Tag Archive | "chocolate"

How Chocolate Is Made

How Chocolate Is Made

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How To Properly Store Your Gourmet Chocolate

Gourmet chocolate can be quite expensive and in some cases rare so if you plan on storing it for some time it’s important to do it properly.  If you’re a chocolate enthusiast you’ll want keep this elegant treat looking and tasting its finest without the worry of it becoming stale.  Following a few easy tips can keep your chocolate its freshest and will preserve even the most custom blended flavours and aromas.

Blooming Effects

One of the most important reasons for the proper storage of you favourite chocolates is to avoid the effects of blooming.  This occurs when fats or sugars from the chocolate rises to the surface and creates a whitish colour that can resemble mold.  While this substance is completely harmless, it may ruin the visual appeal of your chocolate and for a lot of chocolate lovers that is simply unacceptable.

If blooming does occur, dark chocolate can always be melted and remolded to recover its proper texture and smooth appearance.  Because blooming does not affect taste, this is a perfectly acceptable practice and can also correct any deformation from melting.

Avoid Refrigeration

A lot of people head directly for their fridge when they want to store something to avoid spoilage.  Chocolate is another matter so think again.  Freezing or refrigerating chocolate can expose it to unwanted moisture build up and temperature fluctuation which could cause blooming of its fats and sugars.

In some cases it may be unavoidable to use refrigeration for storage.  Some blends of chocolate, such as white chocolate, are higher in milk content and may go rancid if exposed to too much heat or sunlight.  You may also choose to store your chocolate for a much longer time period than the expiration date recommends.  Living in an area that temperatures can vary may be another reason storage in a controlled, refrigerated environment is necessary.  If refrigeration is necessary, allow it to return to room temperature when removing it from storage to avoid moisture from temperature changes.

Storage Preparation

Whether storing your chocolate on the shelf or in the fridge if it’s required, proper packing will make a noticeable difference in the longevity and sustained quality of your chocolate.  Most chocolate requires proper storage for aesthetic reasons only, but if you’re a chocolate connoisseur, the visual appeal of your chocolate probably play a big role in your enjoyment of it.

Allow your chocolate to remain in any original packaging it came in.  The tightly wrapped foil found sealing most gourmet chocolates does an outstanding job at keeping out moisture and other unwanted particulates.  Adding your pre-packaged chocolate to an additional air tight container or sealed bag will give you a further edge against potential moisture.  If refrigeration is not required, a dark, dry place should do for storage.

The Specifics

If you want to get technical with your chocolate storage, you’ll be looking for a cool, dry location.  Chocolate is very sensitive to light, temperature, and humidity so temperatures between 15 and 17 °C (59 to 63 °F) and areas with less than 50% humidity are ideal.

Chocolate is also extremely sensitive to the aromas of other food and can pick up their flavour.  Properly sealing them can help in preventing any unwanted contamination, but avoiding storage spots near strong smelling food such and meat, spices, garlic, and onions will ensure a much more successful storage.

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Is White Chocolate Actually Chocolate?

There are quite a few differences between white chocolate and other chocolates, the most noteworthy being that white chocolate contains no cocoa solids or chocolate liquor.  This actually removes it from the “chocolate” category by FDA standards, but it’s still considered chocolate by many because of its cocoa butter content.  For it to still be considered “white chocolate” by the FDA, at least 20% of its weight must be made up of cocoa butter.

More of a confection than anything else, white chocolate is made up of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids.  Lecithin and other flavourings, such as vanilla, may be present in white chocolate, but you won’t find any chocolate liquor.  It offers none of the nutritional benefits that come with eating dark chocolate, but in many opinions, the lack of cocoa solids makes it no less tasty!

Another huge difference between chocolate and white chocolate is its complete lack of chocolaty brown colour.  The more milk that is added to pure chocolate the lighter it gets, which is why milk chocolate shades can vary so much from dark chocolate.  However having no cocoa solids at all, a creamy looking ivory shade is achieved.

In the production of white chocolate the cocoa butter may be deodorized to remove the strong cocoa taste that may be cherished in the darker varieties.  Because no cocoa solids are present, the caffeine and theobromine contents are also greatly reduced.

While white chocolate may seem like an imitation of its cocoa solids containing cousin, imitations of white chocolate can also be found as white compound chocolate.  This is a confection that is made up of the same ingredients as white chocolate, but the cocoa butter is substituted for vegetables fats.  Because no cocoa butter is present, an actual “white” colour can be accomplished rather than the creamier off-white of real white chocolate.

Despite its potential health benefits, not everyone is a lover of the bitter, dark chocolate flavour as it’s more of an acquired taste.  Most people enjoy milk chocolate but not everyone’s an enthusiast.  However, if utterly sweet and sinful sounds like your type of treat you’re probably an avid indulger of white chocolate.

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Chocolate Production: From Bean to Bar

Like most other foods, the quality and taste of the chocolate you eat is going to depend heavily on the ingredients used and production methods followed.  From bean selection to molding process, every step plays a part in determining the quality, cocoa intensity, and flavour of your favourite types of chocolate.

Bean Selection and Processing

The selection of the cocoa bean, grown mainly in South America and West Africa, is the first step to quality chocolate production.  Once these beans are chosen and harvested they are removed from their pods, fermented, dried, and roasted.  The shells are then removed to reveal cocoa nibs which are crushed and liquefied to make chocolate liquor.

The chocolate liquor contains cocoa solids and coca butter, and when pressed the cocoa butter is removed and the two components are separated.  If the chocolate liquor is not to be pressed it can be molded and hardened to make unsweetened chocolate.

Producing Different Types of Chocolate

To make the tasty edible chocolate most people are familiar with, chocolate liquor or cocoa solids are combined with cocoa butter and a number of other ingredients, such as vanilla or other flavourings, depending on the type of chocolate being made.

Sugar and sometimes vanilla may be added for dark chocolate, and milk products can be further added for milk chocolate.  Alternatively, white chocolate omits the chocolate liquor and cocoa solids and is made up of only the cocoa butter, sugar, and milk products.  Any number of different flavours, additives, and emulsifiers may be used to customize the chocolate to the manufacturers needs.

Refining and Preparing for Consumption

Once the manufacturers have the desired combination of ingredients, the chocolate is put through a conching process to give it that sought after smooth and creamy texture chocolate lovers crave.  The more refined the chocolate, the smoother its texture will be.

The final step to perfect chocolate is the heating and cooling process known as tempering.  Varying hot and cool temperatures are used to manipulate the formation of the cocoa butter crystals.  This process determines the firmness and pliability of the chocolate and if done properly the chocolate should have a smooth and glossy sheen.

Finished Chocolate Products

The end result of the preparation process will provide a moldable chocolate dough which can be formed into chips, blocks, chunks, or bars.  It will then be ready for packaging and shipment around the world for consumers to buy as gifts or savour for themselves.

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Chocolate Processing – The Breakdown from Dark to White

What comes to mind when people think chocolate is usually the creamy, sweet, melts-in-your-mouth milk chocolate that you see coating most candy bars and other delicious chocolate treats.  Well, there’s cocoa in that too, but chocolate can come in many other forms as well.

Chocolate in its purest, least processed form is raw and that has the most nutritional value.  Powdered cocoa, cocoa nibs, and chocolate liquor are all forms of pure chocolate.  It’s chalked full of antioxidants and the purer you eat this stuff, the more nutrients you’ll get from it.

Unsweetened chocolate is a combination of cocoa solids and cocoa butter.  Still fairly pure, this is the least processed form of chocolate aside from raw cocoa.

The next level of chocolate processing is bittersweet chocolate.  Chocolate liquor with some sugar, a little more cocoa butter, and some vanilla are the basics to the bittersweet variety of chocolate.  Semisweet is a little sweeter, but both of these types would be used for mostly baking purpose as they’re very bitter and rarely eaten as is.

The dark chocolate you’d be more inclined to eat is still loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, but this type of chocolate will be a combination of chocolate liquor or cocoa solids and added fats and sugars.  The higher percentage of cocoa used, the more pure and bitter the chocolate will be.

Milk chocolate has the same components as dark chocolate but with varying levels of added milk products.  Powdered or condensed milk is often the milk ingredient used for milk chocolate manufacturing.  The milk greatly reduces the intensity of the chocolate flavour making it the much more popular choice in public consumption.

In some opinions of chocolate lovers around the world, white chocolate is not actually so much a form of chocolate as it is a confection.  It contains cocoa butter which is where its chocolaty name comes from, but no cocoa solids.  This type of chocolate offers the least nutrients and would be the least healthy of any form of chocolate.

Chocolate comes in all combinations of cocoa, milk, sugar, and fats.  Whether you love the bitter bite of the purest dark chocolate or the milky sweetness of white chocolate, there’s a perfect combination of ingredients out there for everyone.

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Can Chocolate Act as an Aphrodisiac?

Can Chocolate Act as an Aphrodisiac?

chocolate aphrodisiac

There’s no argument to the fact that letting a rich, creamy piece of chocolate melt in your mouth can be a very sensual experience, but is it really an aphrodisiac? An aphrodisiac is something that can arouse or intensify sexual desire, so if chocolate has that affect on you, then yes, it’s definitely an aphrodisiac!

The Sensual Act of Eating

Regardless of what’s in chocolate, just the luscious sensation of melting chocolate on your tongue may be enough for you to consider it an aphrodisiac. Loaded with cocoa butter, chocolate is fatty and sweet and irresistible to so many chocolate enthusiasts. The ritual of putting food in your mouth of any kind can be a very sensual process, so savouring something as delicious as chocolate can have quite an effect on people.

Chemical Effects from Chocolate Consumption

If chocolate as an aphrodisiac in response to its taste and texture isn’t proof enough for you, then consider the chemical composition of chocolate. It contains phenylethylamine which is a naturally occurring amino acid that your body secretes when you’re in love. Also containing dopamine and serotonin, chocolate provides natural pain killers that can increase your mood. Although levels of these chemicals can be fairly low and may be most prominent in purer forms of chocolate, their presence has been known to cause euphoria and increased sensitivity making the chocolate experience all the more sensual.

Chocolate Lovers Throughout History

Consumed originally as a beverage by the Aztecs and Mayans, it is said Emperor Montezuma II would drink goblets of chocolate before entering his harem for the stimulating and stamina boosting effects it held. Stories regarding Casanova using chocolate to seduce his lovers exist as well.

In French history, the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa offered chocolate to her fiancé King Louis XIV as an engagement gift and soon after it became a popular drink in his court. Madame de Pompadour is rumoured to have favoured chocolate as a means to encourage her desire for the king while Madame du Barry, on the other hand, would offer her lovers chocolate to stimulate their energy and excitement.

Whether or not chocolate can be called an aphrodisiac, it’s an undeniably delicious creation. If it stimulates feelings of pleasure, stamina, love, or lust in addition to just being plain tasty, it’s an added bonus to the already delightful effects of chocolate.

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Organic Vs. Non-Organic Chocolate

As with a lot of other foods, you have the option to choose between organic and non-organic chocolate, but what’s the difference?  Chocolate has generally been considered a sinful indulgence but there are health benefits to this tasty treat when it’s properly processed.

Pure dark chocolate contains antioxidants which can help to prevent cancer and promote a healthy heart, but to get the most benefits from chocolate it’s best as unaltered as possible.  A lot of the chocolate you see on the shelves has so much sugar and extra additives it loses most of its nutritional value.

Pesticides

While non-organic chocolate can still be good for you if it’s made with fewer additives, organic chocolate starts the process off right by using cocoa beans that were grown without the use of pesticides.  Pesticide residue that gets into your food can have harmful effects which would negate the health benefits that come with eating chocolate.

Processing

The extra additives and sugar in chocolate are a big part of what gives chocolate its unhealthy reputation.  Organic chocolate will have less of these additives, though it is still important to check labels for additional refined sugar content.  Through processing antioxidant value may be lost and toxins may be introduced, but organic chocolate production generally uses healthier ingredients and methods.

Ethics

There is always a degree of ethical considerations to be given to organic food.  Eating organic chocolate may be a way to support the fair trade practices with South America where the beans are farmed or you may choose organic food and a greener, more environmental lifestyle.  For some people, knowing and approving of how their food was grown and processed holds a significant importance.

As with any organic food, a higher price must be paid for a more customized production method, but it will be your decision if this price is worth the quality of the chocolate you eat.  And while there are benefits to eating the right kinds of chocolate, it’s only good in moderation and too much may be bad for your health.

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Drinking Chocolate – Not Your Average Powdered Cocoa

When people think of hot chocolate what comes to mind is usually the powdered cocoa, powdered milk, and sugar mixes that comes in tins or individual packets. Sometimes they’ll even come with those little dehydrated marshmallows everyone loves. Connoisseurs may prefer the gourmet brands which can give you a lovely rich and creamy cup of cocoa. However that’s not the only way to enjoy your chocolate in the form of a drink… How about drinking a cup of chocolate that was made from solid chunks?

Cocoa beans have provided us with an enormously versatile and tasty ingredient. Having started out as a spicy and bitter beverage in Mayan and Aztec history, then moving onto a sweeter one in Spain and the rest of Europe, the chocolate drink has evolved throughout the ages. Originally the beans were fermented, roasted, and ground, then the drink was brewed and spices were added. However, melting down blocks of chocolate has become another option to get your hot chocolate fix.

Using smooth, solid chocolate pieces to make your cup of hot cocoa may be a welcome change to the hot chocolate beverage you’re used to. Melting down your chocolate and heating it with whole milk, water, and sugar will give you a new outlook on an old drink you’ve always enjoyed.

Once you’ve got the melted chocolaty drink base ready, you can add unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, or any number of flavoured syrups to customize it to your tastes. Milk will tone down the intensity of the strong chocolate taste so use as little or as much as suits your palate.

Get creative with your chocolate concoction! Zest it up with some orange peel garnishing or try it spicy like the Mayans and Aztecs drank it. Adding different liqueurs could give it the extra kick you’re looking for as well. Any block of chocolate can be melted down so if you have a favourite type you love to eat, try it as a drink!

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What’s the Significance of Giving Chocolate on Valentine’s Day?

What’s the Significance of Giving Chocolate on Valentine’s Day?

valentine's day chocolate

Giving gifts to your significant other on Valentine’s Day is a widely practiced custom, but why is the act of giving chocolate so popular?  Is it the unique melt-in-your-mouth taste?  Or perhaps the use as a possible erotic stimulant?  Whatever the reason for giving, chocolate consistently dominates the Valentine’s Day tradition year after year.

History of Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac

Chocolate has been considered a potent aphrodisiac by many for a long time.  Mayan emperors would drink chocolate as a way to satisfy the appetites within their harems while French courtesans would feed it to their lovers to encourage stamina and arousal.  As a ritualistic component to Mayan marriage ceremonies, the couples would feed each other chocolate in anticipation of their wedding night.

Pleasure Stimulating Chemicals to Give Love a Chance

The naturally occurring chemicals in chocolate may be exactly the thing to put your Valentine in the mood for love.  The theobromine and caffeine found in chocolate can increase your heartbeat and act as a stimulant.  Phenylehtylamine can simulate the effects of love while serotonin can elicit a sense of well-being.  The idea of giving the object of your desire such a potentially mood altering potion would makes chocolate seem like the only Valentine’s Day choice!

Nutritional Properties for a Healthy Heart

Pure dark chocolate is rich with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  The effects the antioxidants can have on your heart include increased blood circulation, reduced cholesterol levels, and lowered risks of stroke and heart attack.  The magnesium, iron, and vitamin B found in chocolate can also help in preventing illness.  Whether this is a conscious reason lovers give chocolate as a gift or not, it’s certainly a thoughtful way to show you care.  Of course, to enjoy the nutritional benefits of chocolate, it should be consumed only in proper moderation.

Chocolate on the Valentine’s Day Market

For most of the year it’s women who tend to buy chocolate on a regular basis, however when Valentine’s Day rolls around the percentage of men purchasing chocolate jumps to around 75%.  Anyone who does any shopping during the Valentine’s Day season can’t help but notice the overwhelming varieties of chocolate available at that time.  Candy sales go up when love is in the air, so be it the encouragement of lustful desires or just the gesture of giving your sweet something sweet, chocolate at Valentine’s Day is a tradition that has yet to fail love-struck shoppers everywhere.

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Your Guide to Gourmet Chocolate

Chocolate comes in all shapes and sizes, varying degrees of colour and sweetness, and very different levels of production quality.  If you have a discerning palate you probably have some level of appreciation for gourmet chocolate and it’s higher quality of manufacturing practices and ingredient standards.

A big difference between specialty made gourmet chocolate and your typical run of the mill candy bar is the level of care and attention to detail that goes into it.  Gourmet chocolate isn’t something you pop into your mouth and chew like an Oh Henry, it’s meant to be savored.  At the higher price you’re paying for its more complicated production process, you’ll want to take the time to fully enjoy this type of chocolate.

Gourmet chocolate can come in many forms and manufacturers sometimes get very creative with it.  From pralines, to truffles, to bars, even to gourmet hot chocolates, a lot can be done with chocolate.  Additional flavouring such as vanilla, orange, mint, and raspberry may be added.  Or possibly dried fruits and nuts like cranberries, pecans, hazelnuts, or pistachios could be used.

Other variations to the average bar of chocolate people have grown used to include chocolate covered cherries and strawberries, and an array of different styles of fudge.  Because of the level of specialty and exclusivity, gourmet chocolate can make great gifts for birthdays, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas.  Gift baskets that feature an assortment of gourmet chocolates or include suitable additions such as coffees, wines, and cheeses is going to be a hit for any recipient, especially a chocoholic.

Gourmet chocolate is often handmade rather than mass produced or is subjected to more involved conching and tempering processes than average chocolate.  This can have a costly effect on its price, but the extra creaminess and perfect texture that is achieved is often worth the extra money.

Usually made with less chemicals and additives than other chocolate, gourmet chocolate can be much better for you.  The higher the cocoa percentage that’s used, the more nutrients you get from the chocolate.  Gourmet chocolatiers often produce chocolate with high amounts of cocoa rich chocolate liquor so you know you’ll be getting the most out of you chocolate.

The possibilities are endless when it come to great chocolate, so if you plan on exploring the delectable world of gourmet chocolate, take a moment to appreciate the subtleties between the different types and allow yourself to experience the superior consistencies and texture that come with well made chocolate.  Even the pickiest chocolate lovers would be hard pressed to turn down most gourmet made chocolates.

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