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Chocolate is a common ingredient in many kinds of sweets—one of the most popular in the world—made from the fermented, roasted, and ground seeds of the tropical cacao tree Theobroma cacao. Dictionaries refer to this cacao substance as "chocolate," which is an intensely flavored bitter (not sweet) food, although this is properly defined as cocoa in many countries. However, in the American chocolate industry, cocoa is defined as the solids of the cacao bean, cocoa butter is defined as the fat component, and chocolate is the combination of the solids and the fat. This is usually sweetened with sugar and other ingredients and made into chocolate bars (the substance of which is also and commonly referred to as chocolate), or beverages (called cocoa or hot chocolate).
There are three types of cacao beans used in chocolates. The most prized, rare, and expensive is the Criollo, the bean of the Maya. Only 10% of chocolate is made from the Criollo, which is less bitter and more aromatic than any other bean. The cacao bean in 80% of chocolate is the Forastero. Forastero trees are significantly hardier than Criollo trees, resulting in cheaper cacao beans. Trinatario, a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, is used in about 10% of chocolate.
Chocolate is often produced in the form of little sculptures (usually of animals or people), for example as rabbit- or egg-shaped chocolates, near a holiday in many countries called Easter, and other shapes for Christmas and Saint Nicholas (for the latter also chocolate letters).
Additionally, chocolate is often the main ingredient, or a major ingredient, in ice cream, cookies, cake, pie and other desserts.
Different kinds of chocolate
Chocolate is an extremely popular ingredient, available in many types, and great quantity. Different forms and flavors of chocolate are usually produced by varying the amount of the ingredients used to make the chocolate.
Flavors such as mint, orange, or strawberry are sometimes added to chocolate. A chocolate bar is a bar of chocolate, frequently containing other ingredients as well, such as peanuts (as in Mr. Goodbar ®), nuts, caramel, or even crisped rice. Other chocolates contain alcoholic liqueurs. It is a common snack all over the world.
The definition of chocolate
Strictly speaking, chocolate is any product 100% based on cocoa solid and/or cocoa fat. has a huge impact on the industry. Adding ingredients is a question of taste. On the other hand, reducing cocoa solid content, or substituting cocoa fat with a non-cocoa one, reduces the cost of making it. There has been disagreement in the EU about the chocolate definition.
The history of chocolate
The Aztecs associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. In the New World, chocolate was consumed in a drink called xocoatl, often seasoned with vanilla, chili pepper, and pimento. Xocoatl was believed to fight fatigue, a belief that is probably attributable to the theobromine content. Chocolate was an important luxury good throughout Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and cacao beans were often used as currency. Other chocolate drinks combined it with such edibles as maize gruel and honey.
The xocoatl was said to be an acquired taste. Jose de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary who lived in Peru and then Mexico in the later 16th century, wrote:
Christopher Columbus brought some cocoa beans to show Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, but it remained for Hernando de Soto to introduce it to Europe more broadly.
The first recorded shipment of chocolate to the Old World for commercial purposes was in a shipment from Veracruz to Seville in 1585. It was still served as a beverage, but the Europeans added sugar to counteract the natural bitterness, and removed the chili pepper. By the 17th century it was a luxury item among the European nobility.
In 1828, Dutchman Conrad J. van Houten patented a method for extracting the fat from cocoa beans and making powdered cocoa and cocoa butter. Van Houten also developed the so-called Dutch process of treating chocolate with alkali to remove the bitter taste. This made it possible to form the modern chocolate bar. It is believed that Joseph Fry made the first chocolate for eating in 1847.
Daniel Peter, a Swiss candle-maker joined his father-in-law's chocolate business. In 1867 he began experimenting with milk as an ingredient. He brought his new product, milk chocolate, to market in 1875. He was assisted in removing the water content from the milk to prevent mildewing by a neighbor, a baby food manufacturer named Henri Nestlé. Rudolph Lindt invented the process called “conching,” which involves heating and stirring chocolate ensuring the liquid is evenly blended.
Chocolate as a stimulant
Chocolate is very mildly psychoactive since it contains theobromine, small quantities of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid found in the brain, as well as caffeine and tryptophan. In small quantities, chocolate is a very potent stimulant for horses; it is banned as an illegal stimulant in horse-racing.
The primary stimulant in chocolate is the theobromine, which is frequently confused with caffeine. Contrary to popular belief, chocolate does not contain significant amounts of caffeine, except when caffeine is added by the manufacturer.
Chocolate is toxic to dogs
The theobromine in chocolate is toxic to animals such as dogs (and other small animals) and horses because they are unable to metabolize the chemical effectively  (http://www.avma.org/careforanimals/animatedjourneys/livingwithpets/poisoninfo.asp). If they are fed chocolate, the theobromine may exist in their bloodstream for up to 20 hours, and these animals may experience epileptic seizures, heart attacks, internal bleeding, and eventually death. Treatment involves inducing vomiting within two hours of ingestion, or contacting a veterinarian. Vets commonly treat seizure with Diazepam or Phenobarbitol, tremor with Diazepam or Methocarbamol, treat bradycardia with Atropine, and treat tachyarrhythmia with Propranolol, Metoprolol or Lidocaine.
The LD-50 (Lethal Dose for 50% of a population) of theobromine in canines is 330 mg/kg - the same LD-50 as for caffeine in humans. A typical 20 kg dog will normally experience intestinal distress after eating less than 240 g of milk chocolate, and won't experience bradycardia or tachyarrythmia unless it eats at least a half a kilogram of milk chocolate. If it does not expel the chocolate from its system because of the fat and sugar content, then it would have a 50% chance of surviving after eating 5 kg of milk chocolate. Dark, sweet chocolate has about 50% more theobromine and thus is more dangerous to dogs.
Why chocolate tastes so good
Part of the enjoyability of the chocolate eating experience is ascribed to the fact that its melting point is slightly below human body temperature and so it melts in the mouth. Chocolate also releases endorphins in the brain, which makes it nice regardless of taste (like an opiate).
How chocolate is made
Firstly, the cocao pods, containing cocao beans, are harvested. The pods are crushed and left to ferment for about six days, after which the beans are split from the pods and dried. Fine chocolate can be produced by drying the beans for about 7 days in the sun. Accelerated or artificial drying is quicker but produces inferior quality chocolate, such as that used in most mass produced products.
The beans are then roasted, graded and ground (in a process similar to the production of coffee). The resulting powder is then pressed to extract the fat or cocoa butter. The residue is what is known as cocoa powder or, as it is called in the trade, 'cocoa mass'.
The cocoa powder or 'mass' is blended with the butter and liquor in varying quantities to make different types of chocolate or couverture. The basic blends of ingredients, in order of highest quantity first, are as follows:
Different manufacturers develop their own 'Signature' blends based on the above formulas but varying proportions of the different constituents used.
The finest plain dark chocolate couverture contains at least 70% Cocoa solids. The best Milk Chocolate and White Chocolate couvertures contain only 33% Cocoa solids. Inferior and mass produced chocolate contains much less cocoa, (as low as 7% in many cases). Some chocolate-makers opine that these "Brand Name" milk chocolate products can not be classed as couverture or even as chocolate, because of the low or virtually non-existent cocoa solids content.
The penultimate process is called conching. A conche is a container filled with metal beads that act as grinders and the refined and blended chocolate mass, kept liquid by fractional heat. Chonching is a process by which the particles of cocoa and sugar are ground to a size that is smaller than the tongue can detect, hence the smooth feel of chocolate in the mouth. The length of the conching process determines the final smoothness and quality of chocolate. High quality chocolate is conched for a minimum of a week. After the process is completed, the chocolate mass is stored in heated tanks at about 45-50°C, ready for final processing.
The final process is called tempering. Since cocoa butter exhibits a polymorphous or unstable crystal formation, the mass must be cooled very carefully to encourage the crystals to stabilise in the right order to produce the desired properties of snappy bite, tender melt and a good gloss in the finished product. This is achieved by the tempering process. Firstly, the mass is cooled in stages from about 45°C to about 27°C and rewarmed to about 37°C followed by cooling down to its solid state.
The chocolate is then ready for sale as couverture (used for coating chocolates, biscuits and other coated products) or as the finished product such as solid chocolate bars etc.
Chocolate in the media
Popular/Historically Significant Makers of Chocolate
Lindt and Sprungli (Sprungli developed Conching)