Cocoa and Chocolate are Good for You

Happy Hearts

February is a natural time to talk about love. Isn’t it best when we start with a healthy heart? And add chocolate?


hot cocoa with hearts photo by dan taylor

There are good but preliminary scientific studies that show the cardiovascular benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate. The studies have serious sounding names.

For example, Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide. Or Acute Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Ingestion and Endothelial Function. In everyday language, the say that a small serving of cocoa or dark chocolate lowers high blood pressure.

And there are reports of either no effect, or an improvement on total, HDL, and LDL cholesterols. (Don’t stop taking your medications though).

Nutritional Benefits

One ounce of cocoa is a very good source of fiber (yeah), iron (double yeah), magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.

A 1-1/2 ounce serving of dark chocolate offers similar amounts of antioxidants as a serving of green tea, red wine, or blueberries.

Both cocoa and dark chocolate are very low in sodium and have no naturally occurring cholesterol. It truly is happy heart health food.

The most nutritious choice is natural cocoa powder. Nothing is added to it. Dutched cocoa is a reasonable second choice for cocoa, it has been treated with alkali. It has lighter color, milder flavor, fewer antioxidants, and mixes with liquids more easily.

When choosing chocolate, choose dark, the darker the better. Look for at least 65% cacao. The higher the percentage of cacao, the lower the amount of added sugar. Sugar reduces the cardiovascular benefits.

And white chocolate? Pfff! It lacks the nutrition and flavor of dark chocolate, so does not even count as chocolate to me.

Add five minutes of happiness to each day.

Pop a small piece of fine dark chocolate in your mouth. Close your eyes. Savor the silky texture and deep flavor as it slowly melts on your tongue. Quietly say “mmmmm.”

Or try some tasty ways to add cocoa to your day.

  • Toss gluten-free breakfast cereal with a spoonful of natural cocoa before adding the milk.
  • Make a smoothie. Cocoa with raspberries, strawberries, bananas or peanut butter are classic combinations.
  • Add a tablespoon to a recipe of chili, sloppy Joes, or BBQ.
  • Revive your afternoon with a steaming mug of hot cocoa, made from scratch. Put 1-2 tablespoons of cocoa, a tablespoon of sweetener, and a tablespoon of milk (any kind) in a mug. Stir until the cocoa dissolves. Fill the mug with milk and microwave for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add some to a gluten-free spice rub and use it on pork tenderloin or chicken with the skin. Roast meat at 400-degrees until it is tender inside with a dark, flavorful coating.

give me the chocolate and nobody gets hurt

photo by procsilas

Or make a treat.

I eat chocolate in some form everyday. Usually just as plain dark chocolate, that “mmmm” thing. But I consider cocoa and chocolate as noble ingredients. And sometimes you want something a bit more special. Here are some suggestions.

Tofu Mocha Smoothie

Cocoa Quinoa Waffles

Cocoa Cherry Muesli

Silky Tofu Chocolate Pudding aka Chocolate “Moose”

Dangerous Three Seed Brittle

Chocolate Melt Away Cookies

Chocolate Angle Food Cake with Teff Flour

Cocoa Bean Brownies

Monkey Tails

And just to be careful, how to determine if your chocolate is gluten free. Does this have gluten in it?

What is you favorite way to enjoy cocoa? Chocolate?

Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Teff Flour

Devilish Angel Food Cake

chocolate angel food cake photo by vsimon

This ethereal gluten free cake melts in your mouth. It tastes like sweet chocolate air.

It is dairy free, and great plain for every day. Or add a sauce or two for a spectacular treat. As my daughter says, “This is a thousand times better than store bought”. That’s if you can even find it.

Homemade and preservative free, it stays moist for days. Four days on the counter and it still tastes just baked. It gets eaten at our house, so we don’t really know how long it can go.

How hot is your oven? A little story.

We bake this cake for our clients. Since we always cook multiple dishes at once, there is a lot going on in a client’s kitchen. One day, I didn’t really have a handle on how long it was baking. After a while, it seemed long though.

I tested the cake with a thin skewer and it kept coming out a bit moist. But I had added chopped chocolate to the batter that day, I reasoned that was melted on the skewer. The cake had risen to lofty heights, and I tested the top with a finger. It seemed done.

Out of the oven, the cake deflated like a pierced balloon before my eyes. The shrieking sound was mine. The cake ended up half the height it started.

I didn’t have time or ingredients to make it again. It tasted great, but fudgy instead of airy. And it looked small and sad. I cut it into pieces and artfully arranged it on a serving plate to make it look better.

That evening, I received an email that the chocolate angel food cake was “AWESOME!!”” Mind you, this was not a capitalized / multiple exclamation point type of person. I emailed back, “THANKS”, and I wish you saw how awesome it was when I took it out of the oven. 🙂

Long story short, her oven as off 50 degrees. So it did take longer to cook, and I should have cooked it longer than I did. She got the oven fixed.

And she wanted a repeat of the deflated cake. We were never able to duplicate it. But we did find a flourless fudgy cupcake recipe she liked. I’ll post that sometime.

Back to airy angel food cake.

When I started adapting wheat recipes to gluten free, I looked for recipes with a minimal amount of flour. Angel food cakes rely on eggs and sugar for structure. Wheat flour has just a supporting role here. The cocoa functions like flour too. So making this gluten free wasn’t hard.

Teff flour.

Today I used teff flour. Teff naturally pairs with chocolate. It is finely ground, there is no hint of grittiness. Even when when using it alone.

You might be saying, “Darn, I am just out of teff.” Sometimes, teff is hard to find in my grocery store. I have successfully made the same cake with Bob’s Red Mill gluten free blend too, measure for measure.

Please let us know if you make the cake with other gluten free whole grain flours. Like sorghum, quinoa, buckwheat…

Baking chops.

Homemade angel food cake from scratch takes some skill. Though it is still “AWESOME!!!” if you goof. 🙂

People avoid sifting these days, but you do need to sift the flour, cocoa, sugar, and xanthan together. I promise, you will have lumps of unmixed dry ingredients it you skip this step.

And this cake is an exercise in egg foams. You beat the egg whites until they are foamy, then soft peaks, then glossy but not dry peaks. There is some judgment involved here.

But do not be afraid. Just jump in and make this lovely cake, it is the best way to experience perfect peaks.

Chocolate Angel Food Cake

serves 12 metric measures
2/3 cup teff flour 95 gm
1/2 cup pure cocoa powder,
not cocoa drink mix
40 gm
3/4 cup sugar 150 gm
1/4 teaspoon xanthan 1 gm
1/2 teaspoon salt 4 gm
1-1/2 cup egg whites (11-12 egg whites) 360 ml
1 tablespoon very strong coffee 15 ml
1 tablespoon vinegar 15 ml
1 teaspoon cream of tartar 3 gm
12 tablespoons sugar 150 gm

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Sift the teff flour, cocoa, 3/4 cup sugar, and xanthan together three times into a medium bowl. Set aside.

Put the salt, egg whites, coffee, vinegar, and cream of tarter in a very large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat on low speed for 1 minute. The mixture will be foamy.

Increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture increases in volume about 5 times. And holds very soft peaks that flop over when you lift up the beaters.

Gradually beat in the remaining sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Beat to glossy, but not dry or stiff peaks.

Very gently fold in the sifted flour mixture, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Stirring wildly will deflate the air you just mixed into the foam, and you want to keep all the air you can.

After you think the flour is well mixed, fold about ten times more. I seem to always have unmixed streaks in the finished cake if I don’t do this.

Pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan. It has a column in the middle and a removable bottom. Do not use a nonstick tube pan. The batter needs some texture on the side of the pan to cling to.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Invert pan and cool at least 2 hours. The cake will set during this time and maintain it’s height. If the pan doesn’t have “feet”, you can slip it upside down over a glass bottleneck.  Even baked properly, cooling it right side up, the cake is going to shrink some.

Super Simple Sauces

1. Thin preserves with water and add fresh fruit.

2. Thin peanut butter with an equal amount of water, stir until smooth.

3. Thin sour cream with water and add a bit of sugar and vanilla.

Cocoa Cherry Muesli

cocoa cherry muesli

cocoa cherry muesli photo by vsimon

Need some more gluten free gift ideas from your kitchen?

This is a treat, some will say, an extravagant gift. Certified gluten free oats, dried cherries, and almonds are not inexpensive ingredients. But they are healthy, delicious, and combine to make an easy gift. Worthy of a splurge.

What is the difference between muesli and granola?

Both are a combination of grains, usually oatmeal, fruit, and nuts. Very few are made with certified gluten free oats, be sure to check the label.

Most granola for sale has lots, really lots, of oil and sweeteners added. These help to make crunchy clusters, but also add many calories.

Muesli simply means “mixture” in German. Our take on breakfast muesli is less sweet than granola and has no added oils.

Serving suggestions

Your giftee can add their choice of milk in the morning, and watch it magically turn into chocolate milk.

Or they can add it at night and keep it all in the fridge, ready to pull out and enjoy in the morning. This soaked version will be softer, since the oatmeal and cherries absorb the liquid overnight.

Muesli can be served warm too. Simply add liquid and microwave like plain oatmeal.

Cocoa Cherry Muesli

makes 8-9 cups metric measures
6 cups certified gluten free oatmeal 550 gm
1 1/2 cups toasted whole almonds 225 gm
1/2 cup dark brown sugar 100 gm
1/2 cup pure cocoa powder, not cocoa drink mix 45 gm
1 1/2 cup dried cherries 225 gm

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put oatmeal on an 18×12 inch rimmed baking sheet. Or two smaller ones.

Toast oatmeal for about 10 minutes. Stir and bake about 10 minutes more. You may not need to bake this long if using two baking sheets.

Transfer toasted oatmeal to a cool baking sheet, or a large bowl.

Add the almonds, dark brown sugar, and cocoa powder. Stir to thoroughly combine. 

Add cherries and stir just a turn or two. Additional stirring will cause the cherries to pick up brown cocoa coats. This is not bad, but they are prettier unadorned.

When the muesli is completely cool, package in holiday tins. Just add a bow, and give with a smile.

What flavors do you like in muesli or granola?