Chocolate

Chocolate

By
Anna Bergenström, Fanny Bergenström
Contains
15 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742702070
Photographer
Fanny Bergenström

The sweet effects of chocolate

Many of us rejoice when we read all the findings confirming the positive effects of chocolate. Dark chocolate is actually good for you, albeit in moderate quantities… but still! The chocolate trend is here to stay, and the output of top quality chocolate is increasing by the day. Now, chocolate with different flavours and levels of cocoa content is available in practically every supermarket. Fortunately, more and more manufacturers have begun to use fair trade ingredients, so do try to choose fair trade chocolate whenever possible: it truly is important. Personally, we are among those who welcome a sweet ending to a meal, and sometimes a piece of really flavourful chocolate is just the thing. Chocolate is both comforting and satisfying at the same time. Possibly because it contains substances that stimulate the release of endorphins, which in turn increase our well-being, while not necessarily weighing down our conscience…

So it was quite fitting that botanist Carl Linnaeus gave cocoa the Latin name Theobroma, meaning ‘food of the gods’. Throughout its extended history, chocolate has been closely linked to the Mayan and Aztec gods in Mexico, and was even used as a currency in the ancient Mexican civilisations. Chocolate eventually became incredibly popular in Europe, once Columbus, followed by Hernán Cortés, took it back from the New World. Chocolate soon became fashionable in higher circles, and special chocolate houses were popular meeting places among the aristocracy. Hot cocoa, apart from being so sweet and delicious, was believed to be an aphrodisiac and a general restorative for your health.

The cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, is a small tropical tree with fruits growing directly on the trunk and the older branches. Each cocoa fruit or pod contains numerous cocoa beans, often between 30 and 50, surrounded by a white pulp that is considered a delicacy in many countries. Cocoa is currently grown in several tropical regions, but originated in Central America and the Amazon rainforests.

The Mayans enjoyed hot chocolate long ago …

... And flavoured it with vanilla and chilli. How they discovered the chocolate aroma is something of a mystery though, as untreated cocoa beans are bitter and far from sweet. Legends tell that one day, long ago, a man found a cocoa pod in the rainforest, enjoyed the juicy pulp and threw the leftover beans on the fire. A few moments later, a wonderful aroma wafted up from the fire, and he tasted one of the toasted beans…

Who knows, perhaps that is what happened after all, because the journey from raw cocoa beans to delectable chocolate is quite long. The cocoa pods must first be picked by hand, since they all ripen at their own pace, then the beans and pulp are removed and fermented, which is when the dramatic change in the cocoa beans’ aroma takes place. Once fermented, the beans are dried, preferably for a couple of weeks spread out in the sun, and then roasted to fully release their flavour and aroma. The next step is to extract cocoa butter, cocoa mass and cocoa powder, to which sugar is added to make the final product – chocolate. The mixture is heated and mixed, or ‘conched’ in chocolate terms, in different proportions and for varying times, depending on the quality of the chocolate. Vanilla and soy lecithin are also added for the sake of flavour and consistency. In order to make 1 kilo of chocolate you need 300-600 cocoa beans, which means between 10 and 20 large cocoa pods. And a cocoa tree only produces about 50 pods a year. With that in mind, perhaps we should make sure to truly take pleasure in chocolate when we eat or drink it...

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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