cake / dessert dip / sauce

Chocolate Syrup

Wednesday, January 15, 2014Enz F


Chocolate, considered a multi-billion dollar industry, is today's one of the most popular confection products in the world and across all ages. This has known to be a symbol of love and oftentimes, given as a gift to another person as an expression of affection and sweetness. Chocolate is also known to increase one’s happy hormones, known as endorphins, and believed to be an effective anti-depressant. Today, chocolates of all sorts have already proliferated in the market – liquid or solid form, different shapes, some loaded with different sorts of nuts and raisins, and come in different colors such as white, brown, dark brown and even red.  This has become a common grocery item in our food cart. But before getting some munch of your favorite choco bar, have you ever wondered where did these goodies really originate?

Chocolate syrup is commonly used as toppings to favorite desserts.

HISTORY AND ORIGIN 

The term “chocolate” is believed to be derived from the Nahuati word xocoatl or cacahuatl, meaning “bitter water.” Some etymologists believe that it is a combination of Mayan words, “choco” and “haa” and the Nahuati term “atl.” More recently, linguists theorized that it originates from “chicolatl,” from the word for the frothing stick, "chicoli," which means “beaten drink.” The generic name of the cocoa plant is “Theobroma cacao,” derived from the Greek words θεος (theos), meaning "god," and βρμα (broma), meaning "food," which when literally translated means, ”food of the gods.”

Sweetened chocolate was not yet born until 
Europeans came to discover the Americas.
Just like its sweetness, chocolate also has a very rich origin to look back into. It is believed that Cacao Trees, the plant from which the chocolate is derived, have been cultivated for millions of years in the South American rain forests, where the tropical mix of high rain fall and high year round temperatures and humidity provide the suitable climate. An archaeological survey showed the physical residue of chocolate in some Mayan pots, a sign that Mayans drank chocolate some 2600 years ago. Some evidences also showed that cocoa plant was cultivated in the Amazon region for more than 4000 years. According to historians, the cacao tree was worshipped by the Mayans and the Aztecs used chocolates as offerings to their gods. They both believed that cacao bean had magical or even divine properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. Ancient history tells that they even brewed the cocoa beans with maize and capsicum to form a spicy bitter-sweet drink, which was fermented and used for ceremonies. During pre-modern Latin America, the beans were considered valuable enough to be treated as currency. According to a 16th century Aztec document, one bean could be traded for a tamale, while 100 beans could purchase a good turkey hen or a slave, and taxes could even be paid in the form of cocoa beans.


Flowers can blossom on cacao trees all year around but will die within 24 hours if not pollinated. (Photo credits: manawaiestatechocolate.com)

Sweetened chocolate was not yet born until Europeans came to discover the Americas and sampled the native cuisine. It was introduced to Europe in the 16th century by a Spanish explorer - Don Hernan Cortes. A legend says that the Aztec king Montezuma welcomed him with a feast that included drinking chocolate, having tragically mistaken him for a reincarnated deity instead of a conquering invader. At first, the drink did not suit the foreigners' taste buds – being described as "a bitter drink for pigs" – but once mixed with honey or sugar, it quickly became well-accepted. However, some historians believe that chocolate actually came to Europe through Christopher Columbus, who had these beans in his bag when he returned from his trip in the Americas.

Once in Europe, the tradition of drinking hot chocolate became popular throughout Spain. The Spaniards broke the old Aztec way of drinking it. They ground the beans to paste, mixed it with spices, vanilla and honey, and then brewed. They drank it in cups from great height, giving them a frothy feeling. The drink was served to travelers and was a common beverage among the nobility. Chocolate went to the French much later in the century. Being culinary trendsetters, they popularized the drink and created modern day coffee houses that serve this delicious brew. Believed to have nutritious, medicinal and even aphrodisiac properties, it remained largely a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine that made mass production possible in the late 1700s.

The first version of the chocolate bar was created by J.S. Fry and Son in 1847. (Photo credits: stuffpoint.com)

America was introduced to the wonders of chocolate well before England when the first chocolate factory was established in 1765. During Revolutionary Period, the US Government realized the importance of the instant energy that chocolates provided and immediately shipped a lot of these to the soldiers. Chocolate came to England in the late 17th century, when Sir Hans Sloane was drinking cocoa in Jamaica. He added milk to make it more palatable and took the recipe to England. However, this brew was initially sold in England as medicine in apothecaries. This recipe was then adapted by Cadburys to produce the chocolate as we know it today. The first commercial chocolate factory was built in Bristol by Walter Churchman during the late 18th century.
 
In the early 19th century, a Dutch chocolate maker, Conrad J. van Houten, patented the method of removing fat from cocoa beans and producing a cake like substance which when dried and powdered led to the creation of what is known today as cocoa powder. The powder was then treated with alkaline salts, which made it easily soluble in water. This was the birth of the creation of chocolates in the form that we know and love today. Cocoa powder is extensively used in the manufacture of cakes, chocolate drinks and chocolate bars. His product became known as "Dutch cocoa," and it soon led to the creation of solid chocolate.

Chocolate fondue is commonly used in chocolate fountain. (Photo credits: themaisonette.net)

The first version of the chocolate bar was created by J.S. Fry and Son in 1847. They mixed sugar and cocoa butter with chocolate powder to produce a dry, grainy and not so tasty solid chunk. The Swiss, being naturally creative, invented newer forms of chocolate, the ones we get to see these days. Invention of milk chocolate by adding more milk and sugar to the existing recipe was made by Henri Nestle and Daniel Peters.

More recently, there has been a "chocolate revolution," marked by an increasing interest in high-quality, handmade chocolates and sustainable, effective cacao farming and production. Major corporations like Hershey's have expanded their chocolate lines by purchasing smaller producers known for premium chocolates, such as Scharffen Berger and Dagoba, while independent chocolate makers continue to boom as well.

HEALTH BENEFITS  

Cacao is a type of tropical tree, part of the evergreen family, which produces the world’s chocolate in raw form, before fat, sugar, and other “sweeteners” are added. The cacao tree grows in a few specific regions of the world naturally, including Mexico and South America, where most of the cacao or chocolate beans come from. Cacao trees only grow in tropical areas with the right combination of climate, temperature, and environment factors. Cacao trees range from 13 to 26 feet tall, sometimes reaching 32 feet. It takes five years to produce its first cocoa beans (pods). Flowers can blossom on cacao trees all year around, However, the cocoa flowers will die within 24 hours if not pollinated.

If consumed in moderation, chocolate is known to contain many qualities that are beneficial to health that it is almost treated as a super food. Here is an overview of its health benefits:
It takes five years for a cacao
tree to produce its first cocoa
 beans (pods).
  1. Cacao is a good antioxidant and regarded as an anti-aging food.
  2. Cacao is packed with theobromine (a mild stimulant that has a diuretic affect that helps in flushing toxins out of your body and gives you an enhancing mood) and phenylethylamine (a low potency antidepressant that works similar to the body’s endogenous dopamine and adrenaline, that can elevate your mood and give you a sense of well-being). Cocoa is also rich in agents that enhance the production of various feel-good chemicals in the brain, notably serotonin and endorphins.
  3. Chocolate contains essential trace elements and nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium, and vitamins A. B1, C, D, and E.
  4. Cocoa is also the highest natural source for Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is linked with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and pre-menstrual tension (PMT or PMS).
  5. Although cocoa butter is a fat, it is derived from plant matter, so it contains no cholesterol. The fat in cocoa butter is stearic acid, which is a unique fatty acid that reacts differently than most fats and does not raise blood cholesterol levels.
  6. Chocolate is known in some circles as a mild smart food (boosts brain power synergistically due to the effect of the ingredients in your body).
  7. Plain dark chocolate products containing a minimum 70% or more cocoa solids are the healthiest and the best way to satisfy your craving, without consuming too much sugar and saturated fat or HVO. If you are a milk chocolate lover, choose products with a minimum of 40% cocoa solids. Unfortunately white chocolate is by far the unhealthiest but if you must, look for a minimum 30% cocoa butter.

After getting amused by the facts related to the history and health benefits of chocolate, on the New Year’s Eve of 2014, I felt just so ecstatic to treat my family members to a home made chocolate sauce dessert. It was only the four of us who were present to celebrate - me, my youngest brother Udong, his wife Gissel and daughter Alexia. Very least to say, we were out of budget to buy some fireworks so we felt not as competitive (as our neighbors) to brag and pop our own New Year aerial show. I would rather shell out to put something on our media noche table than figuratively burn the meager amount of money I had on my purse. But then I really did not want us to just sulk in one corner, so with a few hundred bucks at hand, off I went to the supermarket to get the things that I need - some ingredients for my pasta recipe and a few chocolate tablea for my chocolate sauce. Quite a stretch, I was still able to obtain a few more stuffs like vanilla ice cream, wafers, marshmallows and some fruits despite the limited budget. It was a matter of meeting the necessities with minimal opportunity costs (Oh yeah, accountant mode on!). After paying my items, I went home carrying three loaded grocery bags. With no words but just curiosity on, the guys paved my way to the kitchen and just let me man it for a couple of hours or so. I knew then that somehow they felt excited because that was actually the first time I was going to prepare something unusual for them.

Everything else just went smooth. After cooking the pasta dish, I eagerly grabbed the saucepan for my chocolate sauce. It was very easy to make as it just took me around 15 minutes to get it done and it turned out to be as rich and even better than the commercialized (and sometimes overpriced) chocolate sauce we used to buy in the supermarket. I arranged some bananas and mallows on the plate, topped them with ice cream and wafers, and poured on some well-blended chocolate syrup. My three-year-old niece just so loved her dessert and went on for another serving. I was really glad that everyone was satisfied. No need to spend too much as there are very simple, yet special ways of enjoying this Aztec-old dessert. All you need is some imagination and a little effort. You readers may try to be more creative and innovative, just like the Spaniards (no matter how odd or rare, who knows?) by incorporating other ingredients, adding more distinction to this classic chocolate syrup dessert. 

So here it is, from the ancient bitter drink to a more delectable concoction and pastries version - chocolate lovers will surely never run out of ways to delight themselves as chocolate by any name tastes just as delicious and rich as the name goes.

Chocolate syrup is perfect as dip for wafers, marshmallows, strawberries and even for suman.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 to 3 pcs. unsweetened cocoa tablets or 1.5 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups sugar or any sweetener substitute
  • 2 tbsps. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tbsp. cinnamon powder or 1.5 tbsps. vanilla extract

PROCEDURE:
  1. In a saucepan over low heat, combine cocoa, water, sugar, salt and flour. Stir well until the solid ingredients dissolve into the water. Simmer for 3 minutes.
  2. Add milk and simmer for another 3 minutes. Whisk the mixture constantly until you get the desired thickness.
  3. Remove from heat and mix the cinnamon powder or vanilla into the sauce.
  4. Serve warm or let it cool and store in the refrigerator.

**Number of servings: 2 to 3 cups

TIPS FROM ENZ:
Cocoa powder is also used in the
manufacture of pastries and cakes.
  1. You may substitute the condensed milk from sugar and whole milk. Try adding more cocoa or adjusting your sugar to get the desired bitterness. Make sure that the ingredients are dissolved well by constantly stirring the mixture for an even and well-blended texture.
  2. You may experiment by adding some orange extract and orange zest for a choco-orange syrup, or maybe some minced fresh mint leaves for a choco-mint sauce. You may also mix with some peanut butter to create some peanut butter choco mixture. Your imagination and palate are the limit.
  3. The syrup is perfect as dip for wafers, marshmallows, strawberries and even for the well-known Pinoy kakanin such as suman (glutinous rice cake). It is a great substitute to commercialized pre-mixed chocolate fondue for your chocolate fountain, a cheaper version but just as good. Just add some cocoa butter or vegetable oil to decrease the viscosity and to ensure smooth flow.
  4. The syrup also goes well as a sweetener to your milk and coffee or as toppings to your favorite desserts such as brownies, vanilla ice cream, pancakes, banana split and many more. Again, do not limit your imagination and let your tongue do the exploration.

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