Chocolate. Chocolat. Schokolade. No matter which way you say it, chocolate means one thing – absolute deliciousness. Whether it’s a quick bite size piece or a whole cake made out of the stuff, chocolate is sweet, decadent, and indulgent. Can anything else even compare? Since it is February and coming close to that oh so beloved holiday smack dab in the middle of the month, isn’t it time to look at the most fun part … the chocolate?
In the beginning, there was chocolate…
A treat as old as time, chocolate can be dated as far back as 1900 BC throughout ancient Mesoamerica, the cacao bean being a major crop for the region.
While chocolate coins are a fun novelty in modern times, the Aztecs and Mayans used actual cacao beans as currency. Today, chocolate coins (also called “gelt”) are still a hit with Jewish children everywhere when Hanukkah comes around, but we no longer have to risk eating yourself out of house and home if you have a sweet tooth!
Legendary Hot Chocolate
Aztec nobles would largely consume chocolate as a drink called “xocolatl” (legend has it that Montezuma himself would drink three gallons of it every day), but it was a very different recipe from the hot chocolate we now know – it was frothy, thick, and bitter, since sugar wouldn’t be added to chocolate until the Europeans arrived.
Chocolate, American Style
Chocolate was one of America’s very first exports and was a hit with the colonists, too. It was even included in soldier rations during the American Revolution! That tradition famously continued throughout World War II with K rations for soldiers that included a very recognizable Hershey’s bar.
It takes all kinds… of chocolate.
What’s up with dark chocolate being so bitter? What’s up with white chocolate, anyway? Why does chocolate have to be so complicated! Never fear – we’ve got your answers.
Of the three types, dark chocolate is the one with the highest percentage of cocoa (a minimum of 70%). There is still some sugar added, but largely this chocolate is made of the cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and some cocoa bean powder. The larger percentage of cocoa solids, the more bitter the chocolate. Also of note: more cacao and less sugar means dark chocolate is a healthier option than the other kinds.
Invented less than 150 years ago, milk chocolate is a fairly recent addition to the world of sweets. It still contains some cocoa solids and cocoa butter, but it also has milk powder (hence the name) a larger percentage of sugar. The added ingredients give it a sweeter, creamer taste than dark chocolate.
A bit of a misnomer, white chocolate isn’t really chocolate at all. It has no cocoa solids, only a small amount of cocoa butter added to sugar and milk. It’s still a tasty treat with great baking applications… but chocolate it is not.
Semisweet and Bittersweet Chocolate
Semisweet and bittersweet technically both fall under dark chocolate. Semisweet must have only half as much sugar as cocoa solids (any more sugar and it’s sweetened chocolate). Bittersweet’s sugar content can be at the very most a third of the amount of chocolate liquor. The specific sugar ratios for these chocolates are strictly regulated because of their frequent use in baking, to ensure professional and home kitchens alike get the right chocolate for their recipes.
The other baking-focused chocolate in unsweetened chocolate, which is so bitter that it’s just regulated to baked goods, not to eating on its own.
Ready to get funky with chocolate?
With Valentines Day close approaching, you don’t want to celebrate with just any old chocolate, right? Why not give your valentine something special (or heck, why not treat yourself!). Check out these wild alternatives to a box of chocolates:
Chocolate Covered Jalapenos
Do you love to add heat to your life? Does your valentine love to take risks? Do you both love chocolate? Combine it all together and you’ve got chocolate covered jalapeno peppers! A little savory, a little sweet, and a lot spicy, these jalapenos totally blow away chocolate covered strawberries. You can find chocolate sellers online that feature them, but if you’re a wiz in the kitchen then you can always make your own.
Chocolate Covered Insects
Okay, we know what you’re thinking – bugs? Really? But if you’re really up for trying something daring this Valentine’s Day, why not go for one of the wilder and weirder culinary experiences around? Insects tend to be full of protein, vitamins, and minerals, which is why so many cultures across the globe include them in their diet. And the chocolate… well, let’s be real, adding chocolate couldn’t hurt, right? Don’t worry about figuring out how to make them at home; plenty of online food stores and novelty shops carry chocolate covered insects of various types. Grasshopper and ant are popular, but if you want to go really bold you can order some chocolate covered scorpions for you and your sweetheart!
Chocolate Spa Treatments
Let’s say you want to go wild with chocolate, but not “eating bugs” wild. Well, planning to go to the spa for Valentine’s Day? More and more spas and health resorts are adding chocolate treatments to their menus. That’s right – from chocolate facial masks to chocolate pedicures to chocolate body wraps, these treatments can stimulate your circulation while moisturizing and rejuvenating your skin. You can totally indulge and get pampered in your favorite sweet.
The World of Chocolate Museum & Cafe
Located in Orlando, Florida, the World of Chocolate Museum & Café is home to dozens of intricate chocolate sculptures from world-class chocolatiers. This is absolutely a chocolate lover’s dream come true! Take the museum tour to learn more about the history of this divine sweet, check out the chocolate art on display, treat yourself to a taste test of various international chocolate brands, and did we mention the museum also offers wine and chocolate tastings? If the tour doesn’t quite sate your sweet tooth, then head to the café for hot chocolate, chocolate pastries, or chocolate gelato. Don’t worry, the café also offers savory lunch options … but don’t be afraid to eat your dessert first.
Ready to take the next step? Check out how these restaurants are putting a new spin on dessert: