What is Chocolate Made of?
To many, chocolate simply arrives in a colorful wrapper ready for blissful enjoyment. But what goes into making chocolate? You might know about cacao beans, cocoa powder, or even that brown cow that pumps out all the world’s chocolate milk!
Before you jump ahead and start to savor that chocolate bar, let’s take a look at all of the components that make up chocolate.
1. Cacao Beans
Cacao trees grow in humid, tropical regions such as Ecuador or Belize. Early cultivation of cacao dates back to 1900 B.C. in Mesoamerica according to archeological discoveries. People have been enjoying chocolate for centuries!
Now, the cacao bean has a seed within it— the cacao seed. This seed is fermented, dried, and cleaned. It is then roasted, or micronized. Once the seed has been put through its spa services, the shell is removed or winnowed, and the bean is roasted once more to retain its deep flavor.
Then it’s grinding time.
2. Cocoa Mass or Cocoa Liquor
Once the beans or nibs are roasted, they are finely ground and form a liquid called cocoa mass. Cocoa mass is also known as cocoa liquor. It is the base ingredient for that rich, creamy chocolate you know and love.
What makes cocoa liquor? Cocoa butter, or fat. This is found in the nibs once pressure has been applied. Despite the name, cocoa liquor is not alcoholic.
3. Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter is important! It is the edible fat that is extracted from cocoa nibs. Besides being used in chocolate-making, cocoa butter is also used for medicinal and beauty purposes. Cocoa butter adds a nice mouthfeel, shininess, and strength to chocolate.
How can we talk about chocolate without talking about sugar? Sugar gives chocolate its famous sweetness. Combined with cocoa liquor and butter, chocolate becomes the product we know today.
However, back in the 16th century, Europeans began adding honey or cane sugar to chocolate because it was very bitter. This addition of sugar popularized chocolate as it became more accessible for the working class.
How Is Chocolate Made?
Once a chocolatier has procured the ingredients from above, and a few extras, they can begin the process of conching and tempering cocoa by-products into indulgent, beautiful works of sweetness.
Conching is the act of evenly distributing the cocoa butter throughout the cocoa mass in order to achieve the desired texture, appearance, and smell. This is usually done with a machine called a “conching machine.” The name comes from the original invention of the machine because it looked like a conch shell.
After the chocolatier is satisfied with the overall physicality of their cocoa solids in cocoa butter, they can begin tempering. This is the process of developing the ideal hardness and shine of chocolate.
Forte’s Master Chocolatier, Chef Karen, is one of the world’s leading experts in tempering chocolate. Remember that tempering is only required if your goal is to create solid chunks of chocolate.
As you can see, the many components of chocolate are important and work together to form something truly delectable.
Karen Neugebauer is internationally recognized as being one of the best chocolatiers in the artisan chocolate industry and is the owner and Master Chocolatier of Forte Chocolates, located about an hour north of Seattle in beautiful Mount Vernon, Washington. To get more information or to contact Chef Karen for custom projects/consulting services please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-982-2159.