The value of chocolate

Words: Jamie at The Cake Eating Co.

I have the pleasure of teaching classes on a variety of cooking and decorating topics. It is so interesting to meet new people and even though I am teaching them I do get the pleasure of learning from them by experiencing the lesson through fresh eyes and seeing how I can develop either my teaching or a recipe for the future.

There is one thing I find myself discussing in almost every lesson I teach and that is chocolate. Like every food that goes through the manufacturing process there are so many different elements that go in to its production that the end results are so varied. Without being educated in the difference we as consumers are reasonably naive as to what the product we end up actually is. Chocolate is like many products; wine, olive oil, even fruit juice. The end product is a result of a combination of factors The following are notes that I like to share to help my students understand the differences in chocolate and how the quality is determined by the different paths taken during production. This post will take place over to posts so it is not too much to swallow at once. Today we will be discussing a few chocolates that are available to purchase and how they are made. There is a massive range of chocolate available so just use these notes as a guide to experiment further. The next post will discuss those ingredients in greater depth and explain how they make up a quality (or not so much) chocolate. Please not that I am not a chocolate expert and that I highlight the fact that taste is entirely subjective to the person tasting it. For example I love milk chocolate and am commonly caught in fights with those who love a darker variety.

To taste chocolate you should have a fresh palette (believe it or not first thing in the morning is the best time for this). Break of a small piece and place it on your tongue, close your mouth and let is melt. As the chocolate melts in your mouth you will notice the flavour notes coming through as it hits your taste buds. Your sweet and sour receptors will also note the bitter and sweet flavours. A lot of chocolates have flavour notes of florals, fruits, even cigars so get experimenting.

If you are a lover of chocolate try using this as an eating guide for a girls night in or get together with friends!

To begin lets start with what a lot of people use for cooking, 'cooking chocolate' or 'compound chocolate'

Compound chocolate
Compound chocolate is found in the cooking section of supermarkets in block, chip, melt or drop form. It is available in white, milk or dark.
Compound chocolates main ingredients are: Oil, sugar, cocoa powder (for milk and dark), and milk powder (for milk and white)
Compound chocolate is called this for a reason, it does not contain enough cocoa solids to be called chocolate. Similar to the fruit juice vs fruit drink that you may familiar with.
Compound chocolate uses oil instead of cocoa butter, this has a big effect on how the chocolate melts in your mouth. Cocoa butter has a high melting temperature meaning that chocolate has a nice sharp 'snap' when you break or bite chocolate and then slowly melts in your mouth. Oil is liquid at room temperature meaning that there has to be a lot of sugar and cocoa added to it in order to make it solid. This results in a softer chocolate. The oil also leaves an oily residue in your mouth as you eat it.
Because the only actual chocolate component in the compound is the cocoa is also lacks a well bodied chocolate flavour.
Compound chocolate is also sometimes called 'candy chocolate' as it falls more within the scope of a sweet than a chocolate.

Supermarket chocolates
The next category is made up of several sub categories. In here I will go through a few chocolates that you can commonly find in blocks at any NZ supermarket

Cadbury chocolate underwent a large scale loss of face in New Zealand in 2009 when they switched from using cocoa butter to using palm oil as the fat in their chocolate. They returned to cocoa butter that same year but neither the company or their chocolate never really won back all they had lost.
Personally I find that Cadbury chocolate feels tacky (as in more oily) and softer than others available. Most of their chocolates seem quite sweet and cater for a sweeter palete.
Their dark chocolates range from 45%, their white chocolate contains 22% and milk 28%.

For New Zealanders Whittakers is like gold. It is made in New Zealand, which we all love. A little bit pricier the quality is reflective and out of the middle price range of chocolates here I think it is the nicest (although like most things that is entirely subjective to your palate).
Their chocolates are higher percentage than its main rival, Cadburys which is indicative of more flavour notes appearing in the chocolate. Their standard white is 28%, milk is 33% and their dark ranges from 50%.

Couverture chocolate is what is widely used in the handmade chocolate industry. Couverture means that the chocolate contains a high percentage of cocoa butter (about 35% and up) which means that it is typically harder to work with and requires the use of tempering (each chocolate has their own specific temperatures) to get the final smooth, shiny perfect result. Most high quality couverture brands come from Europe which means that for us here in little old NZ their price can be quite high.

The majority of chocolate that comes from Belgium is Callebaut, which is not really surprising seeing as they are the largest chocolate manufacturer in the world. Their chocolate is produced in signature round 'callets' available widely throughout NZ at speciality food shops.  A lot of the Belgian chocolate you will buy will either be Callebaut or be a product made from their ingredients.
Their chocolate percentages commonly available in New Zealand are dark (56% and 70%), 33% milk and 28% white, although others are also available just not as readily.

Valrhona is a French brand of chocolate and is widely considered the best in the world at the moment. It is delicious and they take extraordinary pains of ensuring the quality of the product they sell. They are also innovative and regularly have new flavours coming out (try the Dulcey...).
Their chocolate is very pricey in little old NZ but for a treat it is well worth it. It is sold in bars and blocks as well as 'feves'. They have a phenomenal range of percentages available within each category all with pronounced flavour profiles. For example my personal favourite is the 72% Araguani ( I know I earlier pronounced my love of milk chocolate) which  the Valrhona website describes as, 'Made from rare Venezuelan cocoa beans, Araguani can be compared to great wines with high tannins and a long lasting finish on the palate. It has flavors of currants and chestnuts with hints of honey and fresh baked bread.'

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