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The secret ingredient that makes chocolate taste so great - Sensia

The secret ingredient that makes chocolate taste so great – Sensia

Chocolate remains an irresistible delicacy (foto: Getty Images)

Whether baked into a biscuit shape, melted into a sweet hot drink, or molded into a bunny shape, chocolate One of the most consumed foods in the world.

But even the greatest chocolate fan may not know this food Millennials have one thing in common with kimchi and kombush: their flavor comes from fermentation.

The well-known taste of chocolate produced by the microorganisms that help transform the raw ingredients into this divine and complex final product.

In laboratories in Peru, Belgium and even Côte d’Ivoire, self-proclaimed chocolate scientists (like me) are working to understand how fermentation is changing Relish Do the chocolates.

Sometimes we do industrial fermentation in the lab. Other times, we savor cacao Fermented “by nature”.

We often convert our experimental groups to chocolate and ask volunteers to taste it and tell us which flavors they can discover.

After decades of testing, researchers have solved many of the mysteries governing cocoa fermentation, including the microorganisms involved and how this step affects taste and flavor. Quality Do the chocolates.

From the chocolate seed bar

The food you know as chocolate begins life on soccer ball-like seeds that grow directly from the tree trunk Theobroma Cocoa.

Everything looks like something they could have invented in a children’s book by Dr. Seuss, but 3,900 years ago, Olmecs in Central America developed a multi-step process to turn this giant seed fruit into an edible delicacy.

First, the exposed colored fruits, their seeds and pulp are extracted.

He eats chocolate
Chocolate begins its life in the football-like seeds of the cocoa tree Theobroma (foto: Getty Images)

The seeds, now called “grains,” are processed and left to dry for three to ten days before being placed to dry in the sun.

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The dried beans are roasted and then kneaded with sugar and sometimes powdered milk, until the mixture is so homogeneous that its particles are indistinguishable in the tongue.

At this point, the chocolates are ready to be turned into bars, cookies or chocolate.

During the processing stage fermentation occurs naturally.

The complex taste of chocolate consists of hundreds of individual compounds, many of which are produced during fermentation.

Fermentation is the process of improving food qualities through the controlled activity of microbes and allowing bitter or inspiring cocoa beans to develop the rich flavors associated with the chocolate.

Microorganisms at work

Cocoa fermentation is a multi-stage process.

Inside the pods
Inside the pods are seeds and pulp (foto: Getty Images)

Any complex microorganisms produced along the way that change the taste of the beans also change the final flavor of the chocolate.

The first stage of fermentation may be familiar to home brewers because it is made from yeast, and some are similar to the fermentation of beer and wine.

As with your favorite beverage, the yeast in cocoa fermentation produces alcohol by digesting the sweet pulp that sticks to the beans.

This process generates fruit flavor molecules known as esters and easy-to-blend floral flavors.

These compounds penetrate the beans and are found in the finished chocolate.

As the pulp decomposes, oxygen enters the yeast mass and the amount of yeast decreases as bacteria, like oxygen, take control.

They are known as acetic acid bacteria, because they convert the alcohol from yeast into acetic acid.

High quality chocolate that you love
Quality chocolates choose your beans with care (foto: Getty Images)

This acid penetrates the grains and causes biochemical changes.

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The plant that sprouts dies. The fats are grouped together. Some enzymes break down proteins into smaller peptides, which begin to smell like chocolate during the next stage of roasting.

Other enzymes break down polyphenolic antioxidant molecules, thanks to which chocolate has gained popularity as a superfood.

As a result, contrary to popular belief, most chocolate contains very little or no polyphenolic antioxidants at all.

Flavor shift

All reactions caused by acetic acid bacteria have a great effect on taste.

These acids promote the breakdown of polyphenol molecules – which have a deep violet color and a strong astringent – into brown chemicals with a milder flavor, known as o-quinones.

The grains are sun-dried and the microbes do their job invisibly (foto: Getty Images)

Here cocoa beans cease to taste bitter and begin to have a rich, nutty flavor.

This shift in flavor is accompanied by a change of color from reddish-purple to brown, the reason being that chocolate is usually brown rather than violet.

Finally, when the acid evaporates slowly and the sugars are depleted, other types, such as filamentous fungi and spore-forming bacteria hard, the control.

Although microbes are important in the chocolate-making process, these organisms can sometimes destroy the fermentation process.

Excessive growth of bacteria hardThe formation of spores is associated with compounds that lead to rancid flavors, such as cheese.

The land of chocolate

Cocoa is a wild fermenter: farmers rely on natural microbes from the environment to create unique local flavors.

This phenomenon is known as “terroir”: the distinct pattern that place gives.

As drying progresses, various microorganisms appear to perform their function naturally in preparing the grains (foto: Getty Images)

In the same way that grapes provide territorial lands, these wild microbes, along with each grower’s own process, from ground to fermented grains are everywhere.

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There is an increasing market demand for this high quality delicate grain.

Gourmet chocolatiers select from handcrafted batches of small grains based on the distinctive terroir to produce chocolates with an impressive variety of flavors.

If you have tried only chocolate bars, which usually appear in supermarkets, you probably have no idea of ​​the variety and intricacy that really good chocolate can contain.

Akesson’s bar in Madagascar can make you think of raspberries and apricots, while the Peruvian wild fermentation bar from Canadian manufacturer Qantu tastes like chocolate soaked in Sauvignon Blanc.

Either way, however, the bars contain only cocoa beans and a pinch of sugar.

This is the power of fermentation: change, transform, transform.

It takes the natural and makes it extraordinary thanks to the magic of microbes.

* Caitlin Clark searchedaHe received his PhD in Food Sciences from Colorado State University, USA

This article was originally published (in English) at Conversation.

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