As it’s Easter, we thought we’d focus on one of the most popular foods to consume at this time of year: Chocolate! Did you know that chocolate eggs first appeared at the court of Louis XIV in Versailles!? While there are many traditions worldwide at this time of year involving eggs, chocolate eggs at Easter has only really been around for the last 200 years or so, it all started in 1873 when Fry’s made Britain’s first Easter Egg, something that was improved on in 1875 by Cadbury who perfected the recipe so the eggs could be easily moulded into smoother shapes. Since then giving chocolate eggs at Easter has become incredibly popular – over 80,million are sold in the UK every year according to statistics!
With all that in mind and the assumption that you’ll be receiving large amounts of chocolate over the Easter weekend, you want to know a bit more about Britain’s favourite treat, if so, here’s some fun facts and our suggestions on how to get the very best out of your chocolate.
First things first, chocolate is made from cocoa beans and depending on where those beans are sourced will depend on the taste of the chocolate. The most popular places to source beans are Peru, Ecuador and the Ivory Coast and each one has its own distinct flavour, Ecuadorian beans will be more floral, while Peruvian beans are more delicate and those from the Ivory Coast have an earthy taste. This along with the recipe is how you can tell different brands of chocolate apart.
Generally speaking, chocolate comes in three varieties – milk, dark and white.
Milk Chocolate is probably the most popular variety of chocolate and is used in the majority of big brand bars. By law, in the UK milk chocolate has to have a minimum of 20% cocoa and milk solids blended with sugar.
For baking – use milk chocolate for muffins and cookies.
Dark Chocolate feels like a proper grown up treat! The percentage on the packet tells you how intense the flavour will be, the higher the percentage, the stronger the taste – it is much more bitter than milk chocolate and many dark chocolates are suitable for those with milk allergies and intolerances and those following a vegan diet.
For baking – add it to a chilli or use in a fudge cake or ganache.
White Chocolate doesn’t contain any cocoa solids, it is made with milk, sugar and cocoa butter which is where it gets its signature smooth and creamy taste. Out of all the chocolate varieties, this is the sweetest and because of the way it is made, it can be more difficult to bake with it, especially if you need to melt it – white chocolate does go very well with strawberries, raspberries and similar flavours, so why not have a go at muffins or cookies with it.
You might have noticed that there are bars of chocolate marketed in the baking sections of stores – this kind of chocolate is made with less cocoa butter than usual which helps when cooking with it, but it isn’t necessary to exclusively use this in your bakes.
Now you know the basics – here are some chocolate facts
- Don’t refrigerate!
You might be tempted to put your chocolate in the fridge – don’t! Chocolate is sensitive to heat, so you need to make sure to store it properly – if it gets too hot or too cold too quickly, it goes grainy! Chocolate is best kept at room temperature and if you’re baking – make sure to follow the instructions to the letter if it requires chilling or melting so you don’t damage the taste!
- Always melt over hot water
While we’re talking about baking with chocolate, you might think sticking it in the microwave is the easiest way to melt down chunks or chips – don’t do it! Chocolate needs to be melted slowly and the best way to do that is in a bowl over boiling water on the hob. If you’re cooking with kids or you don’t fancy standing at the stove, you can put it in the microwave, but make sure to heat in short bursts and to stir between each one otherwise it will burn!
- Be careful if adding water
If you add water to melted chocolate, it will start to separate and no one wants that but if you need to add some water, make sure to do it before it melts.
- It is actually possible to eat chocolate for every meal…
While we don’t recommend it, it is possible to include chocolate in a wide variety of dishes. You can grate it and sprinkle over your porridge or toss with nuts or popcorn, cocoa powder can be used as a rub for meat, while a square of dark chocolate works wonders in stews and chillis.
If you’re a chocoholic or reading this has your sweet tooth screaming at you, why not stock up on some chocolate with a Dorset twist? Dorset is home to a host of amazing chocolatiers sourcing the very best cocoa beans and coming up with amazing creations including dairy free and vegan options!
Head to our chocolate section to find out more!