Chocolate trivia that will wow your Valentine


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Chocolate and the making of chocolate and chocolate confections has a language all its own. Impress your Valentine with your chocolate knowledge!

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Bean to bar

This is the process of making chocolate bars from cacao beans. 

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Cacao is the name for Theobroma cacao. It belongs to the genus Theobroma and is in the subfamily of Byttneriodeae in the mallow family Malvaceae. Theobroma cacao is one of 17 different species of Theobroma and the one we use to make chocolate.  

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Cacao pod

The cacao pod is the fruit of the cacao plant, and it contains the seeds, referred to as beans, that are used to make chocolate. Each pod contains 30-50 seeds. 

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After harvesting, beans are cleaned and fermented, sometimes in boxes or bags or with banana leaves.

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Once fermented and dried, the cacao is usually referred to as cocoa plus the form such as beans or nibs. 

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Nibs are the broken bits of the cacao bean, which are formed during roasting.

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Once beans are cleaned, fermented and dried, they are roasted. Winnowing is removing the papery shells from the nibs.

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Cocoa mass

Nibs are finely ground to make cocoa mass which is also known as cocoa liquor). Cocoa mass is solid at room temperature. When the mass is processed, it yields two products: cocoa powder and cocoa butter. Cocoa beans are composed of about 40-50% cocoa butter.

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Cocoa powder

Cocoa powder is the ground dried solids from the cocoa bean, with the cocoa butter removed. 

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Dutch-process cocoa powder

Dutch-processed cocoa is alkalized to neutralize the naturally occurring acids, giving it a mellower flavor and redder color.

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Cocoa butter

Cocoa butter is the fat from the cocoa bean, with all the solid matter removed. It is the primary ingredient used to make white chocolate.

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A conche is a large agitator that stirs and smooths the cocoa mass with heat. “Conching” is the process of rolling, kneading, heating and aerating that takes place inside the conche. This process smooths out the cocoa mass, and it’s at this point that more cocoa butter or soy lecithin is sometimes added.

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Tempering involves heating and cooling chocolate at specific temperatures to stabilize it for making candy and confections.

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Chocolate is molded into bars, drops or wafers called pistoles, which confectioners use to make their creations. Valrhona calls their drops fèves.

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Bittersweet chocolate

Bittersweet chocolate typically contains 70% cacao, although, according to FDA regulation, it must only contain 35% cacao. 

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Semisweet chocolate

Semisweet chocolate typically refers to a slightly sweeter style of chocolate. Sweet and semisweet contain 15% to 35% chocolate liquor and have more sugar than bittersweet chocolate.

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Milk chocolate

According to the FDA, milk chocolate must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor and 12% milk, with added cocoa butter and sugar.

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White chocolate

White chocolate contains no chocolate liquor and is made by combining cocoa butter with sugar and milk solids.

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Couverture chocolate must contain a minimum of 35 percent cocoa solids and 31 percent cocoa butter. It is designed to be used for dipping and enrobing other ingredients. 

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Gianduja is the name of chocolate made with nut butter or pastes, typically hazelnut paste.

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Bloom is an unsightly whitish-gray discoloration due to a temperature or humidity change or improper tempering. It can be either sugar or fat bloom.

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This is a blend of chocolate, cream and butter that is used in confections and to fill truffles. 


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