The Chocolate factory/THE ORIGINS OF CHOCOLATE


THE ORIGINS OF CHOCOLATE

 


This new plant was called Cacualt. In the 16th century, the Aztecs used cocoa beans to make a bitter and spicy drink: “Tchocolatl” (alt = water; tchoco = sound of beating). They believed it to possess miraculous anti-fatigue properties. For the Aztecs, chocolate was a form of currency as well as a foodstuff.

In 1528, Hernán Cortés, who had become governor of Mexico following his conquest of the Aztec empire, sent chocolate, with little fanfare, as a crude form of currency to the Spanish court, where it proved hugely popular. So chocolate had a huge impact on Spanish customs, but it was not until the marriage of Louis XIII, in 1615, that his wife Anne of Austria introduced chocolate to the French court. Pope Pius V did not like it, but Cardinal Broncaccio, while not going so far as to authorise the consumption of chocolate, even in liquid form, during lent, did allow it to be eaten at Easter. From the French court to the court in Madrid and then on to the Viennese court in 1711, “Tchocolat” enjoyed dizzying success. In 1720, it was greeted with great acclaim in both Venice and Florence. Its popularity grew in Germany, and in Switzerland in particular, until 1747 when Frederick the Great banned street hawking, thereby curtailing these long and tiring journeys. Finally, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus became so besotted with chocolate that he gave it the botanical name Theobroma which, translated from the Greek, means “food of the gods”...

Since that time, it has returned to and has retained its original name: Cocoa

 

THE EXCELLENCE OF OUR PRODUCTS

 

THE COCOA TREE

Native to Mexico, the cocoa tree is very fragile and only grows in very humid tropical climates. It does not like direct sunlight and so it often grows in the shade of taller and more robust trees.

Its flowers grow directly from the trunk and branches. They then become fruits known as pods. They are typically 15 cm long and weigh between 200 and 800 grams. Each one contains between 20 and 40 beans. When the fruit have ripened, they are picked using a hooked blade attached to a long pole. The fruit is then split open using a machete and the cocoa beans are removed by hand which requires a significant number of workers. The beans are then placed on trays and left to ferment in the shade for between 2 and 7 days to get rid of their sugary pulp, reduce their bitterness and develop flavour precursors. They will then be left to dry in the sun for 2 weeks to reduce the moisture content by 60 to 70%. The beans are then packed in jute sacks and sent off to be roasted.

COCOA BEANS

The beans are cleaned, crushed and ground to form “couverture” chocolate (cocoa mass). For a good couverture, only sugar (for dark chocolate) or sugar and milk (for milk chocolate) should be added. Obviously, the quality of the chocolate depends on the way it is handled and particularly on the subtle mix of beans of various origins. It is a bit like coffee: you need body, provided by African beans, and a blend of flavours from beans from various South American countries.

Cocoa beans contain a fatty substance: cocoa butter. This is used in the production of cosmetics and what is commonly referred to as “white chocolate”. The greater the amount of cocoa butter extracted when making the “cocoa mass”, the more easily digestible, bitter and strong the chocolate will be. Chocolate is a subject on which culinary experts and doctors agree: if you love bitter dark chocolate, it cannot be bad for you because it is very low in fat and rich in antioxidants.

COCOA BUTTER

Cocoa butter has no taste or flavour but is the most expensive ingredient in chocolate. However, cocoa butter has many useful properties... It’s what gives chocolate its smooth and silky texture. It’s what makes chocolate gently melt in your mouth, releasing all the aromas of cocoa. What’s more, it is non-saturated fat which can convert ‘bad’ cholesterol into ‘good’ cholesterol.
Obviously, here at Puyricard, we only use cocoa butter!

SUGAR

Sugar costs considerably less than cocoa. So many chocolatiers add as much sugar as possible to the finished product, which masks the absence of cocoa flavour, suppresses the “lingering” taste of chocolate in the mouth and simply makes it sickly. 

Reducing the amount of sugar in chocolate is beneficial from both a culinary and a nutritional point of view. Puyricard’s Master Chocolatiers use exactly the amount of sugar required to bring out all the flavours of our chocolates.

COUVERTURE

To produce great chocolate, you have to use a combination of cocoa beans from different regions and monitor cocoa tree plantations (in Africa, South America or Asia) on a regular basis. This is certainly beyond the scope of a small artisan business which is looking for outstanding quality. Puyricard outsources the production of its couverture chocolate to a trusted company which follows Puyricard’s specifications, selects the finest beans, roasts them, shells them, crushes them, blends them, conches them and finally crystallises them. 

The first step involves roasting the beans for half an hour at a temperature of between 100 and 140°C. Roasting develops the flavour of the chocolate. The next step is winnowing: this involves coarsely crushing the beans at a high temperature (50 to 60°C). This causes the fat content to melt. The resultant paste is then blended. When the paste cools down, it solidifies. This is known as cocoa mass. This can be used to obtain three different products: liquor, cocoa powder or cocoa butter. When the cocoa mass is heated to 110°C, it becomes liquid. This is chocolate liquor. When subjected to continued high pressure in a hydraulic press, this yields the cocoa butter which will be used to make chocolate. The press cake, which is what remains at the end of the pressing process, is pulverised. This results in cocoa powder. To produce chocolate, the chocolatier begins by heating the liquor and mixing it with icing sugar. He then grinds and refines it by passing it through a series of rollers, each one finer than the last, until it is smooth. The next stage is conching, a heating and mixing process, during which cocoa butter is added. The conching process can last for several hours, or even days for the best quality chocolate. The aim is to remove the remaining volatile acids and obtain perfectly smooth, creamy and velvety chocolate. The paste is then heated to the right temperature for the cocoa butter to crystallise. This is known as tempering. The chocolate is then moulded and cooled to 10°C. It contracts and so can easily be removed from the mould. This is the stage at which we receive the couverture chocolate here at Puyricard. It comes in 5 kg slabs, with different compositions and different varieties of cocoa beans depending our needs and how we will use it.