This primer on cocoa butter is another episode in my chocolate components series, and it delves into one of the most crucial compounds in chocolate: cacao fat. This lipid, also known as cocoa butter or cacao butter, is a plant-based source of saturated and unsaturated fat (meaning that cocoa butter is vegan, indeed). Yet, cocoa butter is receiving a poor reputation in food and a good rap in cosmetics these days. So, which one is it?
To alleviate some of your worries, this quick reference about cocoa butter answers all of the most often asked questions regarding cacao butter advantages and concerns. In reality, the majority of concerns about cocoa butter fall into one of two categories: consuming it as dark chocolate or applying it to your skin. Cocoa butter is both tasty and complicated, from its origins and applications to its beneficial and bad health consequences!
What exactly is cocoa butter?
Simply said, cocoa butter is the fat of the cacao bean, which is the seed of the South American tropical cacao tree. Cocoa butter, also known as cacao butter, accounts for nearly half of the weight of cocoa beans, with cocoa cultivated further from the equator holding a larger proportion of cacao butter.
So, cocoa butter is vegan? Yes, absolutely! Despite its perplexing moniker (much like the deceptive chocolate liquor), cocoa butter is both vegan and delicious.
Although while cocoa powder receives all the attention for its chocolatey taste, your chocolate would lack the creamy, melty smoothness we all associate with our favorite chocolate bar if it didn’t include cocoa butter. In reality, cocoa butter is included in all cocoa powders. This is due to the fact that it is physically impossible to extract all of the fat from cocoa beans.
Cacao beans are mashed into a paste to make cocoa butter. The paste is then crushed with a heavy weight, causing the fat to seep down the edges and gather below. Even with the heaviest weights, most commercial versions of pure cocoa powder contain about 10% fat.
Since cocoa butter is highly valued in the skincare business, the remainder of that cocoa butter is often sold into the cosmetics industry (but more on that later). When you locate a cocoa powder pressed by the manufacturers of artisan chocolate, it typically implies that the fat content of cocoa butter is substantially greater, approximately 20%.
This is because their pressing equipment is often incapable of exerting the pressure necessary to remove additional fat. Yet, the increased quantity of cocoa butter serves another purpose: taste and mouthfeel. As they say in cookery, fat conveys taste, thus higher-fat cocoa powder will be more fragrant and tasty than lower-fat cocoa powder. Hence, if you bake with chocolate, be sure to use high-fat cocoa powders to get the advantages of cocoa butter.
How Is Cocoa Butter Produced?
Cacao butter is prepared by pressing cocoa tree seeds until the cacao fat and cacao solids separate. Before being pulverized and pressed for cocoa butter, the seeds are usually fermented, dried, roasted, and peeled.
Cocoa butter was reported to have been extracted from the solids for the first time with the creation of Coenraad Van Houtens cocoa press, which was patented in 1828. The machine only uses pressure to separate the majority, but not all, of the cocoa fat from the cocoa solids. The residual solids may be used to make chocolate cakes and low-fat chocolates, as well as meals and cosmetics from the cacao butter. While raw cacao butter is claimed to be superior for such uses, the health advantages of raw cacao butter over cocoa butter squeezed from roasted beans are insignificant.
Since most small craft chocolate producers cannot afford the costly cocoa butter presses required to manufacture their own cacao butter, they purchase cocoa butter to add to their bars. This has little effect on the taste, but it is critical to ensure that only pure cocoa butter is used in chocolate, rather than any random vegetable oil.
Myths About Cocoa Butter
Here’s a brief rundown of some common misconceptions concerning cocoa butter and chocolate.
Myth: Raw cocoa butter is healthier.
48C. Most crucially, the term “raw” has no legal meaning in the food industry. This implies that any firm may name its cocoa butter raw, natural, or premium, regardless of where it came from or how it was processed. Fact: Raw cocoa butter does not exist! Raw cacao butter is most likely unroasted cocoa, but it is very surely fermented, which would raise the bulk temperature considerably over the standard raw limit of 118F.
For far too long, the illusion of raw cacao butter advantages has prevailed. Good quality cacao butter comes from trustworthy sources, such as your local handmade chocolate firm, and fermentation and roasting do not impair the quality of cocoa butter.
Myth: Organic, Fair Trade cocoa butter is the best you can get.
Fact: Organic and Fair Trade certifications refer to chocolate cultivation conditions and cost, not quality. The only way to get high-quality, ethical cocoa butter is to purchase it directly from a chocolate maker or cocoa processor you know and trust, such as your local handmade chocolate maker or Meridian Cacao. More about white chocolate may be found in this article.
Myth: Deodorized cocoa butter is superior to unscented cocoa butter.
Raw cocoa butter is substantially more aromatic than deodorized cocoa butter and has a light yellow or brown tint. Deodorized cocoa butter is just natural cocoa butter (unrefined cocoa butter) that has been processed and heated to breakdown some aromatic compounds naturally contained in cacao, similar to alkalized vs. natural cocoa powder. The most typical deodorization procedure is steam injection followed by clay treatment to eliminate aroma and color.
This is ideal for soap or lotion makers who do not want a chocolatey undertone in their products, but if you intend to eat your cocoa butter, this can be unpleasant. Just make sure you get food-grade cocoa butter if you intend to eat what you make (if youre not sure between a cacao butter vs cocoa butter, both can be food grade products).
Myth: Low-fat chocolate is better for you.
Fact: Unless your body has actual issues with fat digestion, low-fat chocolate is not the best choice for you. This is because low-fat chocolates are often produced using cocoa powder, a lower-quality oil, and extra sugar to compensate for the bar’s heavier texture. Not only do individuals tend to eat more chocolate to feel satiated, but eliminating the cocoa butter also enhances the deterioration of the antioxidants that make chocolate so healthy.
Cocoa Butter Science
We now know that cocoa butter is pure fat, but is it a healthy fat? It’s fantastic for applying to dry skin and producing body butter and lip balms, but is cocoa butter healthy?
Yes and no, respectively. This is due to the fact that cocoa butter is predominantly composed of four distinct kinds of fatty acids: palmitic, linoleic, stearic, and oleic. Just one of these four is detrimental for your heart (palmitic acid), with the other three being either neutral or actively beneficial to heart health. Cacao butter contains around 25% palmitic acid, 3% linoleic acid, 37% stearic acid, 34% oleic acid, and 1% other fatty acids, all of which melt at body temperature.
Thus, if you consume a vegan white chocolate that is low in sugar, it is not truly detrimental for your heart; nevertheless, like with anything, everything is good in moderation. Yet, returning to the fat balance, that macronutrient composition is important for both the health and culinary applications of cocoa butter. Not only is cocoa butter resistant to rancidity, but its fat composition makes it ideal for keeping moisture, which accounts for its ability to help skin smooth out stretch marks and diminish scars.
There is an intriguing parallel to the function of cacao butter in the plant, since it is thought that trees positioned farther from the equator, which naturally have a higher-than-average amount of fat, create that additional fat as part of the stress reaction to variable supplies. But, the fact that cocoa butter constitutes nearly half of the cocoa bean is what makes cacao the ideal food for making melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. Moreover, having a cocoa butter allergy is practically unheard of!
The Advantages of Cocoa Butter
Many people associate cocoa butter with the yellow bars of cocoa butter available at CVS or your local pharmacy store. Although Cococare’s iconic yellow sticks are 100% cocoa butter, they’ve become famous for their aroma as well as their supposed usefulness in reducing stretch marks. This is because one of the stated advantages of cocoa butter is its ability to fade stretch marks, which has now been disproven.
So, what are the advantages of cocoa butter? When it comes to consuming it, cocoa butter has roughly 45 calories per teaspoon, all of which are fat. Yet, the majority of this fat is heart-healthy, and it serves a role in chocolate as well. Cocoa butter, in fact, protects the cocoa solids in chocolate from oxidation.
This is significant because it prevents the nutrients in dark chocolate from deteriorating or losing their potency before you ingest it. Yet, apart from eating it, the advantages of cocoa butter extend to lotions and soaps prepared with it, as well as rubbing it directly on your skin. Although not every use of cocoa butter is beneficial, the following are:
- offers mild sun protection with an SPF around 6
- roughly 75% heart-healthy fats
- high concentration of skin-protecting fatty acids
- great source of vitamin E & vitamin K
- binds ingredients due to high fat content
How to Make Use of Cocoa Butter
There are several methods to repurpose leftover cocoa butter or to include it into your own handmade chocolate recipes. Some individuals choose to create their own vegan chocolate bars, while others like to make their own massage oils, lotions, and chapsticks. Cocoa butter, like shea butter or coconut oil, is a natural moisturizer with roughly 6 SPF, thus it may even be used to supplement homemade sunscreen formulations.
Some people purchase cocoa butter to use in baking; it may be used to replace some of the butter or coconut oil in a recipe. Cacao butter may also be infused with other tastes (or even cannabis) by heating it at a low temperature for an extended length of time (as is often done with ganache making). Cooking with cocoa butter has also gained popularity lately, owing to the fat’s high smoke point, which is ideal for searing meat.
I felt compelled to highlight the cacao relatives, particularly Theobroma bicolor and Theobroma grandiflorum, on the other end of the cacao spectrum. These two additional plants, which share recent origins with cocoa, are also often utilized for comparable uses in both tropical North and tropical South America as Theobroma cacao. Even cacao liquor, which is prepared from fresh fruit rather than seeds, is replicated using theobroma species.
Cocoa Butter Frequently Asked Questions
Although they may seem to be entirely distinct items, cacao butter and cocoa butter are the same thing and are both necessary ingredients in milk chocolate and white chocolate. The main difference between cocoa butter and cacao butter is that some corporations choose cacao because it sounds more natural.
Yes! Cocoa butter is usually a vegan-friendly meal; the only exception is when dairy or non-vegan sugar is added.
Cocoa butter contains slightly more than 50% saturated fats, which may easily clog your skin’s often-delicate pores, therefore I would avoid applying it on your face.
Although theoretically cocoa butter may spoil, the answer to the question “does cocoa butter spoil?” is that it seldom does. If cocoa butter spoils, it is usually due to chemical exposure, extended heat exposure, or storage for more than ten years (in any condition).
Cocoa butter is derived from the seeds of Theobroma cacao, a South American tropical tree whose seeds (or beans) contain around 48-54% cocoa butter (fat).
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