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BellaOnline's Chocolate Editor

Chocolate Chip Rivalry

When I was a kid growing up in suburban America, if my mother sent me out to buy chocolate chips, there wasn't much to choose from. Sometimes you could find peanut butter chips, or butterscotch; but chocolate chips were just chocolate chips, and no one thought much about them one way or another.

Thanks to all the recent research about chocolate and antioxidants, chocolate manufacturers are cashing in on the current passion for dark chocolate. Chips were always dark, of course, but now there are plenty more of them to choose from even in a typical American grocery store.

Nestle was always famous for its chocolate chips, thanks to the wonderful Toll House cookies many of us grew up on. Now Nestle has developed a line of "Chocolatier" chips. The packaging is elegant, and the cacao percentage is right there on the label, as are sophisticated recipes. Forget the cookies -- here's how to make truffles.

The "Chocolatier" chips are bigger than the old semi-sweet ones. Even with my eyes shut, though, I couldn't distinguish any difference in taste. The bags look to be about the same size as Nestle's old traditional chip packages, but if you check the weight, you'll see you're getting less chocolate for more money.

Hershey's also has more than one kind of chocolate chip now. You can buy semi-sweet, or the chip form of their old Special Dark bars. The Dark chips are a little quieter in flavor than the semi-sweet.

Both companies take great care to point out on their labels that their chocolate chips contain antioxidants. The implication is that by buying their products, you're not only indulging in a tasty treat, you're doing your health a favor.

However, both Nestle and Hershey's chips also contain milk.

According to articles on WebMD, New Scientist, and other science sites, chocolate is a wonderful source of antioxidants -- provided that the chocolate doesn't have milk in or around it. Milk binds with the antioxidants in chocolate, preventing them from entering the bloodstream and thus becoming useful to the human body as fighters of free radicals.

Therefore, if you want chocolate chips that can give their all in the antioxidant department, you may be better off with a brand that doesn't add milk to their product, such as Ghirardelli's.

I have to admit, however, that I've never bitten into a chocolate chip cookie with any thought that doing so could pass as a healthy gesture. With eyes wide open, then, I favor either the traditional Nestle semi-sweet chips or the Hershey's Special Dark when it comes to making cookies. Ghirardelli's chocolate chips just lack a certain something. Their flavor isn't strong enough. When I take a bite of a chocolate chip cookie, I want it to bite back just a bit.

And when I bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies, I use my mother's old recipe. Which I think she copied straight off a bag of chocolate chips.

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