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There are perhaps very few who do not enjoy munching on a bar of chocolate some time or the other. Eating chocolate lifts your mood and spreads a feeling of well-being. 

But how many of us know where this creamy, dreamy, oh-so-delicious sweet something comes from?  Sanjeev Kapoor tells us more.

Let’s begin with the origins of this fantastic ingredient. Chocolate is one of mankind’s oldest culinary discoveries, and its earliest documented use was in 1100 BC by the Aztecs, who revered it as ‘food from the Gods.’

A cocoa bean is usually divided into two components: one having the fats (cocoa butter: 50-55%) and the other having the non-fat sollds. Together, they make cocoa mass or cocoa solids. The ‘fat’ or  ‘cocoa butter,’ as it is commonly known, is colourless and is the flavour carrier which is responsible  for giving texture to the chocolate. The dense and heavy non-fat solids, on the other hand, are the flavouring components and impart taste to the chocolate. The cocoa mass, when combined with sugar, vanilla and the emulsifier ‘lecithin’ (usually extracted from soya) results in a dark variety of the couverture chocolate; and when you combine  the non-fat solids with vegetable fat, sugar, vanilla and emulsifier lecithin, you have a coating chocolate.

Choc-Quality

Now, let us ponder over some points that play a vital role in deciding the quality of a chocolate.

The couverture variety scores over coating chocolate due to several factors, but, technically the former variety is slightly better because of the amount of cocoa bean content that is present in it.

The couverture chocolate is available in any range – from 50% bean quantity to 100% bean quantity. ln simpler words, if a bar of couverture says ‘50% chocolate,’ it simply means that the bar has 50% cocoa beans and the rest 50% is a combination of sugar, vanilla and lecithin. The higher the percentage of cocoa beans in a couverture chocolate, the more intense is the flavour and richer is the chocolate.

Next comes the source or origin of the cocoa bean… Some of the world’s best cocoa beans come from regions such as South America, West Africa,
Ecuador, Madagascar, etc. The species of a cocoa bean is also something that would result in deciding the quality of the chocolate as a whole.  The four
main varieties of cocoa beans are Criollo, Forastero, Trinitario and
Arriba/Nacional.

How chocolate should be melted 

Here are some tips that come in handy when you go about melting the chocolate:

Chop large chocolate blocks into smaller pieces and put in a plastic bowl. Avoid using glass or steel bowls as they cause uneven heating.

lf using a microwave oven, place the bowl in it and start the melting process from 40 seconds at 50% intensity of the microwave. Then, take the bowl out, stir and continue this process till all the chocolate is melted. Please do not keep it for longer time at higher temperatures, as chocolate needs some delicate treatment.

lf using a double boiler, take a medium height pan filled one-fourth with water and heat it. When the water is at a simmer, reduce heat to minimum, place a bowl that fits on the mouth of the pan and start adding the chocolate in it to be melted, little by little. One important point to remember here is that you should not boil the water, as it will affect the viscosity of the chocolate and also, the steam from boiling water may cause harm to the chocolate. Keep stirring the chocolate pieces till they have melted completely.

Remember, water is the biggest enemy of chocolate, especially when the chocolate is being melted for use in confectionery, candy making, tempering, etc. You should be very careful that not even a single drop of water gets into it. But if this happens by mistake, keep it aside for recipes where it is to be used only as an ingredient, and start afresh.

Check for blooming, and any odours in the chocolate bars. When chocolate is exposed to warm temperatures, the fat softens and chocolate is then untempered, causing light grey or white areas on the surface of the chocolate. Also, sometimes you might find small white dots on the chocolate, which is due to condensation.

Avoid overheating of chocolate as it makes the chocolate thick after melting. If there is a loss of colour in the chocolate bars, this mav be due to changes in the light, temperature
and humidity.

The preferred working temperatures is around 20°C with humidity not more than 50% and preferably on marble work tops, as they help keep the chocolate cool.

By now I am sure your fingers must be itching to churn out chocolate delights. If you follow the simple instructions given here, I can assure you good results. So go ahead and enjoy your interaction with chocolate, using some of my own recipes from my ‘aah! Chocolate’ book.

Different Flavours 

The three basic  types of chocolates

Dark-ChocolateDark Chocolate – This type is made with a combination of cocoa mass (cocoa butter + nonfat solids), sugar, vanilla and lecithin.

 

 

 

Milk-chocolateMilk chocolate – This one is a result of the amalgamation of cocoa mass (cocoa butter + nonfat solids), sugar, milk powder, vanilla and lecitihin.

 

 

 

White-chocolateWhite chocolate  – This type is made with only cocoa butter, along with sugar, milk powder, vanilla and lecithin.

 

 

 

The brand, ingredients label, manufacturer’s directions and finally the taste, dictate the quality of the chocolate you purchase.