This delicious Chocolate Biscotti recipe makes the perfect snack, treat, or dessert. Try it with milk, coffee, or crumbled over ice cream!
Chocolate is a processed food from the seeds, or beans, of the tropical cacao tree (Theobroma cacao). There are three varieties of cacao that are harvested for chocolate. The most common, Forastero, yields 90% of the world cacao production. Rare and prized for their rich, fragrant taste, are the Criollo cacao beans, sought after by the world's best chocolate makers. A third variety, called Trinitario, is a hybrid bean produced by cross-breeding the Criollo and Forastero types. Large pods containing the seeds grow on huge deciduous trees reaching 60 feet in height. The center of the bean, known as the "nib," contains an average of 54 percent cocoa butter, a natural fat that is pressed from the beans and dried and pulverized, then mixed with alkaline salts to produce “cocoa” powder. This dark, mild form of cacao is then be recombined with sugar and cocoa butter to produce the edible chocolate known throughout the world today.
Cacao has been cultivated for more than 3000 years in Mexico, Central America, northern South America and on the islands of the Caribbean. In Central America, cacao beans were used as currency as recently as the last century. The widespread use of cacao beans, and chocolate, is attributed to western colonialism and Christopher Columbus is attributed with the introduction of cacao to Europe. The Spanish served cacao as a beverage, mixed with ground chili peppers, but in time the pepper was replaced by sugar to produce a rich, and expensive, chocolate beverage for the elite classes. Eventually, other European countries began to cultivate cacao in their colonies in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the world, the price came down, and by the 18th century chocolate became a common treat for people everywhere.
Though the cocoa butter in chocolate does contain saturated fat, known to increase cholesterol levels, recent research conducted by the University of California at Davis found that chocolate also contains high levels of phenolic compounds that actually help to lower the risk of heart disease. Cacao and other plants such as coffee and tea with antioxidant phenolic levels are now being studied as contributing to a heart healthy diet. Phenolic acids prevent the fatty substances in the bloodstream from oxidizing and clogging the arteries, but it is not yet known if the phenolic compounds, like the flavenoids in chocolate, actually reduce disease.
One ounce of dark chocolate contains 155 calories and the following vitamins and minerals:
Calcium, Potassium, Iron, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Magnesium, Caffeine