Chocolate, My Favorite Treat

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 very sensitive to temperature and humidity and so it is 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 must be fermented to develop the flavor. Chocolate is a special mixture of the cocoa solid with the cocoa butter at a specific temperature, and cooled down in a special way. Chocolate is tempered when its temperature is between 84deg F and 88deg F (29 deg and 31deg C). Making good chocolate is about forming the most of the type V crystals. Generally, the chocolate is first heated to 45 C (113 F) to melt all six forms of crystals. Then the chocolate is cooled to about 27 C (80 F), which will allow 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.

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.

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About The Author, Louisehill
Click here and scroll down to see the beautiful yet non-edible Chocolate; To see my personal work mostly with beads click Beads