Science searches for best possible chocolate

Of all the questions one may pose at culinary academy, the most intriguing might be: Can chocolate get any better? Chocolate is delicious. It is a favored option whether one is baking or snacking. There have even been health benefits associated with this dark, rich foodstuff. Recently, researchers at the University of Ghana have found a way to make chocolate healthier and tastier.

Turning beans into chocolate
Most culinary student's know that chocolate starts out as a bean. These beans are found in pods that grow from cocoa trees. Traditionally, one removes the pods from the tree and then removes the beans from the pod. The beans are then fermented and roasted. The roasting is what brings out the chocolaty flavor, but it is also the step that can rob the beans of their healthy properties. The researchers, led by Dr. Emmanuel Ohene Afoakwa, decided to see if they could alter this process to produce better results. They found that by adding a step before fermentation, they could make a final product that had more health benefits and tasted sweeter.

The new process
The team of researches suggested storing the pods before removing the beans. They left the cocoa beans shelled and stored them away for a period of time (7-10 days produced the best results). The pulp of the pod is very sweet, and by leaving the beans in for longer they are able to absorb more flavor and antioxidants from their biological container. The researchers also changed the roasting time. They found that by roasting the newly processed cocoa at lower heats for longer periods of time, the beans lost fewer health benefits and maintained their sweeter flavor. In the end, the new process takes more time but produces a higher-quality product.

The results
How will this affect the baking and pastry arts? The antioxidants and polyphenols contained in chocolate have been found to help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and they can also lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The new process discovered by the team from Ghana decreases the amount of antioxidants and polyphenols lost by the cocoa beans during the roasting process. The increased sweetness may also discourage the addition of extra sugars or sweeteners in chocolate recipes, leading to an overall healthier product. The researchers wish to continue their experiments and refine their process even more, to see how one could create the most delicious, and healthiest, chocolate possible. 

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