Chocolate: The How, What & Why Of The World’s Favourite Food

“There’s no metaphysics on earth like chocolates.” ― Fernando Pessoa

Food of the gods. A sacred elixir. An aphrodisiac drink. Put on a pedestal by Mayans upon discovery, chocolat continues to carry the crown since coronation with cachet. From a frothy, bitter drink to hot chocolate to chocolate bar to the plethora of manifestations savoured today – no matter the form, its allure remains akin to the pull in tug of war. We unwrap the science behind chocolate with artisanal chocolatiers, All Things and Mason & Co, to bring you its making, versatility, and experience.

Theobroma cacaothe key to it all. While the history of its cultivation might be debated, it is crystal clear, the cacao beans were cherished from the get go. Fermented, roasted, ground into a paste, and mixed with water, the beans created an invigorating chocolate drink that has now come a long way. Journeying from Mexico to Spain as a traded commodity, the cacao bean soon crossed channels to conquer England. However, it was the Industrial Revolution that changed the game. Entering an all-new arena upon discovery of the cocoa press, chocolate was no longer reserved for the elite aristocrats. The consumption graph grew exponentially upon Joseph Fry creating the first solid chocolate bar in the mid 1800s, and the chocolate industry now boasts of over $100 billion in retail sales.

Image: Mason & Co and Radha Sunder

Decoding the alchemy behind this luxurious treat, we delve into the bean-to-bar process with the founders of Mason & Co, Jane Mason and Fabien Bontems. “From sorting, roasting, cracking and winnowing, grinding, tempering and moulding, to packaging, we execute each step of the unique bean to bar process in our factory. It ensures better chocolate in terms of quality, flavour, and purity,” they share. The duo kick-started Mason & Co armed with intense research, farm visits, and consultations with cacao farmers and chocolate makers from across the world. Working in tandem with farmers to ensure a superlative post-harvesting process, they opine, “It is key for determining flavour and quality.” Harvesting the cacao pods, the cacao beans are cracked for cacao nibs, but the sweetness of chocolate is owed to the processes that follow. Crushed and ground, the nibs form chocolate liquor. Introducing additional sugar and flavours, a process known as conching smoothens the liquor to create the chocolate you know and love.

In a world where Twix, Nestle, and Cadbury triumph the everyday chocolate necessities, artisanal brands like Mason & Co are championing the cause of organic and single origin chocolate. “Using beans from a single region or estate allows complete representation of that flavour, without any blending with flavours from other regions,” shares Jane. The distinct character of beans is owed to factors like type and terroir. Furthering the country’s agricultural circuit, the indie artisanal brand utilises organic beans from South India. The conscious approach comes to full circle as the duo champion direct trading with farmers, ensuring fair price transactions for the cherished cacao beans.

While bean to bar is a process that dictates the flavour of the end product, it is innovation that opens the lock to nirvana. Conceptualising bars that keep you chomping through day and night, All Things co-founder Tejasvi Chandela deciphers the organised chaos behind her chefs d’oeuvre. Equal parts scientific and creative, the humble lady believes in pushing the versatility of chocolate, and her imagination to the limits. “It’s the biggest perk of working with chocolate, you can create a myriad of interesting flavours. Sometimes even the pairings that don’t sound conventional end up tasting delicious!” she says. Using directly traded artisanal chocolate, Chandela paints on this blank canvas with locally sourced ingredients and nuts for crafting All Things scrumptious.

Deriving inspiration from her travels and life experiences, Chandela weaves a story for each bar and each flavour. “Chocolate is so much more than what meets the eye,” she says and for the lady herself the story embodies a trip down the memory lane. “It takes me to the time when Kuhu and I would sit and come up with different chocolates we wanted to create,” she shares. An integral part of celebrations for Mayans (often used in cultural ceremonies), chocolate continues to carry that mantle as an expression of feelings. An apology gift? Christmas? Birthday? You’re covered.

Whether a chocolatier, an ardent chocolate fanatic, or none, the experience this treat offers is irrefutably elation. As the scientific community deduces the chemistry of increased brain activity and heart rate upon gobbling chocolate, we revel in its glory by tempering some ourselves.  

 

How To Temper Chocolate:

Prep Time: 45 mins

Challenge Level: Intermediate

From the Pantry:

  • 680 grams milk chocolate

Temper Away:

  1. Chop the chocolate in small pieces and set aside 170 grams of the quantity in a separate bowl.
  2. Heat the remaining chocolate until completely melted, for four to five minutes.
  3. After taking the bowl out from the microwave, stir to bring down the temperature and uniformly melt the chocolate.
  4. The temperature of the milk chocolate should range between 40 – 45° C.
  5. Add the chocolate kept aside in intervals, stir constantly until the temperature reaches 29 – 30° C.
  6. Glossy and silky, tempered chocolate is now ready for dipping ‘em strawberries, pouring moulds, or creating snaps for adding oomph to your cakes.

 

Go ahead, crack that chocolate!

 

Featured Image Courtesy: inbusiness.ae

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