Before we get into the specifics of how chocolate is made, it's important to understand how it became one of the most widely consumed foods in the world.
At least 4,000 years have passed since chocolate was first introduced. In what is now Central and South America, the ancient Olmec and Aztec people drank chocolate and used it in festivals, and the Maya used it as a drink signifying sealed deals or transactions.
Chocolate was first brought to Europe in the sixteenth century, by explorers from France, Britain, and Italy who had just returned from exploring the Americas. However, the South American style of consuming it, which was more bitter and earthy, was not suited to European palates. As a result, Europeans developed various methods of producing chocolate, such as adding sugar and spices like cinnamon and vanilla.
After the first chocolate bar was invented by chocolatier JS Fry, the European public began to consume a considerable amount of chocolate. We could say that the whole continent, then the world, fell in love with chocolate! Our love for the sweet treat has reached such heights that the annual value of the worldwide chocolate business has surpassed 160 billion dollars and shows no signs of slackening off. Indeed, even in uncertain and hard times, chocolate is a staple for many people.
Before anything can happen, the cocoa beans need to be harvested. To do so, growers harvest the fruit of the Theobroma Cacao tree called cacao pods. Each pod is full of beans that will later on be turned into chocolate. After the crop has been harvested, the seeds are removed from the pods and pulp and the fermentation process is allowed to commence.
Raw cocoa beans have a flavour that many people find unpleasant and harsh. This bitterness is transformed during the fermentation process, turning it into a more complex and strong traditional cocoa flavour that most of us are familiar with.
The fermentation process is accomplished with the help of naturally occurring yeast and bacteria that are found in the cocoa beans. The beans are only left out in the heat and dampness for around seven days in order for the fermentation process to take place. After the fermentation process is complete, the beans are rapidly dried to eliminate any possibility of mould formation.
Following the drying and fermentation processes, the beans undergo a meticulous cleaning process in which they are freed of any sticks, stones, or other debris. Traditionally, cocoa beans are roasted using the dry roasting method, which requires regular stirring to maintain an equal temperature throughout the process. Because dry roasting does not involve the addition of any additional oils or fats, the flavour can be preserved in its natural state.
After being roasted, the beans are hulled, and the inner nib is retrieved before being ground into a fine powder that will then be separated into cocoa butter and cocoa solids. When grinding the nibs, the heat generated from friction usually causes the cocoa butter to become a liquid called "cocoa liquor” (not to be confused with liqueur, which is an alcoholic beverage). Following this step, cocoa liquid is poured into moulds, allowed to cool, and then packaged for sale and shipment. These squares are often referred to as unsweetened chocolate or baker's chocolate.
It is possible to make an infinite number of cocoa products by combining various cocoa components, such as cocoa liquor, baking chocolate, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter, with a variety of other substances. By adding cocoa liquor with cocoa butter, sugar, milk, and sometimes vanilla, emulsifiers, or stabiliser, chocolatiers create the chocolate bars we love snacking on.
Other than chocolate candies, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and cocoa liquor are also utilised in the production of a wide variety of goods. Cocoa is a common ingredient in savoury cooking in the Americas, particularly in Central and South America.Cocoa butter is often used in the cosmetic world for its skin and hair benefits.
Hopefully, this little article has enlightened you to the wonderful world of chocolate making. At Cakes & Bakes, we love using chocolate in our cakes and sweet treats. So if you are in need of a chocolate fix, you do not need to go harvest your own cocoa beans! Simply visit our website to discover all our freshly baked chocolate delights. We offer same day cake delivery around London and within the M25.