Cocoa 101

Here we are the last month of 2012, where has the time gone? I’ve enjoyed writing  about  in-season foods this year, but this month is a little different  – and decadent.  I’m a huge sucker for chocolate so I’m sure you can appreciate my excitement to write this month’s cocoa post!

The cacao tree (Theobroma Cacao) originated in South America over a million years ago, fast forward to today and you’ll find this tree growing in countries all over the world. Optimum growth condition are in hot, rainy, tropical climates, all found within a small belt between 10ºN and 10ºS of the Equator.  Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana are the greatest cocoa producing countries in the world.

Like my other vice, coffee, the cocoa bean is roasted to bring out the yummy chocolaty flavor and color. The bean is then milled into cocoa liquor which contains cocoa particles suspended in cocoa butter, pressing follows to separate the two. Cocoa butter is used to make chocolate, and the cocoa particles (now called presscake) is ground up to make cocoa powder.  (Who isn’t craving chocolate right now??)

 

Nutrient Values

1 Tbsp serving   – 12 calories

  • 3 g carbohydrate
  • 2 g fiber
  • 1 g protein
  • 0.5 g fat

 

Health Benefits:

Antioxidants

We all have cells, some get damaged and some don’t. Why? Cell oxidation can be caused for various reasons, some of which include: unhealthy diets, smoke, pollutants, and by aging. The good news is that we can protect our cells from free radical damage with antioxidants. Cocoa contains quite a large amount of an antioxidant called flavanols, these help lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes. According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the antioxidants capacity in cocoa is higher than that of teas and wine – sweet!

 

Fibre:

Are you surprised to see fibre listed as a benefit? A whole 2 grams of fibre per tablespoon! The recommended amount is 25 – 38 grams daily, this can help:

  • keep a healthy digestive system,
  • make you feel fuller longer
  • lower blood cholesterol levels
  • control blood glucose levels
  • increase the good bacteria in the colon =  healthy colon.
  • reduce risk of getting intestinal ulcers
  • prevent development of some types of cancers

 

How to Pick:

Cocoa powder comes in two different forms: natural unsweetened and Dutch-processed.

  • Natural cocoa powder: light brown and acidic.

Mix your natural cocoa with an alkali (such as baking soda) and pop it in the oven. This combination creates a leavening agent to give your batter some height.

  • Dutch processed: darker, reddish brown and is given an alkali solution to neutralize its acidity.

Mild flavor and easy to dissolve in liquids

Won’t combine well with an alkali (baking soda)

 

Keep these differences in mind when adding cocoa to baking – your prized brownies might come out a little different than expected!

 

How to Store:

Store cocoa in an opaque, airtight container in a cool, dry place.

 

There are so many ways to use cocoa, but one of our favorites is added to granola.

This month’s newsletter recipe, provided by Atco Blue Flame Kitchen, is Cocoa Nut granola. (subscribe here if you aren’t already receiving our newsletter)