Archive for 'Chocolate Basics'

31
Mar

The History of Chocolate

by admin, in: Chocolate Basics
The History of Chocolate

The origin of this delectable confection traces its roots to Central and South America, where the cacao beans were first grown. The native Aztecs in modern-day Mexico and other civilizations in the area drank chocolate mixed with chilies and achiote called “xocotatl” (bitter water) or “chocolatl” (hot water). Cacao beans were so valuable among the Aztecs that it was even used as tax payments.

It was Christopher Columbus who first brought chocolate to Europe when he explored the Aztec Empire of its riches and introduced the cacao beans to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, but it was the Spanish friars who brought cacao to a broader market.

The Spanish conquest of the Aztecs provided the colonizers an opportunity to export cacao beans to Europe, where it became a favorite among royalty and the aristocrats. The first recorded large-scale shipment of chocolate to Europe traveled from Veracruz, Mexico, to Sevilla, Spain, in 1585. The Aztec version of the chocolate drink, however, was instead sweetened with sugar, milk, and vanilla (a spice that was native to Mexico), while removing the chili pepper to suit European tastes.

Several European empires, most notably the Spaniards and the French, colonized parts of Africa and turned the land into cacao plantations, using Africans as slaves to help manage them. Because cacao was grown on different soil, the taste quality of chocolate changed, thus becoming a luxury item among the noblemen. Nowadays, Western Africa produces two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, with Côte d´Ivoire growing almost half of it.

England got to taste chocolate in the second half of the 17th Century, with its first chocolate house opened in London in 1657. By 1689, noted physician Hans Sloane developed a milk chocolate drink in Jamaica, which was initially used by apothecaries before being sold to John and Benjamin Cadbury, the founders of Cadbury chocolate company.

In the 1700s, during the Industrial Revolution, machines were able to squeeze out the cocoa butter from chocolate, creating hard and durable chocolate that became modern chocolate bars. From then on, people from all over appreciate the goodness of chocolate in its solid form.

30
Mar

The Origin of Chocolate Easter Eggs

by admin, in: Chocolate Basics
The Origin of Chocolate Easter Eggs

Apart from Easter Eggs, the one thing that kids and the young-at-heart excite about Easter is the chocolate, especially the ones shaped like eggs. These are usually given as gifts to close friends and relatives, but do you have an idea how this practice started?

Although Easter is a Christian celebration commemorating how Jesus was resurrected from the dead, the traditions surrounding the holiday are pagan in origin. In fact, the name Easter itself comes from “Eastre” (or Eostre), the Saxon goddess of spring whose feast day falls during the spring equinox. Eastre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit, also known as the symbol of fertilifiy.

When the Saxons arrived in Britain during the 5thCentury, they brought along the celebration for Eastre as well. The holiday was practiced through fertility rituals that included eggs, chicks, and rabbits. Christianity eventually covered the land at around 7th and 8th Centuries and the Saxons began celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus coincidentally with the traditional Eastre feasts. The pagan celebrations eventually toned down, but rituals for Eastre are still being practiced. For instance, eggs are used as symbolism for rebirth and have become the representation of Jesus’ resurrection.

The earliest Easter eggs were painted and decorated, which is still practiced today. Meanwhile, the first chocolate eggs appeared in Germany and France. The popularity of chocolate eggs for Easter eventually spread throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

18
Mar

Storing Fine Chocolate

by admin, in: Chocolate Basics
Storing Fine Chocolate

Of course, you cannot just empty a whole box of fine chocolate in just one sitting. This is why you need to know how to store your fine treats to avoid sacrificing its flavor and color. You do not want to see your chocolates with gray spots once you open them for the second time.

Where to store – Place your chocolate in a cool, dry, and dark place. The storage place has to be cool enough not to soften the chocolate, but not too cold that would condensate the chocolate. Condensation dehydrates the chocolate and loses its texture and flavor. It also causes “sugar blooms,” those unsightly white or gray spots when the sugar rises on the chocolate’s surface. This is why, contrary to popular belief, chocolate should never be stored in the refrigerator. An ideal place, for instance, is the pantry down the basement. However, if you live in a hot and humid climate and you have no other choice but to store the chocolate in the fridge, make sure to place it in an airtight container. Once you take them out, let the chocolate come to room temperature before opening the container.

Keep it airtight – Chocolates absorb the flavors and aroma of the foods stored with it, which is why they should be kept in an airtight container. You do not want your chocolate to taste like onions or fish.

Shelf life – Although fine chocolate can last for a long time, it is much advisable to eat them within a few weeks or up to a month after purchase so the best flavors and texture can still be savored. Meanwhile, properly-stored milk chocolate can last up to a year, whereas dark and unsweetened chocolate could last a bit longer.

17
Mar

Savoring Fine Chocolate

by admin, in: Chocolate Basics
Savoring Fine Chocolate

We may have heard about the rules in tasting wine, but do you know that tasting the finest chocolates also follow certain protocols? Because fine chocolates are made with the finest ingredients, tasters can better appreciate their sweet treats if they follow these tasting tips, as suggested master chocolatiers.

Look at the chocolate – Check each chocolate piece and esteem its appearance. The finest of chocolates should have a consistent color and a natural-looking sheen. It should also be free of any air bubbles and other blemishes. The best chocolates should also have a high degree of craftsmanship in shape and design.

Smell the chocolate – Savoring the aroma of fine chocolate begins with opening a box of these luscious treats. The bouquet of fine chocolate should have a fresh and deep aroma. It should not be overpowering or sugary, which could mean those chocolates are laced with artificial flavors or preservatives.

Taste the chocolate – Chocolate lovers should look for two things once a piece of fine chocolate enters the mouth: flavor and texture. A high-quality fine chocolate should have very intense but refine flavors, an indication that these treats are freshly-made. Its texture, meanwhile, should have subtle nuances. The inside of a chocolate piece is called the filling and is specially intended to complement the flavor and texture of chocolate. Let the chocolate melt against the roof of your mouth and feel its texture. Fine chocolate should be smooth without any trace of graininess. Roll the chocolate against your tongue and allow the flavors fill your mouth. The best chocolates should have a nutty, roasted flavor at the beginning, followed by sweetness and other component flavors. The flavor should have a pleasant aftertaste that lingers on the palate.

16
Mar

What Makes a Fine Chocolate?

by admin, in: Chocolate Basics
What Makes a Fine Chocolate?

There are many kinds of chocolate available in the market, but how can we tell fine chocolate from sub-standard ones? The best way to know is to check the labels and read the ingredients. Fine chocolate should contain a standardized set of ingredients, which should never be substituted but can be left out.

Dark chocolate – Its main ingredients should contain cacao liquor, sugar, cacao butter, lecithin, and vanilla.

Milk chocolate – Ingredients are very similar to dark chocolate with the addition of milk solids and milk fat.

White chocolate – Ingredients should include sugar, cacao butter, milk solids, milk fat, lecithin, vanilla.

Chocolate confections – Its ingredients should consist of cacao liquor, cacao butter, milk solids, butter, vanilla, cacao beans, cacao seeds, cocoa powder, nuts, lecithin, and natural flavors that include either fresh fruit, vanilla beans, fresh herbs, fruit purees, or liquor.

Note that some chocolate brands would name certain ingredients differently. Cacao liquor, for instance is also called cocoa liquid, chocolate liquor, or unsweetened chocolate. Cacao butter, meanwhile, also goes by names like cacao oil and cocoa fat. Milk fat can also be replaced by milk, cream, whole milk, condensed milk, or dry milk powder. Lecithin is also labeled as soy lecithin, while vanilla can also be called as vanilla beans (but not vanillin).

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