Archive for Thursday, January 4, 2007

Satisfying the sweet tooth

January 4, 2007

"There are four basic food groups, Milk Choc-olate, Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate and Chocolate Truffles." - Anonymous

I have had my share of chocolate the past few weeks, so I decided to look a little into its history.

Very few people have made as much chocolate milk as I have when I worked in the dairy. It was made in 500- to 1,000- gallon batches and bottled into quarts and pints that went to the grocery stores and half-pints that went to the schools.

Cacao trees produce cocoa beans. They are found in the rain forests of Central and South America and parts of Mexico. The trees only thrive in hot rainy climates.

The Maya and Aztec Indians used these beans at least 4,000 years ago and considered them "The Food of the Gods." The trees are colorful and the bark is so fragile the trees cannot be climbed. Long poles were used to harvest the beans that were in pods.

In 1513, cocoa beans were used as currency. You could buy a slave for 100 cocoa beans, and four beans could get you a rabbit for dinner.

In 1502, Christopher Columbus on his fourth trip introduced the beans to Spain, and from there they spread all over Europe. Only the elite could afford to buy cocoa, as it was an expensive item.

Four hundred beans are required to make one pound of chocolate.

In 1828, the invention of the cocoa press by Conrad Van Houten helped cut prices and improved quality by squeezing out some of the cocoa butter and giving the result a smoother consistency. He patented his invention in Amsterdam. It was an alkalizing process known as "dutching." This removed the acidity and bitterness, which is why alkali process cocoa is also called "Dutch Chocolate".

During World War I, chocolate was introduced to the servicemen of our country. Blocks of chocolate were commissioned by U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps to be sent to bases in the field. The blocks were chopped up into smaller pieces and distributed to the doughboys in Europe. When they returned home, they wanted more of the same, so it really took off in our country.

In 1897 the first known recipe for Chocolate Brownies appeared in the Sears, Roebuck Catalog. Whatever your favorite is, keep on enjoying.

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