Sunday, August 16, 2009

Calling for Baker Advice on Baking Soda and Health Benefits of Chocolate

A study by Hershey reports that both antioxidant activity and cocoa flavanols can be retained in cakes if you cut back on the use of baking soda. However, as many of your bakers may realize, using no baking soda often results in denser cakes so Hershey suggests cutting back on the baking soda but not eliminating it entirely.

There are a few problems with this very brief report. First, the write up does not reveal what ratio of baking soda and baking powder works best for maintaining the healthy aspects of cocoa and getting a good texture for your cake. I'm wondering if any of you bakers out there have experimented with this. If you have, please leave a comment and let us see the results of your trials. Your Chocolate Priestess doesn't bake, Sisters and Brothers, unless it is a very special occasion in the warm or hot, and humid months.

Second, this article ignores some basic facts about the healthiness of chocolate. The real benefits start at 80% cocoa as we know. At that level would anything other than a chocolate bar offer us all those potential positives we are constantly seeing these days? Does even the darkest cupcake or brownie come close to that level of purity? Again I'm calling on you bakers out there to share what you know.

Finally, I must confess that all of these claims of healthiness are starting to seem a bit flash over substance. When you don't give specific information, when you ignore the percentage of cocoa in your products, and yet just toss about the idea of flavanols and other beneficial chemicals, I have to say that it sounds like you are more concerned with sales than the health of the consumer.

I sell nothing to you, Sisters and Brothers, other than what I hope is information, an example of rational questioning, and guidance through personal experience and example. So don't just look at a newspaper or magazine article, don't just watch a TV ad, and don't believe everything you hear. Stop, analyze, and consider what is the best choice for your Journey in The Chocolate Cult. If you do that, then you will use the Sacred Substance in moderation and with purpose.

Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.

Note: In the future I may have something to sell such as a book or a bumper sticker but it will not be chocolate because as much as I love the Sacred Substance, I am not a chocolatier.


DessertLady said...

Let's face it. "Health" is not the first thing we think of when we're desiring a chocolate cake. It's the need to indulge...for whatever the reason. In my opinion, it's moot as to whether healthier levels of antioxidants can be obtained using less baking soda in the cake. Why sacrifice results, when you can just chop off a piece of that dark chocolate, and enjoy that while you're baking the cake! Or, if you weren't the baker, indulge in that piece of chocolate daily, and then you'll have no worries. IMHO.

TheChocolatePriestess said...

*nods at DessertLady* That's sort of my take on things. All these health claims may sound good but they do not consider what we are drawn toward chocolate and cocoa and why we keep eating and drinking it.

Thank you so much for commenting today.

Derek said...

In my experience, using even slightly less baking soda (or old baking soda) will completely ruin the entire baked good, especially if it is a cake. The texture may be soggy, tough, or even hard. Texture is one of the most important aspects of a chocolate dessert for me, so I am not willing to make that trade-off. --Emilie

TheChocolatePriestess said...

*nods at Emilie* Texture is one of the five important senses great chocolate anything should engage in a positive way. Again we see how lacking this "report" was and I have to think that it's just an attempt to jump on the "healthy wagon" to try and increase profits.

mavido79 said...

Emeril Legasse once said that while cooking is an art, baking is a science. Mucking around with the amount of soda would require a lot of other mucking around in order to compensate and even then you might not get it right. Why bother? If you're really that concerned with your health, then pass on the cake and eat something with a higher antioxidant value?

TheChocolatePriestess said...


Exactly. If you want the actual health benefits of chocolate you aren't eating cake or brownies or cookies or a candy bar, but 3 oz of pure 80% or higher cocoa content chocolate.

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