From the humble cacao bean comes on of the world’s favourite foods. Chocolate is embraced by so many cultures and is an iconic ingredient in just as many cuisines.
Where and how do we get chocolate?
Chocolate is made from the kernels or nibs of the cacao bean. The first step is to blend beans from various sources, each with various characteristics, to give chocolate the character that a particular manufacturer requires.
After the beans have been fermented, dried, roasted and winnowed to remove the hulls, the nibs are ground to make a viscous substance called chocolate liquor, which can be separated under high pressure into cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
The solids become cocoa powder, and the cocoa butter is mixed with more, unseparated, chocolate liquor according to the kind of chocolate that is being made. The chocolate liquor contributes chocolatiness. The cocoa gives the melt-in-the mouth effect – it is the only vegetable fat that is solid at room temperature but melts at mouth temperature. For dark eating chocolate, sugars and flavourings such as vanilla are added; if it is to be milk chocolate, milk and milk solids will be part of the blend.
Cheaper chocolate is made from lesser quality beans and contains minimum cocoa solids and cocoa butter and maximum sugar for milk chocolate. Fine chocolate is made from top quality beans and contains more cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Its flavour is more complex. Expensive chocolate costs more to produce as it is conched longer and tempered more carefully.