Chocolates from Around the World

Chocolates from Around the World

Although some people have allergies, and others prefer different tastes, it is generally safe to say that people all around the world love chocolate. This dark confectionary has been a favorite of many for hundreds of years, and it celebrated at festivals and in homes across the globe. Not only is it a long-celebrated sweet, it can also be prepared over a hundred different ways, with just as many varieties, from dark to milk. Anywhere you go, you can find chocolate made in a way that was entirely new to you, from fondue fountains, to being iced with oranges. So I thought I would spend some time and talk about my favorite chocolates from all over the place.

As the cultured woman that I am, I would be remiss if I did not include the Salon du Chocolat, located in Paris. This chocolate studio hosts events dedicated to the sweet frequently, and has branches in cities around the world, like Tokyo. Notably, they host an annual chocolate fashion show- where their chocolatiers work with actual designers to create couture, high-fashion pieces, literally made entirely out of chocolate.

People don’t just celebrate chocolate at festivals, they even do it in their hometowns. There are several cities known exclusively for their chocolate production, such as Hershey, Pennsylvania, and St. Stephen, in New Brunswick. This is Canada’s unofficial “Chocolate Town,” where locals and tourists can enjoy chocolate themed activities, amongst an entire chocolate menu, lunch and dinner, during their annual Chocolate Fest. Hershey is the home of the original chocolate-making company, and boasts of still owning the first chocolate factory, and the best chocolate this side of the pond.

With the continuance of the deforestation of our planet’s rainforests, the cacao bean, from which chocolate is derived, is quickly becoming an endangered plant. However, many people have worked hard to prevent this natural disaster from taking place. This includes the people who live on the island of Kauai, in Hawaii. The temperature of this tropical paradise is ideal for growing, and the locals have taken up the cause, growing trees in abundance, to the point where you can just pick the bean right off to enjoy, although I recommend smaller servings. They’ve also taken to infusing various tropical fruits with their chocolate, like coconut and guava, creating flavor combinations unique to this island in the sun.

On the other hand, the town of York, in the United Kingdom, has had a long history with chocolate. Although not as in-depth as Germany or Italy, this town nonetheless celebrates their relationship with this sweet by having created a chocolate vodka. However, this doesn’t even compare with the small country of Belgium, where they continue to produce over 170,000 tons of chocolate, every year.

There you have it, a small sampling of some of my noted chocolate from around the world. Whether dark or light, iced or hot, this sweet continues to be my second best friend, and my teeth’s worst enemy. For a bite of chocolate, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How to make Homemade Chocolate

How to make Homemade Chocolate

Most of the time, I leave the work to professionals. After all, there are people who have made their career out of making chocolate- such as confectioners, pastry chefs, and chocolatiers. These people, along with candy corporations, make the world a better place, which I salute. Trust me, I would be a horrible person if not for the invention of chocolate.

That doesn’t always mean I want to go out and buy it all the time. That’s no fun, and it requires effort, like leaving the house. Besides, sometimes the mood just strikes me to whip something up- and why should I pay into some big company or high-priced chocolate shop, when I can do for myself at home? Not everyone knows how to make chocolate though, which is sad, because it really is a simple dessert that anyone can enjoy, with very work on your part. Thus, I wanted to give my readers a very basic how-to on making homemade chocolate, from scratch.

For starters, you need the right ingredients. My mom always made homemade chocolate traditionally with milk and butter, which is not necessarily a bad way to go, because it gives your chocolate such a smooth texture. However, it also tends to bland out the taste, and as wonderful as the combination of milk and butter is, it’s not particularly good for you. Personally, I try to go a healthier route, which is equally flavorful, and simple.  You’ll also need the right equipment for the job. Suzy Homemaker will tell you to always use a double-boiler, but not everyone has such obsolete kitchen technology these days. Honestly, a small pot will do just fine, as long as you keep the heat low, to prevent boiling and making your chocolate bitter.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 cup of Cocoa butter
  • 1 cup of Cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of Vanilla/ vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup of Honey
  • You’ll also need:
  • Parchment or Wax paper
  • 1 Whisk
  • 1 small pot
  • 1 glass baking dish (I go for the 8×8 traditionally, but I also have chocolate molds as well that work fine.  If you have a mini-muffin dish, which works as well.)

Once you have all these ingredients, you can begin. Gently melt the cocoa butter in your small pot, on low heat, really no higher than the first couple settings. Baking and cooking is an exercise of patience after all, and you don’t want it to melt too quickly, because you run the risk of burning. Once that’s all melted, remove from the heat, and add the honey, and vanilla. Once your liquids are together, gently whisk in the cocoa powder, until your mixture is smooth.  Be sure to get out all the lumps, because you really don’t want bites of cocoa powder.

Now throw down your wax paper, and pour the chocolate into your mold. Put it in the fridge, so it can set, and leave it in there for a few hours, so it can harden. Once it’s hard, you should be able to slip it right out of the mold. Bam- you’ve just made yourself some healthy, homemade chocolate, at no extra expense to you. Bon appetite!

The Health Benefits of Chocolate:

The Health Benefits of Chocolate:

Mostly everyone agrees that chocolate is awesome. Those who don’t, well, they’re silly and they have no idea what they are missing.  Chocolate is great- I love the stuff, and everyone I know loves it too. And chocolate isn’t just good- it’s good for you. In moderation of course; I’m definitely not telling anyone to go out and stuff their faces, because it’s not like diabetes is a hoax. But in small amounts, ingesting chocolate can have several health benefits that most people aren’t aware of.

As with anything else, when you buy chocolate, try to go for the simplest, easiest to read labels. You don’t want to buy Snickers, or M-&-M’s, things with a lot of processed sugars and unnecessary dyes. These detract from the healthy elements within chocolate itself, and often cancel those benefits out. I would recommend going with European labels, such as Lindt, which deal almost exclusively in pure cocoa, or making chocolate at home. Be careful if you are making chocolate from scratch though, burning cocoa will create impurities and destroy the natural antioxidants found in this bean.

Interestingly enough, ingesting large amounts of cocoa powder is toxic, and will kill you. That is because you don’t need large amounts. The raw cocoa bean is actually considered a superfood to certain nutritionists, because it contains many nutrients for the body that are otherwise difficult to find, such as sulfur, and magnesium. Cocoa, in its raw form, also contains large amounts of caffeine, which is reduced down with cocoa butter, also derived from the bean.

Many people will also tell you that chocolate makes you happy, and it is good for your heart. These aren’t just some old wives tales, they are true. Chocolate, in its rawest form of cocoa, promotes the release of serotonin, and the secretion of endorphins- both of which stimulate good moods. In higher doses, this has even helped to reduce pain- although this psychoactive element can cause people to become addicted to chocolate. This can have serious health repercussions down the road, so I wouldn’t recommend using chocolate as a cheap painkiller the next time you have a stomachache. You probably got it from eating too much chocolate to begin with.

More importantly, cocoa contains these things called antioxidant flavonoids, and polyphenols. In fact, cocoa is a rich source of these, which have huge physical benefits. They help improve blood pressure and circulation, contributing to a regular heartbeat. The antioxidants also help protect your body against toxins to a small degree, and free-radical damage, which accumulates on your cells over time, and is what causes your body to age. These flavanols in higher doses have also been shown to reduce your chances of sunburn, and promote your brain’s cognitive abilities.

So you see? Chocolate is just as good for you, as it is just plain good. Crack open a bar and have a nice afternoon snack, you deserve to really treat yourself, after all. Don’t let others judge you, you just love chocolate, and with all these bonuses, you can believe that chocolate loves you back.