Understanding Chocolate

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Chocolate frenzy has swept the world like a tsunami. Its ability to appease the palate surpasses most, if not all foods. There is chocolate in candy, chocolate in main dishes, chocolate in desserts and chocolate in the science of love. It was blessed with the ability of drying tears without necessarily wiping them with a piece of cloth. It has the ability to create and retain smiles in harsh times. It blesses the soul and shines it with radiance comparable to the sun’s brilliance.

History of Chocolates
The first documented use of chocolate can be traced back to 1100 BC. amongst the Mesoamerican people who included it in beverage making. The Aztecs too used it to make a beverage called xocolatl. Chocolate is processed food from the seeds of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. It has been gown in Mexico, South America, and Central America for the past three millennia. However, Ghana in Africa remains the largest cocoa producer in the world.
Chocolate and the Culinary Field
Chocolate, as mentioned earlier, has and is playing a vital role in the culinary field. Because of its taste, it is useful in creation of countless recipes. It is almost compatible with any type of recipe in vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Its health benefits are also immense. For instance, studies have shown that chocolate can help improve blood vessel responsiveness. Furthermore, it helps increase glucose tolerance (helps individuals using low-carb diets reduce blood sugar spikes). Moreover, it contains Flavanoids which help prevent cancer because of their antioxidant effect (Laura 2008).
Cultural Importance of Chocolates
Chocolates have been used as one of the most popular holiday gifts. A box of chocolate, greeting cards, flowers and a bottle of wine are traditional Valentine’s Day gifts. During Easter, Chocolate eggs are a must. Chocolates have also had a great influence on books and films, inspiring successful book and film adaptations. For instance, in 1964, Roald Dahl published a novel titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The novel attracted two film adaptations and both films went ahead to become big hits in the Box Office.
Various Types of Chocolates and their uses
The Various types of chocolates include milk, unsweetened, bittersweet, and semisweet chocolates. Bittersweet chocolate is usually darker and less sweet. It consists of 35% pure chocolate and small amount of sugar. Semisweet chocolate is available in ships, squares, blocks and disks. It is mainly used in baking and for eating. Amongst all chocolates, it is the most versatile. It consists of 35% pure chocolate and additions of cocoa butter and sugar. Milk chocolates contain 10% pure chocolate with additions of cocoa butter and sugar. It has got a mild Flavor than darker chocolates. Unsweetened chocolates are purely chocolate with most of the cocoa butter removed. These chocolates are used for baking purposes and beverage making (Better Homes and Gardens 2012).
Cultivation and Processing of Chocolate
Before chocolates reach the shop’s shelves; they undergo manufacturing and harvesting processes. There are three basic steps in the harvesting process. The First process is plucking and opening of the pods. The pods are usually big (the size of a football). Secondly, the cocoa seeds have to be fermented. They are placed in large shallow, heated trays covered with banana leaves and heated by the sun. This process takes eight days. Thirdly, the cocoa seeds have to be dried. Farmers take fermented seeds on trays and expose them in the sun to dry. This process takes a week and reduces the weight of cocoa seeds by half their original weight.
The manufacturing process synonymously to the harvesting process has three steps. First, the cocoa seeds have to be roasted and winnowed. This gives them the color and flavor. Secondly, cocoa nibs have to be ground into “cocoa liquor” which is unsweetened chocolate. The cocoa liquor is mixed with butter and sugar. Thirdly, the cocoa liquor is blended and molded. During this process, milk chocolate, white chocolate and plain dark chocolate created. After the blending, molding is the final procedure for chocolate processing (The World Atlas of Chocolate 2012).

References

Better Homes and Gardens. 2012. Chocolate: Types, Selections & Storage. Retrieved March 11, 2012, from http://www.bhg.com/recipes/desserts/chocolate/chocolate-types-selection–storage

Laura, D. February 11 2008. Low Carb/Sugar Free Chocolate: Cooking with Unsweetened Chocolate. About.Com. Retrieved March 11, 2012, from http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/cooking/a/chocolate.htm

The World Atlas of Chocolate. (2012). The Production of Chocolate. Retrieved March 11, 2012, from http://www.sfu.ca/geog351fall03/groups-webpages/gp8/prod/prod.html

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