Easter is here and with it comes the breaking of Lent and the tradition of eating chocolate eggs, bunnies, … in fact chocolate anything. Chocolate often features in our lives as “treat”, “a pick-me-up”, a gift on special occasions. In brief, cocoa is a unique food ingredient associated with stimulating joy, energy and delight. In an attempt to find out more about this intriguing food stuff, here we share some unusual chocolate secrets, along with an exciting new chocolate recipe from one of our top EHL dessert chefs.
Cocoa: The food of the gods
Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.” After centuries of being more of a divine drink than a food solid, chocolate has become the favoured sweet delight of most human beings since it started being commercially produced in the 19th century.
Chocolate is a deeply enticing food on many levels. The creamy, silky texture; the deep, dark colour; the exquisitely rich flavour; and the tantalising aroma. By far the most popular food gift to offer on romantic occasions… why? … it is scientifically proven to stimulate the brainwaves and raise antioxidant levels in the blood, leading to the belief that chocolate is an aphrodisiac and makes us feel good. It’s the cocoa butter in chocolate that gives it the rich and creamy texture that we love so much and its wonderful smell.
It’s by far the most popular food gift to offer on romantic occasions… why? Cocoa is scientifically proven to stimulate the brainwaves and raise antioxidant levels in the blood, leading to the belief that chocolate is an aphrodisiac and makes us feel good. Often cited as the world’s best mood enhancer, who are we to argue?
EHL’s Julien Boutonnet shares his chocolate insights
With the help of Julien Boutonnet, MOF and confectionary chef at EHL, we have listed 20 chocolate secrets you may have previously been unaware of. From its origins to its health benefits, find out why the cocoa bean deserves its high ranking status a beloved food (and drink!).
- Cocoa is originally from South America but the two thirds of production is nowadays concentrated on the Ivory Coast in West Africa.
- Chocolate was first consumed as a precious beverage by the Mayas and the Aztecs. When it arrived in Europe in the 16th century, this very luxurious drink was reserved for the upper class.
- The Swiss chocolate factory Cailler created milk chocolate in 1875 by adding milk powder to the preparation.
- Cocoa beans must be fermented to let the flavors develop. Then the beans are dried and roasted, and the shell is finally removed to produce the cocoa mass.
- The cocoa bean is pollinated by a relative of the mosquito known as the “chocolate midge” (the Forcipomyia).
- A 100g chocolate bar contains approximately 80 cocoa beans.
- Dark or “plain” chocolate must contain at least 35 % cocoa solids. When the cocoa percentage goes up to 70%, notable health benefits appear such as a risk reduction in heart disease.
- White chocolate is not officially chocolate, as it contains cocoa butter, sugar and milk, but no actual cocoa solids.
- The quality of a bar depends on the beans: How they are fermented and roasted, as well as whether they all come from a same producer.
- Chocolate is scientifically proven as being a highly addictive food. The presence of serotonin in chocolate stimulates the brain, relaxes the body and brings on a form of happiness.
- A cocoa bean contains around 0.2% caffeine.
- To pump up the flavor of a bar, chocolate makers usually add coffee or nuts. But many other ingredients go well with chocolate, like red hot chili pepper.
- The best way to store chocolate is to keep it in a dry and cool place. It shouldn’t go in the fridge because a) the chocolate will absorb other smells from the fridge, and b) the cold hampers the chocolate from releasing its deep, natural flavors.
- Chocolate has a very low melting temperature situated between 30°C and 32°C. This is why it melts slowly in the mouth.
- Only a few hours are necessary to transform raw chocolate into the finished product to be sold in the stores. Then the bar can be stored for a few weeks.
- Cocoa butter, derived from the seeds of the cocoa bean, is rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins A and E and fatty acids, making it the perfect moisturizer for lips, hands and body.
- The best-selling chocolate period worldwide is not Easter but Valentine’s Day.
- The world’s biggest cocoa consumers are Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, with up to 11kg of chocolate eaten per year, per capita.
- Chocolate takes up a major place in global trade: 3 million of tons of cocoa are sold each year.
- The best-selling chocolate at EHL is incontestably the milk and hazelnut chocolate bar. This may be related to our geographical location… Switzerland !
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