This has been an incredible series on chocolate and I hope you have enjoyed and learned as much as I have. I hope you have tried some new recipes from the thickest of the hot chocolates – the Italian hot chocolate to the spiciest recipe – the Mexican hot chocolate. You now know the differences between cocoa powders, milk and dark chocolate, how to have a chocolate bar, and a fun chocolate tasting party.
But where does this wonderful food, that is really a fruit, since the seeds are inside, grow? And who raises this food? Our journey takes us to another part of the world. Today, most of the cacao beans come from small, independent farms in tropical regions in Africa and Indonesia. On these small farms, the cacao trees are planted among taller trees, such as banana, rubber, and coconut. Cocao trees can only live in hot, rainy places near the Equator. It takes 3-4 years for the cacao tree to mature. Thereafter, one tree is capable of producing approximately 2,000 pods every year. The pods grow on branches and trunks of the cacao tree. Each pod has between 30-40 seeds inside it. Cacao seeds are sometimes referred to as the cacao beans.
A raw cacao bean is very bitter by nature. In the past, people would sweeten it with honey before they could eat it. This plant was also used as an item of trade in the Aztec empire. Cacao beans were also used as currency for trading at some point in history as well.
Chocolate is first made by harvesting the pods. Harvesting takes place biannually and involves cutting the pods from the cocao trees using knives. Secondly, the harvesters remove the beans from the pods with their hands. The third step is fermentation of the beans. At this stage, the beans are placed in wooden bins, covered with banana leaves, and allowed to ferment. Fermenting the cacao beans replaces the bitter flavor with a sweet one, changes color from pale to dark, and turns the sugars into acids. After fermentation, the cacao seeds are sun-dried, cleaned, and then roasted. Then they are transported to the factories. At the factory, the dried beans are ground, pressed, heated, and stirred to create chocolate.
Chocolate is made up of three components: cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and cocoa mass. The cocoa mass is responsible for the color and flavor of chocolate. More cocoa mass in the chocolate results in a darker chocolate and vice versa. The dark chocolate does not have milk in it and is dark in color.
I want to share a recipe with you today to complete this blog series. Cocoa Nib Hot Chocolate. I love this hot chocolate on a cool autumn morning watching a sunrise and starting my day. I hope you enjoy this and the other recipes and information that this blog series has shared with you.
Cocoa Nib Hot Chocolate
- 1-ounce cocoa nibs
- 16 ounces whole milk
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 ounces sugar (granulated or coconut)
- 2 ounces water
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Pulse the cocoa nibs in a spice grinder 3 to 4 times until the nibs are coarsely chopped.
- Place the nibs and the milk in a medium size saucepan and heat to 160 degrees. Remove from the heat, cover, and steep for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the chocolate, sugar, water, and salt in the carafe of a 1-liter French press. Set aside.
- After steeping the nib-milk mixture to the heat and simmer until it reaches 185 degrees. Stain the hot nib-milk mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the French press. Set aside for 1 minute, and then stir to combine the chocolate and milk. Pump the plunger of the French press 10-15 times to froth and aerate. Serve immediately.
Enjoy and have a wonderful holiday season!!
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