Yum, it’s chocolate!

Chocolate is not just a delicacy that is enjoyed by children but by people of all ages. The most preferred cake today is believed to be chocolate cake. However, there seems to be a wrong concept that chocolates are harmful to your health. The truth is that they are beneficial. Chocolate, according to several studies, is believed to raise the antioxidants in the body, is good for the heart, lowers risk of strokes and contains minerals like selenium, potassium, zinc that are good for our health. Though there is no proof that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, it does contain the chemical phenylethylamine, a mild mood elevator that our brain produces when we feel happy or in love. No wonder people give chocolates to their loved one on Valentine’s Day! Ashok Malkani discusses about various aspects of chocolate in the bakery sector of the F&B industry.  

Mention chocolate and there is an instant smile on everyone’s face. Considered to be food of gods, this most popular sweet treat in the world has, according to global market data portal, Statista, recorded a worldwide retail sale of $ 98 billion in 2016. The worldwide cocoa production was 4.83 million tones. Indian chocolate market reached a value of $ 1,495 million in 2018, with the country currently representing one of the fastest growing markets for chocolates. Chocolate has multi-purpose utilization and is used by bakers and confectioners for a variety of their recipes like: mousses, creams, icing, fillings and sandwiching for contemporary cakes, single portions and mignon pastries, sponge cakes, baked products and biscuits.

Craving for chocolate has no age-bar. Everyone loves chocolate in various forms. But why this craving? According to a neuroscience expert Professor Stavnezer, “We crave chocolate because the experience of eating chocolate results in feel good neurotransmitters (mainly dopamine) being released in particular brain regions (frontal lobe, hippocampus and hypothalamus).” 

Dopamine is released any time you experience something that gives you joy - such as eating chocolate. What triggers release of dopamine is partially determined by genetics, but also can be conditioned based on specific preferences and life experiences. Dopamine can actually lower your stress levels.

History  

Chocolate, today, may conjure up images of sweet candy bars, luscious truffles or icing on the cake but it is little like the chocolate of the past. Throughput its history it was revered as a bitter beverage, not an edible sweet treat. Its history can be traced back to the ancient Mayans or the ancient Olmecs of southern Mexico. 

Chocolate is made f r o m the fruit of Cacao trees, native to Central and South America. Each pod, as the fruit is called, contains about 40 cacao beans, which are dried and roasted to create cocoa beans.   

Cocoa cultivation as a cash crop in India was initiated by Cadbury through a demonstration farm in Kerala in 1965. Planting of cocoa in India on a commercial scale was taken up f r o m the early 1970’s onwards with Mondelez India Foods Private Limited (Formerly Cadbury India Ltd.) giving the free planting material and technical knowhow to the farming community. 

Preference for Chocolate

The Indian chocolate which, according to Cision PR Newswire, is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 16% by 2023, is the preferred choice of bakers over other confectioneries. There are various reasons for this. 
   
Vikas Gautam, Assistant Pastry Chef, The Westin Mumbai Garden City, asserts, “Bakers prefer chocolate as it’s healthier than confectionery and also the possibilities are infinite and immense with chocolate.”

Parag Kandarkar, Pastry Chef, Hyatt Pune Kalyani Nagar, explains, “Chocolate is all time favorite, irrespective of age bar. As far as confectionary is concerned, word confection is mainly related to Sugar, and nowadays people are trying to avoid direct form of sugar, so the chocolate has come up in its different form and usage.”

Rahul Shetty, Junior Sous Chef, Bengaluru Marriott Whitefield, declares, “The preference for chocolate is because one can create wonders out of it. It is one of the key ingredients in the bakery industry.” 

Executive Chef, Ashvini Kumar, Four Points by Sheraton, Vashi, claims, “The main difference between chocolate and confectionery coating is fat. The chocolate’s fat is cocoa butter while confectionery coating uses alternate fats like vegetable oils.”

Sandeep Bhandari, Executive Chef, Sayaji Pune, is also of a similar opinion. He further adds, “Cooling after enrobing or moulding a compound generally requires a   colder temperature and more air velocity than chocolate.”

Ashutosh Gairola, Pastry Chef, Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel, also points to fats as the differentiator, and asserts, “Chocolate is always a winner when compared to confectionery.”

Difference between Baking and normal Chocolate 

According to a study by psychologist David Lewis there are several reasons why we love chocolate. There are several studies that back up the physical effects of love and tenderness that you feel when you consume chocolate. It is known to be a mood elevator which decreases your stress levels. That is probably the reason why people indulge in sweets when they are angry or upset.
 
No wonder it is the preferred choice of the bakers. But how is chocolate derived and what is the difference between baking and normal chocolate? 

Vikas explains, “Chocolate is derived f r o m the Cacao tree or we can say, f r o m the Pod. Ripe Pods are handpicked after which the pulp is removed f r o m the pods. Then it is left to ferment and dry, in order to extract the flavour, post which it is roasted. After this, it goes through various processes like winnowing and conching before taking the shape of a callet or chocolate slabs.

“The difference between baking chocolate and normal chocolate is that baking chocolate is an unsweetened or bitter chocolate.”

Ashutosh is more elaborate about derivation of chocolate. He states, “It all starts with a small tropical tree, the Theobroma cacao, commonly called ‘cacao’. The derivation process is not complex but it requires several steps. They are: 

Harvesting: Ripe cocoa pods are harvested twice a year. The pods are cut open with machetes and the white pulp containing the cocoa beans is scooped out.

Fermenting: The beans must be carefully fermented to bring out the very best flavours. Fermentation also removes tannins, which cause the astringent flavour in chocolate. Fermentation is essential to the development of a high quality cacao bean. Fermentation times vary f r o m five to seven days. When the fermentation is complete, the cocoa beans must be removed f r o m the boxes or f r o m under the banana leaves and carefully dried.

Drying: The next step in the process is to dry the beans. This is usually done by spreading them out into a single layer in the sun. It is important to dry them completely, to avoid mold.  

Roasting: This process is done by the manufacturer. The process and equipment used to roast the beans vary considerably f r o m chocolate maker to chocolate maker.

Cracking and Winnowing: The roasted cocoa beans have a thin, papery shell around them which needs to be removed, so at this point in the process, the beans are cracked open and the shell is removed in a process called winnowing. The lighter shells are blown away with fans, leaving behind pieces of pure cocoa bean, known as “nibs”.

Grinding & Conching: The cocoa nibs are ground with stone rollers until they become a paste known as cocoa mass or cocoa liquor. Cocoa butter can be extracted f r o m the cocoa mass with a hydraulic press. This is useful because most chocolate makers often use extra cocoa butter to give their chocolate a smoother, glossier texture. The cocoa butter is the only fat in real chocolate. Traditionally, the cocoa mass is transferred to a separate machine called a conch, where it is further refined. This part of the process has a very big impact on the flavour notes in the finished chocolate, and deciding exactly how long to conch for is part of the chocolate maker’s skill.

Tempering: Tempering is the controlled process of raising, lowering and raising the temperature of the chocolate, to form the right kind of crystals. Most chocolate manufacturers use tempering machines that can heat large quantities of chocolate very accurately. The tempering machine will keep the melted chocolate circulating at exactly the right temperature, making the final step easier.”

Ashvini adds, “The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavour. The liquefied cocoa mass, known as chocolate liquor, may be cooled and processed into its two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.  Baking chocolate, also called bitter chocolate, contains cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions, without any added sugar.”

Rahul, Parag and Sandeep agree with Ashutosh about the process for derivation of chocolate and the difference between baking chocolate and normal chocolate is that the former is unsweetened. 

Rahul states, “Baking chocolates are the chocolates which are normally used for breakfast pastries which is pain au chocolat. We warp the chocolate inside the laminated pastry and bake it at high temperature.”

Parag avers, “Chocolate depends on the content of Chocolate Mass in it, baking chocolate is known for its flavour keeping capacity even after baking them on higher baking temperature, or cooking temperature.

“Normal chocolates, like compounds, are to be termed as chocolates for garnishing, which is not meant for baking, which is more suitable for different garnishes.”

Sandeep says, “Baking chocolate is pure chocolate without any added ingredients.”

Types of Chocolate 

Chocolate is normally divided into three categories: White, Dark and Milk. What are the different uses for these chocolates?  

Rahul states, “All chocolates have different roles to play in different desserts. One can make various desserts with all 3 chocolates, and also use the chocolates as garnishes and glazes.”

Parag is also of a similar view. He opines, “All three chocolates have their own characteristic flavour, texture, colour; which it imparts to pastry or other bakery products. Soufflés, Bavarian crème, mousse, chocolate truffles are the typical examples for Pastry.

“Oven baked products like mud pudding, chocolate brownie, textured cookies, or even dark chocolate in croissants like Pain au chocolate, chocolate kugelhopf, babka, are few names for breakfast variations.”

Sandeep declares, “White chocolate is often used as a decoration because it creates contrast with darker chocolates. Dark chocolate can be eaten straight up or used in recipes for ganaches, icings, glazes and cookies. Semisweet should be your default for chocolate-chip cookies. Milk chocolate is creamy variety of chocolate and is mild and quite sweet. It is usually used for solid milk products.”

Ashvini says, “Milk chocolate, which melts easily, can be used in dough and batters or in no bake recipes like fillings or icings, or as a topping for already-baked treats. White chocolate has quite similar ratios to milk chocolate but due to absence of cocoa solids gives the end product a creamy, ivory hue. Dark chocolate is chocolate liquor that’s been fancied up with extra cocoa butter, sugar, emulsifiers and flavourings. It retains a high percentage of cacao.

Ashutosh is more forthcoming. He states, “Dark chocolate is chocolate liquor that’s been fancied up with extra cocoa butter, sugar, emulsifiers and flavourings. It retains a high percentage of cacao - anywhere f r o m 65 to 99 percent. Dark chocolate can be eaten straight up or used in recipes for ganaches, icings, glazes and cookies. Milk chocolate, as the name suggests, contains more milk. It’s commonly made by adding dry milk solids (like powdered milk) to the chocolate. Milk chocolate melts easily, which is great when you’re making something like s’mores. One word of warning: Milk chocolate’s high sugar content makes it sensitive to heat, so it may burn if you try to use it in recipes that call for semisweet chocolate. Be careful with that.

“White chocolate is made of sugar, milk and cocoa butter, but without the cocoa solids. White chocolate’s sweetness makes it a great addition to baked goods, which typically call for less sugar to compensate. But don’t sub it in for dark or baking chocolate, as it may burn. It’s also wonderful as a candy coating or in icings and ganache.”

Chocolate choices 

The baking aisle is loaded with a variety of chocolate choices which could leave a novice in bewilderment. Cocoa powder, chocolate morsels, chocolate wafers, etc. What are these and how do you use each of them? 

Ashutosh explains,” Cocoa powder is a powder derived f r o m the cocoa bean. It is the key ingredient in things like chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, and other chocolate-based goodies and drinks.

“Chocolate chips or chocolate morsels are small chunks of sweetened chocolate, used as an ingredient in a number of desserts (notably chocolate chip cookies and muffins).

“Chocolate wafers look like large chocolate chips and are specially formulated for easy melting. These are ideal for covering fruit or anything else.”

Ashvini, adds, that morsels are added to desserts like chocolate chip cookies and muffins as well as, some breakfast foods such as pancakes gateaux & Cakes.

Vikas states, “Cocoa powder is a dry solid component remainder after cocoa butter is extracted f r o m the cocoa liquor. It is readily available in the market in alkaline and dutch processed form and is used in chocolate sauces, glazes, travel cakes, Sponges, Muffins and so on. Chocolate wafers are usually called as a chocolate snack which has got a crunchy texture with the mouthfeel of chocolate. It is available in various forms like chocolate wafer sticks.”

Rahul reveals that Chocolate wafers are very thin, crispy chocolate cookies that are commonly called for when making chocolate crumb crusts.

Parag disclosed, “Cocoa powder has no moisture content and can be kept in cool and dry place, and can be stored in economic ways for longer period. It can be used in making of sponges, brownies, chocolate glaze (for finishing chocolate cakes).“

Sandeep added that chocolate morsels can also be used in trail mix and less commonly in some breakfast foods such as pancakes. He mentioned that chocolate wafers are commonly called for when making chocolate crumb crusts and icebox cakes. They have a bittersweet cocoa flavour to them and a very dark, nearly black, colour.”

Chocolate formats

There are also other chocolate formats – like Ganache and German chocolate.
 
Parag explains, “Chocolate Ganache is the French term, which is a formation of two main ingredients like dark chocolate and cream. Ganache forms a base for various Pastry use, like mousse, Bavarian creams, hot and chilled souffles, and so on.”

Sandeep adds, “This rich chocolaty mixture is incredibly versatile and can be used to make chocolate truffles, dessert sauces, cake fillings, icings, whipped frostings, and glazes.

“German Chocolate is a dark baking chocolate created by the Walter Baker. It is sweeter than semi-sweet chocolate and contains a blend of chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, flavourings, and lecithin.”

Speaking about Ganache, Vikas further enlightened, “It can be made by shocking method where a hot liquid is poured over chocolate or can also be done by cold infusion. Ganache can be used as a filling in cakes, as a filling of bonbons and pralines.”

Ashvini elaborated on the two thus: “Ganache is normally made by heating equal parts by weight of cream and chopped chocolate, warming the cream first and pouring it over the chocolate second. Typically, two parts chocolate to one part cream are used for filling cakes or as a base for making chocolate truffles, while one to one is commonly used as a glaze.  

“As far as German Chocolate is concerned few recipes call for this, today.” 

Ashutosh disclosed that in the mixture for Ganache, a greater proportion of cream creates a “loose” or “soft” ganache that is liquid at room temperature, suitable for filling molded chocolates and frosting cakes. A greater proportion of chocolate creates a “firm” ganache that has the consistency of thick paste at room temperature, and that hardens upon refrigeration. This type of ganache is often formed into balls and rolled in cocoa powder to create simple truffles.”

Chocolate Cake 

Let them eat cake, a phrase attributed to Marie Antoinette in 1789, would definitely be welcomed by the populace today, who love to consume this bakery item – particularly chocolate cake. But did you know that baking chocolate needed to be tempered in factories and what are the benefits of chocolate cake? 

Vikas states, “All baking chocolate– whether that is unsweetened, bittersweet, semi-sweet, etc– is tempered in factories before you buy it. Tempering is a matter of heating and cooling melted chocolate to certain temperatures so that the finished chocolate will have a glossy surface, a smooth texture, and snap when you break it.”

Rahul adds, “If the chocolate is not tempered it will lose its shine and have a bloom (fat) on top of the chocolate when it reaches the customers.”

Sandeep says that tempering ensures product quality and appearance. 

The general perception of people is that cakes are unhealthy because, among other things, they add to your weight and also increase your sugar levels. However, the truth is that a slice of chocolate cake every morning is actually beneficial as you will feel more energetic throughout the day. 

Sandeep avers, “It can help to lose weight & increase the memory. It also rejuvenates your internal senses. 

Ashutosh is more elaborate. He asserts, “There are various benefits of chocolate cake. It is good for our heart and circulation of blood. Chocolate is known to lower the risk of strokes. The Cocoa has a plus point that it increases the level of good cholesterol while reducing the level of bad cholesterol (LDL). Specially, dark chocolate contains flavonols, which can protect our skin f r o m sun damage. It helps to lose weight. There have been researches showing that pregnant woman should eat chocolate cake because it reduces the level of stress and the babies of those ladies who ate chocolate cakes at the time of pregnancy are more smiling than those whose mothers did not consume chocolate cakes. 

“Chocolate is also known to improve memory. 

“And the most common knowledge is that chocolate has methamphetamine, which is the same chemical that our brain produces when we feel like we are falling in love. It encourages our brain to release good endorphins. It makes us feel better.”

Vikas adds, ”Chocolate is an anti-ageing food, low in sugar and contains different minerals. Chocolate can improve your memory so it’s good for the brain as well.

Ashvini informs, “It provides energy since it contains carbohydrates which are a major source of energy. Apart f r o m providing strength and energy, these sweet confections can also supply your body with a quality amount of protein and also improve your digestion.
 

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