Friday, February 20, 2009

Chocolate in the Making

February seems to be the chocolate month. This true love of many alike has found its way to being one of the “most craved” in the world. “Chocolate is a psychoactive food. It is made from the seeds of the tropical cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. The cacao tree was named by the 17th century Swedish naturalist, Linnaeus. The Greek term theobroma means literally "food of the gods". Chocolate has also been called the food of the devil; but the theological basis of this claim is obscure (Chocolate.net)”.

Cacao beans were used by the Aztecs to prepare a hot, frothy beverage with stimulant and restorative properties. Chocolate itself was reserved for warriors, nobility and priests. The Aztecs esteemed its reputed ability to confer wisdom and vitality. Taken fermented as a drink, chocolate was also used in religious ceremonies. The sacred concoction was associated with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. Emperor Montezuma allegedly drank 50 goblets a day. Aztec taxation was levied in cacao beans. 100 cacao beans could buy a slave. 12 cacao beans bought the services of courtesan (chocolate.net).

Chocolate comes from the cocoa bean, which is produced by cocoa trees in tropical climates. So, when someone says “Chocolate doesn't grow on trees!” you can beg to differ. Harvested cocoa beans are fermented for several days, dried in the sun and then shipped to processing centers where they are roasted and cracked open to separate the shells from kernel, or “nibs”. Nibs are over 50 percent cocoa butter (a natural vegetable fat) that melts when the nibs are ground, producing thick, and dark brown liquid called chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor can be may then be pressed, extracting much of the cocoa butter to form dry, hard cakes which are ground into cocoa powder.

Chocolate liquor also undergoes certain blending and refining processes, when such ingredients as sugar, cocoa butter and condensed milk may be added to make different types of chocolates.

Storing Chocolate
Chocolate should be stored, tightly wrapped in foil or brown paper, in a cool dark place between 60 and 70 degrees. If stored at room temperature, the cocoa butter may melt, rising the surface and re solidifies. This causes the chocolate to develop a “bloom” and loose its color to a pale gray film on the surface. If stored in a damp place, the chocolate can form tiny sugar crystals on the top. These conditions only affect the appearance of the chocolate and not the flavor. The color will return to the original dark brown after it is melted. Ideally, chocolate should be stored in the refrigerator in a tight container (to keep moister out). Unsweetened, Bittersweet and semisweet can last for several years where as milk and white chocolate can usually only last up to a year when stored properly. Milk and white chocolate contain milk solids which results in their shorted shelf life.

Cocoa Powder Storage
Store in a tightly closed container in a cool dark place for up to two years.

Types of Chocolate



Unsweetened
Also called baking chocolate, is pure chocolate with no sugar or flavorings added. It is used only in baking and is usually packaged in individually wrapped one-once squares.

Bittersweet
This is pure chocolate with some sugar added. It is available in specialty food shops and some supermarkets, packages in chips, bars, or one-ounce squares. If unavailable, use half unsweetened and half semisweet.




Semisweet
This is pure chocolate combined with extra cocoa butter and sugar. Available in chips, chunks, bars, and one-ounce squares. Semisweet is used interchangeable with bittersweet in most recipes.



Milk
This is pure chocolate with sugar, cocoa butter, and milk solids added. With a milder flavor than other chocolate, it is widely used for candy bars and is also sold in various shapes such as chips and stars. Milk chocolate can not be used interchangeably with other chocolates because of the presence of milk changes the melting and cooking characteristics.
Dark
This usually refers to Bittersweet or Semisweet
White
This is not considered real chocolate as it has no chocolate liquor in it. However, it is a combination of cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, vanilla and emulsifiers. White chocolate is available in chips, chunks, bars, blocks and one-ounce cubes. Some products that say they are white chocolate may not have cocoa butter in them so check the label to make sure you have the real thing.


Unsweetened cocoa powder
This is formed by extracting most of the cocoa butter from pure chocolate and grinding the remaining chocolate solids into powder. When cocoa is treated with alkali to help neutralize the cocoa’s natural acidity, it produces a dark, mellow flavored powder called Dutch processed cocoa that is preferred by many baking professionals. The two types of cocoa powder can be used interchangeably in recipes.
What Chocolate do you cook with the most?

All chocolate Sources come from The Cookie Bible and Chocolate.net
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1 comment:

rachaelandjoseph said...

I love chocolate! mail me some of these please. When I read this it reminded me of charley and the chocolate factory.

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