The Dark Side
By Maria Pilar Clark
The “dark side” might just be good for you … the dark side of chocolate that is. Bakers and producers of sweet snacks are joining forces to launch an innovative dark-chocolate empire armed with Omega-3 fatty acids and soy.
hocolate is a universal favorite, boldly venturing into new galaxies far, far away, and reaching people in every form you could imagine. It melts in your mouth, in your hand, and on and in a number of sinfully decadent desserts. It coats, covers, enrobes and enriches.
As a result, the ancient food of the gods is at the center of the universe. No longer does it orbit around other ingredients in varied baking applications, as a mere accent or garnish. Rather, it is the ingredient that transforms ordinary baked goods into extraordinary indulgent treats.
The fascination with chocolate has skyrocketed in the baking industry. As such, bakers and cookie producers are highlighting chocolate on their packaging, and entire lines are now orbiting around the sweet ingredient to create a strong, stellar image for their brands.
As chocolate becomes a shining star in the baking industry, chocophiles have found a sweet reason to rejoice: Chocolate is going trendy. Not only that, but it also has qualities that make it good for you, in moderation of course.
“In the chocolate world in general, indulgence is key. Chocolate is trendy by itself these days,” says Sylvie Morisset, technical and regulatory affairs manager, Americas, for Barry Callebaut.
Not only that, but as consumers champion the burgeoning health-and-wellness movement in the face of an ongoing obesity epidemic, their thoughts turn to better-for-you sweet snacks.
“As consumers are getting more educated about chocolate and more conscientious about what goes into their everyday diet, we have seen a rise in demand for organic and sugar-free chocolates,” says Marc Huot, corporate pastry chef and master chocolatier for Qzina Specialty Foods.
From sugar-free to allergen-free, chocolate is securing a modern, mainstream reputation of galactic portions that’s drawing in more followers than Darth Vader.
No matter what, in the chocolate world, chocolate is and always will be an indulgence.
“Chocolates bring a variety of taste, [texture] and mouthfeel [to the consumer], like wine does. Combined with variations in the cocoa content, you have many options to choose from,” Morisset explains. “Chocolate inclusions [are used in] muffins, cookies, breads, chocolate sticks, croissants. … Chocolate can also be used as an ingredient to give a chocolate color [and] taste to dough.”
Applications implementing chocolate are limitless and versatile, and can include everything from breakfast Danish to baked goods and even tortillas.
However, bakers and manufacturers are facing some sticky production challenges when adding chocolatey goodness to their products, such as proper tempering methods, microbial contamination and perfect mouthfeel.
The tempering process controls the cooling of chocolate before it is added to a particular application. This process promotes the formation of stable fat crystals in the finished product. Varied agitation times, temperatures and time all affect the ingredient, and finding that stable balance is key.
Tempering can be accomplished using various methods including mush, chunk, drip feed, direct (microwave), automated tempering, drop depositing, solid moulding, shell moulding and hollow moulding. Each method is very specific, but all provide precise guidelines in order to control chocolate temperatures and melting procedures.
According to the July 1999, American Institute of Baking’s (AIB) “Technical Bulletin,” chocolate is both the best and worst ingredient in terms of microbial contamination.
“Normally, bacteria counts are very low, and if properly stored, chocolate will not spoil because of its low water activity,” the bulletin says.
Microbial contamination occurs mainly when contaminants such as raw cocoa shells, shell dust, added dairy ingredients and other forms of moisture come into contact with the chocolate.
However, preventing contamination is relatively easy and involves implementing a strict sanitation regimen. Keeping the cocoa bean-cleaning operations area and employees separate from the main production plant is key, along with proper moisture drying methods and ensuring that there are no micro-leaks in any processing equipment.
Mouthfeel refers to the texture the consumer detects when consuming the chocolate. The AIB bulletin notes that chocolate particle size is most important when it comes to mouthfeel and whether or not the consumer perceives it to be gummy, gritty or creamy. Particle size is typically measured by micrometer, since it is an economical choice and involves a relatively simple process.
According to the AIB bulletin: “The particle size of chocolate being measured is usually that of the sugar it contains since the liquor solids are ground extremely fine to release all available fat.”
Particles that are coarse in terms of size often go undetected by consumers when inclusions such as crisp rice and nuts are introduced to mask any missing smoothness.
On the other hand, fine-grade coatings require an increase in available free fat. When coatings lack fat, the smooth texture of the chocolate becomes gummy due to an increased surface size that requires lubrication.
Chocolate is good mood food with a trendy new image. Not only does it sweeten the taste of our treats, but it also can protect our immune systems.
So, turn and join the dark side. And may the flavor be with you, young chocowans.
Editor’s Note: The American Institute of Baking is an excellent resource regarding the integration of chocolate into baked goods. Call 1-800-633-5137 for more information, or visit www.aibonline.org.
Wookiee Here for Health
Consumers are gravitating more toward chocolate, as emerging studies conclude that dark chocolate has a surprising number of health benefits.
Scientific research shows that the antioxidants found in dark chocolate act like a Jedi Knight for our immune systems — battling cardiovascular disease, lowering blood pressure and protecting us against certain forms of cancer.
Researchers also have concluded that white chocolate falls short in the health department, and milk chocolate’s protective power is marginal, due to an interference from milk, which hinders the body from absorbing important antioxidants from chocolate.
“We are definitely seeing a trend away from low carb, and more toward managed carbs or reduced sugar,” says Rick Ball, senior food scientist for Kerry Sweet Ingredients.
According to Ball, these days, consumers are interested in chocolate that offers a low-impact glycemic load, with ingredients that minimize insulin response — an important factor in metabolizing sugar.
“Chocolate is still considered an indulgence,” he says, “but with lower sugar levels, the natural antioxidant properties of cocoa and the addition of ingredients which contribute to health, such as fiber, plant phytosterols and Omega-3 fatty acids, there is now less guilt involved with its consumption.”
There is also a trend toward allergen-free chocolate — free of nuts, gluten, milk and lactose.
Barry Callebaut created a type of milk chocolate to meet allergen-free needs, based on the properties of rice powder, particularly in demand in the Asian market, where most of the population is lactose intolerant.
According to Sylvie Morisset, technical and regulatory affairs manager, Americas, for the company, “We also see in Europe more and more of a demand for reduced sugar [chocolate]. Not only for dark chocolate … but milk chocolate and fillings.”
Kerry Sweet Ingredients also has been showcasing a new chocolate product — enhanced with Omega-3 fatty acids.
“We have developed both dark chocolate and milk chocolate coatings, which provide 100 mg. of Omega-3 [fatty acids] per 15 gm. of chocolate,” says Ball. “Omega-3 [fatty acids] can be incorporated into compound coatings as well.”
All you need is 3.5 oz. of chocolate daily, and make sure it’s dark. However, keep in mind that chocolate is loaded with calories and fat, so consume in moderation.
Grab that leftover Easter bunny and chomp on a chewy, chocolatey ear with this in mantra in mind between bites — chocolate is good for your health. Go ahead and eat the other ear while you’re at it.