try rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream

jackie chanJackie Chan, like many other stars, enjoys ice cream and his reported favorite flavor is chocolate

There are so many recipes for desserts using chocolate as a key ingredient.

knickerbocker gloryOne of the greatest ice cream sundaes ever. If you've never had one, you don't know what you're missing.


A Few Chocolate Facts ....
Chocolate is made from the beans of the cacoa tree. The first civilisation understood to have grown cocoa beans was the Olmec Indians around 1500 BC. The cacoa tree was named by a Swedish naturalist called Linnaeus in the 17th century. The botanical name for cocoa is "Theobroma Cacoa". Cocoa beans contain several hundred flavor compounds. Criollo beans are known to give the best quality cocoa for chocolate making; they were used for a long time as the main source supply but sadly it's no longer the case. Less than 5% of world cocoa production now comes from the criollo bean.

History Of Chocolate
Cocoa beans were used by the Aztec civilisation to make a frothy, hot drink and chocolate itself was revered for its special vitality and wisdom giving properties. As such it was only given to the nobility, priests and warriors. As a fermented drink (probably quite bitter and nothing like our modern day, sweet tasting chocolate), the Aztecs used chocolate in religious ceremonies and the Emperor Montezuma is believed to have drunk it in large quantities every day.

It was Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez who is credited with recording the enjoyment of chocolate in Emperor Montezuma's court.

It's generally believed that chocolate as a drink was introduced to Europe in the 16th century by explorers returning from their travels and the first official cocoa bean shipments into Europe took place in Seville in 1585 from Mexico.

Hot drinking chocolate was at one time made with a mix of peppers and spices. This helped flavor the cocoa.

In the early 18th century
Dubuisson (France) invented a table mill for grinding chocolate and in the late 18th century in England a steam engine was first used to grind cocoa beans; the user was Joseph Fry.

In the mid 18th century Irishman John Hanan imported cocoa beans into the United States from the West Indies. He worked with a Dr James Baker (American) and they built the first ever chocolate mill in the USA. Read more here.

In the 19th century
It was at this time that the process for moulding food into shapes was developed and so followed the first solid chocolate bars which became very popular. Mechanical machinery processing meant that cocoa beans could easily be crushed, the cocoa powder then heated and poured into the moulds. During the process of cooling, the chocolate bars would form.

Still in the 19th century ....

François Louis Callier (Switzerland) opened the first chocolate factory in his country in 1819.

Coenrad Van Houten (Netherlands) was the first to develop the process of extracting cocoa butter from cocoa beans (1825) with his cocoa press.

Rodolphe Lindt (Switzerland) first added cocoa butter to the process of chocolate making (1879). This helped make it smoother and gave it a glossy coating. Rodolphe Lindt also invented the conching machine which allowed for the heating and rolling of chocolate as a refining process.

Daniel Peter (Switzerland) perfected the production of a much sweeter and smoother chocolate in 1875 - what we call milk chocolate. The Swiss company Nestlé' had just invented condensed milk and Peter found this easier than normal milk to mix with cocoa paste. Daniel Peter went on to join forces with Henri Nestlé and together they set up the Nestlé Company in 1879.

Richard Cadbury created the first known heart-shaped chocolate box for Valentine's Day 1861 and in 1868 John Cadbury produced the first mass marketed box of chocolates.

Chocolate has always been regarded as a pleasure and at times at luxury - during the Boer War soldiers received a special 1900 New Year gift from Queen Victoria - chocolate bars.

In the 20th century
British company Cadbury produced their first 'Dairy Milk' chocolate bars (still popular today) as early as 1905.

Machinery for producing filled chocolates was developed in 1913 by Jules Sechaud (Switzerland).

The growth of the chocolate industry in the 20th century has been significant with more companies in more countries developing their own brands and with a seemingly ever increasing range of chocolate bars and chocolate treats.

There's so much more to read about chocolate including its relevance to health

See how glorious a sundae you can make with chocolate here or make your own cookies with this great recipe for chocolate chip cookies