A favorite gift for Sweetest Day, this yummy concoction contains around 800 chemical compounds.
Chocolate’s varied flavors, colors, shapes, and textures result from different recipe traditions that have evolved in different parts of the world. However, although the preparation of top-quality chocolate products may be regarded as an art form, modern processes for manufacturing the most popular brands rely heavily on science and technology.
The essential ingredient in all chocolate is cocoa, which is made from the cream-colored beans that grow in pods on a tree with the botanical name Theobroma cacao. The cocoa or cacao tree, as it is commonly known, is a native of the tropical regions of South and Central America.
After harvesting, the beans are removed from the pods and piled in heaps. The growers allow the beans to ferment for several days in order to develop the chemical precursors of the chocolate flavor. The beans are then dried and transported to chocolate factories.
At the factory, the cured beans are sorted and impurities such as sand and plant materials are removed. The beans are then roasted. This process makes the bean shells brittle, darkens the color of the beans, and converts the beans’ flavor precursors into the aldehydes, esters, lactones, pyrazines, and other groups of compounds that give chocolate its distinctive flavor and aroma.
The next step is to break up the roasted beans into pieces called nibs and remove the thin shells by blowing air through the beans in a process known as winnowing. The nibs are then ground into chocolate liquor–a thick brown liquid that solidifies at about room temperature.
Visit “What’s That Stuff” to read more about chocolate.
Excerpted with permission, Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2000 American Chemical Society