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Product focus - Everything you need to know about Chocolate.

Summary: As one of the most popular food types and flavours in the world, we take a look at all things chocolate. By Sophie McCarrick

Globally, chocolate is one of our ultimate 'go-to' foods for comfort and indulgence. Had a bad day? Snuggled up on the sofa? Feeling under the weather? Want to give a special gift? - we all (well, the great majority of us) turn to chocolate.

It's used in cakes, puddings, brownies, cookies, candies, granola bars, cereals, and even used in sauces to compliment different types of meat. It's gifted for Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas and many other celebratory occasions, and it's even used to drink in beverages like chocolate milk and hot chocolate.

So, what is it exactly that makes this wonderfood so wonderful and loved around the world? And, how much of it should we actually be eating?

If you're curling up with a massive slab every night, obviously it's not going to be the healthiest for you or your waistline, however, medically it's been proven that chocolate (meaning dark chocolate only) with a cocoa percentage of 70% or more, is very good for us!

As research tells, health experts have found that dark chocolate - when consumed in moderation - is great for the heart, circulation and the brain.

For treating brain injuries like a concussion, it's thought that the anti-inflammatory qualities of dark chocolate are beneficial, while flavanols are reported to assist in reducing memory loss in older people. It's also been reported that they can help with protect the skin against sun damage (although we wouldn't recommend skipping a splash of sun cream!).

Another study claims that consumption of cocoa reduces levels of bad cholesterol, while raising the levels of good cholesterol. This in turn could potentially lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

And, to top off the benefits, chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA) - the chemical your brain produces when you have that loved-up feeling. With PEA encouraging your brain to release feel-good endorphins, there's no surprise that a good bar of chocolate brings us comfort and smiles.

FACT: Chocolate comes from a small tropical tree native to Central and South America called the Theobroma cacao - or simply, 'cacao'. The tree is also grown commercially throughout the tropics, and around 70% of the world's cacao is grown in Africa.

Did you know?

CHOCOLATE MONEY ISN'T JUST SOMETHING YOU GET AT CHRISTMAS. In Mayan times cultivation of the cocoa bean was restricted, making chocolate money worth a fortune.

A RIVER OF CHOCOLATE ONCE EXISTED. In the original version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory filmed in 1971, the famous river Augustus Gloop nearly drowned in was filled with 15,000 gallons of water mixed with chocolate and cream. With all the cream, the river spoiled not too long after creation, and the cast revealed it left a terrible smell.

CACAO TREES LIVE FOR A LONG (VERY LONG) TIME. They can live to be 200 years old, but they produce marketable cocoa beans for only 25 years.

CREATION OF THE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE WAS ACCIDENTAL. In 1930 Ruth Wakefield realised she was out of baker's chocolate and mixed broken piece of Nestle chocolate into her cookie dough, expecting to create chocolate cookies. Instead, the chocolate chip cookie was born, and she later sold the idea to Nestle in return for a lifetime supply of chocolate.

CHOCOLATE WAS ONCE VERY DIFFICULT TO BUY.

That is until the first machine-made chocolate was produced in Barcelona, Spain, in 1780

Chocolate, mint & chilli truffles

Make these easy homemade truffles as an edible gift or after dinner treat - balance heat from the chilli with cooling mint extract

PREP TIME 10 mins COOK TIME 10 mins plus 2 hrs chilling EASY

150ml double cream

100g milk chocolate, chopped

100g dark chocolate, chopped

2 tbsp butter

3 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp mint extract

2 red bird's-eye chillies, roughly chopped

50g blanched almonds, finely chopped and toasted

1 Pour the cream into a pan and heat until just steaming, but not boiling. Put the chopped chocolate and butter in a bowl, pour over the hot cream, and stir until smooth. Add the golden syrup, mint extract and chilli. Chill until firm, about 2 hrs.

2 Using a melon baller roll into 1 tsp balls. Roll the balls in chopped almonds and set on a tray. Cover and chill until serving.

Get your chocolate fix!

Boutique Le Chocolat

Location: City Walk, Dubai. Call: 04-3334245

Godiva

Location: Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, plus various other locations. Call: 800-9-463482

Cocosia Artisan Chocolates

Location: Shop 2 & 3, Rasis Business Centre, Al Barsha 1 (behind Mall of the Emirates). Call: 04-3950977

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Publication:BBC GoodFood Middle East
Date:Feb 28, 2017
Words:787
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