Chocolate That Most Wonderful Food

The most frequently and widely craved food is chocolate. Chocolate has been in use for a long time as evidenced by remains of vessels with remnants of chocolate drinks dating around 1100 BC found in the lower Ulua Valley in northern Honduras. Xocolatl, which means "bitter water", is the name of a drink made from cocoa and known to the Aztecs and Mayans and chocolate is associated with the Mayan god of fertility.

Chocolate is a food that contains a range of nutrients--including not only fats and sugar, but also is a rich source of magnesium and phosphorus and other carbohydrates and proteins . Chocolate is very much like wine and beer, you have to develop an appreciation for the richness of the product to appreciate the subtleties in the origin of the fruit or grain it is derived from. It is also a symbol of sweetness and innocence and is frequently used to enhance moods. Although it is not an aphrodisiac, it contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural substance that is reputed to stimulate the same reaction in the body as falling in love. Chocolate is supposed to be heart healthy, even though it has a lot of fat. It is a mild stimulant to humans mainly due to the presence of theobromine.

A long, complicated refining process is required to make Chocolate. The process starts with the bitter cream-colored seeds that grow in pods of the tree Theobroma cacao. The seeds contain a family of compounds known as methylxanthines. The seeds come from the Cacao pod that grows year round on trees from South and Central America. Each pod holds 30 to 40 Cacao seeds and it takes 20 to 25 pods to get 2 pounds of cocoa. Average adult trees produce 300 to 1,000 pounds per year per acre of cocoa for about 50 years. Fats such as cocoa butter (natural vegetable fat from the cacao bean) and some sugar are combined with cocoa (which results from roasting and grinding the product) to get chocolate.

Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity and is therefore best kept at around 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the normal temperature of a pantry or dark cabinet. The natural taste of the Cacao seed is bitter and it must be fermented to develop the flavor that we are all familiar with. Chocolate is a special mixture of cocoa solid and cocoa butter and it is combined at a specific temperature and cooled down in a specific way. Chocolate tempered when its temperature is between 84deg F and 88deg F (29 deg and 31deg C). Chocolate has six forms of crystals. Good chocolate is made by forming mostly type V crystals. Generally, the chocolate is first heated to 113 F (45 C) to melt all six forms of crystals. The chocolate is then cooled to about 80 F (27 C). This allows crystal types IV and V to form (VI takes too long to form).

Once at this temperature, the chocolate is agitated. The agitation results in many small crystal "seeds" which serve as nuclei for crystals to form in the chocolate. The highest quality chocolate is conched for approximately 72 hours, but lesser grade chocolate is conched for only about four to six hours. The conche is an agitator that evenly distributes the cocoa butter in the chocolate while acting as a 'polisher' of the particles. This process results in flavor development through frictional heat which releases the volatiles.

After agitation the chocolate is heated to about 88 F (31 C) which eliminates any type IV crystals, and leaving just the type V crystals. Manually tempering chocolate is accomplished in the classic way by working the molten chocolate on a heat-absorbing surface, usually a stone slab, until the thickening implies the presence of sufficient crystal "seeds". The chocolate is then gently warmed 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.

Users Reading this article are also interested in:
Top Searches on Chocolate Guide:
Dark Chocolate Candies Candies And Chocolate
About The Author, Louise Hill
Click here and scroll down to see the beautiful yet non-edible Chocolate; To see my personal work mostly with beads click Beads