Not long ago I read an article which started “Gourmet Chocolate is an unparalleled pleasure", I could not agree more. Good quality chocolate has a richness and sensuality that is not matched by any other food in my opinion. All the senses are stimulated by this luscious treat. The whole experience of eating a good chocolate starts with the crisp snapping sound as you break a piece from the bar which tells you that the amount of rich cocoa solids far outweighs the sugar. The rich, glossy colour with a shine that comes from deep within the bar is a delight to the eyes, the smell is a tantalising forerunner to the wonderful taste stimulating the appetite even before the chocolate reaches your mouth. Then comes the smooth silky feel as the chocolate starts to melt on your tongue and gently bathes your taste buds as it slowly releases the deep, warm flavors that are almost decadent in their luxury and richness.
The source material for any chocolate is cocoa beans, it is in the manufacturing process that the gourmet chocolatier demonstrates the skill that raises his product out of the ordinary. The skills involved in the making of good chocolate are little different from those required in the making of fine wine - the subtleties of blending and maturing are just as important, even down to judging the amount of fermentation that takes place. Most cocoa beans are fermented slightly before shipping to the chocolate manufacturing site for further processing and the amount of time spent in this state is critical to the development of the final flavors in the chocolate.
Once the fermented beans arrive at their destination they are roasted and crushed to release the full flavors before being mixed with the bare minimum of ingredients. In the finest chocolates only a very small amount of sugar and a hint of vanilla are added, just enough to open the taste buds for the fuller flavors of the cocoa. Most gourmet chocolates stand alone without the need for additional ingredients but they do lend themselves to the more exotic combinations which delight our minds with their complexity, such as the truffles flavored with Sloes soaked in Gin that I recently had the pleasure of eating. Most chocolate of this quality is produced by artisan chocolatiers who produce small batches of exquisite handmade delights, however there are some larger manufacturers who produce their chocolates in this way, Hotel Chocolat for example.
The cocoa beans used in quality chocolate are finely ground before being mixed with the other ingredients and the length of the cooking time is critical to the development of the flavors as well as the consistency of the finished product - and most important, how smoothly it melts. Chocolate should never be chewed, but rather allowed to gently wrap itself around your tongue before melting away leaving the memory of its flavor lingering in the mouth and the mind.
Good quality chocolate is not only a pleasure to eat but also has considerable health benefits over the rather more unpleasant ‘candy’ style products which are laden with sugars and additives. The high quality of the ingredients ensures that the vitamins and minerals which are essential to good health are present in a form which is easily accessible to the body providing nutrition and allowing the release of endorphins within the brain that raise your mood and make you feel better.
At one time gourmet chocolate was considered to be a luxury and was both difficult to obtain and expensive. However, with the growing awareness of the damage that poor quality foods can do to us, more and more people are appreciating the pleasure of good food - and good chocolate is no exception to this rule. It's beauty lies in it's simplicity, just a few, high quality ingredients blended to create a harmonious whole. What better choice of gift could there be than something that seems so luxurious and decadent and is at the same time so very wholesome and healthy.
Cherrie Carew has a passion - Chocolate. It is a passion made for sharing and The Chocolate Casket is a box of chocolate lore, recipes, news and more that you won't be able to resist diving into. There is absolutely everything the chocoholic could desire. . . .