Craving Chocolate?

 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Double Chocolate Almond Cookies

“I’m craving chocolate. That sounds wonderful!  Can you send me the recipe?”

That was my sister’s response to my description of the chocolate cookie I was eating when she telephoned.

 

Chocolate is a fact of life – it’s the most-craved food in North America (Reference 1) and is an essential food for many celebrations, birthdays, and love-gifts.  This cookie, described by tasters as “wow, chocolatey!” and “yum,velvety,” is my answer to a chocolate craving.

 

The cookie is a version of a chocolate “crinkle” named because you know the cookies are ready to come out of the oven when the tops crackle. Made with egg whites, bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, toasted almonds and flavorings, they’re easy to make, freeze well and most importantly, squelch that desire for chocolate. With 84 calories and 4 grams of fat per cookie, you can indulge without blowing your fat-calorie budget – if you have one. 

 

We know chocolate is good for mental health, but what about physical health?  The heart of chocolate’s health benefits are cardiovascular.  Cocoa beans contain antioxidant flavonoids called flavanols that research shows may improve vascular health, lower blood pressure, prevent heart attacks and strokes. There is also research indicating chocolate may decrease inflammation, increase insulin sensitivity and favorably influence neurotransmitters to regulate mood, something chocolate lovers will say you don’t need research to prove. (References 2,3,4,5)

 

What about all the fat and calories in chocolate? Cocoa butter, the fat in chocolate, contains three fats in roughly equal amounts.  Palmitic and stearic acid are both saturated but stearic acid appears not to raise blood cholesterol.  The third is oleic acid which is a “good fat” also found in olive oil.   A 1-ounce square of unsweetened chocolate has 14 grams of fat (9 saturated) and 140 calories.  (Reference 5)

 

Processing, storage and handling of cocoa beans diminishes the flavanol content and added sugar, fat and other ingredients dilute the flavonols and may add more calories.  Unsweetened cocoa powder is the best source of healthy flavonols.  It has much of the cocoa butter removed so it contains little fat.  (Dutch cocoa has been alkalized, reducing the acidity which diminishes the flavonoids.) Unsweetened chocolate is the next richest source however, like cocoa powder, it is too bitter to be consumed “as is” so it is used in cooking, baking and hot chocolate.  

 

Among chocolate products for eating out-of-hand, dark and bittersweet chocolates have more cocoa and therefore flavonols, followed by semisweet and milk chocolate.  Some products declare the percent cocoa on the label. You may see chocolate labeled as  70%, 80% and even 90% cocoa.  These higher-percentage chocolates are fine for eating out of hand however if you substitute an 80% cocoa chocolate in a recipe calling for semisweet chocolate, you may get different, subpar results. I tested my recipe with 62% and 60% cocoa chocolate along with unsweetened cocoa powder.   

 

The word “moderation” comes up a lot in chocolate-for-health messages. To enjoy chocolate without weight-gain you have to trade chocolate calories for other calories.  An ounce of dark chocolate has 130 to 140 calories and 8 to 12 grams of fat, depending on the brand and formulation.  And of course you can pack in flavonols with often fewer calories and fat by enjoying foods such as red wine, tea, onion, kale, broccoli, tomato, apple, grape, berries, cranberries, peanuts, string beans and green pepper (Reference 6). 

Of course, sometimes only chocolate will do. 

 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

 

Double Chocolate Almond Cookies

 

You can use pasteurized egg whites from a carton if you don’t want to separate eggs.  This is not a bad idea if you’re cooking with kids and they lick their fingers and the bowl – even if you caution against it.  I tested this recipe with 60% and 62% cocoa chocolate chips.  I recommend whole natural almonds, with the skin, toasted and chopped for best flavor.

 

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (60 to 62%% cocoa) or 6 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 large egg whites

1 cup plus 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar), divided use

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

½ cup chopped, toasted almonds

 

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Melt chocolate*; set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.  In bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, cornstarch, instant coffee and salt.  Set aside.  In clean electric mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium speed to soft peaks.  Gradually beat in 1 cup confectioners’ sugar.  Continue beating till mixture is well blended and creamy.  On low speed, beat in cocoa mixture and extracts.  Stir in melted chocolate and almonds.   Place remaining 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl.  Form dough into 24 balls, about 1 rounded tablespoon each.  Roll balls in confectioners’ sugar and place, 2 inches apart, on baking sheets.  Bake one sheet at a time on middle rack for 8 to 10 minutes or until tops crack.  Cool cookies on pan for 3 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely.  Makes 24 cookies. 

 

Nutrients per serving (1 cookie):  84 calories; 4 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 27 mg sodium; 1 gram dietary fiber.

 

*Melt chocolate as package directs.  My preferred method to melt chopped chocolate or chips is in a microwave oven in a microwave-safe bowl on 50% power for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring every minute, until melted. 

 

References

1. How to Fend off a Food Craving, New Research Challenges the “Body Knows What it Needs” Theory; Where Men Differ from Women. Melinda Beck,The Wall Street Journal, Sept, 18, 2012. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304388004577532811491380258.html

 

 

2. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/chocolate.aspx

 

3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/dark-chocolate-cocoa-flavanols-blood-pressure_n_1776172.html#slide=818522

 

4. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-chocolate/AN02060

 

5. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/health-by-chocolate?page=5

 

6. http://flavo.vtt.fi/flavonols.htm

 

Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2012

 

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

Comments

  1. Cheryl Eiger says:

    Can’t wait to make these cookies.
    What a clever idea about using pasteurized egg whites…and you save the waste of the yolks as well. Thanks Ms. Food Savvy.
    It was also very interesting to learn or all the positive health benefits of dark chocolate…I won’t feel as guilty next time I endulge….

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