The challenges and triumphs of making artisan bean to bar chocolate in 80 degree heat, the Maya connection and life in Belize.
Chocolate …. What once was just a simple term to describe a delicious treat has now become a study in itself, complicated by a unique set of terms and language that can flummox the hedonistic amateur concerned solely with its consumption. The world of chocolate with its many experts has become as elite and sometimes snobbish as the wine world of days gone by.
I hope to give you a deeper insight into some everyday chocolate terms to make them a little more human and accessible. Please bear in mind that as a native Londoner, many of the terms can have slightly different meanings according to whether you are in Europe or America (tomato /Tomato/ Potato/Potato!) Also I write on the proviso that these are MY personal understandings of meaning , I do not profess to be an expert, just someone who has studied chocolate a little bit, works in it and with it and who absolutely loves its challenges and all the wonderful things that can be produced from one little bean…
So with that said let’s begin with one of the most basic terms in the current chocolate world and that is
Seventy percent /70%. Over the years this has become the” bar” against which fine chocolate is measured. Very simply, it relates to the percentage of cocoa product in the chocolate. This is made up of Cocoa liquer ,the liquid state that the beans become once they have been ground up (BTW its not alcoholic) and cocoa butter, which is extracted by a separate process and added back in. The other percent is what else is added to the chocolate. We at Belize Chocolate Company in making our Kakaw 70% , only add sugar. Our beans which we buy from small family farms in Southern Belize are so fine flavoured (NB using the English language version here) that we do not need the addition of vanilla or anything else.
A quick digression here…
Many chocolate producers add vanilla to mask bad flavor, or add more flavor. Lecithin is also sometimes added to make the chocolate smoother. Some chocolate makers add vegetable oil and all kinds of other nasties. We just add more cocoa butter!
Now this is one of my favorite (American language – don’t like to be partisan) chocolate terms. I just love saying it particularly with a French accent. It is, in fact a French expression. The word on the street is that in days gone by a French assistant chef spilt cream in some melted chocolate by mistake and was called “ganache” by his boss meaning “You Idiot!!” This sounds a bit like a chocolate urban myth but it’s a fun story anyway. Today ganache is the word used to describe the emulsion made by combining chocolate and cream, At Belize Chocolate Company, we make all kinds of ganache and use it in all kinds of ways. More on my secrets to the perfect ganache later.
Ok, one more….,truffle. Or if we are being really correct ,Chocolate truffle so named because this little ball of chocolate ganache normally encased in a chocolate shell or just rolled in cocoa powder or nuts, or whatever you fancy, looks like a real truffle, which is in fact a type of French ( here we go again) mushroom. Both taste delicious. Americans have a tendency, which I admit we at Belize Chocolate Company, have adopted as well, to call individual chocolates, truffles, but traditionally way back when, they were just ganache rolled in cocoa powder.
Ok, I lied Gianduja. This is actually an Italian word and is a chocolate paste made with hazelnuts.
We don’t actually make this here at Belize Chocolate Company, because hazelnuts are nigh on impossible to get here in Belize. What we do make is a Praline.. but more of that later.
That’s it for now, don’t want to bore you senseless with too much terminology. Stay tuned for the next episode.