Written like a scientist, because he is one.
As has been noted previously in this blog, cocoa flavonoids share in the healthful benefits of other noted flavonoids, such as citrus bioflavonoids and parsley apigenin. In fact, 70% dark chocolate has been widely recommended because of the demonstrated health benefit.
I had suspected that most of the phenolics and other beneficial anti-oxidants were bound to the fiber in the cocoa solids, and like many other foods, such as grain and citrus, this turns out to be the case. It is unfortunate that these beneficial substances have sometimes been set aside in the past, but thankfully, that is changing. In the case of cocoa, this tends to be less of a problem, because the delicious chocolate flavor resides in the solid fraction, from which cocoa powder is made. There is, however, some cause for concern, because harsh processing is often used to improve the flavor, and it is likely that much nutrient loss results from these processes. This is why I favor plain, inexpensive, commonplace cocoa powder. One of the reasons it is less expensive is that it has received less processing. It should be noted that it is not too hard to find a whole pound of cocoa powder for the price of a single 70% dark chocolate bar, and the powder is likely just as beneficial. You can even improve the healthfulness by adding more cocoa than is found in the chocolate bar without sacrificing flavor, as I explain below.
I say, beware of chocolate that is too delicious, because you might be losing some of the benefit. Similar to the problem of chocolate processing, the glycemic sweeteners that are used to improve the flavor can also detract from the healthful benefit, and the cocoa butter, though beneficial, is likely far less healthful than the cocoa powder. In order to address these problems in this fudge recipe, no cocoa butter is used. That means using cocoa powder instead of chocolate. Although it is not sugar free, agave nectar is non-glycemic, and it has been demonstrated to be healthful when used in moderation. This is due in part to the fact that agave nectar is much sweeter than table sugar so that less is used. Agave nectar also happens to make a very tasty suspension of the cocoa particles, fudge. To me the taste is comparable to some more expensive 70% dark chocolates, and it is also likely just as beneficially healthful. In fact, it is a delicious chocolate treat that can easily be adapted as a spreadable dessert topping. If you are like me, you may have some difficulty maintaining the crucial portion restriction, because of that great old irresistible chocolate flavor. Even with the healthful adaptations, it is still a classic.
It is interesting to muse that our lust for chocolate derives directly from the fact that the polyphenolic and anti-oxidant power resides in the solid fraction, which preserves extremely well. These phenolic and phenyamine molecules surely contribute to the neuroactivity of chocolate. These factors also likely explain the marvelous shelf life of cocoa butter, although it has far less of them. It is truly an unusual case, and our taste for some other flavonoid-laden foods is apparently far less evolved. Chocolate is wildly popular in many countries across the globe, and if it is well prepared, it is a very healthful food that kids love. For those on diets, I have found that a regular helping of cocoa reduces cravings considerably, so that it can aid weight loss if portion restrictions are obeyed. At any rate, on to the recipe. It is very simple, easy, and inexpensive to make. By my measure, it is about 80% cocoa, but you would not know it by the taste, because the agave nectar is very sweet. It is a chocolatey powerhouse!
Makes 1 serving:
2 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 heaping tbsp peanut butter (I like chunky for the texture.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Carefully mix the ingredients until a dark, uniform mixture is achieved. As anyone who works with cocoa powder will tell you, it will require a good amount of careful mixing to avoid waste and achieve a uniform mixture, but it is well worth the effort. ;-} I have to say it is so delicious that I have never allowed it to set up very well, but I have some friends with more experience who assure me that it will, especially with the peanut butter added. Without the cocoa butter and sugar, it may not have a classic fudge consistency, but for the additional healthful benefit, it is likely well worth this small sacrifice. Trust me, sucrose molecules are worth avoiding. Although I am changing over from chocolate to this recipe, I consider it to be still somewhat experimental, and I may post further adaptations here. Feel free to suggest something, and we can discuss it. For example, I find that without the peanut butter, it makes a delicious coating for a serving of nuts.
In summary, this fudge delivers that classic taste, very much like good 70% dark chocolate, and it also provides even more of the healthful cocoa, with much less glycemic load, at far less monetary cost. I think we have a winner here, but please remember to mind your portion restriction. Too much of this stuff might destroy the benefit.