Chocolate? Hmmmmm the word itself sounds sweet! Everyone loves eating chocolates no matter what age it belongs. It represents so many things to so many people, sweet memories, love, childhood, gratitude, happiness and, above all, pleasure. Part of the pleasure of eating chocolate is due to the fact that its melting point is slightly below human body temperature: it melts in the mouth. Chocolate intake has been linked with release of serotonin in the brain, which produces feelings of pleasure. Recent studies have suggested that cocoa or dark chocolate may possess certain beneficial effects on human health. Chocolate can be used in almost everything starting from drink to desserts, liquid to solid and cold to hot. These days even chocolate fountains are also introduced for events and parties. Chocolate is a very tricky food to cook with. Temperatures that are too high can burn it, temperatures too low can cause it to harden unevenly .It must be watched very carefully. But if you can master the art, you can create some breathtaking desserts!
The history of chocolate is as interesting as the tastes that cocoa can produce when crafted by experts into fine chocolates. In 600 A.D. the Mayans migrated into the northern regions of South America, establishing the earliest known cocoa plantations in the Yucatan. It has been argued that the Mayans had been familiar with cocoa several centuries prior to this date. They considered it a valuable commodity, used both as a means of payment and as units of calculation. Mayans and Aztecs took beans from the cacao tree and made a drink they called xocoatl. Aztec Indian legend held that cacao seeds had been brought from Paradise and that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cacao tree. The word chocolate is said to derive from the Mayan xocoatl, cocoa from the Aztec cacahuatl. The Mexican Indian word "chocolate" comes from a combination of the terms choco foam and water, early chocolate was only consumed in beverage form. Today, chocolate commonly refers to bars made from the combination of cocoa solids, fat, sugar and other ingredients. It was World War I that really brought attention to the chocolate candies. Chocolate is often produced as small molded forms in the shape of squares, animals, people, or inanimate objects to celebrate festivals worldwide. For example, there are moulds of rabbits or eggs for Easter, Santa Claus for Christmas, and hearts for Valentine's Day. During the early seventeenth century, chocolate found its way to Italy and England, among other European countries. In 1650, chocolate became the rage in Oxford and in 1657, a shop called The Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll opened in London. Although chocolate was not featured, the drink quickly became a best seller. As the popularity of chocolate grew, England imposed an excessive duty of 10-15 shillings per pound. By the way, the duty was comparable to approximately three-fourths its weight in gold. It took almost 200 years before the duty was dropped. In the United States, chocolate was first manufactured in 1765. It was introduced at Milton Lower Mills, near Dorchester, Massachusetts by John Hanau and James Baker who opened a processing house. The Swiss began making chocolate in the mid 1800's. Switzerland, at the time, had cows but did not have abundant commodities of chocolate and sugar. In 1876, M. Daniel Peter attempted to add milk to chocolate to produce a smoother chocolate. However, adding water to chocolate made the chocolate shrink, separate and generally disintegrates. Milk has water in it, and it took Peter 8 years of experimenting before taking his product to Henry Nestle, a maker of evaporated milk. Nestle had perfected the manufacture of condensed milk, and he and Peter hit upon the idea of mixing sweetened condensed milk with chocolate.
Growing Cocoa Beans
Cocoa beans are usually grown on small plantations in suitable land areas 20 degrees north or south of the Equator. One mature cocoa tree can be expected to yield about five pounds of chocolate per year. These are planted in the shade of larger trees such as bananas or mangos, about 1000 trees per hectare (2,471 acres). Production cost can be decreased by reducing cocoa solid content or by substituting cocoa butter with a non-cocoa fat. Chocolate is a popular ingredient in many other foods, so any change in its cost has a significant economic impact on the food market. The three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolate are Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario.Criollo is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market and is native to Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American states. There is some dispute about the genetic purity of cocoas sold today as Criollo, because most populations have been exposed to the genetic influence of other varieties. Criollos are particularly difficult to grow, as they are vulnerable to a variety of environmental threats and produce low yields of cocoa per tree. The flavor of Criollo is unique. It is described as delicate yet complex, low in classic chocolate flavor, but rich in secondary notes of long duration. Cocoa trees are grown in countries close to the Equator and are harvested twice each year to obtain the cocoa beans that form the basis of chocolate production. Cocoa beans are hand extracted from large pods on the trunk of the tree and are then dried and roasted before being cracked open to obtain the kernels or nibs. The nibs are ground between rollers to extract the fatty cocoa butter and the thick dark paste that remains is called cocoa mass or baking chocolate. Some of the remaining cocoa mass is then rolled again to leave a hard residual substance that forms the basis of cocoa powder. The cocoa mass, cocoa butter and cocoa powder are then used as the essential ingredients in most forms of chocolate.
Types of Chocolates
Depending on what is added to or removed from the chocolate liquor, different flavors and varieties of chocolate are produced. Each has a different chemical make-up; the differences are not solely in the taste. Be sure, therefore, to use the kind the recipe calls for, as different varieties will react differently to heat and moisture.
Milk chocolate, the most common form of eating chocolate, goes through essentially the same mixing process-except that it involves using less unsweetened chocolate and adding milk. This consists of at least 10% chocolate liquor raw chocolate pressed from carob nibs and 12% milk solids combined with sugar, cocoa butter fat from nibs, and vanilla. Sweet and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Are made from 15-35% chocolate liquor, plus sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla. Imprecision of the two terms causes them to commonly be called dark or plain chocolate. Dark chocolate has a large following among dessert makers, and for this reason is referred to as baking chocolate.
Bittersweet and Bitter Chocolate
Semi-sweet chocolate is also used primarily in recipes. It has 15% chocolate liquor, extra cocoa butter and sugar added. Sweet cooking chocolate is basically the same with more sugar for taste. Bittersweet usually contains 50% chocolate liquor and has a distinct bite to the taste. Bitter or unsweetened chocolate liquor also is used in baking and is also referred to as baker's chocolate.
White chocolate is somewhat of a misnomer. In the United States, in order to be legally called 'chocolate' a product must contain cocoa solids. White chocolate does not contain these solids, which leaves it a smooth ivory or beige color. White chocolate is primarily cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla. There are products on the market that call themselves white chocolate, but are made with vegetable oils instead of cocoa butter. Avoid-these cheap imitations. White chocolate is the most fragile form of chocolate; pay close attention to it while heating or melting it.
This is especially for the diabetic patients and a diet control person who loves to eat chocolates. Since chocolate acts as a vitamin replacement, it does have a fair amount of health benefits, like fighting high blood pressure and preventing heart disease. While chocolate does have health benefits, a diet with an emphasis in chocolate may not be the best way to lose weight. The chocolate diet mainly consists of liquids and people are given a powder or supplement that they usually blend with milk or water.
Recommended Chocolate Recipes
Is all this information on chocolate making you crave for something chocolaty? Enjoy some of the most wonderful chocolaty recipes from KhanaPakana.
Chocolate Mocha Cake
Chocolate Ice Cream