I know that when you want to send a cheese, wine or gourmet food gift basket to a friend or colleague, you want to know that you sent the very best you can. If you are including that delicious treat chocolate, then here is some information that may help you make a selection.
The flavor of chocolate is determined by a number of things, the bean it comes from, where the bean is grown, and how the bean is processed into chocolate and then finally the ingredients that are added to produce different chocolates.
The cocoa bean is found in the pods of the cocoa tree. The cocoa tree is a tropical plant found in Indonesia, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Brazil, Venezuela, or Ecuador. Slightly different flavors come from the different areas.
It takes about 400 beans to make a pound of chocolate! After the beans are harvested and removed from the pods, they are fermented for three to nine days. The beans are then dried. The less expensive chocolates are usually blown dry and the more expensive air-dried.
Roasting is the next step. If the bean is Dutch roasted, an alkaline solution has been added and the product is darker and has less acid.
Cocoa beans come in three varieties: criollo is a light colored bean with a pleasant aroma. Some of the finest chocolates are made from this bean, forastero has a pungent aroma, and trinitario is a cross of the other two varieties.
Chocolate is classified by amount of specific ingredients in each.
White chocolate has 20% cocoa fat and at least 14% milk product
Milk chocolate is 10% chocolate liquor (non-alcoholic) and at least 12% milk ingredients
Sweet chocolate is 34% cocoa and less than 12% milk solid
Bittersweet chocolate is 35% cocoa, unsweetened is 100% cocoa and semisweet,
dark, extra dark and extra bittersweet fall in between.
Dark chocolate is a lot like a good red wine, as it ages it becomes more flavorful. These two rich, intense flavors are made for each other. So think red wine and dark chocolate. Compliment lighter white wines with the softer, lighter chocolates, like milk chocolate, or even white chocolate.
Any wine or cheese or gourmet food basket is enhanced with the addition of a good chocolate, of whatever style or variety. Hummm…. maybe it’s the other way around.
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