Thursday, April 14, 2011


Though it is no longer February with the Valentine’s Day fueled candy euphoria, or Halloween, with its tempting fun-size offerings, chocolate still beckons from the recesses of my pantry. Though chocolate is now commonplace, part of the American experience, it was not always so. Though the history of the spread of chocolate from Meso-America to Europe and the rest of the world is interesting, the facts about chocolate production are what set my mouth salivating. Cacao trees, which produce cocoa beans, only grow within 20 degrees of the equator. These cocoa beans are fermented, cleaned, roasted, and the outer shell removed to leave cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs are ground and liquefied, creating chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor sounds like ambrosia to me. One can only hope the Greek gods’ ambrosia was similarly delicious.

Chocolate liquor is composed only of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. At this point, additional cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, and flavorings can be added to create dark and milk chocolate. Just picturing the blending process a la Charlie and the Chocolate Factor makes me itch to experiment with different ratios of liquor to cocoa butter, to add both exotic flavors and the old standard, vanilla. Perhaps I should have been a chocolatier.

If you also feel the need to not only eat chocolate, but read about it, a selection of books is below, containing history, production and recipes. Real chocolate lovers can also check out the Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Fest at the Albuquerque Convention Center on April 16th and 17th. Bon appétit!

The Book of Chocolate, by Nathalie Bailleux et al

The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe

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