Chocolate manufacture has been an important industry in Europe since the late 18th century. The great names in chocolate like Droste, van Houten (Holland); Lindt and Suchard (Switzerland); Menier (France); Fry, Cadbury and Rowntree (England) can trace their history back to the mid 19th century and even earlier.
Chocolate manufacture is a complex process with a substantial investment in machinery. It first starts with the cacao beans imported form the country of origin as fermented, dried beans. More than 30 varieties are available, and the manufacturers’ first concern is blending, using several varieties of bean to produce the desired flavour.
After cleaning the beans, the first process in manufacture is roasting.
This process is important for developing the flavour and reduces the moisture content to a level appropriate during later processing. The roasting process facilitates the removal of the shells of the beans in the next process, which is winnowing, when the beans are cracked between rollers, and the husks removed, leaving only the kernels or nibs.
The nib is the part of the bean used for chocolate and cocoa manufacture.
The nib is then reduced to a paste by grinding. Earlier stone mills were used, copying the Aztec method, but these days’ very sophisticated metal mills with temperature controls are used. Temperature is important as the heat created by the grinding releases the fat or cocoa butter form the nib.
The mass emerging from the grinder is known as chocolate liquor, chocolate mass or pate.
Cooled and hardened this liquor becomes basic unsweetened chocolate. Some liquor is used to make cocoa, pressing it to release more cocoa butter, and grinding the residue to powder do this.
To make plain chocolate, the liquor is mixed with powdered sugar. Cocoa butter is added to adjust the consistency. This results in a stiff paste, which goes for refining, this reduces the size of the particles in the mixture so that they are imperceptible to the palate.
The mass goes through a series of rollers, each roller rotates faster than the one before.They have a shearing action and the mass comes out almost powdery.
Then the mass goes through the conching process.
A conche like roller works the chocolate back and forth exposing fresh surfaces to air. During conching flavour develops, moisture content is lowered further, and more fat is squeezed out of the cocoa particles. Conching may take from several hours to a week, depending on the required quality of the chocolate. Towards the end of the conching process flavourings are added like vanilla, mint, orange and coffee.
What is Chocolate Couverture?
This is chocolate with a very high cocoa butter content, intended as a long shelf life product for bakers and craft confectioners.
How is milk chocolate made?
- Fresh milk, concentrated to a solids content of 30-40% is used.
- sugar is added, and the mixture further condensed, under vacuum, to a dry matter content of about 90%.
- This is then mixed with the chocolate liquor, making a stiff mixture that is dried and broken up.
- Processing follows the same steps as for plain chocolate.
- Conching takes place at a lower temperature for a longer time. This prevents the lactose form aggregating and giving a lumpy consistency.
Chocolate is famous in many dishes like Sachertorte, Black forest cake, brownies, mousses, and Pear Helene.
Here is an easy chocolate chilli sauce for grilled steak or chicken.
You need for 6 persons:
- 600ml good brown sauce
- 100g 70% dark chocolate
- 2 jalapeno chillies, seeds removed and chopped finely
Heat the brown sauce, add the chillies and cook through. Remove from the heat and add the dark chocolate, stir until all the chocolate has melted. Adjust the seasoning and serve.
- 175g plain dark chocolate
- 3 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
- 60g caster sugar
- 6g gelatine
- Juice of 1 orange
- 40ml water
- 40 ml thick cream
Melt the broken chocolate with water over a double boiler. Whisk eggs, yolks and sugar together in a basin over host water until thick. Remove from the heat and whisk until cool. Add the chocolate. Add the gelatine to the orange juice and dissolve over a gentle heat. Stir this into the chocolate mixture and add the whipped cream. Pour into a soufflé dish and leave to set. Just before serving decorate with cream, nuts and glace fruit.
Note: This mousse looks good in a large bowl but if you prefer you can put the mixture into individual bowls to set.
Oscar Wilde wrote in A Woman of No Importance:
“After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”