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Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and minerals despite its bitter taste, making it a healthy and recommended staple in many diets. It contains less sugar than milk chocolate. According to Harvard University, studies suggest that dark chocolate has heart-protective effects that may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduce inflammation, and enhance brain function. Given these significant health benefits, you may be wondering how to sweeten dark chocolate, so it’s more palatable while retaining its health benefits.
There are several easy methods for making dark chocolate sweeter, including using natural or artificial sweeteners, combining with natural fruit juices, adding a bit of honey, and even pairing with certain cheeses. This article will discuss the myriad of ways you can enjoy dark chocolate without the bitter after-taste.
Dark Chocolate: From a Bitter Beverage to a Sweet Treat
The history of chocolate can be traced around 3,000 years ago. Dark chocolate was the only form of chocolate known by ancient civilizations in Central and South America. Chocolate was first used in bitter beverages before becoming the creamy, commercially available sweet treat we know today. The Mayans drank chocolate beverages for ceremonies and medicinal purposes. To make it more liquid, they would combine it with water. Some even added chili peppers or honey to give it more flavor.
Europeans began to discover chocolate when Spanish travelers brought it home. Like the Mayans, they sweetened it by adding spices such as cinnamon and sweeteners such as honey. However, the main difference was the addition of cane sugar, which came to Europe around the 9th century, where it gained widespread popularity. The addition of sugar and the later addition of milk in the 1600s set apart modern-day milk chocolate from ancient chocolate.
How to Make Dark Chocolate Sweeter
Dark chocolate has varying percentages of cocoa that can range anywhere from 50% to 99%. As the cocoa percentage increases, the bitterness gets stronger. Here are different ways you can sweeten dark chocolate successfully.
Melt Sugar in the Dark Chocolate
Sugar changes the chocolate’s texture and tones down the bitterness of cocoa, making it taste better. You can choose from any sugar, whether plain white or brown. To start, melt the chocolate down entirely to a creamy consistency. There are multiple ways to accomplish this but remember not to burn the chocolate in the process, or that will impact its taste. An excellent double boiler is a recommended tool for the job.
You can use at least 3 ounces of dark chocolate. Once it melts, add in one tablespoon of sugar and stir it well. Make sure to taste-test it to make sure it’s the right sweetness – if not, add more tablespoons and stir until it is. Then, let the mixture cool down.
Mix Stevia in the Dark Chocolate
Stevia is an excellent option for dark chocolate. Not only is it an alternative to sugar, but it’s also effortless to add it in. Simply use the same method as you would for sugar – melt the chocolate down – and replace the tablespoon of sugar with two tablespoons of stevia. Add more if desired, and let the chocolate cool down.
Mix It With Honey
If you want a healthier way to sweeten your dark chocolate, you can add honey to it. This natural sweetener is a rich source of nutrients and antioxidants. Its health benefits include protecting the body from inflammation, relieving cough, and promoting wound healing.
Honey also contains fewer calories than sugars and other artificial sweeteners. This makes it a better option for your blood sugar levels. Mixing honey to dark chocolate involves the same steps as with sugar. For the most part, it doesn’t affect the chocolate’s texture, only adding a little thickness. Melt the chocolate using direct or indirect heat, then add one tablespoon of honey. Stirring it well and quickly spreads the sweetness evenly.
Add Some Candied Fruit
Since fruits are naturally sweet, they can help cancel out the bitterness of your dark chocolate. Candied fruits have added sugar, boosting the chocolate’s sweet taste. You can choose to eat the chocolate with the fruit or use it to coat the fruit.
It’s essential to select the fruit carefully as the flavor can depend on it. For example, dark chocolate can go with strawberries, bananas, raspberries, cherries, or dried apricots. But take note that fruits with sweeter tones have more calories. For that reason, it’s best to eat candied fruits in moderation.
From here, there are a few ways you can coat the fruit. You can chop the fruit, stir it in, extract its juice, or you can put the fruits on a baking tray and pour chocolate over each piece. Then you can wait for it to cool, heat the chocolate again, and add more chocolate to the uncoated backs.
Pair It With Cheese
Pairing salty food, like cheese and dark chocolate, is another way to improve its sweetness. These two effectively bring out each other’s flavors, making it one of the best combinations.
This method is more straightforward since there is no need to melt the chocolate. When pairing the two ingredients, try to match the cheese’s flavors to the chocolate’s bitterness. Typically aged cheeses work well with more bitter chocolate. Blue cheese, for example, is very flavorful. If you prefer, you can also use non-dairy cheeses, such as goat cheese.
Conclusion: How to Sweeten Dark Chocolate
Whether you want to enjoy dark chocolate or use it for baking, there are various ways to make it sweeter. Dark chocolate containing more than 50% to 90% cocoa solids can be mixed with sweeteners, like granulated sugar, monkfruit, or powdered stevia.
You can add honey to melted chocolate for a healthier alternative. Candied fruits and cheese can also be paired with dark chocolate to make it seem less bitter and enhance its flavor. If you’d like to learn more about your favorite foods, visit the Foodies category on our website.