Published by Max Felchlin AG, Schwyz, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary. (2008)
Every Detail Counts
The couverture is now ready. The confectioner uses it as raw material for individual chocolates, for solid chocolate and for other in-house specialities. The couverture contains more cocoa butter than chocolate and this enhances its flow flow properties to facilitate pouring or when used as a coating in further processing. Whether in the form of button-sized discs or heavyweight bars, this soberly-wrapped raw product easily contains 600 different natural aromas: individual components that cannot be fully perceived, imagined or identified either on the nose or the palate. This analysis and counting of the individual substances is performed in the laboratory using a gas chromatograph: depending on their mass and structure, individual molecules pass through a tube at different speeds and can thus be identified and counted on the basis of their separation.
However, pleasure is not a mathematical equation and the senses are not a computer program. Like wine tasting, they rely on other factors, such as the character and physical and emotional well-being of the taster, on the weather, the temperature and time of day. The senses are concerned with chocolate as a whole but each sense approaches it from a different angle.
First of all, we look at chocolat with our eyes. Whether a bar of solid chocolate or an individual chocolate, an Easter bunny or mousse-its very colour attracts our attention. And this attention has to be deeply rooted in our souls. “There is a tendency to associate very dark foods, such as coffee, chocolate, truffles, caviar and porcini mushrooms, as well as plum cake, with arousal and luxury”, wrote Magaret Visser, Canadian professor, in her book “The Rituals of Dinner”. “In our innermost beings, we believe that this special dark matter has be meaningful and originated from ancient times.”
A bar of Grand Cru chocolate has a silky-matt gloss, whereas straightforward industrial chocolate looks like a plastic sample. The next two senses determine further differences: when a piec of chocolate that has been rolled backward and worward by a longitudinal conch for hours is broken of, it makes a soft snap, a tone in a minor key, almost like a soft sigh. The snap of chocolate that has been manufactured rationally and less elaborately is higher and sharper. The reason for this different music is the cocoa varity and the quality of the beans.
Our sense of touch tells us more. Rubing a few fragments of chocolate between our index finger and thum warms the chocolate, thus releasing the volatile aromas. Biting into the chocolate tells us about its consistency, whether it has hard or soft structure; again, the sound it makes as we bite into it is important, but the feel of it on the tongue (called “mouthfeel”) is also crucial.
We now allow the chocolate to melt on the tongue. One of the secrets of pleasure of chocolate is its mellow sensation: chocolate melts at 33°C, which is just 3°C lower than the temperature of teh human body, the temperature that is the closest to the soul. The cocoa butter starts to melt away and the fat is broken down, the aromas unfold and develop and, because the melting point of chocolate is just a few degrees below that of body temperature (which is why chocolate initially feels cool on the tongue), chocolate can also have an intimate, comforting effect. Whilst the chocolate melts on the tongue, the taste papillae pick up all of many flavours and trigger a signal to the brain, where the taste memory is challenged. How can these flavours be graded, where classified? Chocolate we know, but what about everything else? This all has to be registered individually.
The tongue first detects the basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter and also salty, or least mineral. By holding our breath for a momentthen breathing out gradually through the nose, we can detect the volatile aromas and basic flavours, as well as further nuances: spicy, strong and distinct (vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and other opulent, Christmassy components), refreshing and fruity (cassis, apricot and wild berries), floral (orange blossom and rose), vegetal ( brushwood and truffles), nutty (almond and macadamia), as well as roast aromas (coffee, tea or caramel) and other independent aromas (tobacco, butter, honey or beeswax). All these flavours, substances, essences and a few more nuances that can be identified with the human sensory organs and a little practice are also found in wines. Listing flavour nuances from the world of botany and other areas of life may be problematic when trying to understand complex flavor landscapes; it is often difficult to put impressions into words. However, a landscape consists of details and identifying these details, one after the other, underpins its incredible richness – whether chocolate, wine or a truffle that has just been unearthed and cut open.
THE COMPOSITION OF THE COCOA BEAN
The cocoa bean contains more than 50 percent cocoa butter. Protein and starch account for a good 10 percent of the weight of the bean, with many other substances making up the balance, including the essences, which act as a stimulant – and which also give us food for thought. On the one hand, the variety of the aromas stimulates the senses and, on the other hand, these substances also have a beneficial effect on our physical and emotional well-being. The cocoa bean contains caffeine, theobromine, serotonin and phenethylamine – all substances that act as anti-depressants, anti-stress agents and that are thus relaxing. Theobromine and caffeine are alkaloids that stimulate the central nervous system and also act as diureticts.
Content of the cocoa bean: Caffeine 0.2%, sugar 1.0%, Theobromine 1.2%, minerals, salts 2.6%, water 5.0%, Polyphenoles 6.0%, Cellulose 9.0%, organic acids 9.5%, Protein 11.5%, cocoa butter 54.0%
BASIC CHOCOLATE RECIPIES
The flavour of the cocoa is determined by its origin, bean variety and processing. Chocolate is made from either single-variety or from blends of different beans. Sugar is also added. Mixing in milk powder produces milk chocolate. White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids, only cocoa butter.
DARK CHOCOLATE: 70 % cacao and 30% sugar
MILK CHOCOLATE: 35% cacao, 40% sugar and 25% milk powder
WHITE CHOCOLATE: 35% cacao butter, 40% sugar and 25% milk powder
next time The Pleasure From Chocolate to an Agent of Delight