Chocolate lovers, it is time once again to celebrate as January 10 is annually recognized as National Bittersweet Chocolate Day. (National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day is celebrated on November 7.)
Chocolate comes from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao, which has been cultivated for at least three millennia, is grown in Mexico, Central America and Northern South America. The earliest known documentation of use, of cacao seeds, is around 1100 BC. The cacao tree seed has an intensely bitter taste that must be fermented to develop the flavor.
Once the seeds have been fermented, the beans are then dried, cleaned and roasted. After roasting, the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The cacao nibs are then ground into cocoa mass which is pure chocolate in rough form. The cocoa mass is usually liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor may then be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
Bittersweet chocolate is chocolate liquor to which sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla have been added. It does have less sugar and more liquor than semisweet chocolate. However, the two of them may be interchangeable when baking.
Studies have revealed that there are certain health benefits from eating bittersweet chocolate in moderation, such as lowering blood pressure and helping to protect the heart.