The Theory section of Cooking with Chocolate (Flammarion, Fall 2011) edited by Frederic Bau offers great insight into the world of chocolate starting with secrets of a quality chocolate (the idea of terroir in chocolate is barely 20 years old).
It then explores the road from bean to bar and the importance of tasting and tasting sessions as done with wine. Guidelines on storing chocolate follow.
From the same section, Chocolate Myths: True or False reprinted below gives us a chance to test our knowledge.
Chocolate myths: true or false?
The quality depends on the cocoa percentage
False >> The percentage indicates the proportion of cocoa (paste and butter) in the bar, but gives no indication of the country of origin, the quality of the cocoa, or the expertise of the master chocolate
The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more bitter the chocolate
False >> When 70 percent cocoa is shown on the label of a bar, the remaining percentage indicates the sugar. One might think that the more cocoa there is, the less sugar. However, the cocoa itself varies
greatly in taste. Some beans produce a mellower, sweeter chocolate than others. Consequently, there are some 80 percent cocoa chocolates that are quite inedible, and some 85 percent cocoa chocolates
that are powerful and aromatic without being bitter.
Cocoa butter* is added to chocolate
True >> The cocoa butter added at the end of the manufacturing process forms a film of lipids that gives chocolate its unctuousness and facilitates the work of artisan chocolate makers. On average, about 10 percent cocoa butter is added to the chocolate paste, but the overall proportion of cocoa butter is considerably higher as it is already present in the chocolate paste.
White chocolate contains no chocolate paste
True >> To make white chocolate, only cocoa butter, sugar, and powdered milk are required. These components explain the absence of chocolate pigmentation and the sweetness of white chocolate,
which contains only 20 to 30 percent cocoa butter in addition to 55 percent sugar.
Soy lecithin is a useless, low-grade additive
False >> It is an emulsifier* that binds the cocoa butter, the cocoa paste, and the sugar, just as egg yolk binds the ingredients in mayonnaise.
There is very little lecithin in chocolate—less than 1 percent—and it is known to be a very healthy product.
Couverture chocolate* is good-quality chocolate
True and false! >> It is the basis for all the chocolates bought by professionals. It is called “couverture” (from the French verb couvrir, to cover) because it is used to coat chocolate bonbons and to make
molds. There is only one difference, and that is in its presentation form: couverture chocolate may be sold in large chips or buttons, or in bars.
A chocolate that has whitened should be thrown out
False >> Whitening, or streaking, is a change in the appearance of the chocolate that has very little influence on the taste. It is a reaction due to inappropriate storage conditions or inadequate tempering*, but it is not toxic. Chocolate that has whitened is edible.
Chocolate can be tempered at home
True >> Equipped with a kitchen thermometer† and patience, you can of course temper chocolate in your own kitchen. This book is here to help you (see p. 20)!
Manual tempering with a tempering stone is a guarantee of good chocolate
False >> This tempering technique, which usually springs to mind when one thinks of the artisan chocolatier, is not necessarily a guarantee of quality. The temperature curve is respected just as well, if
not better, in an electronic tempering machine. And, in fact, most of today’s artisans use such a machine.
I previously shared Homemade Chocolate Spread recipe from Cooking with Chocolate).
(* Excerpted from 'Cooking with Chocolate, Essential Recipes and Techniques' edited by Frederic Blau-Photographs by Clay McLaghlan- Flammarion- English Edition, October 2011- All rights reserved...Illustration is of Chocolate Chantilly Mousse described on page 113 under 'Techniques')