Francois Ferreira –
Chocolate manufacture has been an important industry in Europe since the late 18th century. The great names in chocolate like Droste, van Houten (Holland); Lindt and Suchard (Switzerland); Menier (France); Fry, Cadbury and Rowntree (England) can trace their history back to the mid 19th century and even earlier.
Chocolate manufacture is a complex process with a substantial investment in machinery. It first starts with the cacao beans imported form the country of origin as fermented, dried beans. More than 30 varieties are available, and the manufacturers’ first concern is blending, using several varieties of bean to produce the desired flavour.
After cleaning the beans, the first process in manufacture is roasting. This process is important for developing the flavour, and reduces the moisture content to a level appropriate during later processing. The roasting process facilitates the removal of the shells of the beans in the next process, which is winnowing, when the beans are cracked between rollers, and the husks removed, leaving only the kernels or nibs.
The nib is the part of the bean used for chocolate and cocoa manufacture. The nib is then reduced to a paste by grinding. Earlier stone mills were used, copying the Aztec method, but these days’ very sophisticated metal mills with temperature controls are used. Temperature is important as the heat created by the grinding releases the fat or cocoa butter form the nib.
The mass emerging from the grinder is known as chocolate liquor, chocolate mass or pate.
Cooled and hardened this liquor becomes basic unsweetened chocolate. Some liquor is used to make cocoa, pressing it to release more cocoa butter, and grinding the residue to powder do this.
To make plain chocolate, the liquor is mixed with powdered sugar. Cocoa butter is added to adjust the consistency. This results in a stiff paste, which goes for refining; this reduces the size of the particles in the mixture so that they are imperceptible to the palate.
The mass goes through a series of rollers, each roller rotates faster than the one before. They have a shearing action and the mass comes out almost powdery.
Then the mass goes through the conching process. A conche like roller works the chocolate back and forth exposing fresh surfaces to air. During conching flavour develops, moisture content is lowered further and more fat is squeezed out of the cocoa particles. Conching may take from several hours to a week, depending on the required quality of the chocolate. Towards the end of the conching process flavourings are added like vanilla, mint, orange and coffee.
What is Chocolate Couverture?
This is chocolate with very high cocoa butter content, intended as a long shelf life product for bakers and craft confectioners.
How is milk chocolate made?
Fresh milk, concentrated to a solids content of 30-40% is used; sugar is added and the mixture further condensed, under vacuum, to a dry matter content of about 90%. This is then mixed with the chocolate liquor, making a stiff mixture that is dried and broken up. Processing follows the same steps as for plain chocolate. Conching takes place at a lower temperature for a longer time. This prevents the lactose form aggregating and giving a lumpy consistency.
Oscar Wilde wrote in A Woman of No Importance:
“After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
I am sure this goes for chocolate as well!
Here is an easy chocolate chilli sauce for grilled steak or chicken.
You need for 6 persons:
- 600 ml good brown sauce
- 100g 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 2 jalapeno chillies, seeds removed and chopped finely
Heat the brown sauce, add the chillies and cook through. Remove from the heat and add the dark chocolate, stir until all the chocolate has melted. Adjust the seasoning and serve.
You need for 6 persons:
- 175g 70% dark chocolate
- 3 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
- 60g caster sugar
- 6 g gelatine
- Juice of 1 orange
- 40ml water
- 40 ml thick cream
Melt the broken chocolate with water over a double boiler. Whisk eggs, yolks and sugar together in a basin over host water until thick. Remove from the heat and whisk until cool. Add the chocolate. Add the gelatine to the orange juice and dissolve over a gentle heat. Stir this into the chocolate mixture and add the whipped cream. Pour into a soufflé dish and leave to set. Just before serving decorate with cream, nuts and glace fruit.
This mousse looks good in a large bowl but if you prefer you can put the mixture into individual bowls to set.
Venison cooked in beer and chocolate
You need for 4-6 persons:
- 1kg aged sirloin of venison, cut into strips as for stroganoff
- 15ml butter
- 250ml light beer
- 125ml sliced onions
- 15ml tomato paste
- 50g 70% dark chocolate, grated
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Sauté meat in butter and add salt and pepper to taste. Let stand. Mix beer, onions, tomato paste and chocolate. Place beef in buttered casserole and pour beer mixture on top. Cover and bake in a 180 degrees oven for 30 minutes, then remove cover and continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes to thicken the gravy.
Chocolate cheese blintzes with saffron cream
You need for 4-6 persons: 8 Pancakes
- 250g smooth cottage cheese
- 100g 70% dark chocolate, grated
- 2 Egg yolks
- 500ml cream
- 8 strands of saffron infused in 30ml boiling water
- 60ml castor sugar
Mix the cottage cheese, chocolate and egg yolks together. Put a dollop of the cheese mixture in the middle of the pancake, fold like an envelope and place in a greased oven dish, folded side down. Repeat until all the pancakes are used up. Mix the cream, saffron mixture and castor sugar together. Pour over the pancakes and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C until the cream starts bubbling. Remove from the oven and serve.
You need for 8-10 persons:
- 225g unsalted butter plus a bit more for the cake pan
- 200g plain dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 200g caster sugar
- Icing sugar for dusting
- Crème fraiche, for serving
- Strawberries, for serving
Preheat the oven to 190C and grease a 23cm loose bottomed cake tin well with butter (the cake mixture can be runny, so it is best to use the type of pan that is secured by a clip. In a small sauce pan set over a larger pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and the butter. Mix together well and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, using an electric whisk beat the egg whites until stiff peak stage. While still whisking, slowly add the caster sugar followed by the egg yolks. The result should be a creamy mixture. Using a metal spoon, quickly combine the chocolate butter sauce with the cake mixture. Pour and spoon into the prepared cake tin. Bake for approximately 55 minutes. The cake will puff up in the oven like a soufflé but will sink back down again when removed from the heat. Dust with lots of icing sugar and serve with crème fraiche and strawberries
I cover the outside of the pan with tin foil just in case the pan does not seal properly. If strawberries are out of season, I use any fresh fruit with the cake but the cream by itself is just as delicious.