Real chocolate is good for you! It is nutritious, easily digestible, and full of vitamins, minerals and a 93% useable form of iron. Real chocolate is low in sugar with a low glycaemic index, keeping you full for longer and helping keep blood glucose levels steady. A naturally occurring antidepressant in chocolate helps boost energy levels and mental alertness. Cocoa butter has been proven to lower blood cholesterol levels and chocolate is rich in antioxidants, which help prevent cancer.
In contrast, ‘fast’ chocolate contains as little as 5% cocoa, along with sugar, solid hydrogenated vegetable fats (often linked with serious health problems), nut oils and a host of artificial flavourings.
When looking for real chocolate, look for a high cocoa content – between 50 and 70% cocoa solids – and natural vanilla rather than artificial vanillin. Also find out about the origin and variety of the cocoa beans. Fine-flavoured varieties are carefully roasted to enhance the flavour.
The Five Senses Chocolate Test
Like a good wine, a good chocolate will have a well-balanced, pleasing smell of intense fruit, wood, tobacco, or caramel.
When chocolate is broken, you can see a very characteristic texture in the break, a bit like tree bark. It should also be glossy and without bloom (an indicator of damp or warm storage conditions.) In general, the redder the colour of the chocolate, the better the cocoa.
Real chocolate has a distinctive ‘snap’ caused by the cocoa butter crystals. ‘Fast’ chocolate is more like plasticine; expect a dull thud.
Real chocolate should melt when held in the hand for a few seconds because cocoa butter melts at 34˚C. Chocolate with a lower proportion of cocoa butter will take longer to melt.
Real chocolate should linger deliciously in the mouth. A greasy residue means the chocolate contains fats other than cocoa butter. Particle size, i.e. smoothness on the tongue, should be so fine as to be indiscernible. Smell comes into play again as the chocolate melts on the tongue.
Avocado Chocolate Truffles
Makes approx. 25
275g real dark chocolate
75g fresh avocado butter (fresh avocado & ‘Grove’ avocado oil)
Good quality cocoa powder or tempered chocolate for enrobing
Chop the chocolate into chunks or break into squares. Put the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and microwave on HIGH until barely melted.
Scald the cream in a pan – allow it to boil and rise up (be careful it doesn’t boil over.) Pour about a tablespoon onto the chocolate and mix well. Keep adding the cream, a spoonful at a time, mixing thoroughly to form an ‘emulsion’.
When all the cream has been mixed in, add the avocado butter. The mixture should still be warm enough to absorb it, although it will take a few minutes to beat it in, so there are no lumps left. When it has set to the consistency of butter icing, it is ready to be piped or spooned into truffle-sized pieces.
If piping, put the mixture into a piping bag and pipe blobs of mixture about the size of a large cherry onto a tray covered with greaseproof paper or cling film. Leave to cool for at least 2 hours, preferably 24.
To finish, drop into a tray of cocoa powder, roll briefly, shaking off excess and leave to set. Alternatively, the chocolates can be enrobed with tempered chocolate and drizzled with melted white chocolate or topped with a pistachio or blanched almond.