If you truly love chocolate, why not become a real expert? In this month’s post Ika will provide you with the vocabulary professional chocolatiers use.
Interestingly, the most important chocolate terms start with the letter C!
Here are the 7 most useful terms you need to know in order to speak like a chocolate expert:
Chocolate’s smooth texture and refined flavours, are achieved thanks to the conching machine, where the chocolate paste is heated, stirred, and sort of kneaded, for as much as four days!
A minimum of 12 hours is standard in the chocolate industry.
The Swiss manufacturer Rodolphe Lindt invented this technique in 1879 (In French: Lissage).
The ground beans are stirred and blended together with sugar and other ingredients, until a smooth, homogeneous paste is ready to be poured into molds.
Conching combines all the ingredients into a unified mass, and eliminates volatile flavours, unpleasant odors, and bitterness.
Tasting the paste straight right out of the conching machine, at a chocolate factory, is an unforgettable experience, that we very much recommend trying if you get the chance.
Photo: Simon Pearson via Flickr
- Cacao Belt
Cacao trees can only grow within 20° north and south of the Equator.
This geographical area can be imagined as a belt circling our planet.
Within this area are the original cacao growing countries like Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela; and thanks to globalization cacao now grows also in Africa and Asia – mainly in Ghana, the Cote D’Ivoire, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka.
Criollo is a type of cacao tree that grows mainly in Venezuela. Most chocolate experts consider it to produce the best quality beans, with the most delicate flavour.
Criollo trees are quite rare, also because they are very vulnerable to disease.
Therefore, Criollo beans are more expensive, but we believe it is worth the investment when making top quality chocolate.
Photo: 3 types of cacao pods (=trees): Criollo, Trinitario & Forastero. Source: Wikipedia
For dipping and coating pralines and other confectioneries, like candied fruit, it’s best to use chocolate with a higher minimum fat content, of around 35% cocoa butter.
This thin glossy mass is called Couvertour.
When your teeth encounter a thinly-covered praline, made by hand, you immediately feel the difference, and can better enjoy the right balance of flavours in your mouth.
There is something magical about tempering – like watching a science experiment – seeing how cacao butter is transformed into a stable crystal form.
The process happens through alternate heating and cooling in very specific timing, to a point where cacao butter sets at its most stable point.
Tempering helps make the chocolate look smooth and glossy, and brings the chocolate to the exact stability, so it would break by your teeth in the most pleasurable way.
A paste made of chocolate blended with finely ground hazelnuts, it was said to be invented by 19th-century producers to cut cost of chocolate candy.
But no one can deny that cocoa and hazelnuts are a match made in heaven; Gianduja pralines tend to be best sellers.
The word Cru comes from the wine world, close in meaning to the word Terroir = the environment in which the plant is grown.
When talking about cacao, Cru is used to indicate beans from trees from specific areas. For example, Valrhona uses “Cru” with Caraïbe (Caribbean), Manjari (Madagascar), and Jivara (South America), to tell consumers where the beans were grown.
Expert tasters can learn and feel the characteristics of different Cru’s, and identify acidity, ripeness, and traces of charcoal and fruit, just like wine connoisseurs.
Photo: Papua New Guinea Praline by IKA Chocolate, made out of single origin Papuan cocoa beans.
So many factors influence the piece of chocolate you taste:
The type of trees from which the beans came, and their level of ripeness, the harvest, fermentation technique, drying, roasting, refining, conching and tempering, and then, the recipe and skills of the chocolatier.
Understanding how truly fabulous chocolate is made is a journey, one that is never too late to embark on.
Feeling all set to join a chocolate tasting club? Or want to start sharing fine chocolate reviews?
How about visiting an international chocolate industry event? Choose out of dozens of 2018 chocolate events listed here.