When I think of chocolate, my mind plays a screenplay of the many different kinds of chocolate I have had throughout my life. As a little girl, I thought M&M’s and Hershey’s were a treat that was savored and eaten slowly. As a young mother, my sweet daughter surprised me with a box of Whitman’s that will always hold a special spot in my heart. In fact, I saved the box for years and used as a sewing box. Chocolate chip cookies, brownies, s’mores, and chocolate cake are also favorites. A few years ago, I even discovered chocolate lemonade. Now that’s delicious. I have now discovered amazing chocolates — both dark and milk chocolate. I am a lover of dark chocolate but I have found some wonderful milk chocolates that are so smooth it feels like velvet on my tongue.
But today, as the weather turns cooler, thoughts of hot chocolate shared with family and seasonally-shaped cookies, hot chocolate savored while reading a good book, or even hot chocolate on the porch watching a sunset brings favored memories as well.
We begin today with a series of 5 posts on chocolate and cocoa, the history of chocolate and hot chocolate from around the world. This series of posts has been delicious, fun and, yes… fattening, as I have enjoyed and savored each recipe that I will share with you. Do remember to always keep chocolate away from your pets. Enjoy and try these recipes. You will fall in love with chocolate in a new way and develop new ways to prepare that favored cup this autumn and winter season.
First of all…Cacao vs. Cocoa:
What’s the difference? When you buy chocolate, you’ve likely noticed that some packages say they contain cacao while others say cocoa. Maybe you have seen cacao powder or cacao nibs in health food stores, leading you to wonder the difference from standard cocoa powder and chocolate chips. Chocolate is made from cacao beans. These beans are rather seeds from the cacao tree. This plant produces large, pod-like fruits, each containing 20-60 beans surrounded by a sticky, sweet-tart white pulp. The beans are then fermented, dried, and roasted. The processing step after roasting is crushing and separating the beans from their outer hulls, resulting in broken cacao pieces called nibs.
To make cocoa powder, the liquor – which is roughly half the fat in the form of cocoa butter — is pressed to remove most of the fat. To make chocolate, the liquor is often mixed with other ingredients, including vanilla, sugar, more cocoa butter, and milk.
The difference between the 2 words cacao and cocoa are this… The heavier processing (heating at higher temperatures) that transforms cacao to cocoa doesn’t affect how manufactures label the end product. This heat actually affects the beans on a molecular level, changing their structure and degrading nutrient content. Heavy processing is what makes cacao tun to cocoa. Again, cacao refers to cacao beans that have not been roasted and what is called cocoa is made of beans that have been roasted.
Hot Chocolate vs. Hot Cocoa
Hot chocolate is made with chocolate bars melted into milk and sweetened with a touch of sugar. Hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder and will be much sweeter. We can all agree that a cold evening, either warm drink will be welcomed by all. Several recipes will call for both, resulting in a very rich flavor. You can find more information in this post.
The nutrition and benefits in chocolate helps us all feel better to enjoy this decadent treat. Healthline states the following nutritional benefits of dark chocolate: lowers blood pressure, helps with weight loss, sun protection, improves blood flow, healthy brain, reduces oxidation that causes damage to our bodies at the cellular level, stress relief, and helps prevents diabetes. Nutrition in chocolate includes copper, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Chocolate is also a good source of healthy fats that may be able to reduce the risk of heart disease. Chocolate can be high in calories, so eating in moderation is best.
We present you each day with additional facts and information about chocolate. Today, we give you Italian Hot Chocolate as the first fantastic and delicious hot chocolate in our series of hot chocolates around the world.
I have to tell you, this is an amazing hot chocolate. I wasn’t sure how a thick hot chocolate would be. I have a friend in London and she talks about going skiing in Italy and the thick hot chocolate. In America, I would say this is like a rich pudding in its consistency. But with whipped cream and steaming hot and in a tea cup, yes, it was heavenly. This is truly a dessert hot chocolate and a small tea cup is the perfect size. I like dark chocolate and I used Alamo dark chocolate from Kitchen Kneads. I used a combination of dairy milk, coconut milk, and almond milk. Rich and delicious. Perfect for a ladies lunch dessert. Also perfect for a cold winter night after being outside and enjoying a fire. Enjoy!!
Italian Hot Chocolate or also known as Cioccolata Calda
- 4 oz. chocolate, chopped fine (your favorite milk or dark)
- 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ cup milk
- 1tablespoon cocoa powder of your choice (I used a very dark cocoa to enhance the flavor of the chocolate.)
- 1-2 tablespoons sugar (coconut or fine granulated)
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup milk
- Mix the 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch and ½ cup milk until smooth and combined.
- Mix cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and 1 cup milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer.
- Add cornstarch mixture and whisk until thick.
- Add chopped chocolate and turn the heat off.
- Whisk until and melted and thick.
- Pour into cups and garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
Watch our blog for more delicious hot chocolate recipes from other countries around the world. The chocolates and cocoa powders can all be found at Kitchen Kneads.
Sources: PaleoHacks.com, thespruceeats.com, Society19.com, Cooking Foodie