This week, we talk about the delicious chocolate
Chocolate is a magic stuff made of roasted ground cocoa seeds. One of the most popular dessert ingredients. Needs no introduction, of course, chocolate can be used in a solid, liquid (choco syrup) and in many other forms.
- The word chocolate comes from the Nahuatl word chocolātl. Nahuatl was spoken in the valley of Mexico during the Spanish conquest of Aztec in the 16th century.
- Chocolate has been very popular in desserts and other forms of food and African countries are leading producers of cocoa even though it originated in the Americas.
- Western Africa produces about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa and Ivory coast produces about half of it.
- Types of chocolate:
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is a mixture of cocoa, fat and sugar. More the amount of cocoa, more bitter the chocolate.
- Unsweetened chocolate: This is unsweetened chocolate liquor called bitter or baking chocolate. It’s pure ground cocoa.
- Milk chocolate: Milk chocolate either contains milk powder of condensed milk with a minimum of 20-25% of cocoa depending on the country.
- White chocolate: White chocolate contains cocoa butter, milk and sugar and no cocoa solids, that differentiates it from milk chocolates.
- In the early history of chocolate (around 4000 years), chocolate was mostly used as a bitter beverage.
- Evidence has been found that chocolate was cultivated in present-day Mexico around 1900 B.C.
- Also believed to be fermented and consumed an alcoholic beverage around 1400 B.C.
- Christopher Columbus came across cocoa beans during his fourth mission to Americas when his crew seized a native canoe filled with cocoa.
- Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés came across chocolate in its true form in the court of Montezuma, who was the ruler of Tenochtitlan, capital of Aztec. The cocoa beverage was served in the gold cups and supposedly gave them power over women. The drink was said to be frothy with a very unpleasant taste but was highly esteemed by the natives.
- Chocolate made its way into Europe following the Spanish conquest of Aztec. It was used initially as medicine to treat abdominal pain and later sugar or honey was added to make it into a sweetened beverage and was served in the court. In the next century, chocolate became a favourite in Europe.
- Chocolate cultivation saw a rise and resulted in an increase in the slave trade. The Chocolaterie Lombart, was the first chocolate company established in 1760 in France.
- Industrial revolution accelerated the production of Cocoa.
- Coenraad van Houten, a Dutch chemist, added alkaline salts to chocolate which helped in reducing its bitterness. In 1828, he devieda method to remove much of the cacao butter from chocolate liquor which made production cheaper and gave more consistency to chocolate.
- This cocoa called Dutch cocoa also helped in creating chocolate in solid form in 1847 when Joseph Fry added melted cacao butter back to chocolate to make it mouldable.
- In mid 1875, Daniel Peter, a Swiss chocolatier, invented milk chocolate by adding powdered chocolate back to the liquor. Powdered milk used in this process was invented by Henri Nestlé, founder of Nestlé. They later created the Nestlé company.
- The conching machine, a surface scraping mixer and agitator was invented in the year 1879 by Rudolf Lindt, a Swiss chocolate manufacturer, which further improved the quality of the chocolate by giving is a smooth melt-in-mouth consistency.
- In England, Cadbury had started manufacturing boxed chocolates in 1868.
- During the World Columbian Exposition at Chicago held in 1893, Milton S. Hershey, American chocolatier and philanthropist purchased the chocolate processing equipment and started Hershey’s.
- Chocolate is made from cocoa beans. There are about 40 cocoa beans in a cocoa fruit. These beans are dried and fermented. The tree is called Cacao.
- Three main varieties are Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario.
- Criollo is the rarest of the three and is native to Central America, Carribean and Northern part of South America. They are difficult to grow and provide very low yield.
- Forastero is the most commonly grown version and commonly found in Amazon basin and Africa. They have a more chocolaty flavour which lasts for a shorter amount of time.
- Trinitario is a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero which originated in Trinidad.
- Process: Cacao pods are removed from the tree and the beans with pulp are removed and placed in bins to enable fermentation. The fermentation takes up to a week and results in the chocolate flavour. Pods are harvested when they are ripe or the cocoa content would be less. Dried beans are transferred to a facility where the shell is removed to extract the nib. The nib is then ground and liquefied to chocolate in purest form as chocolate liquor. Cocoa solids and cocoa butter can be extracted from this liquor.
- Conching: Conching is processed by which the texture of the chocolate is smoothened. Chonche is a container which contains metal beads that act as grinders. The frictional heat keeps the chocolate in liquid form. High quality chocolate is conched for 72 hours and lesser grade chocolates are conched for 5-6 hours. The conched chocolate is then stored in containers at 40-50 degree Celsius.
- Tempering: Tempering is a process to prevent uncontrolled crystallisation of cocoa butter in chocolate which results in crystals of varying sizes. Cocoa butter gave the chocolate its rigidity when solid at room temperature and when heated, the crystalline structure of cocoa butter breaks down and chocolate becomes liquid.
- Storage: Chocolate is very susceptible to temperature and humidity changes.