The goal is to break up the sugar crystals and cocoa solids to the point where the chocolate is absolutely smooth when you eat it. The conching process can take up to three days in the finest chocolates.
First you have to put the ingredients through a process called conching. In one type of conching machine, big heavy rollers mash the ingredients over and over again on a granite slab. The rollers grind and blend the ingredients together.
After conching you have to temper the chocolate. You do this to make sure that the fats in the chocolate crystallise in the right way.
It turns out there are 6 different ways that the fats can crystallise, and only one of them makes for good eating. By carefully heating and cooling the chocolate at exactly the right temperatures, you get perfect crystallisation.
To make milk chocolate, you add milk to dark chocolate. Some people think it makes the chocolate creamier, other people think it just dilutes the flavour. To make white chocolate, you leave out the cocoa solids altogether.
The chocolate snaps when you break it and it melts in your mouth.
You mix cocoa butter with milk and sugar to make a white chocolate bar. The same rules for conching and tempering apply.
All of this leads to an obvious question - why do people enjoy the crushed seeds of the cacao tree so much?
Obviously it tastes good to lots of people, what with all that fat and sugar involved, but there is something else going on as well.
Some people become absolutely addicted to the stuff.
That may be because chocolate contains several interesting chemicals. The most important of these chemicals is theobromine, which is similar to caffeine and can lift your spirits.
Other chemicals in chocolate include anandamide and phenylethylamine, or PEA, which is also known as the "love chemical" because of its effects on the brain.
The problem is that the amounts of these chemicals are so small that it is hard to say whether they have any real effect on a person.
The next time you enjoy a smooth, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth piece of chocolate, think about the cocoa bean in all of its many forms.
It is an incredibly popular source of pure pleasure for millions of people.
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