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The Maya Indians are believed to be the first to grow cocoa beans as a domestic crop from 1500 BC -300 BC. They called it xocoatl ( sho-KWA-til) . The Maya traded with the Aztecs around 1200 AD. They called it cacahuati ( ca-ca-WAH-tel) meaning warm or bitter liquid. The Aztecs flavored it with local spices, including Chile, cinnamon, musk, pepper and vanilla and thickened it with cornmeal; then frothed it in a bowl with a molinillo ( moh-lin-ee-oh), a wooden stirring stick.
The cacao seeds could be used as money for shopping at the market to purchase food, clothes, and even kitchen tools.
There are three main varieties of cacao beans used in chocolate. They are criollo, forastero, and trinitario. Criollo is the rarest and most expensive cocoa on the market and is native to Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American states. Criollo represents only five percent of all cocoa beans grown. The most commonly grown bean is forastero, native to the Amazon basin. The African cocoa crop consists entirely of the Forastero variety. Trinitario is a natural hybrid if Criollo and Forastero. Trinitario originated in Trinidad after an introduction of Forastero to the local Criollo crop.
After the cocoa pods are harvested they are fermented. After fermentation the beans are dried in the sun from five to seven days. A cocoa pod contains about 30-50 almond sized seeds, enough to make about 7 milk chocolate bars. Once the beans are dry, they are transported to a manufacturing facility were they are cleaned, roasted and graded. Next, the shells are removed to extract the nib. Finally, the nibs are grounded and liquefied, resulting in pure chocolate in fluid form: chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and coca butter.
Chocolate liquor is blended with the cocoa butter in varying quantities to make different types of chocolate. The basic blend of ingredients for various types of chocolate (in order of highest quantity of cocoa liquor first), are as follows:
The finest, plain dark chocolate contains at least 70% cocoa (both solids and butter), where milk usually contains up to 50%. And high-quality white chocolate contains only about 35% cocoa. Some mass produced chocolate contains much less cocoa (as low as 7% in many cases) and fats other than cocoa butter. Vegetable oils and artificial vanilla flavor are often used in cheaper chocolate to mask poorly fermented and/or roasted beans.
Kegg’s Candies cocoa content is 31% for our dark chocolate and 21% for our milk chocolate.
Couverture chocolate is a very high quality chocolate that contains extra cocoa butter ( 32-39%). The higher percentage of coca butter, combined with the processing, gives the chocolate a more sheen, firmer “snap” when broken, and a creamy mellow flavor.
In 2007, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association in the United States, whose members include Hershey, Nestle, and Archer Daniels Midland, lobbied the Food and Drug Administration to change the legal definition of chocolate to let them substitute partially hydrogenated vegetable oils for cocoa butter in addition to using artificial sweeteners and milk substitutes. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not allow a product to be referred to as “chocolate” if the product contains any of these ingredients.
The next step in processing chocolate is called conching. A conche is a container filled with metal beads, which acts as grinders. The refined and blended chocolate mass is kept in a liquid state by frictional heat. Chocolate prior to conching has an uneven and gritty texture. The conching process produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect, hence the smooth feel in the mouth. The length of the conching process determines the final smoothness and quality of the chocolate. High-quality chocolate is conched for about 72 hours, lesser grades about 4-6 hours. After the process is complete, the chocolate is stored in tanks at 113-122 degrees until final processing.
The final process to preparing chocolate for use is called tempering. The fats in coca butter can crystallize in six different forms. The six different crystal forms have different properties.
To properly temper Chocolate it is heated to 113-120 degrees. This melts all 6 forms of crystals. Next, the chocolate is cooled to about 81-83 degrees. At this temperature the chocolate is agitated to create many small crystal “seeds”. The chocolate is than heated to about 88-89 degrees to eliminate any type of crystals. Beyond this temperature point any excessive heating of chocolate will destroy the temper and you will have to start over.
There are three ways of manually tempering chocolate:
The storage of chocolate is very important. It is sensitive to temperature and humidity. Ideal storage should be between 59 and 63 degrees and stored away from other foods since it absorbs different aromas.
Chocolate is formed into chocolate shapes made by pouring tempered chocolate into moulds and allowing it to set to create a hollow or solid piece of chocolate. Filling the mould by hand works best when using a squeeze bottle or piping bag. Larger production operations use automated metering pumps to measure and fill the moulds.
Once the mould is full it is important to scrape the excess chocolate of the top of the mould using a spatula and be sure to gently tap the mould on your table to remove air bubbles.
Place the mould in the refrigerator for setup and cooling. You will know it is ready to come out by checking the bottom of the mould. You will see the chocolate begin to pull away from the mold. Gently flip your mould over and the chocolate should drop right out. It should be nice and shiny in appearance.
Remember chocolate and water are not friends. Any moisture will ruin your chocolate and if it is very humid outside you may have problems trying to mould your chocolate.