Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chocolate Syrup

Flavored milk is no stranger to bad press. In fact, it's a main focus of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. And I happen to agree that flavored milk, chocolate or otherwise, should not be readily available to the kiddos, especially at school. If given the choice, most children will pick a flavored milk over plain milk. I did. And my almost kindergartener would likely too even though he loves plain milk and knows chocolate milk is a treat. It's too tempting and most kids would opt for a treat over real food if it was available to them.

I'm definitely with Jamie on getting flavored milk out of schools but I do believe that a cold glass of chocolate milk or mug of hot chocolate once in a while is good for the soul. And I know he does too - he has a terrific hot cocoa recipe in one of his cookbooks.

My approach to chocolate milk is the same as my approach to any treat I make for the family - healthier, occasional and affordable with a touch of convenience if I can get it. I don't think there are many people (in the USA anyhow) that wouldn't recognize a bottle or can of Hershey's Syrup. And not many more that haven't had it. Not unlike most big brand convenience products, Hershey's Syrup is one that a lot of people "just buy." Whether it's because it brings back good memories or because it's "Hershey's, and has to be good, right?" Hershey's is a family after all? Or maybe it's the fact it goes on sale often enough to get it pretty cheap. Whatever the reasons, it is definitely a product that gets purchased a lot. Personally, I think it's the strong branding it has maintained for decades. The illusion that it's as pure as its beginnings when Milton Hershey himself was making the products. And that's the problem. It's not what Milton was making, it can't be. Hershey's products are mass produced and need to be shelf stable. And some of their chocolate products aren't even chocolate. Anyhow, here are the ingredients for Hershey's Syrup (not listed on their website by the way):

High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, water, cocoa *, contains 2% or less of: potassium sorbate (a preservative), salt, mono and diglycerides *, polysorbate 60 (an emulsifier), xanthan gum, and vanillan, an artificial flavoring. *Adds a negligible amount of fat.

Starts with HFCS, and it's not until the fifth ingredient we find cocoa. I like to mention this because it helps remind me of how to make better choices, specifically with convenience foods. There are other chocolate syrups out there and here's one from Trader Joe's that is an improvement from Hershey's:

Organic sugar, water, organic cocoa, organic non-fat dry milk, organic vanilla, xanthan gum, soy lecithin, citric acid.

The point here is to learn to make better choices when buying convenience items. If you can't make it yourself, then pick the lesser of the evils. Take a few minutes (or more) to research.

And here is a simple recipe to make your own chocolate syrup if you find the time. I made it. It's fast and tastes great - no extra food additives needed. Give it shot if you can!

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, add sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Whisk together gently.  Add water.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Cool.  Store in the refrigerator. 

For chocolate milk, add 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup to 8 oz. of milk.  Heat for hot chocolate.

For milk shakes, combine 1 cup cold milk, 1/4 cup chocolate syrup and 2 cups (1 pint) of vanilla ice cream to a blender.  Blend.

This syrup also makes a yummy ice cream topping.

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1968.

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