The Chemistry of Chocolate: How a Beloved Treat Gains Its Tricky Reputation for Its Flavors, Textures and Ingredients

(conversation) – Whether enjoyed as a creamy milk chocolate truffle, baked in a devilishly dark chocolate cake, or poured as hot cocoa, Americans on average consume most of it. 20 pounds (9 kilograms) of chocolate in a year.People have long enjoyed chocolate at least 4,000 yearsoriginated with the Mesoamericans who brewed a drink from the seeds of the cacao tree. Wood and drink spread all over the worldand today’s chocolate is A trillion dollar global industry.

as a food scientist, has studied the volatile molecules that improve the taste of chocolate. I also developed and taught a very popular college course on the science of chocolate. Below are answers to some of the questions I often hear about this unique and complex food.

How does chocolate get its unique flavor?

Chocolate begins as a slightly dull-tasting bean packed in a pod that grows on the cocoa tree. To create the unique flavor of chocolate, he requires two key steps: fermentation and roasting.

Freshly harvested beans are piled up under the leaves, ferment for several daysBacteria make chemicals called precursors needed for the next step, roasting.

The flavor known as chocolate is created by chemists during roasting. Maillard reactionIt requires two chemicals found in fermented cocoa beans: sugars and proteins. By roasting, sugar and protein react, Shape that wonderful scent.

Roasting is a kind of art. Different temperatures and times produce different flavors. If you try a few chocolate bars on the market, you’ll quickly discover that some companies roast them at much higher temperatures than others. It will reach its maximum, and the higher temperature will enhance the caramel and coffee aromas. Which is better is really a matter of personal preference.

Interestingly, it is also the Maillard reaction that produces the flavor of freshly baked bread. grilled meat and coffee. The similarities between chocolate and coffee may seem pretty obvious, but what about bread and meat? Bread and chocolate are different types, so even if they are roasted in the same way, they will not taste the same. This peculiarity is part of the reason why making good artificial chocolate flavors is so difficult.

What is the shelf life of chocolate?

When the beans are roasted, they develop their wonderful aroma.The longer you wait to consume, the more volatile compounds that cause the smell evaporate, and the less flavor you can enjoy. It’s been about a year since I started eating milk chocolate. 2 years for dark chocolate. We don’t recommend storing it in the refrigerator, as it tends to absorb moisture and smell, but you can store it in the freezer in an airtight container.

How is it different from hot chocolate?

To make powdered hot chocolate, the beans are soaked in alkali to raise the pH before roasting. Raising the pH to a more basic one makes cocoa powder more soluble in water. Various flavors are born.

The flavor of hot chocolate is described by experts as having a smooth, mellow flavor with an earthy, woody note, whereas regular chocolate flavors are sharper, with an almost citrusy fruity finish.

What creates the texture of a chocolate bar?

Historically, chocolate was consumed as a drink because ground beans are very grainy. It’s a far cry from the smooth, creamy texture that people create today.

After removing the shell and grinding the beans, modern chocolate makers add cocoa butter.Cocoa butter is the fat found in the cocoa beans. However, beans don’t naturally have enough fat to create a smooth texture, so chocolate makers add extra.

The machine can grind beans to a very fine texture. Евгений Харитонов/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Then cocoa beans and cocoa butter a process called conchingWhen the process was first invented, it took a team of horses walking in circles pulling a large grindstone for a week to grind the particles small enough. Today, machines can do this grinding and mixing in about eight hours.this process creates a smooth texturealso removes some of the unwanted odors.

Why is chocolate difficult to cook?

Store bought chocolate is tempered. Tempering is the process of heating chocolate to the proper temperature during manufacturing and then cooling it until it hardens. This step is necessary for fat.

Cocoa butter fat, when solid, can naturally exist in six different crystalline forms. Five of these are unstable and we want to transform them into the sixth, most stable form. Unfortunately, her sixth form is white in appearance and rough in texture, commonly referred to as “bloom”. If the chocolate bar has white spots, it means it has blossomed. This means that the fat is rearranged into the 6th crystalline form.

Blooming cannot be prevented, but it can be slowed down by heating and cooling the chocolate in a series of temperature cycles. increase. It takes a long time for this form to rearrange into a rough white sixth form.

Melting chocolate at home breaks your temper. The day after making sweets, chocolate usually blooms An unattractive gray or white surface.

Is chocolate an aphrodisiac or antidepressant?

of The short answer is sorry noEating chocolate may make you feel better, but that’s because it tastes good, not because it’s chemically changing your brain. The Chemistry of Chocolate: How a Beloved Treat Gains Its Tricky Reputation for Its Flavors, Textures and Ingredients

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