The Tree
notes & links: and things that don't fit into another category
[love], [make your own], [storing], [dogs], [cakes & cookies], [on my shelf right now],
[my middle name], [bibliography], [hyperlinks].

Storing Chocolate.

One of the great advantages of Chocolate is that it keeps very well. That combined with it's high energy content and mild stimulant effect have caused it to be used for centuries as special rations for by trekkers, travelers, adventurers and militaries.

The biggest problem that can arise is from the separation of the Cocoa Butter or, in the case of the very sweet bars, the sugar, from the rest of the mixture, causing a discoloration or 'bloom' on the surface. This is due to the fat melting and recrystallizing because of extreme temperatures, either warm or cold. It is not dangerous for eating, but it looks bad and it can effect the taste.

Chocolate can go rancid -- as can any fat, however you should never put Chocolate in the refrigerator. Cold will cause the 'bloom' described above, condensation will damage the Chocolate and extended periods of cold will cause a degradation of the flavor. (The flavor is best at a warm room temperature). The optimal storage conditions are cool -- but not cold, dark, dry, well ventilated and well wrapped. Notice that these precautions are the standard ones for any high fat content food. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, this can cause flavor to be lost, and can also cause 'bloom'.

Properly stored, Chocolate can expect to have a 3-4 months shelf life. I actually cannot imagine anyone having this problem, how can you keep it around long enough to go bad?!? I never have. However, some of the imported bars can be 7 to 12 months old before you even get them. This is becomming more and more of a problem. I have had quite a few bars (especially organic bars) that were rancid when we bought them; sometimes it is mild enough that you can't really taste the difference, it might taste a little like dirt, often it is almost inedible. Also, i have noticed in some of the finer quality bars that were imported and were very old (i.e. more than 6 or 8 months) that the flavor weakens considerably.

Chocolate kills dogs

Theobromide is a poison to dogs, even rather small amounts of real Chocolate can kill a dog. I do not believe that cats are equally susceptible, however it is best to keep it away from all pets.

Chocolate's connection with Love.

Chocolate has a very well established, long term, societal connection with love and sex. Theobromide produces a feeling of well-being while stimulating the body and this could, certainly lead to a lowering of inhibitions. However, probably the most important issue is simply the knowledge of the connection -- we have all (certainly anyone in a European based culture) grown up in a society which draws a clear connection between Chocolate and Love, and so we learn this early and are taught it constantly. We make a connection in our heads and our rituals which cannot be diminished.

  • Cacao has never been proven to be an aphrodisiac, however
    1. Theobromide is proven to cause both physical and mental relaxation, a sense of well-being and alertness which could certainly promote sexual interest.
    2. Chocolate is a "treat"; something most people enjoy and cherish. This feeling has proven aphrodisiac effects.
    3. For many centuries, Chocolate has been identified with love, and yes, with sex -- we can react to social identifications, whether there is a basis in science or not.

    I think the most interesting connection with love and sex involves the evolution of the heart shape and a long extinct Mediterranean cash crop.

    A plant called Silphium was used for centuries as birth control. It was a major export from North Africa and there are even Carthiginian coins with the plant on them. The plant became extinct during late Roman times, possibly because it wasn't cultivated successfully. Many people suspect that connection between love and what we know as the 'heart' shape with came from the shape of the cross-section of the the Silphium pod (as Silphium was, obviously, connected with love).

    It turns out that the Cacao Pod resembles the Sliphium pod slightly, and when cut crosswise, it also produces 'heart' shapes.

    Make your own.

    The hard part, of course, is finding raw Cacao Seeds. Roast them in a teflon- free pan stirring frequently. As the beans roast they start making "pop" sounds like popcorn -- they are done when about 70% of the beans have popped. Do not let them burn, though a bit of black on each bean is normal. Although it is difficult, you must peel them while they are still hot because if they are not hot when ground, they will not make paste. (I got only a coarse powder.) Grind the hot beans into a dark oily paste. Use a manually operated grinder, i have found that a coffee grinder does not work -- the granules are too large. A mortar and pestle might work well, and would be traditionally Aztec, but would probably require a lot of work. Spread the paste to cool less than 1 cm thick. It is traditional to make cakes 4 to 20 cm in diameter. After 8 to 12 hours you should have hard cakes of pure Chocolate. You can pulverize them into water, or milk, or baking, or you can freeze them for later use. When the paste is still hot, using a piece of linen you can squeeze out the Cocoa Butter, (which is an oil at this temperature), to produce a fat-free powder which is less bitter and has somewhat less Chocolate flavor.

    Chocolate we have around the house. August 2001 -- updated July 2002

    1. whole roasted beans (in a dark glass jar)
    2. a small jar of powder from my attempt to ground beans
    3. raw nibs (Sharfen-Berger)
    4. organic Cacao powder
    5. organic Cacao powder with a pinch of sugar for Hot Chocolate
    6. 4 misc. pure (70+) bars for tasting (we always have at least a couple around!)
    7. numerous squares from old good (70+) bars (for eating)
    8. Shocoking 75% Chocolate Chips
    9. chunks of not so good bars (70+)
    10. Calleburt dark Chocolate (60%?) hunks for cooking
    11. Chocolate sauce made from melted Calleburt
    12. Enric Rovira Chocolate covered Cacao beans. WOWOWOWWW!!
    13. Enric Rovira Chocolate covered Corn/Maize. WOWOWOWWW!!
    14. homemade camping hot Chocolate mix with organic powedered milk & a pinch of sugar.
    15. European Ovaltine
    16. American Ovaltine
    17. organic hot Chocolate mix
    18. Carnation hot Chocolate mix for camping

    Cake & Cookies

    29 Jul 2002 I really don't cover cake & cookies & brownies in the rest of my pages, because it is pretty much just about Chocolate. Most Cake (and almost all cookies) are just trash; it is amazing to me what people pass off for Chocoalte cake, and amazing to me that people eat this nasty sticky sweet artificial garbage, but there are some nice ones out there, cakes made with a few high quality ingredients, low sugar and lots of chocolate. I seek out these cakes with passion. Here's what i have found in Seattle:

  • Gretchen's Of Course downtown (Schwartz Brothers) makes a very nice one, although they are open limited hours (10:30am - 2pm i think) and it costs over $6!
  • B & O Espresso is 2 blocks from home and their Devil's Food Cake is very very good. However it is also $6 and goes up in price several times a year. We still like to do it occationally -- it's a nice social thing. And they make a very good Chocolate Pot.
  • Pacfic Desert Company had a good one before they closed down.
  • North Hill Bakery has what is by far the best cake in Seattle, and one of the absolute best ones i have ever had. It only costs about $2.50 a slice, but they don't have it every day. We have been known to buy entire cakes. It's fantastic and the not sweet buttercream frosting is wonderful.
  • Granville Island In Vancouver BC on Granville Island there is a stand which makes wonderful dark Chocolate Cupcakes with buttercream frosting -- none of which is too sweet. yum!
  • Not much to be said about cookies. There are hardly any of them worth eating. North Hill Bakery makes a wonderful wonderful Chocolate Crinkle cookie which is Chocolaty and not sweet. I suppose i should mention the Paul Newman Chocolate alphabet cookies, which are sweet, but yummy and very addicitve.

    My middle name.

    When i was born, i was not given a middle name, nor was my brother. We were told that when we turned 18 we could choose our own middle name. So as kids, it was always a fun thing to play with. I tried several middle names, but the one that stuck the longest (from about age 5 to about age 14.), the one that was on my first Social Security card at age 7, the one that everyone said fit the best, was Chocolate. Mark Chocolate Canizaro.

    A few misc. Chocolate web links.

    Global Exchange Action on Slavery Action on Slavery http://mujweb.atlas.cz/www/chocolate/enlinks1.htm
    Research on low polination rates
    The entire bar list!
    Chocolate history

    An unfortunately incomplete bibliography.

    Cocoa Tea & Coffee -- H.K. Ashby, Priory Press LTD or Crane Rusak & Co
    Stollwerk Chocolate Museum, K&246;ln, Germany
    Cocoa Association Ltd
    Cereal House
    58 Marks Ln
    London EC3
    American Cocoa Research Institute
    7900 Westpark Dr #513
    McClean VA 22101

    [storing], [dogs], [love], [cakes & cookies], [make your own], [on my shelf right now], [my middle name], [bibliography], [hyperlinks].

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