It’s National Bittersweet Chocolate Day, and upon learning this, my first question was: what in the heck is bittersweet chocolate? The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. And also on the internet. Chocolate is broken down into different categories based on the amount of fat it contains. Chocolate starts out as “chocolate liquor,” which is simply pure chocolate in liquid form. Sugar and a fat, such as cocoa butter, are added to this substance. To be classified as bittersweet, chocolate must contain a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor. The rest is cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, and an emulsifier.
My second question was: what in the heck is an emulsifier? But then I figured the science was getting too intense, and I should just appreciate the chocolate for what it is. Which is, delicious! Who doesn’t like chocolate?!
Chocolate dates back to ancient times. The Mayans, when they weren’t assembling calendars meant to freak out otherwise highly advanced 21st-century people who falsely interpreted them as “the end of the world is coming!” warnings, were busy growing cacao trees in their backyards. They used the seeds to concoct a frothy and bitter beverage, an early precursor to Yoohoo. The Aztecs took over Mesoamerica, started adding spices like chile peppers and achiote to chocolate, and made sacrificial chocolate offerings to Xochiquetzal (pronounced Beverly), the goddess of fertility. Ever since, women have been craving the stuff during a certain time of the month. Coincidence? You be the judge. Europeans got their first taste of chocolate in the 16th century, and by 1839 had invented the modern-day chocolate bar. It only took them 200 years to figure out how to solidify it! Milk was added in 1875 by a Swiss candlemaker and his neighbor, Henri Nestle. Rodolphe Lindt figured out how to easily blend liquid chocolate, paving the way for Milton Hershey to mass produce affordable chocolate bars. 132 years later, Tay Zonday went viral with “Chocolate Rain.”
I’ve always been partial to milk chocolate, which contains only 10% chocolate liquor. Tara’s a dark chocolate fan, and it doesn’t get much darker than bittersweet chocolate, which is most often used in baking – its bitterness cuts down on the sweetness inherent in sugary desserts. Tara has a recipe for brownies with a chocolate ganache (check it out here), so she took a couple of bittersweet chocolate bars, melted them down with some half-and-half and butter, and poured them over the brownies. “The chocolate is melted,” I said, once it had blended in with the ganache mixture. “That’s kind of bittersweet.”
Cracking food jokes is part of the fun. And the brownies were delicious with coffee.
Oh, and our coworkers are loving this project, because they’re ending up with all the leftovers! Well, the sweet leftovers. The beans, not so much.
By the way, we’ll be revisiting bittersweet chocolate towards the end of our challenge. November 7 is bittersweet chocolate with almonds day. Hard to believe there were two separate bittersweet chocolate lobbyist groups (check out another interesting article on how food holidays are created here) while nobody campaigned for white chocolate. What a crime.
- Chocolate Lovers: Types of Chocolate (berries.com)