A Very Special ‘Fat’

If you happened to stumble upon this piece expecting to find an online-dating forum now would be a good time to hit the back button.  I’m here to tell you what I learnt the other night, from a passionate Spanish chef who delivered a lecture at Harvard on the science of moulding beautifully crafted chocolate.

Enric Rovira, a master chocolate ninja from Barcelona, took to the stage with his Spanish translator and established the one universal truth about my favourite vice. It’s all in the butter! “Cocoa butter is a very special fat” he says, “cause it behaves in a particular way.” Derived from pressing away the fats from solids while grounding cocoa beans, this ‘very special fat’ is responsible for creating all the beautiful textures and glazes one sees in fancy silk-lined  boxed chocolate.

Cocoa butter has a low melting point, 30-33⁰C, which is how it can remain solid at room temperature (provided the room is in Boston, not in New Delhi!) and melt as soon as you pop it into your mouth. It burns at temperatures above 50⁰C and has to be melted in the sun to produce archaic textured patterns one sees in designer chocolate. According to Rovira, lamps do not heat chocolate the same way even if the same temperature and atmospheric conditions are established.

Apparently Rovira and his team tried to measure the power of sun beams by melting chocolate in the sun. The nerd inside me woke up at this point in the lecture only to face disappointment in his abject refusal to discuss the outcomes of the experiment. His response was “you cannot store chocolate in store windows.”

Rovira then described the art of creating those tiny shimmery chocolate marbles which I took for granted all my growing years (and still do). He explained how chocolate dragees, or marbles, are tossed around in a vessel while liquid chocolate is poured on it. The friction between the liquid chocolate and the dragees produce the ultimate shine. But this is no easy process and can take upto an hour and a half. All conditions- atmospheric pressure, temperature of the chocolate, room and the pan, humidity, size and quantity of marbles and speed of the oscillating pan- come into play to bring out the perfect luster.

If you’re a fan of the sultry, velvet-coated chocolate clan, then here’s some science for you. A lump of ordinary chocolate, cooled considerably in the freezer and then sprayed with tempered chocolate will produce the ultimate smooth velvet finish. The trick is to cool the base chocolate before spraying it. While this chocolate may look good, you may want to think twice before touching it. It’s fragile and known to crumble upon touch.

I’m going to end here and take a walk down to Shaws to buy some Twix. Yeah, I’m impressionable.



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