Chocolate is made from cocoa beans. It is the skill of the chocolate maker that creates the fine chocolate from the cocoa beans that arrive from countries which grow cocoa. Production techniques have undergone a lot of changes, as the technology has advanced. But the process of making chocolates remains the same. It involves roasting, grinding, refining, conching and tempering. The secret of good chocolate lies in the expertise of the maker, who should follow the process with care.
Roasting: The ultimate quality of chocolate depends on the process of roasting and cocoa seed fermentation. There are several roasting processes.
Pre - roasting: The beans are heated in infra red radiant heaters to separate the nibs from the shells. They are roasted at temperature from 100 degree C to 140 degree C (212 degree F to 300 degree F) for twenty to forty minutes.
Direct roasting: As an alternative the beans are roasted and then shells are removed. This traditional method allows retaining the flavour. The temperature for this process is maintained at between 150 degree C and 160 degree C (300 degree F and 320 degree F) for 40 to 50 minutes.
Even though both the methods are followed today, the pre -roasting is more productive, but the problem is that some varieties of beans get damaged when removed from shells due to severe temperature fluctuations. The roasting is very important in the process of chocolate making. The cocoa gets dried and become brown and develop the flavour, thus completing the first stage of manufacturing.
The fermentation which is to be carried out earlier enhances the flavour. It reduces the sugar, glucose, fructose and amino acids. In fact it is the fermentation that brings the flavour and the roasting process only augment the results of good fermentation. Proper care should be taken to carry out fermentation. The possibilities of beans getting spoiled are very high if the process is not carried out carefully.
The quality of the chocolate will be superior if the shells are removed thoroughly after or during the roasting. The process of shelling includes milling, sifting, and winnowing. Each of the process is important. When shelling completes the grains should be uniform in size and there should not be any residual shells.
The roasted and crushed beans are milled to fine flour. During the milling process, care should be taken to maintain the required temperature to avoid smoky or burnt off flavours. The refining converts the milled cocoa into a thick liquid form as cocoa butter.
Conching with powerful machines to stir the chocolate to make it a homogeneous mixture must follow. This is done in two stages. One is dry conching that is, stirring the chocolate at a temperature of around 80 degree C (175 degree F) to get rid of any residual moisture and to add viscosity.
Liquid conching is followed immediately after the dry conching. It is done the same conch as a continuous process, to maintain the texture and viscosity. Add cocoa butter if necessary. Tempering is a very delicate process of making chocolate from the liquid or semi liquid to a solid form. The chocolate is then heated until the cocoa butter crystals have melted completely. The product is then cooled to an appropriate temperature. The tempered chocolate when perfected is a smooth, glossy and brittle product with good flavour and tempting aroma.
The tasting chocolate involves skill. Those who enjoy different flavours of chocolates can identify the origin of the beans that are used in its making. Like coffee or wine, different people enjoy chocolate according to their tastes. Chocolates should be kept at a temperature of 66 degree F to 76 degree F to retain its taste and flavour.
There are different types of chocolates, depending on it filling. Some may be bitter or salty. Chocolates are made with the following flavours. In plain chocolates there are flavours of cocoa, pineapple, banana, passion fruit, vanilla, cinnamon or a blend of these.
In filled chocolates, all, the above aromas coupled with the flavours of almond, pistachio, hazel nut, wall nut, honey and fresh fruit are used. A tint of salt highlights the above flavours.
As for the texture, the chocolate should not leave any grain on the tongue, when you taste it. The ingredients should be grounded and blended to 12 to 20 microns. Plain and dark chocolate tasting technique involves keeping it in you mouth for a few seconds, to taste the base and primary flavours. Wait for a few seconds and chew it for 5 to 10 times to enjoy the secondary flavours.
Keep the filled chocolate in your mouth until it melts to release the base and primary flavours. Then chew for 4 to 5 times to blend the filling and coating and enjoy it. Finally, note how long the flavour lingers on the tongue.
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