Monday, July 11, 2011

The Journey of Chocolates

   ‘Lead me not to temptation’, I pray as I walk past the sinful array of dark, milk, white, and liqueur chocolates. My spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak! I give in to my temptation and  buy some of the  sweet sensation  and as it hits my taste buds and glides through my throat..hmmmmm...heaven on earth!
The cocoa pod and roasted beans
Have I ever thought how chocolates are made? No, not exactly! Maybe, chocolates just dropped from heaven? Well, I never did have the inclination to really think about it till I visited a chocolate factory during my trip to Malaysia with my husband, sister,brother in law and niece.
   The tourist guide announced that we were to visit a Choc Factory.
 Wow! Was I excited? My first ever trip to a choc factory ! He took us to a place called Beryl’s Chocolate Kingdom. When I entered, I could just see shelves and shelves plus rooms and rooms of  varieties of chocolates . It was more like a choc store! I guessed that maybe  the guides were paid to take tourists to the store,after all, as tourists we do end up buying loads and loads of stuff- mostly unwanted! 
Mixing machine
   Anyway, they did have a few miniature models of choc making machines and a staff from the store explained how the chocolates are made from cocao beans in
such a hasty, brief and speedy manner that I hardly got the details. But I was sort of dumbstruck at the amount of work that goes into the making of chocolates .
   Ofcourse, we do know that chocs are made from cocoa beans harvested from Theobroma cacao tree and it seems that climate and soil play an important role in the flavor of the coca beans. Whatever! The pods look like rugby balls and when they ripen, they turn from green , yellow to orange or red. The beans are left to ferment for several days till they become darker and wrinkled. Then they are sun-dried for a few days and sent to choc factories. 
Here is the gist of the journey of chocolates from cocoa beans and this brief description is good enough for me as I'd rather concentrate on the finished products on the counter! 
Conching Machine

  • First,  the beans are roasted, to loosen  the husk and dry up the nib. Roasting also influences  the flavor and color of the final chocolate    
  • Next, the roasted cacao beans are transferred to a 'winnower'. During this process the beans are cracked by into pieces and then winnowed (blown by air)to separate the husks from the nibs. The nibs contain the cocoa butter and cocoa solids
  • The nibs are then milled or ground to a rich paste to create cocoa liquor.This liquor does not contain alcohol.
  • The liquor is then pressed  to remove the cocoa butter and a powdery stuff known as 'cocoa presscake' is left behind. This, presscake, when ground, becomes the common cocoa powder. 
    Roller Machine
  • In the next process ,milk powder,sugar,cocoa butter and coco mass are mixed together.
  • And put in a Roller Machine for a refining process.The mixture passes through a series of rollers until a smooth paste is formed. Refining improves the texture of the chocolate
  • Then, comes Conching. The liquid chocolate is kept in a conching machine which is sort of a kneading machine and it chafes, heats and aerates the batter
  • After this, comes the process of tempering, where the liquid choc is transferred to tempering kettles as it is essential to keep the chocolate in liquid form 
  • Finally, the mixture is put into molds and cooled in a cooling chamber.
Liquid chocolates poured into moulds
   Awesome! The work load that goes into making these wicked pleasures is truly mind-blowing !As I was pondering about the extra calories in chocolates, it dawned on me that chocolates are really really good for health. You may ask how. Well, everyone knows that vegetables are incredibly healthy for our body. Chocolates come from beans and the sugars in it come from sugarcane – both plants!! Voila, chocolates are veggies!! Don’t feel guilty, just enjoy chocolates! Did I read this somewhere ? ‘I am not over-weight. I am chocolate-enriched!’
Very true,indeed! :) 

The rows of chocolates
The variety of chocolates

Copyright © 2011 Laila. All Rights Reserved
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Friday, July 1, 2011

The strange paradox of Indian women

          India is a land of many inequalities ! On one hand you have powerful women ruling the country and on the other hand  the plight of women and girl child is appalling.

               Click here...

                        Women Power in India 
                                                  Laila Rajaratnam
                                                     ...and read on for more.               

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