Thursday, November 19, 2009

How Chocolate is Made

The First Steps
The main ingredient used to make chocolate is cocoa beans. Cocoa grows in South and Central America, Africa and parts of Asia in warm, wet environments. The beans come from the inside of cocoa pods, the fruit of the cocoa, or cacao, tree. The pods are harvested by hand and the beans are scooped out and left to dry. After drying and fermenting, the beans are bagged and shipped to the factory.

The first step in manufacturing is cleaning. This is done by passing the cocoa beans through a cleaning machine that removes dried cacao pulp, pieces of pod and other extraneous material that had not been removed earlier.

To bring out the characteristic chocolate aroma, the beans are roasted in large rotary cylinders. Depending upon the variety of the beans and the desired end result, the roasting lasts from 30 minutes to two hours at temperatures of 250 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. As the beans turn over and over, their moisture content drops, their color changes to a rich brown, and the characteristic aroma of chocolate becomes evident.

What Follows Roasting
Proper roasting is one of the keys to good flavor, but there are still several more steps to follow. After roasting, the beans are quickly cooled and their thin shells, made brittle by roasting, are removed. In most factories, this is done by a "cracker and fanner," a giant winnowing machine that passes the beans between serrated cones so they are cracked rather than crushed. In the process, a series of mechanical sieves separate the broken pieces into large and small grains while fans blow away the thin, light shell from the meat or "nibs."

The nibs, which contain about 53 percent cocoa butter, are next conveyed to mills, where they are crushed between large grinding stones or heavy steel discs. The process generates enough frictional heat to liquefy the cocoa butter and form what is commercially known as chocolate liquor. The term liquor does not refer to alcohol, it simply means liquid. When the liquid is poured into molds and allowed to solidify, the resulting cakes are unsweetened or bitter chocolate.

Up to this point, the manufacturing of cocoa and chocolate is identical. The process now diverges, but there is an important interconnection to be noted. The by-product of cocoa shortly becomes an essential component of chocolate. That component is the unique vegetable fat, cocoa butter, which forms about 25 percent of the weight of most chocolate bars.

How to Make Cocoa Powder
The chocolate liquor, destined to become a cup of cocoa, is pumped into giant hydraulic presses weighing up to 25 tons, where pressure is applied to remove the desired cocoa butter. The fat drains away through metallic screens as a yellow liquid. It is then collected for use in chocolate manufacturing.

Cocoa butter has such importance for the chocolate industry that it deserves more than a passing mention. It is unique among vegetable fats because it is a solid at normal room temperature and melts at 89 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just below body temperature. Its success in resisting oxidation and rancidity makes it very practical. Under normal storage conditions, cocoa butter can be kept for years without spoiling.

The pressed cake that is left after the removal of cocoa butter can be cooled, pulverized and sifted into cocoa powder. Cocoa that is packaged for sale to grocery stores or put into bulk for use as a flavor by dairies, bakeries, and confectionery manufacturers, may have 10 percent or more cocoa butter content. "Breakfast cocoa," a less common type, must contain at least 22 percent cocoa butter.

In the so-called "Dutch" process, the manufacturer treats the cocoa with an alkali to develop a slightly different flavor and give the cocoa a darker appearance characteristic of the Dutch type. The alkali acts as a processing agent rather than as a flavor ingredient.

How to Make Eating Chocolate

While cocoa is made by removing some of the cocoa butter, eating chocolate is made by adding it. This holds true of all eating chocolate, whether it is dark, bittersweet, or milk chocolate. Besides enhancing the flavor, the added cocoa butter serves to make the chocolate more fluid.

One example of eating chocolate is sweet chocolate, a combination of unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter and perhaps a little vanilla. Making it entails melting and combining the ingredients in a large mixing machine until the mass has the consistency of dough.

Milk chocolate, the most common form of eating chocolate, goes through essentially the same mixing process-except that it involves using less unsweetened chocolate and adding milk.

Whatever ingredients are used, the mixture then travels through a series of heavy rollers set one atop the other. Under the grinding that takes place here, the mixture is refined to a smooth paste ready for "conching."

What is Conching?
Conching is a flavor development process which puts the chocolate through a "kneading" action and takes its name from the shell-like shape of the containers originally employed. The "conches," as the machines are called, are equipped with heavy rollers that plow back and forth through the chocolate mass anywhere from a few hours to several days. Under regulated speeds, these rollers can produce different degrees of agitation and aeration in developing and modifying the chocolate flavors.

In some manufacturing setups, there is an emulsifying operation that either takes the place of conching or else supplements it. This operation is carried out by a machine that works like an eggbeater to break up sugar crystals and other particles in the chocolate mixture to give it a fine, velvety smoothness.

After the emulsifying or conching machines, the mixture goes through a tempering interval-heating, cooling and reheating-and then at last into molds to be formed into the shape of the complete product. The molds take a variety of shapes and sizes, from the popular individual-size bars available to consumers to a ten-pound block used by confectionery manufacturers.

Ready for Shipment
When the molded chocolate reaches the cooling chamber, cooling proceeds at a fixed rate that keeps hard-earned flavor intact. The bars are then removed from the molds and passed along to wrapping machines to be packed for shipment to distributors, confectioners and others throughout the country.

For convenience, chocolate is frequently shipped in a liquid state when intended for use by other food manufacturers. Whether solid or liquid, it provides candy, cookie, and ice cream manufacturers with the most popular flavor for their products. Additionally, a portion of the United State's total chocolate output goes into coatings, powders and flavorings that add zest to our foods in a thousand different ways.


Myths and Facts

Many of the old myths about chocolate and health are crumbling under the weight of scientific fact. The once-prevalent belief that something that tastes so good just cannot be good for you has given way to a more balanced picture of chocolate and cocoa products and their relation to health and nutrition.

The following are brief reviews on recent findings which counter several of the common misinterpretations of the effects of chocolate on health.

Chocolate and Acne
Over the past two decades, research has revealed that chocolate neither causes nor aggravates acne. Acne, a condition resulting from the extreme activity of the skin's oil glands during puberty, is not linked primarily to diet. In research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, a control group was given a bar with no chocolate which resembled a chocolate bar and had 28 percent vegetable fat to imitate the fat content of chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. A similar group was given real chocolate, but the test bars contained almost 10 times as much chocolate liquor as a normal 1.4 ounce chocolate bar. At the end of the test, the average acne condition of the persons in the group eating chocolate was almost the same as those who had no chocolate.

A group of 80 midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, all of whom had acne conditions ranging from mild to moderate, were divided into groups, both experiencing the same living, dining and physical activities. One group avoided all chocolate for four weeks, the other included a minimum of three bars in their daily diet. After four weeks, the groups exchanged eating patterns. Clinical observations, facial overlays and photographs showed no significant changes in the acne conditions in either group.

Chocolate and Caffeine
The amount of caffeine ingested when people eat chocolate in normal quantities is very small. 1.4 ounces of milk chocolate, for example, contains about 6 milligrams of caffeine, about the same as the amount found in a cup of decaffeinated coffee. Thus, the role of caffeine in chocolate is largely a non-issue.

Chocolate and Dental Cavities
Tooth decay has become less of a problem for Americans over the last 30 years. Between 1960 and 1980 the incidence of cavities dropped by 50 percent. Today, more than one-third of all college-aged Americans have never had a single cavity.

It is widely accepted that all foods containing "fermentable carbohydrates" have the potential to contribute to caries formation. Fermentable carbohydrates are present in starches and sugars, including those that occur naturally in foods and those added in processed foods. Frequency and duration of tooth exposure to fermentable carbohydrates have been identified as factors in caries.

Although chocolate contains fermentable carbohydrates, a number of dental research studies suggest that chocolate may be less apt to promote tooth decay than has been traditionally believed. Research at the Forsyth Dental Center in Boston and at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine has shown that cocoa and chocolate have the ability to offset the acid-producing potential of the sugar they contain. Acid, produced by certain oral bacteria that digest or "ferment" sugars, can damage tooth enamel and cause decay. Cocoa and chocolate have also been shown to reduce the demineralization process-an activity which directly results in the formation of dental caries.

In a study conducted at the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester, New York, milk chocolate and chocolate chip cookies were found to be among the snack foods which contribute least to dental decay. The researchers reported that: "Milk chocolate has a high content of protein, calcium, phosphate and other minerals, all of which have exhibited protective effects on tooth enamel. In addition, due to its natural fat content, milk chocolate clears the mouth relatively faster than other candies. These factors are thought to be responsible for making milk chocolate less cariogenic."

Chocolate and Nutrients
Chocolate provides a number of nutrients the body requires daily. A milk chocolate bar weighing 1.4 ounces contains about three grams of protein, fifteen percent of the Daily Value of riboflavin, nine percent of the Daily Value for calcium and seven percent of the Daily Value for iron.

Almonds and peanuts added to chocolate increase the nutrients in a bar. This is particularly true for protein. Milk chocolate bars with almonds also have increased amounts of calcium, iron and riboflavin.

Chocolate and Weight Control
Contrary to the popular stereotype, most overweight people do not eat excessive amounts of cake, cookies, confectionery or other foods containing sugar. Their sugar intake tends, in fact, to be below average.

More important in controlling weight is the total number of calories consumed each day and the amount of energy expended in physical activity. Overweight children, for example, are generally less active than those of normal weight; thus, they may remain overweight even when their caloric intake is reasonable or even limited.

Moreover, many people overestimate the calories in chocolate. A 1.4 ounce milk chocolate bar contains approximately 210 calories-low enough to incorporate into a weight control diet. The occasional chocolate confection may also reduce the possibility of a binge, which can occur as a result of feeling deprived of highly satisfying foods such as chocolate.

Chocolate and Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter, the fat that occurs naturally in cocoa beans, gives chocolate its distinctive smoothness and "melt-in-the-mouth" texture. Research has shown that cocoa butter, despite its high saturated fat content, does not raise blood cholesterol levels as do other saturated fats. This is due to its high stearic acid content. Stearic acid, one of the principal fatty acids in cocoa butter, has been found to be used in the body differently, in that it may reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood.

Chocolate Milk
Lastly, about chocolate milk. Chocolate milk provides more zinc, potassium, niacin and riboflavin than plain whole milk. In terms of calcium, protein and vitamin B, plain milk has slightly more. For all other nutrients, plain milk and chocolate milk are about the same.

Additionally, children are more likely to drink chocolate milk than plain milk. Studies have shown that the amount of chocolate milk left undrunk by children in grades 1 through 5 was about two-thirds less than when only plain milk was offered.

Moreover, research conducted at the University of Rhode Island suggests chocolate milk may have benefits for individuals who are lactose intolerant. Research reveals that lactose intolerant individuals who consumed chocolate milk showed significant reductions in their symptoms.


Theobroma Cacao. Food of the Gods.

The Latin name, Theobroma Cacao, was given to chocolate many centuries ago and still appropriately describes the strong attachment people worldwide have with this wonderful food today. When ancient Indians of Central America first crushed cocoa beans and mixed them with water more than 2000 years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine the many ways we now enjoy this favorite food.


The Story of Chocolate

Chocolate: The Food of the Gods
The story of chocolate, as far back as we know it, begins more than 2000 years ago in equatorial Central America where the Mayan Indians held cocoa beans in high regard. Images of cocoa pods were carved into the walls of their elaborate stone temples, and Mayan writings refer to cacao as "food of the gods." It was the Mayans who first created a beverage from crushed cocoa beans which was enjoyed by royalty and shared at sacred ceremonies.

Chocolate's importance in the Aztec Empire also is clearly recorded. The Aztecs called the prized drink they made from cocoa beans "chocolatl," which means "warm liquid." Like the earlier Mayans, the Aztecs drank the unsweetened beverage during special ceremonies. Montezuma II, a royal monarch of the Aztecs, maintained great storehouses filled with cocoa beans and reportedly consumed 50 or more portions of chocolatl daily from a golden goblet.

Cocoa beans, however, weren't only consumed. Both the Mayans and the Aztecs used cocoa beans as currency. According to a 16th century Spanish chronicle, a rabbit was worth 4 - 10 cocoa beans and a mule cost 50 beans.

Europe was first introduced to the principal ingredient of chocolate when Christopher Columbus brought a handful of the dark, almond-shaped beans back to Spain from his last voyage to the Caribbean islands in 1502. He presented many strange and wonderful objects from the lands he explored to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Included among them were cocoa beans, placed before royalty as little more than a curiosity. They appeared most unpromising. The King and Queen of Spain never dreamed how important cocoa beans would become.

It remained for Hernando Cortes, the Spanish explorer, to grasp the commercial possibilities of cocoa beans.

Chocolate Travels to Spain
When Cortes arrived in what is now known as Mexico in 1519, the Aztecs mistakenly believed that he was the reincarnation of a former god-king who had been exiled from the land. They did not realize that Cortes was seeking Aztec gold which was rumored to exist. Montezuma greeted the Spanish explorers with a large banquet which included cups of a bitter chocolate drink. By the time the Aztecs realized their mistake, the Spanish had begun to overpower them. Within three years, Cortes and his followers brought about the fall of the Aztec empire.

During this time, Cortes realized the economic potential for cocoa beans. He experimented with chocolatl, adding cane sugar to make it more agreeable to Spanish tastes. He also established additional cacao plantings in the Caribbean region before returning to Spain.

Back in Spain, the new version of chocolatl found favor with the wealthy, and continued to undergo flavor refinements. Newly imported spices, such as cinnamon and vanilla, were added to the drink. Ultimately, someone decided the drink would taste better if served steaming hot, creating the first hot chocolate, which quickly won followers among the Spanish aristocracy. Spain proceeded to plant more cacao trees in its overseas colonies in Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Jamaica to ensure an ample supply of cocoa beans. Remarkably, the Spanish were able to keep their ventures in cocoa cultivation and their creation of early cocoa drinks a secret from the rest of Europe for nearly one hundred years.

Chocolate Spreads Across Europe
Spanish monks were assigned the task of processing the cocoa beans. It may have been these monks who let out the secret by discussing cocoa with their French counterparts. Then, in 1580, the first cocoa processing plant was established in Spain. It did not take long before chocolate was acclaimed throughout Europe as a delicious, health-giving drink. For a while it reigned as the chosen beverage at the fashionable Court of France. Chocolate drinking spread across the English Channel to Great Britain, and in 1657 the first of many famous English Chocolate Houses appeared.

Mass production of cocoa became possible with the introduction of a perfected steam engine, which mechanized the cocoa grinding process. By 1730, cocoa had dropped in price from three dollars or more per pound to within financial reach of all.

The invention of the cocoa press in 1828 was another major breakthrough in cocoa production. This not only helped reduce prices even further, but more importantly, improved the quality of the beverage by squeezing out about half of the cocoa butter (the fat that occurs naturally in cocoa beans) from the ground-up beans, leaving behind a cake-like residue that could be further processed into a fine powder. From then on, chocolate drinks had more of the smooth consistency and the recognizable flavor of those enjoyed today.

The 19th Century witnessed two more revolutionary developments in the history of chocolate. In 1847, an English company introduced the first solid eating chocolate made by combining melted cocoa butter with sugar and cocoa powder. This chocolate had a smooth, velvety texture and quickly replaced the old coarse-grained chocolate which formerly dominated the world market. The second development occurred in 1876 in Vevey, Switzerland, when Daniel Peter devised a way of adding milk to chocolate, creating the product we enjoy today known as milk chocolate.

Chocolate Comes to America
In the United States of America, the production of chocolate proceeded at a faster pace than anywhere else in the world. It was in pre-revolutionary New England - 1765, to be exact - that the first chocolate factory was established in this country. During World War II, the U.S. government recognized chocolate's role in the nourishment and group spirit of the Allied Armed Forces, so much so that it allocated valuable shipping space for the importation of cocoa beans. Many soldiers were thankful for the chocolate bars, which gave them the energy to carry on until more food rations could be obtained. Today, the U.S. Army's Meals Ready to Eat contain chocolate bars and chocolate candies, and chocolate has been taken into space as part of the diet of U.S. astronauts.