Chocolate

Where Health Meets Decadence… 7 Reasons Why Dark Chocolate Can Be a Healthy Choice

Written by: Trees Emma Martens, Owner of Emma’s DelightsEmma

2013 Chocolate Candy and Confections Class

Emma’s Delights’ owner-chocolatière, Trees Emma Martens, was born and raised in Belgium and like most Belgians, she grew up with fine chocolates. Her mom was a great cook and a fabulous baker-pâtissière, and from a very young age, Emma spent countless hours helping her mom measuring and mixing ingredients in the family kitchen, and most importantly taking care of the ‘quality assurance’ of the finished product by tasting it at all the different stages of production. No wonder she claims that crafting chocolates must be ingrained in her DNA. 

Emma has been experimenting daily in her own kitchen since her college years. After moving to the Bay Area in 1996 with her family, she eagerly included a variety of culinary elements from the many cultures surrounding her into her own recipes. Emma’s Delights continues that tradition.

We‘ve all heard the saying, “dark chocolate is good for you,” and there are many studies claiming just that. Here are my top 7 health benefits attributed to a high cocoa percentage dark chocolate*:

  1. Fights Free Radicals: Dark chocolate contains plenty of antioxidants that reduce free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells).
  2. Protects Your Skin: The flavanols, a plant-based nutrient, found in dark chocolate absorb ultraviolet rays thus protecting your skin against their damaging effects. Please note that it’s still good to wear sunscreen!
  3. Improves Blood Flow: Dark chocolate is said to lower blood pressure and may even improve brain function by increasing blood flow, which can help you perform better on intellectual tests.
  4. Lowers Risk of Heart Disease: Dark chocolate (together with exercise and a healthy diet) can lower the risk of heart disease because it raises the HDL (good cholesterol) and decreases the oxidized LDL (meaning “bad” cholesterol has reacted with free radicals).
  5. Increases Productivity: Dark chocolate contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine (a blood vessel widener), but at a low enough level to not keep you awake at night.
  6. Reduces Stress: Apparently, dark chocolate also helps reduce stress hormones that can lead to collagen breakdown (wrinkles) and excess oil production (acne).
  7. Lose Weight: Eating a piece of dark chocolate as a snack will lower your craving for sweets and fatty foods and reduces feelings of hunger. This will make it easier to stick to your regular diet plan and help you to reduce body weight.

* If 90% cacao mass is too bitter for you, try a 70%. Just make sure that sugar is not the first ingredient listed and that your plain dark chocolate is truly dairy-free.

If all these scientific reasons cannot persuade you to include dark chocolate into your diet, just think of how good eating a piece of chocolate can make you feel… to indulge without guilt!

With Emma’s Delights, my goal is to handcraft high quality chocolates in small volume with emphasis on the uniqueness of Belgian chocolates. I want to stay as close as possible to the original art of Belgian ‘praline’ making, using traditional molds and soft fillings. I am also passionate about eating healthy so I use only ‘real’ ingredients for my fillings. I avoid any coloring or preservatives, I never use glucose or any other sugary syrups, and I only use organic cane sugar for caramelized fillings. Many of my customers are also happy to know that my fillings are dairy free and all are gluten free. In staying true to my motto, “where decadence becomes healthy,” I offer a large selection of gourmet products made with 70% cacao mass Belgian chocolate, nuts, seeds, or dried fruit.

While Emma’s Delights is mainly an online store that concentrates on “order only,” you can also find me at holiday markets and corporate pop ups. As a small business owner, my job description includes everything from janitor to CEO. In one day, I can go from purchasing ingredients and developing recipes to, fulfilling customer orders and making my chocolates and fillings. There is also a lot of administrative work and marketing involved, i.e answering emails and sending out quotes, writing newsletters, taking pictures for Instagram and, of course, there is always a lot of clean up.

Although maintaining such high standards for my products takes much effort, the “farm to table” movement has always been a way of life for me. In fact, I grew up eating healthy meals cooked from scratch, using fresh vegetables and fruit mostly grown in our own garden. I also have fond memories of assisting my mom every Saturday, baking cakes, pastries, and pies that we would deliver to our neighbors on Sundays as gifts. Even though my mom was an amazing amateur baker/pâtissière, the dessert ‘par excellence’ for me was definitely chocolate, and more specifically our famous Belgian chocolates.

Growing up in Belgium, we always had chocolate in the pantry and after moving to the United States, I especially missed those Belgian ‘pralines’ (hard shell chocolates with soft fillings). One particular year, my craving for them was so great that I decided to make them myself. I did a lot of research online, bought some chocolate molds, and started making my own chocolates. My first attempts didn’t always work out well, but I was intrigued by the process and wanted to learn more about tempering and the whole chocolate making craft. I began taking some amateur classes and became hooked. Since I wanted to really master the art of chocolate making, I was fortunate that the ICC was offering a 5-week course and eagerly signed up for it. Meanwhile, I had to practice a lot and shared my first results with friends and family. Even though my chocolates were still far from perfect, they were a big hit and people often encouraged me to start a business. I knew it would be tough, but the idea of becoming a chocolatière was appealing to me because I saw a niche for it: Belgian chocolates made by a Belgian in the Bay Area, using Belgian couverture chocolate.

Learn more about Emma’s Delights on her website [http://emmasdelights.com] and be sure to follow her on Instagram @emmasdelights!