“Chocolate symbolizes, as does no other food, luxury, comfort, sensuality, gratification, and love.” ― Karl Petzke
Every year, July 7 is World Chocolate Day, one of my favorite days of the year. High on the list with Valentine’s Day, National Chocolate Day, National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day, and any other day that is a legitimate reason to pamper myself with one of the world’s favorite indulgences.
I get excited just thinking about all the forms that chocolate can take. In addition to the standard all-American chocolate bar, in Spain, you’ll find churros and chocolate, Sachertorte in Austria, and of course, the chocolate martini. No matter the type of chocolate, July 7, is a day for chocolate lovers.
Because it’s so delicious, you might wonder how they produce it.
How do they make chocolate?
Cacao has been grown for at least 3,000 years, with the earliest known documentation of using cacao seeds occurring around 1,100 B.C. The tropical Theobroma cacao tree produces the seeds that chocolate comes from.
Chocolate’s growing region is 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of the equator, around the world. Initially cultivated in Venezuela, in Northern South America, then continued north into Central America and Mexico. The Olmec, Maya, and Aztec developed chocolate. While these cultures treasured gold, they also used chocolate as currency. It was also a religious item for those cultures.
Today West Africa grows most of the commercial chocolate, with the Ivory Coast and Ghana leading the West African production. Indonesia, Costa Rica, and even Hawaii are places that produce chocolate. It needs a dense rain forest jungle to grow successfully.
Because cacao tree seeds have an extraordinarily robust and bitter taste, they ferment them to develop the full flavor. After the seeds go through fermentation, they dry, clean, and roast the beans.
Once they roast the beans, then they remove the shell to produce cacao nibs. Next, they grind the cacao nibs into a cocoa mass, which is pure chocolate in a rough form.
Finally, the cocoa mass is usually liquefied and then molded. The producers may mold it with or without other ingredients.
At this point, the mixture becomes chocolate liquor. Producers then process the chocolate liquor into either of two components, cocoa solids or cocoa butter.
Types of Chocolate
There are four types of chocolate:
- Unsweetened baking chocolate – cocoa solids and cocoa butter in various percentages
- Sweet chocolate – cocoa solids, cocoa butter, plus other fat, and sugar
- Milk chocolate – sweet chocolate with condensed milk or milk powder – 70% of chocolate sales are milk chocolate
- White chocolate – cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, however no cocoa solids – this isn’t considered chocolate by some; however, I won’t argue that point here.
Many consider Vahlorna chocolate the best widely available in the world. Produced in France around the Rhone River, it’s the most significant and best known of the artisan chocolate brands.
Well-tempered chocolate will have a snap or a crunch to it.
Chocolate’s Health Benefits
Research has shown that chocolate when eaten in moderation, one ounce of dark chocolate per day can provide several health benefits.
From a cardiovascular perspective, the flavanols in chocolate cleanse the blood of cholesterol deposits and acts as an antioxidant. It can also lower blood pressure. There is evidence that it acts as an anti-inflammatory in the blood vessels.
In brain health, chocolate triggers serotonin, the pleasure center of the brain. It activates childhood memories, which in turn may make you happy. It’s a power related to satisfaction rather than chemicals.
How to Celebrate World Chocolate Day
Here are some fun ways to celebrate World Chocolate Day:
- Visit your favorite restaurant and have chocolate for breakfast. One of my favorites is the chocolate quinoa bowl at Anna’s House in West Michigan.
- Visit your favorite restaurant and pamper yourself with a decadent chocolate dessert.
- Host a chocolate tasting party using a variety of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate. Ask friends to bring a bar of their favorite chocolate to share and their much-loved chocolate dessert. Serve a Cabernet Sauvignon or a bottle of champagne. Both go well with chocolate. You could round out the offerings by serving some berries.
- Try a new chocolate recipe.
- Share your festivities on social media using the #WorldChocolateDay.
Recipe for Chocolate Ganache
Courtesy of Susie Norris
This chocolate ganache is terrific in two ways. First, use it as a glaze to pour over a prepared cake. Second, you can chill it, whip it, and use it as an icing like a buttercream.
- 10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
- 2 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
- 10 ounces heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla OR seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon whiskey or bourbon (optional)
- Lightly melt the chocolate in a metal bowl. To do this, leave the bowl near the pilot light in a gas oven without turning on the oven. Generally, the unlit gas oven is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Be careful when melting the chocolate as it burns quickly.
- Warm the heavy cream until it comes to a gentle simmer. Do NOT boil as that will be too hot.
- Vanilla grows with chocolate in the jungle, and their flavors are complementary. Add the vanilla, in either form and the salt to the warm heavy cream and mix.
- If you are using the whiskey or bourbon, mix it into the cream.
- Add the cream mixture to the chocolate. Whisk until the cream and chocolate become combined and the mixture looks smooth and shiny.
To read more about luxury food ingredients, check out this post on lobster.
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