Unfortunately, chocolate production isn’t something that can really be done in a domestic kitchen very easily. It’s a shame as it would be great to be able to whisk up a batch of chocolate bars on demand. For the time being though, I think we’ll need to leave it to the experts and make do with flapjacks or muffins.
Chocolate production can either be large scale or it can be a more arty pastime, with individual recipes being created and perfected by chocolatiers and sold by the item. Generally speaking though, you’d need anything up to 600 cocoa beans to make 1kg of chocolate. Obviously, the better the quality, the more beans you’ll require, as a higher cocoa content means a better bar.
Once the beans have been shelled, ground and the liquor extracted, the other ingredients can be added to the mix. Again, the amounts will very much depend on the quality of the final chocolate product but it will be cocoa butter, sugar (for milk and white chocolate), vanilla for flavouring and some letchitin, which is an emulsifying that helps bind everything together. The product will now resemble chocolate as we know it but it still needs to be pressed, in order to refine it more and give it a nice smooth texture. There is one last process that many types of chocolate will have to endure and this is called ‘conching’. This is another type of pressing machine but much more laborious as it can sometimes take days to produce the required texture. However, it’s an important element of chocolate making, particularly in higher grade products, as it really determines the final flavour of the chocolate.
Obviously, cocoa beans are a pretty important ingredient in chocolate but what else is required to produce your favourite sweet treat? Well, this isn’t actually a straightforward question to answer and it really depends on the variety and quality of chocolate. Chocolate now takes on so many different forms that’s it’s possible to include any number of ingredients in a product and still classify it under the label of ‘chocolate’. However, for the purposes of easy reading, I’ll stick to the basics. There are pretty much just five main ingredients that are needed to create chocolate and here they are:
Not to be confused with alcohol! This is the most important ingredient and the higher the liquor content, the better quality the chocolate is. Once the beans have dried, the shells are removed and the central part, or ‘nib’ is ground. This process produces a lot of heat so it melts and becomes the liquor. Dark chocolate has the highest amount of liquor so if you want a real chocolate hit; this is the variety to buy.
This is the residue from the pressing process and what is left once the liquor has been extracted. As well as being used for chocolate, it also makes a pretty good moisturiser.
This is essential in order to turn the chocolate into a sweet treat. Without sugar chocolate has a very bitter taste, much loved by the Mayans and Aztecs but probably not as popular with modern sweet teeth.
Milk or milk powder (milk and white chocolate)
As the name ‘milk chocolate’ suggests, these types of chocolate will contain either milk or milk powder and this is what gives the chocolate its creamy taste and paler flavour. Dark chocolate retains some of the bitter characteristics of the cocoa but this is indiscernible in most brands of milk and white chocolate.
This is primarily added as a flavouring and is present in most bars of chocolate, to a greater or lesser extent. The combination of cocoa and vanilla is a pretty good one so I assume that it’s just one of those things that somebody tried, everybody liked and no one has changed since.