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MT 27 March 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 27 MARCH 2016 35 CHOCOLATEMAKING today bears very little resemblance to the original xocotlatl that the Spanish colonialists discovered from the Aztecs. Christopher Columbus discov- ered the cocoa bean in the New World where local tribes had built a culture of worship around the holy bean, though it wasn't until Cortez discovered the monetary and nutritional value of chocolate, 17 years later that chocolate came to Europe. The Aztecs brewed their own party drink that they called xocot- latl – a bitter-tasting drink made from roasted ground cocoa beans with peppery spices and hot pep- pers. Though not to the taste of Spanish conquerors, they were intrigued by the monetary value of the cocoa bean, which was used as payment for slaves and was thus known as the "gold of the New World". The Spanish monks then en- hanced the drink with sugar and vanilla with some describing the drink as delicious and nutritional and the clergy banning the drink as it was lust-arousing. The myths that chocolate caused pleasure were around even then and have lived on to this day. The effects of chocolate have been studied extensively and it has been concluded that the brain treats chocolate as a drug with pharmacological actions occurring in the brain. Chocolate contains cannabinoids, the compounds responsible for the high of marijuana, though the concentration is too low to cause an effect. The compounds which do have an effect are caffeine, tyramine and tryptophan, which convert into feel-good chemicals dopamine and serotonin. Today a number of different types of chocolate are available. Cocoa powder: This unsweet- ened powder is pulverized, partially defatted chocolate liquor. Cocoa powder gives an intense chocolate taste and is available in "Dutch- processed" (alkalized) or natural varieties. Unsweetened chocolate: Also known as "bitter" or "baking" choc- olate. This is pure chocolate liquor, composed solely of ground cocoa beans. Although it looks and smells like chocolate, it has a bitter taste and is not meant for consumption on its own – it is best used in cook- ing, when it can be combined with sugar to make it more palatable. Dark chocolate: Chocolate that contains chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and leicithin (an emulsifier). There are no milk solids added in dark chocolate. The cocoa content of commercial dark chocolate bars can range from 30% (sweet dark) to 70- 80% for extremely dark bars. Bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet choco- late also fall into the "dark choco- late" category. Bittersweet chocolate: Choco- late contains at least 35% cocoa solids. Most bittersweet bars con- tain at least 50% chocolate liquor, with some bars pushing 70-80% chocolate liquor. This chocolate often has a deeper, more bitter flavour than sweet dark or semi- sweet bars. Semi-sweet chocolate: This is primarily an American term, popularized by Nestle Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips. Semi- sweet chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa solids, and is generally assumed to be darker than sweet dark chocolate, but sweeter than bittersweet. However, the lack of regulations regarding sugar con- tent means that these classifica- tions are relative and not consist- ent across brands. Sweet dark chocolate: is "dark chocolate" in the sense that it does not contain milk solids, but it still has a high percentage of sugar and is much sweeter than other types of dark chocolate. Many brands of sweet dark chocolate have only 20- 40% cocoa solids. Milk chocolate: In addition to containing cocoa butter and choc- olate liquor, milk chocolate con- tains either condensed milk or dry milk solids. Milk chocolate must contain at least 10% chocolate liq- uor, 3.39% butterfat, and 12% milk solids. Milk chocolates are typically much sweeter than dark chocolate, and have a lighter colour and a less pronounced chocolate taste. Milk chocolate is more difficult to tem- per properly and more prone to overheating. White chocolate: White choco- late gets its name from the cocoa butter it contains, but does not contain chocolate liquor or any other cocoa products. As a result, it has no pronounced chocolate taste, but commonly tastes like va- nilla or other added flavourings. By law, white chocolate must contain a minimum 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids, and a maximum of 55% sugar. Fine food of the week Chocolate: Gold of the New World Food Easter's chocolately celebrations all revolve around the kids. Think Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. This is a great recipe that the grown-ups will love. Serve these homemade chocolate egg shells filled with a grown-up drunken chocolate mousse or try a white chocolate mousse for a perfect ending to Easter Sunday lunch. Chocolate eggshells Serves 6 Ingredients • 200g dark chocolate Method 1. Blow up 6 small bal- loons. 2. Melt the chocolate over a bain maire, or in the microwave. 3. Dip the balloon in the hot chocolate making sure it is half covered in choco- late. 4. Place the balloons on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. 5. When the chocolate has com- pletely solidified, use a pin to make a tiny hole in the balloons and let out all the air. 6. Peel the burst balloon out of the shell and they are ready for fill- ing. WATCH OUT Don't use water bomb balloons. The hint is in the name. These will burst when they come into contact with the hot chocolate and make a great chocolatey mess! Drunken chocolate mousse Ingredients • 200g dark chocolate • 4 tbsp butter • 4 tbsp whisky • 1 tsp cayenne pepper • 4 eggs, separated • 8 tbsp sugar • pinch of salt • 1 cup double cream Method 1. Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a simmer. 2. Place a heatproof bowl over the saucepan making sure it does not touch the water. 3. Melt the chocolate and butter in the bowl. 4. Remove from the heat and stir in the whisky and cayenne pepper. 5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 4 tbsp sugar over the simmering water and continue to whisk until foamy. 6. Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the chocolate bowl and set aside. 7. Whisk the egg whites with the salt, gradually adding the re- maining sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. 8. Fold into the chocolate mixture. 9. Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. 10. Fold into the chocolate mixture. 11. Place into the chocolate eggs and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until set. White chocolate mousse Ingredients • 200g white chocolate • 100ml milk • 2 egg whites • ½ tsp lemon juice • 225ml double cream Method 1. Melt the chocolate and stir in the milk. Set aside. 2. Whisk the egg whites with the lemon juice to stiff peaks. 3. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. 4. Whip the cream to soft peaks. 5. Gently fold into the chocolate mixture. 6. Divide into the chocolate egg shells and chill for at least 2 hours. Recipe of the week Easter eggs for grown ups

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