Many of us know how to make candy and desserts using chocolate, but how is chocolate made? Where does it come from? What makes up the cocoa bean?
Chocolate comes from the seeds of the cacao tree. The pods containing the beans are opened and the beans are removed and fermented for about a week. After being fermented, the beans are roasted to further bring out the cocoa flavor. The shells are removed and the nibs are ground into a thick paste called chocolate liquor. The liquor is then pressed to release the cocoa butter. The leftover, called a press cake or cocoa cake, can then be ground down into fine powder. Sugar and vanilla (and depending on the type of chocolate to made, milk) are then added along with fat to the cocoa to make a creamy chocolate. ‘Real’ chocolates will use cocoa butter along with the cocoa powder. Coating chocolate will use a different type of fat such as palm kernel oil in place of the cocoa butter. The last process is the conching process where the chocolate mixture is continuously smoothed for sometimes several days until it is ready to be shipped or tempered and poured into molds.
Chocolate Terms to Know:
- Cocoa Bean– the seed of the cacao tree that is removed from the pod
- Cocoa Nib– the inner portion of the cocoa bean that contains the fat and flavor, has a strong bitter taste and can be used as a garnish or as an ingredient
- Chocolate Liquor– a thick, liquidy paste made by grinding the cocoa nib, a combination of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, essential in chocolate making
- Cocoa Butter– natural occurring fat in the cocoa bean, can be used to thin down melted chocolate, yellowish in color and very hard in solid form, has a low melting point
- Cocoa Solids– the solid form of the chocolate after the cocoa butter is removed, can be further processed into cocoa powder
- Cocoa Powder– made when cocoa butter is removed from chocolate liquor and then ground very fine, plain can be very bitter-tasting, Dutch-processed is less bitter and milder in flavor