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Chocolate. You crave it. I crave it. We all crave it. A food that's in a category by itself. We consume over two billion pounds of chocolate annually in the United States. That adds up to over 12 pounds per person. Now, don't feel badly, the Swiss eat nearly 26 pounds a year! It seems that chocolate, like coffee and tea, has an unusual capacity to interact with brain chemistry. The more we eat the more we want.
The first people to discover the use of cocoa beans were the ancient Aztecs (AD 1200-1521). They played an important role in developing the use of cocoa to what it is today. The Aztecs found the true value of these beans as they beat the cocoa beans into a pulp and took the bitter chocolate drink. This drink found its way to the shores of Europe when the Spaniards defeated the Aztecs. The cocoa beans were transported back to Europe and the Europeans found the drink irresistible when sugar was added to it.
As the unrefined drink became more common and cheap, more people started drinking it and eventually, someone came up with the idea of making solid chocolates candies. People got hooked to the unique taste of chocolates and the rest is history....
Types Of Chocolate
Unsweetened or Baking chocolate is simply cooled, hardened chocolate liquor. It is used primarily as an ingredient in recipes, or as a garnish.
Semi-sweet chocolate is also used primarily in recipes. It has extra cocoa butter and sugar added. Sweet cooking chocolate is basically the same, with more sugar for taste.
Milk chocolate is chocolate liquor with extra cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla added. This is the most popular form for chocolate. It is primarily an eating chocolate.
Cocoa is chocolate liquor with much of the cocoa butter removed, creating a fine powder. It can pick up moisture and odors from other products, so you should keep cocoa in a cool, dry place, tightly covered.
White chocolate is somewhat of a misnomer. In the United States, in order to be legally called 'chocolate' a product must contain cocoa solids. White chocolate does not contain these solids, which leaves it a smooth ivory or beige color. Real white chocolate is primarily cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla. There are some products on the market that call themselves white chocolate, but are made with vegetable oils instead of cocoa butter. Check the label to avoid these cheap imitations. White chocolate is the most fragile form of chocolate; pay close attention to it while heating or melting it.
So now that you are well versed in chocolate, let's get down to a really good recipe. I make no bones about my love for chocolate and the richer the better. The combination of chocolate and rum is one I cannot pass up. In my quest for a really good Chocolate Rum Cake, I came up with this recipe. It is a combination of several recipes and it will satisfy the most avid chocoholic. It is best to make it a day before serving to let the flavor mellow. Just a note about the rum you use. I have found that using good rum like Bacardi Añejo makes a huge difference in taste. It produces a much more mellow flavor without the harsh alcohol bite. You can find it in any good liquor store.
Chocolate Rum Cake
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 (4 oz) pkg instant chocolate pudding mix
½ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup good rum such as Bacardi Añejo
½ cup chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts
1 cup Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Chips or semi-sweet chips
½ cup butter (no substitutes)
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup rum
¼ cup water
Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease one 10-inch Bundt pan. Place the chopped nuts in the bottom of the pan.
With an electric mixer, beat cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, ½ cup water and ½ cup rum on high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan over the top of the nuts.
Bake at 325° for 50 - 60 minutes. Remove cake from oven onto a wire rack. With a wooden skewer poke holes in the top of the cake. Spoon the glaze over the cake slowly to make sure it seeps into the cake. Pouring too fast will result in a sticky mess. Let cake stand for 30 minutes. Invert onto serving platter. Once cooled completely, store in an airtight container. Remember to let the cake sit for 24 hours before serving to enhance the flavor.
Cooking Term of the Week
Bloom - The white discoloration that sometimes appears on chocolate. This discoloration is just some of the cocoa butter that has softened and diffused to the surface. The taste is barely affected but the interior of the chocolate will feel slightly more dense. If you use this chocolate for baking or cooking, the cocoa butter will blend with the rest of the chocolate and your recipe will be fine.
This Week's Website
In keeping with the chocolate theme I have decide to lead you to even more chocolate. The Chocolate Alliance website is a fantastic resource for everything chocolate. From recipes, books, magazines and sources for fancy chocolates, it is a one stop chocolate experience.
The Chocolate Alliance has a huge database of retailers where you can purchase anything relating to chocolate and making chocolate confections. And if you want to send someone a care package of truly wonderful chocolate, you will find it here.
The website also offers a classified section to either search for or sell chocolate related items. A nice touch for chocophiles like myself. So next time you are craving chocolate check out The Chocolate Alliance at www.chocolate-alliance.com/index.htm.