Friday, June 22, 2012

Chocolate Uses Around the Globe

Ever since cocoa beans were discovered to be sweet over 2,000 years ago in the tropical South American rain forests, chocolate quickly became a favorite treat among the natives. When Spanish explorers brought the beans back to Spain, Europeans began to develop their own recipes and uses for chocolate. As global trade developed, different countries and cultures developed different recipes and uses for chocolate. 

In Ukraine, a country located in eastern Europe, chocolate has become an important ingredient in their native dessert, medivnyk. Medivnyk is a honey and chocolate cake that is traditionally served during the Christmas and New Year’s season. Several hundred years ago in Europe, sugar was scarce. This caused bakers to experiment with using different ingredients, such as chocolate and honey as sweeteners. Modern Ukranians argue that this lack of sugar was for the better, as delicious cakes such as Medivnyk were born as a result. 

Medivnyk, a popular chocolate cake from Ukraine

Traveling further east, to Asia, chocolate is still served a desert. In India, chocolate and almond delights are created from basic ingredients. Butter, sugar, eggs and flour are mixed together and pressed into a pan and baked into a cake, before having chocolate poured over it and sprinkled with almonds. Although considered an Indian dish, this recipe was highly influenced by the British, who had presence in the country 1613-1947 AD. 

Continuing to travel east, Chocolate Ginger Lychees are a favorite dessert among the Chinese. The desert is made by peeling and drying lychees and then filling the interior of the lychees with cherries or spices. The filled lychees are then dipped into chocolate and extra chocolate can be dripped on carefully to form special patterns. The deserts should then be chilled until eating. 

China’s Chocolate Ginger Lychees

Traveling south to the big island of Australia, Aussies like to use chocolate to make their delicious Coconut Pavlova with Chocolate Mousse and Bananas. This pie dessert has a chewy coconut crust and a creamy, mousse chocolate filling. Americans who eat this dessert claim that it tastes like a combination between coconut cream pie and chocolate cream pie. 

Continuing on our journey around the continents, the next stop is South America, home to the original cocoa bean. Although natives originally used the bean as a sweetener and in cooking, chocolate is now mainly used for desserts. A popular Brazilian desert is Brazilian brownies. Brazilian brownies are popular among dessert critics, who claim that Brazilian brownies create the perfect brownie: chewy and soft, yet a tad crispy and hard on the edges. The recipe for Brazilian brownies are similar to that of American brownies, containing flower, eggs and sugar. To be an authentic Brazilian brownie, however, the baker must use Brazilian cocoa. 

Delicious Brazilian brownies

Traveling north to the United States, chocolate is used in a variety of foods and to decorate many desserts. Chocolate can be found in America’s favorite cookies, oreos and chocolate chip cookies, and also in donuts and a variety of cakes. Chocolate can also be used to add eloquence and class to a fruit, and chocolate dipped fruits are able to sell at high prices, especially chocolate dipped strawberries and bananas. 

Who would have guess that the small cocoa beans discovered several thousands years ago in South America would have such a large impact on the global dessert world? Chocolate can be found on use in every continent, ranging from the medivnyk bread of Ukraine, to the chocolate ginger lychees of China and to a wide variety of sweet uses in the United States. 

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