For the love of chocolate and because Valentine's Day's just around the corner, this month's newsletter is all about cacao. Whether you'll be celebrating this special day with your sweetie or by your lonesome, I hope you'll enjoy some chocolate treats (and eat lots of fresh fruit with it).
This month's newsletter includes a brief description of various types of chocolate and a tasty (and easy) chocolate fondue recipe you can use on Valentine's Day, along with a video that explains it all.
Fondue Tip of The Month
When it comes to chocolate, we all have our favorite: some prefer dark while others favor milk or white chocolate. But which is healthiest? And what's the difference between bittersweet and baking chocolate?
You can have chocolate fondue with most of them, but here's what you need to know so you can pick the best one for your needs:
Cacao and Cocoa
Cacao is the actual cacao bean without the shell. You can buy cacao nibs (crunched up pieces of bean) or ground cacao (powder). It's the healthiest form of chocolate but it's quite bitter.
Cocoa powder is created by expelling the fat (cocoa butter) from chocolate liquor with a
hydraulic press, and then letting it harden before crushing it into powder. Cocoa powder is often used in low-fat cooking because it retains the chocolate flavor but has most of the fat removed (but it still contains some).
Here's a recipe that uses cocoa powder: https://www.bestfondue.com/how-to-make-chocolate-fondue.html
Unsweetened, Bittersweet, Semisweet and Baking Chocolate
Unsweetened chocolate is made by letting chocolate liquor cool and harden. It's a popular type of baking chocolate because people can add the exact amount of sugar and fat they want.
Bittersweet and Semisweet chocolate are pretty much synonymous and contain at least 35% chocolate liquor and varying amounts of cocoa butter and sugar. They're often referred to as “dark chocolate."
Bittersweet/Semisweet Baking Chocolate is sweeter than unsweetened baking chocolate. The labeling can be misleading because, as opposed to regular "bittersweet/semisweet chocolate", "Bittersweet/Semisweet Baking Chocolate" contains NO additional cocoa butter (so no extra fat).
Here's a fondue recipe that uses semisweet chocolate: https://www.bestfondue.com/chocolate-rum-fondue.html
Dark, Milk and White Chocolate
Dark chocolate is cocoa with added fat and sugar, but no milk (or at least much less milk than milk chocolate). The US has no official definition for dark chocolate. Typically dark chocolate contains 70% to 99% cocoa but the ratio of cocoa butter to solids may vary. Some inexpensive commercial brands will even sell chocolate with as little as 45% cocoa and label it as "dark"... so read the ingredient
Milk chocolate in the US contains at least 10% chocolate liquor (25% cocoa solids in most of Europe), plus cocoa butter and sugar in varying amounts, and at least 12% milk (milk, cream, milk powder, etc). The amount of milk and cocoa (and their quality) will vary greatly. Read the labels and know where your ingredients come from.
White chocolate can't technically be called "chocolate" because it doesn't contain chocolate liquor. White chocolate contains at least 20% cocoa butter and 14% milk and sugar in varying amounts.
Here are some recipes:
Dark chocolate: https://www.bestfondue.com/dark-chocolate-fondue-recipe.html
Milk chocolate: https://www.bestfondue.com/recipe-for-chocolate-fondue.html
White chocolate: https://www.bestfondue.com/white-chocolate-fondue-recipe.html
The Bottom Line?
Pick whatever flavor you like best, but if you want "healthy" chocolate, aim for at least 70% cocoa content and read the label to pick the brand with no (or very few) weird additives or ingredients that shouldn't be there in the first place.
Remember that the ingredients are listed in descending order of weight, so there's much more of the first ingredient than the last one, so you can easily compare the sweetness (or healthiness) of various brands using their food label.
For information about the health benefits of chocolate, visit these links: http://www.prevention.com/content/which-healthier-dark-chocolate-vs-milk-chocolate
Monthly Recipe Idea
I recommend this basic chocolate fondue recipe which lists cream, sugar and butter as separate ingredients. I've also included a video from CHOW that shows how to modify the recipe and how to make it. The woman in the video also points out what ingredients should be on your chocolate's ingredient label.
Fondue is meant to be slow, so take your time and enjoy the experience!
And if you need some romantic ideas to spice up your evening this
coming Valentine's Day, here are a few gift ideas and a list of top-five romantic things to do on February 14th.
Food For Thought
"Anything is good if it's made of chocolate."
- Jo Brand
That's it for this month.
Want more fondue tips and ideas? Browse through my collection of fondue recipes or explore my fondue site in French.
Until next month, be careful with open flames, and have fun with fondue!