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Food of the Gods

The much-loved chocolate

29 March 2022

Friends of Erre4m, welcome to this new post. Today we are going to talk about an ingredient that alone is an irreplaceable delicacy: CHOCOLATE.

Chocolate is, of all sweet preparations, certainly one of the most popular. Its crunchy, sweet and bitter taste has always conquered the palate of young and old alike.

Chocolate is made from the seeds, called beans, of the fruit of the plant called Theobroma Cacao (food of the gods), processed and consumed by the peoples of Central and South America since time immemorial.

The Maya and Aztec peoples consumed it in liquid form, as a ritual drink, and throughout the 1500s it was, in Europe, the exclusive prerogative of the Spanish, who were the first to import it. In 1600 it was also introduced in Italy. In fact, the craze for chocolate exploded, so much so that in the main cities of our beautiful country emporiums sprang up where this drink was tasted. Since the 17th century, Italian ingenuity has transformed and expanded the uses and uses of this extraordinary product.

In Italy, chocolate was immediately loved and is still today a great producer and consumer of the food of the gods.

There are three varieties of cocoa:

Criollo, a very aromatic chocolate with light beans and limited production due to its delicacy, originating in South America.
The Forastero, produced in Brazil and West Africa and is very resistant to disease.
The Trinitario, a hybrid of the two previous varieties with the aromatic qualities of the Criollo and the resistance of the Forastero; it originates on the island of Trinidad and is produced in Cameroon and South East Asia.

The largest cocoa producers are found throughout the equatorial belt of America, Asia and Africa.
The best chocolate is the perfect combination of beans from different geographical areas.

Let us now see how chocolate is produced.

The cocoa plants can give one or two harvests per year. The fruits, called cabossis or cabossa, are shaped like an elongated nut and contain beans inside. These once extracted and cleaned are left to ferment 5-10 days in large. This operation allows the PH and bitterness to be lowered.
Once fermented, the broad beans are dried in order to lower their moisture content, which allows the preservation of the seed.

After drying, the beans are exported, where the product is first roasted, using temperatures and times that vary depending on its origin and the cocoa and chocolate to be obtained. 
After roasting, the beans will contain 55% liquid cocoa butter and 45% dry extract.

The roasted beans are ground to obtain cocoa grue (raw cocoa mass) and subsequent refining produces

  • a solid cocoa mass or paste from which cocoa powder is obtained 
  • a liquor, liquid from which cocoa butter is obtained and then chocolate.

To make chocolate, liquor and sugar are mixed to obtain dark chocolate; milk powder is added to obtain milk and white chocolate.

Mixing is followed by conching, a treatment that produces chemical and physical changes on the mixture. It consists of beating the product in machines called conches in contact with air at a temperature of 60 °C. This process leads to the release of new flavours, the elimination of acidity and a decrease in bitterness. Conching periods can vary from 12 to 24 hours for normal chocolates, up to 48-72 hours for the finest chocolates called gran cru.
The last stage in the production of chocolate is tempering or tempering. This process encourages a controlled crystallisation of the cocoa butter.
The characteristic feature of cocoa butter is that it can crystallise in different forms, from form 1 to 6, but only form 5 allows the chocolate to achieve maximum durability and the right crunch characteristics.

The tempering technique allows the cocoa butter in the chocolate to melt and cool in a controlled manner until it reaches the pre-crystallisation temperature. 

let's look in detail at how chocolate is tempered:

 

  1. you heat the chocolate to the right melting temperature to ensure the complete melting of all the cocoa butter crystals. This melting temperature varies according to the type of chocolate being used; 40-42 °C for white chocolate, 42-45 °C for milk chocolate, 45-50 °C for dark chocolate;
  2. at this point, having melted all the crystal forms, the form we are interested in, i.e. form 5, must be activated. We then proceed to cool, keeping the chocolate constantly stirred at a temperature of 26-27 °C for white chocolate; 27-28 °C for milk chocolate; 28-29 °C for dark chocolate. This lowering of the temperature combined with the continuous stirring of the chocolate enables the crystals to be activated in form 5.
  3. Once the crystals have been activated, the chocolate is heated a few degrees to complete tempering.  29 °C for white chocolate, 30 °C for milk chocolate, 31 °C for dark chocolate.

Let us now look at the techniques for tempering chocolate:

Tempering: melt the chocolate to melting temperature and then pour 2/3 of it onto a marble surface, working it with a spatula and a triangular scraper. The chocolate is spread out and returned to the centre until it reaches cooling temperature. The cooled mass is combined with the remaining 1/3 and stirred gently here to prevent air from being trapped.

Insemination: 1 kg chocolate is melted to melting temperature, to this is added 300 g finely chopped chocolate. The tempering is continued by stirring until the chopped chocolate has completely melted to pre-crystallisation temperature.

In the next post we will talk about fillings and more precisely ganache...keep following us!


Blog by Enrico Gumirato pastry chef and trainer