At Home + Filling Ideas
Use cacao butter and powder instead of cocoa. It’s less processed and healthier.If you want to use sugar as a sweetener use powdered sugar, otherwise the crystals will not dissolve.For a better flavor roast the nuts on a baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, or until slightly golden brown.
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