Yep it sure does! And I don’t think I’m the only one who would agree that eating a small bit of chocolate lifts your spirits. I’m not sure why chocolate has this effect on us but I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation. Chocolate is filled with protective antioxidants, about 300 chemicals compounds and caffeine. Any or all of these could contribute to a sense of well-being and alertness.
Have you ever wondered how a cocao tree produces chocolate? It would be fantastic if real chunks of chocolate grew from the cocao evergreen tree, but that’s not the case. In fact, it’s quite complicated. Here’s a quick synopsis of how chocolate becomes chocolate.
It comes from the tropical cocao evergreen tree. The tree grows large yellow, brown or reddish ribbed football shaped pods. Each pod has 20-70 white beans, which are about the size and shape of almonds and are enclosed in a sweet buttery pulp.
|Ribbed football shaped pods|
The beans are scooped out along with the pulp. They’re then fermented, dried, sorted by size and quality and shipped to chocolate factories. There they are again sorted, cleaned, dried and broken into nibs. These are then roasted and ground to extract the cocoa butter leaving behind an oil paste called chocolate liquor. This final product is then processed into various forms of what we use to bake with.
Different types of baking chocolate:
Cocoa powder is chocolate liquor that has been pressed to remove most of its fat, then pulverized to a powder. The powder is either used or processed further to produce Dutch or alkaline cocoa powder. This is when an alkaline, usually potassium carbonate, is added to help neutralize the cocoa’s acids and make it easier to dissolve.
Use as an ingredient in baking, or as the base for a hot beverage.
Bitter Chocolate (Unsweetened)
Unsweetened chocolate is used only in baking. It does have a bitter taste and has 95% chocolate liquor with 5% cocoa butter.
Bittersweet chocolate can be interchanged with semi-sweet chocolate. They both need a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor. Bittersweet will typically contain a range anywhere between 35% – 50% chocolate liquor and added sugar and cocoa butter.
If you’re going for a more intense flavour, choose bittersweet over semi-sweet to bake with.
Semi-sweet chocolate contains a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor and added cocoa butter and sugar.
If you’re looking for a nice blend of chocolate and sugar, use semi-sweet chocolate chips rather than bittersweet. Semi sweet is less intense because of less chocolate and more sugar.
Milk chocolate has at least 10% chocolate liquor, milk solids and milk fat, combined with sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla.
It is slightly different because of the milk solids. It has less chocolate, and the taste is sweeter than the other two.
The taste of chocolate differs depending on its brand. Each brand has their unique formula using various proportions of beans, flavouring, cocoa liquor and cocoa butter. The texture is affected by the length of roasting, grinding and something called conching. This is a process that mixes the chocolate in a wavelike motion to develop flavour and a velvety smooth texture. I suggest trying different brands of chocolate to find your favourite.
Store chocolate in a dry, well ventilated place wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. If your chocolate has a white film, it means the cocoa butter has risen to the surface due to improper storage. It can still be used; however the taste will be affected slightly. When properly stored it can last 2-3 years.
Milk chocolate does not have as long a shelf life because of the milk solids. It should be used within a year.