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Jewish Recipes --> Jewish and Israeli Foods --> Chocolate

Chocolate, comprises a number of raw and processed foods that originate from the seed of the tropical cacao tree. It is a common ingredient in many kinds of confections such as chocolate bars, candy, ice cream, cookies, cakes, pies, chocolate mousse, and other desserts. It is one of the most popular (or at least recognizable) flavors in the world.

Jewish Cooking: Chocolate Recipes

Chocolate was created by the Mesoamerican civilization, from cacao beans, and cultivated by pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Maya and Aztec, who used it as a basic component in a variety of sauces and beverages. The cocoa beans were ground and mixed with water to produce a variety of beverages, both sweet and bitter, which were reserved for only the highest noblemen and clerics of the Mesoamerican world. Chocolate is made from the fermented, roasted, and ground beans taken from the pod of the tropical cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, which was native to Central America and Mexico, but is now cultivated throughout the tropics. The beans have an intensely flavored bitter taste. The resulting products are known as "chocolate" or, in some parts of the world, cocoa.

Nutrition Facts Semisweet Chocolate Candies
Serving Size 1 cup chips (6 oz package)

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories from Fat 454
  • Calories 805

% Daily Values*

  • Total Fat 50.4g 78%
  • Saturated Fat 29.82g 149%
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 1.623g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 16.743g
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 18mg 1%
  • Potassium 613mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 106.01g 35%
  • Dietary Fiber 9.9g 40%
  • Sugars 91.56g
  • Protein 7.06g
  • Vitamin A 0%
  • Vitamin C 0%
  • Calcium 5%
  • Iron 29%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Today, chocolate commonly refers to bars made from the combination of cocoa solids, fat, sugar and other ingredients. Chocolate is often produced as small molded forms in the shape of squares, animals, people, or inanimate objects to celebrate festivals worldwide. For example, there are moulds of rabbits or eggs for Easter, coins for Hanukkah, Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) for Christmas, and hearts for Valentine's Day.

Chocolate can also be made into drinks (called cocoa and hot chocolate), as originated by the Aztecs and the Mayas. In England, Samuel Pepys records in his diaries at least two entries relating to "jocolatte" as early as the 1660s.[1] Later, in 1689 Hans Sloane developed a milk chocolate drink in Jamaica which was initially used by apothecaries, but later sold by the Cadbury brothers.


There has been disagreement in the EU about the definition of chocolate, but chocolate is any product made primarily of cocoa solids and cocoa fat. Different flavors can be obtained by varying the time and temperature when roasting the beans, and by varying the relative quantities of the cocoa solids and cocoa fat, and of course by adding non-chocolate ingredients.


Production cost can be reduced by reducing cocoa solid content or substituting cocoa butter with a non-cocoa fat. Chocolate is a popular ingredient in many other foods, so any change in its cost has a significant economic impact.

The two main jobs associated with creating chocolate candy are: chocolate makers and chocolatiers. Chocolate makers are those who produce couverture chocolate from harvested cacao beans and other ingredients. Chocolatiers take the finished couverture to make chocolate candies (bars, truffles, baked goods, etc.).


Main article: History of chocolate

The word "chocolate" comes from the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs of Mexico. The word is derived from the Nahuatl word xocolatl [3], which is a combination of the words, xocolli, meaning "bitter", and atl, which is "water". It is associated with the Mayan god of Fertility. Mexican philologist Ignacio Davila Garibi, proposed that "Spaniards had coined the word by taking the Maya word chocol and then replacing the Maya term for water, haa, with the Aztec one, atl."[4] However, it is more likely that the Aztecs themselves coined the term, having long adopted into the Nahuatl the Mayan word for the "cacao" bean; the Spanish had little contact with the Mayans before Cortés's early reports to the Spanish King of the beverage known as xocolatl.[5]

The chocolate residue found in an ancient Maya pot suggests that Mayans were drinking chocolate 2,600 years ago, which is the earliest record of cacao use. The Aztecs associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. In the New World, chocolate was consumed in a bitter and spicy drink called xocoatl, often seasoned with vanilla, chile pepper, and achiote, (which is known today as annatto). Xocoatl was believed to fight fatigue, a belief that is probably attributable to the theobromine content. Chocolate was an important luxury good throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and cocoa beans were often used as currency. Other chocolate drinks combined it with such edibles as maize starch paste (which acts as an emulsifier and thickener), various fruits, and honey. In 1689 noted physician and collector Hans Sloane, developed a milk chocolate drink in Jamaica[6] which was initially used by apothecaries, but later sold by the Cadbury brothers.

Roughly two-thirds of the entire world's cocoa is produced in Western Africa, with close to half of the total sourced from Côte d'Ivoire. Like many food industry producers, individual cocoa farmers are at the mercy of volatile world markets. The price can vary from £500 ($945) to £3,000 ($5,672) per ton, in the space of just a few years. While investors trading in cacao can dump shares at will, individual cocoa farmers cannot increase production or abandon trees at anywhere near that pace. It has been alleged that an estimated 90% of cocoa farms in Côte d'Ivoire have used some form of slave labor in order to remain viable,[7] and that when cocoa prices drop, farmers in West Africa sometimes cut costs by using slave labor.



The three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolate are Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario.

Criollo, the variety native to Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American states, is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market. There is some dispute about the genetic purity of cocoas sold today as Criollo, since most populations have been exposed to the genetic influence of other varieties. Criollos are difficult to grow, as they are vulnerable to a host of environmental threats and deliver low yields of cocoa per tree. The flavor of Criollo is characterized as delicate but complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in "secondary" notes of long duration.

Forastero is a large group of wild and cultivated cacaos, probably native to the Amazon basin. The huge African cocoa crop is entirely of the Forastero variety. They are significantly hardier and of higher yield than Criollo. Forastero cocoas are typically big in classic "chocolate" flavor, but this is of short duration and is unsupported by secondary flavors. There are exceptional Forasteros, such as the "Nacional" or "Arriba" variety, which can possess great complexity.

Trinitario, a natural hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, originated in Trinidad after an introduction of (Amelonado) Forastero to the local Criollo crop. These cocoas exhibit a wide range of flavor profiles according to the genetic heritage of each tree.

Nearly all cacao produced over the past five decades is of the Forastero or lower-grade Trinitario varieties. The share of higher quality Criollos and Trinitarios (so-called flavor cacao) is just under 5% per annum.[9]


First, the pods, containing cacao beans, are harvested. The beans, together with their surrounding pulp, are removed from the pod and left in piles or bins to ferment for three to seven days. The beans must then be quickly dried to prevent mold growth; weather permitting, this is done by spreading the beans out in the sun.

The beans are then roasted, graded and ground. Cocoa butter is removed from the resulting chocolate liquor either by being pressed or by the Broma process. The residue is what is known as cocoa powder.


Chocolate liquor is blended with the butter in varying quantities to make different types of chocolate or couvertures. The basic blends of ingredients, in order of highest quantity of cocoa liquor first, are as follows:

1. Dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and (sometimes) vanilla
2. Milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
3. White chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla

U.S. chocolates have a lower percentage requirement of cocoa liquor for dark chocolate, so some dark chocolate has sugar as the top ingredient.

Usually, an emulsifying agent such as soya lecithin is added, though a few manufacturers prefer to exclude this ingredient for purity reasons and to remain GMO-free (Soya is a heavily genetically modified crop), sometimes at the cost of a perfectly smooth texture. Some manufacturers are now using PGPR, an artificial emulsifier derived from castor oil that allows them to reduce the amount of cocoa butter while maintaining the same mouth feel.

The texture is also heavily influenced by processing, specifically conching (see below). The more expensive chocolates tend to be processed longer and thus have a smoother texture and "feel" on the tongue, regardless of whether emulsifying agents are added.

Different manufacturers develop their own "signature" blends based on the above formulas but varying proportions of the different constituents are used.

The finest plain dark chocolate couvertures contain at least 70% cocoa (solids + butter), whereas milk chocolate usually contains up to 50%. High-quality white chocolate couvertures contain only about 33% cocoa. Inferior and mass-produced chocolate contains much less cocoa (as low as 7% in many cases) and fats other than cocoa butter. Some chocolate makers opine that these "brand name" milk chocolate products should not be classed as couvertures, or even as chocolate, because of the low or virtually non-existent cocoa content.


Main article: Conching

The penultimate process is called conching. A conche is a container filled with metal beads, which act as grinders. The refined and blended chocolate mass is kept liquid by frictional heat. The conching process produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect, hence the smooth feel in the mouth. The length of the conching process determines the final smoothness and quality of the chocolate. High-quality chocolate is conched for about 72 hours, lesser grades about four to six hours. After the process is complete, the chocolate mass is stored in tanks heated to approximately 45–50 °C (113–122 °F) until final processing.


The final process is called tempering. Uncontrolled crystallization of cocoa butter typically results in crystals of varying size, some or all large enough to be clearly seen with the naked eye. This causes the surface of the chocolate to appear mottled and matte, and causes the chocolate to crumble rather than snap when broken. The uniform sheen and crisp bite of properly processed chocolate are the result of consistently small cocoa butter crystals produced by the tempering process.

The fats in cocoa butter can crystallize in six different forms (polymorphous crystallization). The primary purpose of tempering is to assure that only the best form is present. The six different crystal forms have different properties.

Making good chocolate is about forming the most of the type V crystals. This provides the best appearance and mouth feel and creates the most stable crystals so the texture and appearance will not degrade over time. To accomplish this, the temperature is carefully manipulated during the crystallization.

Generally, the chocolate is first heated to 45°C (113°F) to melt all six forms of crystals. Then the chocolate is cooled to about 27°C (80°F), which will allow crystal types IV and V to form (VI takes too long to form). At this temperature, the chocolate is agitated to create many small crystal "seeds" which will serve as nuclei to create small crystals in the chocolate. The chocolate is then heated to about 31°C (88°F) to eliminate any type IV crystals, leaving just the type V. After this point, any excessive heating of the chocolate will destroy the temper and this process will have to be repeated. However, there are other methods of chocolate tempering used-- the most common variant is introducing already tempered, solid "seed" chocolate.

Two classic ways of tempering chocolate are:

  • Working the melted chocolate on a heat-absorbing surface, such as a stone slab, until thickening indicates the presence of sufficient crystal "seeds"; the chocolate is then gently warmed to working temperature.
  • Stirring solid chocolate into melted chocolate to "inoculate" the liquid chocolate with crystals (this method uses the already formed crystal of the solid chocolate to "seed" the melted chocolate).


Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity. Ideal storage temperatures are between 15 and 17 degrees Celsius (59 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit), with a relative humidity of less than 50%. Chocolate should be stored away from other foods as it can absorb different aromas. Ideally, chocolates are packed or wrapped, and placed in proper storage with the correct humidity and temperature. Additionally chocolate should be stored in a dark place or protected from light by wrapping paper. Sunlight may warm up the surface of the chocolate and cause it to turn 'grey' from the formation of cocoa butter crystals; the taste may be slightly different due to the altered cocoa butter.

Physiological effects

Pleasure of consuming

Part of the pleasure of eating chocolate is due to the fact that its melting point is slightly below human body temperature: it melts in the mouth. Chocolate intake has been linked with release of serotonin in the brain, which is thought to produce feelings of pleasure..[10] Research has shown, that heroin addicts tend to have an increased liking for chocolate; this may be because it triggers dopamine release in the brain's reinforcement systems[11] — an effect, albeit a legal one, similar to that of opiates.

Potential health benefits and risks

Recent studies have suggested that cocoa or dark chocolate may possess certain beneficial effects on human health. Dark chocolate, with its high cocoa content, is a rich source of the flavonoids epicatechin and gallic acid, which are thought to possess cardioprotective properties. Cocoa possesses a significant antioxidant action, protecting against LDL oxidation, perhaps more than other polyphenol antioxidant-rich foods and beverages. Processing cocoa with alkali destroys most of the flavonoids.[12] Some studies have also observed a modest reduction in blood pressure and flow-mediated dilation after consuming approximately 100g of dark chocolate daily. There has even been a fad diet, named "Chocolate diet", that emphasizes eating chocolate and cocoa powder in capsules. However, consuming milk chocolate or white chocolate, or drinking milk with dark chocolate, appears largely to negate the health benefit.[13] Chocolate is also a calorie-rich food with a high fat content, so daily intake of chocolate also requires reducing caloric intake of other foods.

Two-thirds of the fat in chocolate comes in the forms of a saturated fat called stearic acid and a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. However, unlike other saturated fats, stearic acid does not raise levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.[14] Consuming relatively large amounts of dark chocolate and cocoa does not seem to raise serum LDL cholesterol levels; some studies even find that it could lower them[15].

Several population studies have observed an increase in the risk of certain cancers among people who frequently consume sweet 'junk' foods such as chocolate. However, very little evidence exists to suggest whether consuming flavonoid-rich dark chocolate may increase or decrease the risk of cancer. Evidence from laboratory studies suggest that cocoa flavonoids may possess anticarcinogenic mechanisms, but more research is needed to prove this idea.

The major concern that nutritionists have is that even though eating dark chocolate may favorably affect certain biomarkers of cardiovascular disease, the amount needed to have this effect would provide a relatively large quantity of calories which, if unused, would promote weight gain. Obesity is a significant risk factor for many diseases, including cardiovascular disease. As a consequence, consuming large quantities of dark chocolate in an attempt to protect against cardiovascular disease has been described as 'cutting off one's nose to spite one's face'.[16].

Studies suggest a specially formulated type of cocoa may boost brain function and delay decline as people age.[17]

See also: chocoholism

Chocolate contains a variety of substances, some of which are addictive (such as caffeine). These include:

  • Sugar - Chocolate bars (as opposed to cocoa) contain large amounts of sugar.
  • Theobromine - This is the primary alkaloid found in cocoa and chocolate[18], and is one of the causes for chocolate's mood-elevating effects. This mild stimulant belongs to the methylxanthine family, which also includes the similar compound caffeine, with which theobromine is frequently confused.
  • Anandamide - An endogenous cannabinoid.
  • Tryptophan - An essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, an important neurotransmitter involved in regulating moods.
  • Phenethylamine - An endogenous amphetamine. Often described as a 'love chemical'. However, it is quickly metabolized by the enzyme MAO-B, preventing significant concentrations from reaching the brain.
  • Caffeine - This stimulant is present mainly in coffee and tea. Exists in chocolate in very small amounts [18].

Current research indicates that chocolate has a weak stimulant effect due mainly to its content of theobromine.[19] However, chocolate contains too little of this compound for a reasonable serving to create effects in humans that are on par with a coffee buzz. Chocolate contains only small amounts of the compound caffeine. [20] There are 5 to 10 milligrams of caffeine in one ounce of bittersweet chocolate, 5 milligrams in milk chocolate, and 10 milligrams in a 170 milliliter cup of cocoa. There are 100 to 150 milligrams of caffeine in an 220 milliliter cup of coffee; it would be necessary to eat more than a dozen chocolate bars to get the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee. The pharmacologist Ryan J. Huxtable has described chocolate as "more than a food but less than a drug". However, chocolate is a very potent stimulant for horses; its use is therefore banned in horse-racing. Theobromine is also a contributing factor in acid reflux because it relaxes the esophageal sphincter muscle, allowing stomach acid to enter the esophagus more easily.

Chocolate also contains small quantities of the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide and the cannabinoid breakdown inhibitors N-oleoylethanolamine and N-linolenoylethanolamine. Anandamides are produced naturally by the body, in such a way that their effects are extremely targeted (compared to the broad systemic effects of drugs like tetrahydrocannabinol) and relatively short-lived. In experiments, N-oleoylethanolamine and N-linolenoylethanolamine interfere with the body's natural mechanisms for breaking down endogenous cannabinoids, causing them to last longer. However, noticeable effects of chocolate related to this mechanism in humans have not been demonstrated.

Some studies have described a condition called Hysteroid dysphoria, characterized by repeated episodes of depressed mood in response to feeling rejected, and a craving for chocolate.

Medical applications

Mars, Incorporated, a Virginia-based candy company, spends millions of dollars each year on flavonol research. The company is talking with pharmaceutical companies to license drugs based on synthesized cocoa flavonol molecules. According to Mars-funded researchers at Harvard, the University of California, and European universities, cocoa-based prescription drugs could potentially help treat diabetes, dementia and other diseases.[21]


Research indicates that chocolate may be effective at preventing persistent coughing. The ingredient theobromine was found to be almost one third more effective than codeine, the leading cough medicine.[22] The chocolate also appears to soothe and moisten the throat.

As an aphrodisiac

Romantic lore commonly identifies chocolate as an aphrodisiac. The reputed aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate are most often associated with the simple sensual pleasure of its consumption. More recently, suggestion has been made that serotonin and other chemicals found in chocolate, most notably phenethylamine, can act as mild sexual stimulants. While there is no firm proof that chocolate is indeed an aphrodisiac, giving a gift of chocolate to one's sweetheart is a familiar courtship ritual.


Chocolate has one of the higher concentrations of lead among products that constitute a typical Westerner's diet. Recent studies have shown that although the beans themselves absorb little lead, it tends to bind to cocoa shells and contamination may occur during the manufacturing process.[24] A recent peer-reviewed publication found significant amounts of lead in chocolate.[25] A review article published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2006 states that despite high consumption levels of chocolate, there is a paucity of data on lead concentrations in chocolate products. Mean lead levels in the samples tested ranged from 0.0010 to 0.0965 μg lead per gram of chocolate, while the international standard limits the lead content of cocoa powder or beans to 1 μg of lead per gram product.[26] In 2006, the U.S. FDA lowered by one-fifth the amount of lead permissible in candy, but compliance is only voluntary.[27] While studies show that the lead consumed in chocolate may not all be absorbed by the human body, there is no known threshold for the effects of lead on children's brain function and even small quantities of lead can cause permanent neurodevelopmental deficits including impaired IQ.[28]

Toxicity in animals

Main article: theobromine poisoning

In sufficient amounts, the theobromine found in chocolate is toxic to animals such as horses, dogs, parrots, small rodents, and cats (kittens especially) because they are unable to metabolize the chemical effectively. If they are fed chocolate, the theobromine will remain in their bloodstream for up to 20 hours, and these animals may experience epileptic seizures, heart attacks, internal bleeding, and eventually death. Medical treatment involves inducing vomiting within two hours of ingestion, or contacting a veterinarian.

A typical 20-kilogram dog will normally experience great intestinal distress after eating fewer than 240 grams (8.47 oz) of dark chocolate, but will not necessarily experience bradycardia or tachycardia unless it eats at least a half a kilogram (1.1 lbs) of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate has 2 to 5 times more theobromine and thus is more dangerous to dogs. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, approximately 1.3 grams of baker's chocolate per kilogram of a dog's body weight (0.02 oz/lb) is sufficient to cause symptoms of toxicity. For example, a typical 25-gram (0.88 oz) baker's chocolate bar would be enough to bring about symptoms in a 20-kilogram (44 lb) dog. Of course, baking chocolate is rarely consumed directly due to its unpleasant taste, but other dark chocolates' canine toxicities may be extrapolated based on this figure. Large dogs such as St. Bernards or Rottweilers are somewhat less susceptible to poisoning, but as dogs like the taste of chocolate products as much as humans do, they should still be kept out of their reach; treats made from carob are a good substitute and pose no threat. There are reports that mulch made from cacao bean shells is dangerous to pets (and other animals) [29][30][31]

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Chocolate.