Decadent and delicious, this classic treat delights kids and adults equally. But where does it come from? Leslie Foster has all the answers, plus some enticing recipe ideas
The Swedish scientist Linnaeus gave the cacao tree its scientific name, Theobroma cacao, or “food of the gods.” He was known to like chocolate.
Chocolate cacao trees grow in the rainforest. Cocoa pods grow on the cacao trees. Seeds called cocoa beans are found inside the pods.
The cocoa pods grow directly from the trunk and branches of the tree, and take approximately four months to grow to the size of melons. It takes another month for them to become ripe.
Each pod contains about 40 beans, from which we get chocolate.
To this day, farming is done by hand. Workers use knives to cut the ripe pods off the trees. They use wooden mallets to split open the pods and remove the cocoa beans and sticky white pulp.
The beans and pulp are allowed to ferment for about a week, which helps bring out the flavour. The beans are then dried in the sun and shipped to chocolate factories around the world.
Beans are cleaned and roasted at high temperatures. A hulling machine separates the hard shell from the inside of the bean, called the “nib.” The nibs are ground into a thick paste that is pressed to separate fatty cocoa butter from the cocoa mass.
Cocoa powder is cocoa mass, ground into a fine powder. Dark chocolate is cocoa mass, sugar, and melted cocoa butter. The mixture is ground and placed in a conche machine, where rollers make the chocolate smooth. The chocolate is then cooled or “tempered” to give it the ideal texture.
For milk chocolate, milk and sugar are boiled down to create condensed milk, which is mixed with cocoa mass and dried into a crumbly mixture, then ground and mixed with cocoa butter.
Flavourings such as vanilla are added and the milk chocolate is conched and tempered.
Sources list the average Canadian’s chocolate consumption at 4 kg (National Post) to 5.5 kg per year (Fairtrade Canada). That’s a lot of chocolate.
In addition to all the delectable confections you can purchase, there are many decadent options you can make at home.
Bestest Chocolate Cake EV-AH
1 cup (250 ml) softened butter
1 ½ cups (375 ml) granulated sugar
1 tsp. (5 ml) high quality vanilla extract
2 cups (500 ml) all-purpose flour
½ cup (125 ml) premium cocoa powder
1 tsp. (5 ml) baking powder
1 tsp. (5 ml) baking soda
¼ tsp. (1 ml) salt
1 ½ cups (375 ml) milk soured with a splash of vinegar
• Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs and
• Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk until
• Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating
with the soured milk, a third at a time.
• Pour into two greased parchment-lined 9” (23 cm)
round cake pans.
• Bake in 350-degree Fahrenheit (180 C) oven for 30-35
minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in
cake pans for at least 20 minutes before loosening.
Cool completely in pans or on racks before icing.
Sinful Chocolate Icing
1 ½ cups (375 ml) softened butter
½ cup (125 ml) whipping cream
(35 per cent)
1 tbsp. (15 ml) high quality vanilla
3 cups (750 ml) icing sugar
6 oz. (170g) favourite chocolate
chopped and melted
• Beat butter until airy and fluffy.
• Gradually beat in cream. You may need
to cover the stand mixer with a tea
towel to avoid splatters. Adding small
amounts at a time will reduce the mess.
• Beat in vanilla.
• Beat in icing sugar. Adding it in small
amounts will avoid a mess.
• Beat in chocolate.
Tip: The more you beat the icing, the
smoother, lighter, and fluffier it will be.
Yummy Fudgy Chocolate Sauce
450g (1 lb) chocolate (our family favourite is Callebaut Milk Chocolate,
but you can use what you like)
1 pinch of fine sea salt
1 tsp. (5 ml) high quality vanilla extract (optional)
2 tbsp. (30 ml) butter
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
(more to thin if required)
• Place all ingredients in a heat-proof bowl. Place in microwave on high power for 1 minute. Remove and stir. Return to microwave and heat in 30-second increments until chocolate melts and you can incorporate chocolate and cream. Do not overheat. Burnt chocolate will not incorporate and you will have to throw out the entire batch, which will make you very angry or very sad.
• This sauce is a delicious topping for vanilla ice cream. Store in a glass dish at the back of the fridge, hidden behind large items to prevent stray spoons from sneaking samples. I’m warning you, if you don’t, all you will find is an empty jar when you next go to use it! It has a very fudge-like consistency straight out of the fridge. You can also reheat individual portions in the microwave as required if a warm, pourable consistency is desired.
*Keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks. But who are we kidding?!
Note: The most important tip for all recipes is to use quality ingredients.
You will notice the difference.
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