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By Lia Blanchard

This is the fifth in a series of articles about chocolate, the main ingredient of many of Art of Appreciation’s most popular gift baskets.

The earlier articles in this series discovered the beginnings of chocolate – how all kinds of chocolate begin with the cacao bean, but are then mixed with various proportions of different ingredients to produce the different kinds of chocolate.

Refining, conching, and tempering… oh my!

After the dark, milk, or white chocolate has been mixed according to its recipe, it will go through a process of refining, conching, and tempering.

Chocolate is refined by being worked through large rollers to blend the mixture and smooth its texture. Conching is done by a machine (the earliest versions of which resembled conch shells) which warms the mixture, and kneads it in a continuous massage that further smoothes its texture and develops a uniform flavor. Finally, the tempering process heats and cools the chocolate to exact temperatures in repeated, precise cycles. Tempering stabilizes the cocoa butter and ensures a glossy product that snaps crisply when broken as a solid, but melts oh-so-smoothly in the mouth.

Tell me about the “chocolate theory of love”!

The phrase came about in the early 80’s after a popular book titled The Chemistry of Love described phenethylamine, or PEA, as a “love chemical”. The book’s author remarked to a reporter that “chocolate is loaded with PEA” and the idea grew into a sort of urban legend. The fact is that not only is PEA is generally metabolized before reaching the brain, but other foods have higher amounts of it – both salami and cheddar cheese have more PEA than chocolate.

Next: The next article in the series discusses some of the things that can happen to chocolate if it’s not handled properly.

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Creamy Chocolate Cupcake... Mmmm!