…Once upon a time a gardener in Mexico rewarded talent from the gods to sow beautiful gardens, grew some trees and called it cocoa. Its fruit seeds, somewhat reminiscent of cucumber, had a bitter taste, but the beverage made from them drew strength. For this power to dispel an oppressive mood and fatigue, people appreciated cocoa as gold…
Hernan Cortes was a Spanish conquistador, who although seen negatively in modern Mexico, has a monument and several streets and squares named after him.
However, spoiled by wealth and fame, the gardener began to consider himself equal to the gods. For this he was punished – deprived of common sense. In a rage, he destroyed all the plants, except for one. Perhaps thanks to a happy coincidence, or maybe it was the will of gods, but it happened to be the cocoa tree.
Prayer for Ek Chuah
In about the first century the Indian people Maya settled in southern areas of North America. Here, in Yucatan, they discovered wild cocoa trees. Realizing that the drink of the seeds had magical effects, they saw it as a gift of the gods, used it to grow cocoa plantations, and prayed to the god Ek Chuah for good harvests.
The first European to taste bitter “choco” was Christopher Columbus.
At the end of the 14th century, the Aztecs reigned in Mexico. The tribute which they were collecting from conquered tribes always included cocoa beans. In the Aztec empire, it was not only the raw material for divine drinks but also a monetary unit.
The first European to taste bitter “choco” (as the Indians called the bitter drink) was Christopher Columbus. But the traveller, who went to the New World in 1502 for the fourth time, with a unique idea to find a way to India, did not appreciate it. The beans were simply lost among other gifts to King Ferdinand and remained unnoticed. Therefore, Europe learned about the cocoa drink only a quarter of a century later due to the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.
However, Cortes and his troops tasted cocoa much earlier. In 1519, after conquering part of Mexico and seizing the city of Tenochtitlan, in the basements of the palace of the Aztec emperor Moctesuma they found a huge dried cocoa bean stock. They greatly enjoyed a drink made from crushed and roasted cocoa and corn grain with added honey. They were also attracted by the “money growing” idea, because at the time you could buy a rabbit for 10 cocoa grains, and a slave for 100. Therefore, in the lands conquered in the name of Spain, they ordered the planting of new cocoa plantations.
From his trip (1519-1528) Cortes brought several bags of cocoa beans. Spaniards liked the exotic drink quite a lot, but its ingredients were so expensive that only a few could afford to enjoy the “choco”. According to the testimony of the historian and writer Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo Valdes (1478-1557), only the rich and noble could afford to drink chocolate because “it was like drinking money.” Nevertheless, from the beginning of the 17th century chocolate was supplied to many European countries, and gained popularity after vanilla was added to soften the pungent cocoa flavour.
Soon, sweetened chocolate became the most fashionable and most expensive drink in Europe. Chocolate houses were opened in many countries, replacing coffee and tea salons.
In France alone, 23 chocolate confectioneries were opened in 1764, and in 1798 in Paris such numbered over 500.
Initially, liquid chocolate was considered an exclusively men’s drink, because it was hard to digest due to its high cocoa butter content. Eventually it began to be diluted with milk and starch, and special tools were invented for butter pressing, giving the dessert lightness.
Another significant stage in the history of chocolate was at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1819 Francois-Louis Cailler from Switzerland developed a completely new type of chocolate – solid chocolate.
Exactly one year later in the place of the former mill near the Vivi area, the first chocolate bar production factory was built. Along with production technology, the recipes were also improving – being complemented with nuts and various spices.
In 1875 Daniel Peter, also from Switzerland, added milk and thus created milk chocolate. Since then it has been used for sweets and chocolate coated biscuits, cakes and puddings.
Fruits harvested with machetes
The chocolate industry knows three main types of cocoa. Most flavoured is Crioll, second are three Forastero subspecies (80 per cent of total world production), and third Calabacillo. Thanks to selection, cross-varieties of cocoa are cultivated in modern plantations.
Cocoa fruit is only collected when fully ripe. They are cut with sharp machetes or saws, and then pods are cut lengthwise into two or four pieces. Grains are removed from the sticky gel layer and left for several days to brew in their own enzymes and natural yeast. This operation provides a unique chocolate flavour to the grain. Cocoa beans are then dried in the sun on mats or in concrete sites, and at this point their pre-industrial preparation ends.
Trees sensitive to drought and frost
The tree of cocoa or chocolate in Ancient Greek is called Theobroma cacao, which means “food of the gods”.
Cocoa trees grow naturally on the coast of Mexico, in Central and South America, and in some Asian islands. This plant is very sensitive to drought and frost, it needs a warm and humid climate, fertile soil, and constant heat of no less than 20-28 °C. Only under these conditions can you pick up to 2 kg of cocoa beans over a year per tree.
GOD. Mayan cocoa god Ek Chuah adorned with cocoa beans.
The wild cacao-tree reaches 12 m in height, but in artificially planted plantations is reduced to 5-7 meters. Finally, the plant matures only in the eighth year, and gives maximum yield in its year 10-12. However, it bears fruit twice a year for 30-80 years.
Types of chocolate
According to the content of cocoa powder, chocolate is divided into bitter (60 per cent), semi-bitter (50 per cent), and milk (30 per cent). In addition, each milk chocolate bar contains 15 per cent of cocoa butter, 35 per cent of sugar, and 20 per cent of milk powder; semi-bitter has 45 per cent sugar and up to 5 per cent of cocoa butter, and bitter has 40 per cent of sugar. White chocolate has no ground cocoa at all, using cocoa butter as cocoa product.
Cocoa beans contain most of the nutrients necessary for humans: 20-25 per cent of carbohydrates, 15-20 per cent of protein, 35.8 per cent of minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and sodium, 5 per cent of water, vitamins PP, B, and 50 per cent of highly valuable hard butter with a melting temperature close to body temperature. It is because of this feature that chocolate melts in your mouth.
Modern medical research has allowed chocolate to occupy a proper place among other useful products for humans, primarily because it contains natural stimulants (theobromine, caffeine), which are refreshing, eliminate fatigue and increase the body’s resistance to stress.
Even though chocolate has a relatively high fat content, it is not harmful as it does not increase bad cholesterol in blood (which accumulates on blood vessel walls), and does not destroy the good cholesterol cleaning blood vessels.
Due to the high calorie content (400-550 kcal per hundred grams), even a small piece of chocolate can satiate a person for a long time. Hence doctors include chocolate in diets for weight reduction.
Magnesium and potassium in chocolate are minerals that stimulate the muscles and nervous system. Magnesium is important for rhythmical heart function, potassium is responsible for electrolyte and water balance in cells and tissues, and has a positive effect on blood pressure.
Bitter chocolate also contains iron, which is essential for the synthesis of haemoglobin in the blood, and therefore valuable for children and people with anaemia.
Tannin in chocolate regulates the digestive system, cleaning slag from the body, but can cause headaches because it narrows the blood vessels of the brain – which can be solved by selecting chocolate with a little grated cocoa.
Crispy and shiny
In a chocolate factory grains are cleaned and roasted in rotating drums at 120-140 degrees Celsius. Uniform roasting finally creates the chocolate flavour. Afterwards, grains are rubbed in a special machine, which sorts out the crumbs and cleans bark residues. Crumb grain is then ground until it turns into a thick chewy mass, and by hydraulic pressing the chocolate mass and excess fat removal cocoa powder is then produced. Fat content in the chocolate raw material is 54 per cent, and in cocoa powder it is 10 per cent less. A certain amount of that is later added to the chocolate mass to make milk and semi-bitter chocolate.
Next, the mixture is made. The powder is mixed with sugar, milk, cocoa butter, vanilla, and other ingredients. The mass is again treated with special apparatus, and only when very well mixed is processed in the production line: moulded in forms, heated to 32 degrees C, and tempered by gradually cooling; this is the last chocolate processing step after which it becomes shiny and pleasant, and makes a nice cracking sound when broken. Hardened chocolate is easily removed from moulds by blow or vibrating. Finished products prepared in this way are sent for packaging.
How to store chocolate
To preserve original chocolate properties, it should be kept in a dry place at a stable temperature. The preferred temperature is 16-20 degrees C.
Do not unwrap chocolate from paper – this will prevent absorbing extraneous odours.
If the temperature exceeds 21 degrees, crystallized fat stains appear on the chocolate, and if kept in the refrigerator it will have white sucrose spots.
Most sweets, and especially chocolate, attract people engaged in mental work. This can be explained scientifically: nerve cell metabolism (metabolic process) requires a lot of glucose. In the case of its deficit, the body feels hunger, fatigue and reduction of mental potential. In addition, many who lack confidence and melancholic people lift mood and tone with chocolate.
Cocoa butter and sugar mixture stimulates the production of specific stimuli substances – serotonin and endorphin – in the brain. Mood improves because of phenylethylamine in chocolate – a substance in the amphetamines group – the nerve cells stimulant.
… Perhaps the best news about chocolate is that it quickens metabolism. This means that 50 grams of dark chocolate per day will protect you from stress and will not harm your figure…
Cakes with chocolate
You will need 100 grams of chocolate, half a cup of flour and the same quantity of cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of butter, 600 ml of milk, 6 eggs, 5 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar.
Mix the flour, cornstarch, butter, sugar and vanilla sugar and 3 cups of milk. Gently heat and stir to thicken. Remove from heat, add 6 egg yolks one by one, and egg whites whipped separately until thick foam. Mix thoroughly. Pour into the moulds, coat with butter, and place in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Take out the cakes and cover with chocolate diluted with 50 g of milk, and decorate with candies.
Apples with chocolate
You will need medium-sized apples with stems and a bitter chocolate bar.
Melt the chocolate in hot water. Dip washed and dried apples one by one, holding by the stalk, for one or two seconds in hot chocolate, then in cold water, and place on a plate.
You will need 5 eggs, 100 grams of bitter chocolate, 300 g of flour, 300 grams of powdered sugar, 100 grams of butter, 200 g of walnuts, and 50 ml of cognac. Thoroughly mix 200 g caster sugar with the egg yolks, add 80 g of grated chocolate. Whip the whites with the flour until thick foam and add the chocolate mass.
Grease a baking pan with butter, sprinkle with flour, and pour a thin layer of batter. Place into a hot oven. Filling: take 200 g butter, add 100 g of powdered sugar, brandy, chopped nuts and 20 g of grated chocolate. Evenly spread the filling on the cake, wrap it into a roller and leave for several hours in the refrigerator.
White chocolate mousse
You will need 175 g of white chocolate, 2 eggs, 150 g of fat cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of light rum, and 1 teaspoon (5 g) of gelatine.
Dissolve gelatine in 2 teaspoons of water (wait for 40 minutes). Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Whip the egg yolks with sugar. Melt the chocolate, mix with whipped cream, and add the dissolved gelatine. Finally, slowly pour the whites into the mass.
Pour into the moulds and refrigerate for 6 hours. Sprinkle the product with grated dark chocolate, decorate with fresh or canned fruit.
You will need 100 g of crushed chocolate, 1 grated orange zest, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, 300 g of milk, and 4 tablespoons of fat cream.
Place the chocolate, zest, and cinnamon in a pot, add 100 ml of milk and, stirring constantly, dissolve by heating over a low heat. Then add the remaining milk and bring the resulting mixture to a boil. Whip cream with a whisk until stiffened. Then pour hot chocolate into cups and add 1 tablespoon of crème into each cup. Sprinkle top with chopped nuts and orange pieces.
GOOD TO KNOW
Cocoa contains twice more antioxidants than red wine and three times more than green tea. There is scientific data showing that antioxidants inhibit tumours and have a positive effect on the heart, of which Polyphenols proved to be the most active that are abundant in cocoa, grapes and other bright fruits.
DID YOU KNOW THAT…?
Statistics show that Germans and Swiss eat the most chocolate: 10 to 11 kg per year per person.
On December 11-13 the Escalade Festival is held in Geneva when the Swiss in costume eat tons of chocolate and nougat – a product made of sugar or honey, egg whites and roasted nuts. The festival is dedicated to the real event: in 1602 a soldier of the Duke of Savoy was defeated by a lady who poured hot vegetable soup on him. For an unknown reason, the Swiss eventually replaced the soup with chocolate…
“Vakarų ekspreso” inf.