So, What the Hell’ish Chocolate?
Chocolate, is there anything better? It really depends who you ask…I know people that would take it over sex. And there are so many types, brands and confections made from it. For today, lets look at the where it comes from, how it’s made and some of the variations on the market.
Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, the dried and fermented seeds of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), a small, 4–8 m tall (15–26 ft tall) evergreen tree native to the deep tropical region of the Americas. Recent genetic studies suggest the most common genotype of the plant originated in the Amazon basin and was gradually transported by humans throughout South and Central America. Early forms of another genotype have also been found in what is now Venezuela. The scientific name, Theobroma, means “food of the gods“. The fruit, called a cocoa pod, is ovoid, 15–30 cm (6–12 in) long and 8–10 cm (3–4 in) wide, ripening yellow to orange, and weighing about 500 g (1.1 lb) when ripe. The three main varieties of cocoa beans used in chocolate are criollo, forastero, and trinitario.
Maya glyph for cocoa
Cocoa, pronounced by the Olmecs as kakawa, dates to 1000 BC or earlier. The word “chocolate” entered the English language from Spanish in about 1600. The word entered Spanish from the word chocolātl in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. The origin of the Nahuatl word is uncertain, as it does not appear in any early Nahuatl source, where the word for chocolate drink is cacahuatl, “cocoa water”. It is possible that the Spaniards coined the word (perhaps in order to avoid caca, a vulgar Spanish word for “faeces”) by combining the Yucatec Mayan word chocol, “hot”, with the Nahuatl word atl, “water”. A widely-cited proposal is that the derives from unattested xocolatl meaning “bitter drink” is unsupported; the change from x- to ch- is unexplained, as is the -l-. Another proposed etymology derives it from the word chicolatl, meaning “beaten drink”, which may derive from the word for the frothing stick, chicoli. Other scholars reject all these proposals, considering the origin of first element of the name to be unknown. The term “chocolatier“, for a chocolate confection maker, is attested from 1888.
Cocoa pods are harvested by cutting them from the tree using a machete, or by knocking them off the tree using a stick. The beans with their surrounding pulp are removed from the pods and placed in piles or bins, allowing access to micro-organisms so fermentation of the pectin-containing material can begin. Yeasts produce ethanol, lactic acid bacteria produce lactic acid, and acetic acid bacteria produce acetic acid. The fermentation process, which takes up to seven days, also produces several flavor precursors, eventually resulting in the familiar chocolate taste.
It is important to harvest the pods when they are fully ripe, because if the pod is unripe, the beans will have a low cocoa butter content, or sugars in the white pulp will be insufficient for fermentation, resulting in a weak flavor. After fermentation, the beans must be quickly dried to prevent mold growth. Climate and weather permitting, this is done by spreading the beans out in the sun from five to seven days.
The dried beans are then transported to a chocolate manufacturing facility. The beans are cleaned (removing twigs, stones, and other debris), roasted, and graded. Next, the shell of each bean is removed to extract the nib. Finally, the nibs are ground and liquefied, resulting in pure chocolate in fluid form: chocolate liquor. The liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
Chocolate liquor is blended with the cocoa butter in varying quantities to make different types of chocolate or couverture. The basic blends of ingredients for the various types of chocolate (in order of highest quantity of cocoa liquor first), are:
- Dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and (sometimes) vanilla
- Milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
- White chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
ALTERNATIVE CHOCOLATE PRODUCTS
Not all chocolate is as it seems, there are a number of types that do not fall into the above three “COUVERTURE” based chocolates.
- Vegan, lactose free; Of course you can buy anything dairy free these days, including milk, likewise with vegan foods. Chocolate in its purest form is both dairy free and vegan.
- Compound chocolate; is the name for a confection combining cocoa with other vegetable fats, usually tropical fats or hydrogenated fats, as a replacement for cocoa butter. It is often used for candy bar coatings. In many countries it can not legally be called “chocolate”.
- Ruby chocolate is a variety of chocolate introduced in 2017 by Barry Callebaut, a Belgian–Swiss cocoa company. The variety had been in development since 2004, and in 2015, the product was patented by Dumarche et al. credited as inventors and Barry Callebaut as assignee under patent number US 9107430, 2015. It was unveiled at a private event in Shanghai on 5 September, 2017. It is marketed as the “fourth” type of chocolate alongside dark, milk, and white chocolate varieties and is notable for its natural pink colour.
I would like to leave you with a favorite seasonal recipe for a chocolate lovers favorite. I have a gluten free variation as well for those interested, email me for details. Do the recipes in the order given, enjoy!
I did a private chef gig this past weekend and the piece de resistance was the dessert. As mentioned above, a flourless chocolate cake, which is basically a stabilized ganache. The ladies just couldn’t believe how delicious the “Chocolata Erotica” was. I coined this dessert name many years ago at a restaurant I owned in London. It’s a very simple recipe, but once plated the flair is added in the form of garnitures and decor. Basically fun with food. Don’t forget folks, its only 61 days until Christmas. Consider booking your own private chef soon for yourself or as a gift to friends. Cheers, and happy Monday!