Chocolate That Most Wonderful Food

Chocolate is the most widely and frequently craved food. The earliest documented use of chocolate drinks was found in remains of pottery from the lower Ulua Valley in northern Honduras dating around 1100 BC. The Maya and Aztecs made a beverage known as xocolatl which means “bitter water”. Chocolate is also associated with the Mayan god of fertility.

Many nutrients are contained in chocolate including carbohydrates, fats, sugar, proteins, magnesium, and is a rich source of phosphorus. Much like wine and beer, one has to develop an appreciation for the richness of chocolate in order to appreciate the subtleties originating from the fruit or grain it is made from. Chocolate is used to enhance moods and is a symbol of sweetness and innocence. Chocolate is not an aphrodisiac, however it contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural substance that supposedly stimulates the same reaction in the body as falling in love. Chocolate is supposed to be heart healthy.even though it contains a lot of fat. It is a mild stimulant to humans because it contains theobromine.

Chocolate is made using a long, complicated refining process. The process starts with the cream-colored bitter seeds that grow in pods of the tree Theobroma cacao. A family of compounds known as methylxanthines are contained in the seeds. The Cacao pod that grows year round on trees from South and Central America contains seeds. Thirty to forty Cacao seeds are held in each pod and it takes twenty to twenty-five pods to get two pounds of cocoa. Production of cocoa for average adult trees is 300 to 1,000 pounds per year per acre for about 50 years. Cocoa (which results from roasting and grinding the product) is combined with Fats such as cocoa butter (natural vegetable fat from the cacao bean) and some sugar to get chocolate.

Chocolate is best kept at around 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the normal temperature of a pantry or dark cabinet, as it is very sensitive to temperature and humidity. The Cacao seed has a bitter natural taste and must be fermented to develop the flavor. Chocolate is a special mixture of cocoa butter and the cocoa solid at a specific temperature, and it is cooled down in a special way. When chocolate is between 84deg F and 88deg F (29 deg and 31deg C) it is tempered. Good chocolate is made by forming most of the type V crystals. In general the chocolate is first heated to 113 F (45 C) to melt all six forms of crystals. Then the chocolate is cooled to about 80 F (27 C), which will allow crystal types IV and V to form (VI takes too long to form).

When at this temperature, the chocolate is agitated which creates many small crystal “seeds” that will serve as nuclei to create crystals in the chocolate. Higher quality chocolate is conched for about 72 hours, whereas lesser grades only about four to six hours. A conche is an agitator that distributes evenly cocoa butter within the chocolate, and acts as a ‘polisher’ of the particles. In the process it promotes flavor development through frictional heat which releases volatiles.

At this point the chocolate is heated to about 88 F (31 C) which eliminates any type IV crystals, leaving just type V. The classic way of manually tempering chocolate is working the molten chocolate on a heat-absorbing surface, such as a stone slab, until thickening indicates the presence of sufficient crystal “seeds”; then gently warming it to working temperature.

Fancy chocolate candies have been the inspiration of artists that make wonderful yummy looking creative chocolate candies that are not for eating since they are made of either polymer clay, glass or textile mixed media.

Click here and scroll down to view the beautiful yet non-edible Chocolate; To view my personal work mostly with beads click Beads

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