November 2003 Edition

Chocolate. The word entices the imagination and brings smiles to faces worldwide. The average Canadian consumes about 12 pounds (over 5 kilograms) of chocolate per year.

The broadness of chocolate's appeal can be partially attributed to its versatility - there are hundreds of delectable recipes using various chocolates - but beyond delicious, the subtle nuances of this sweet treat remain a mystery to many.

For instance, did you know that semisweet and bittersweet are interchangeable terms describing pure chocolate with cocoa butter and sugar added? Another term you may have encountered is couverture, which is French meaning to cover and refers to high-quality chocolate that contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter. Once couverture chocolate is tempered and sets, it becomes hard and shiny, making it perfect for use in enrobing and moulding specialty candies.

Chocolate's interesting history began 2000 years ago in South America where the Maya and Aztec people mixed ground cacao seeds to make a spicy drink. Christopher Columbus brought cocoa beans back to Spain, and Europeans were responsible for creating a solid chocolate that later blossomed into the variety of chocolates we appreciate today.

Chocolate is made by roasting cocoa beans. The cooled beans are crushed and ground into cocoa paste. The cocoa butter is extracted from the paste and is processed further and what is left of the cocoa paste becomes cocoa powder. The chocolate is then made from a mixture of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, or other additives such as nuts. The mixture is refined and conching machines knead the paste. Then the chocolate is tempered - a process whereby the paste is heated and cooled.

The variety of chocolate available today is a result of the various chocolate recipes, and the exacting process of mixing, grinding and tempering that goes into the manufacture of chocolate.

Sysco offers a full line of chocolates, including bittersweet, milk chocolate, and white chocolate to suit any cooking needs. Whatever your holiday recipe - from fudge and fondue to truffles and tarts - your Marketing Associate can help you find the Sysco chocolate to make it sensational! ¨

Types of Chocolate

Chocolate Liquor: Chocolate liquor is the smooth liquid state of the ground cocoa bean. Chocolate liquor can be cooled and moulded into unsweetened baking chocolate. Chocolate liquor contains 53 percent cocoa butter.

Cacao: Chocolate liquor with the cacao butter removed. Takes the form of a powdered substance and is often used in baking.

Semi Sweet Chocolate: Also known as bittersweet or dark chocolate. This is chocolate liquor with added sweeteners, flavours or cocoa butter. It must contain 35 percent cocoa liquor.

Milk Chocolate: Chocolate liquor with added sweeteners, flavours, cocoa butter and most importantly milk. Milk chocolate is the most popular type of chocolate in Canada, though because of the milk content it is not suitable for baking.

White Chocolate: White chocolate is not actually chocolate by definition, as it contains no cocoa solids. It does contain cocoa butter and is often used as a coating.

Couverture: Cooking chocolate with a high cocoa butter content. Couverture is exceptionally fluid and smooth. It is strong and handles well.

Confectioners Chocolate: Chocolate flavoured candy (not technically chocolate). Often used to cover strawberries as it melts easily and hardens quickly.

High Humidity and Moisture cause Moisture Bloom - a white haze or spots that appear on the surface of the chocolate. This does not affect the taste of the chocolate however it will look less appetizing.

Maintaining Freshness

  • Store chocolate in a cool dry place (at approximately 65°F or 18°C). Solid chocolate has a shelf life of six to twelve months when stored properly.
  • Chocolate may be frozen for up to six months. Wrap tightly and thaw at room temperature in the wrapping.
  • Do not store chocolate near sunlight or heat. This will ensure that chocolate does not melt or discolour.
  • Chocolate should be stored away from chemicals, perfumes, and spicy foods as it absorbs flavours and odours easily which could cause the chocolate to spoil.