When one thinks about chocolate, typically pictures of milk chocolate with it’s creamy texture and cocoa color come to mind, but, in fact there are other types of chocolate that are just as delicious.
Derived from the seeds of the cacao tree
, chocolate, in it’s earliest form was used by the Mayan and Aztec civilizations as a drink during ceremonies and reserved for the wealthy and powerful. In the native language of the Aztecs it is called “xocolat!” and when it was discovered there by Cortez and brought back to Spain in the 1500’s, the name was changed to the more pronounceable “chocolate”.
Today, chocolate is still made from the seeds of the cacao tree which are fermented, roasted and ground. Native to the tropical regions of South America, the tree is now cultivated throughout the tropics. Before fermentation, the seeds have a bitter taste, but after they are fermented, the bitterness is gone and the result is cocoa with the chocolate flavor we all know and love.
Today, the cocoa is mixed with other ingredients and for milk chocolate, milk solids are mixed in as well as coca butter, sugar and perhaps some other ingredients as well. Dark chocolate is made much the same but does not have the milk solids mixed in and contains a higher percentage of cocoa so it is a bit more bitter and not as creamy. White chocolate is actually a misnomer of sorts as it doesn’t have any cocoa in it at all!
Many ancient civilizations held the cacao tree and it’s seeds as sacred and they may have been on to something as modern studies show that chocolate has many health boosting properties. It is full of antioxidants and phenols (like those in green tea) and has been said to help lower blood pressure as well as keep bad cholesterol from oxidizing. It also pushes up your body's supply of good cholesterol. It has the additional benefit of acting as a mood elevator as it has been linked with serotonin levels in the brain.
Milk chocolate, although not as healthy for you as dark chocolate, is used in many confections today. Of course, it is eaten in bars alone but can also be used in baked goods like cakes, cookies, pies and even breads. One new use that has taken parties by storm is the chocolate fountain
which is a large fountain that drips a chocolate fondue
where guests can dip pieces of fruit or sweets in for a delightful treat.