Seriously…my last chocolate post.

Alas, this is the final post in my series chronicling our chocolate odyssey.

Besides sharing great recipes in her chocolate cooking class, Chef Sarah Leavell of The Canebrake also shared some chocolate facts, wisdom,  and book recommendations that I wanted to share in my final chocolatey post with you.

According to her, the definition of chocolate doesn’t go much beyond “basically God’s gift to womankind!”   (However I think the four men in the class would agree it is God’s gift to humankind.)

Seriously though, she took us through the process of chocolate making starting with the cacao (pronounced kah-KAY-oh).    Cacao is the tropical bean from which chocolate is made.

Cocao (Image from Wikimedia.)

Cacao (Image from Wikimedia.)

Chocolate actually comes from the Aztec word xocolatl, meaning bitter water.    The Aztec’s pounded the beans and other spices to make a bitter (and unsweetened) drink.     The popularity if this bitter drink may have arisen from the belief it was an aphrodisiac.   (Montezuma is believed to have drunk fifty golden goblets a day).

Sexy beast (Image from internet.)

Sexy beast (Image from internet.)

Tempering chocolate simply means to melt and then cool it to prepare for coating an item.   Chocolate is tempered by first melting it and then removing it from the heat and stirring in finely chopped pieces of chocolate until the pieces are melted and the chocolate reaches a temperature between 85 and 90 degrees.   Chef Sarah explained a bit about tempering in reference to food chemistry—something about sugar molecule chains or something.   It was above my head so I quit listening and just popped another truffle in my mouth.   🙂

She further explained (in terms I could understand):

Think of a great piece of Godiva chocolate.   When you break it in half, it snaps and the outside of it has a nice glossy shine.   Now think of a child’s chocolate Easter bunny (the cheap kind).    The chocolate is missing the snap when it is broken and sometimes has a mushy texture.   The shine is also not prevalent.   This is the difference between properly tempered chocolate and un-tempered cheap chocolate (which usually just contains stabilizers).

Too funny.   (Again, not my image.)

Too funny. (Again, not my image.)

Finally, she defined the term bloom when applied to chocolate.    (I had never heard this term.)  Apparently,  bloom is the pale gray streaks or blotches that sometimes appear on the surface of chocolate.   Chef Sarah said, “Most people throw out the Hershey’s bar when they see this.   Think of all that wasted chocolate—what a tragedy!”

I can safely say that I have never thrown out a chocolate bar.

Chef Sarah continued to explain that bloom occurs when the chocolate begins to melt and the cocoa butter in the chocolate forms crystals on the chocolate.    “This does not mean your chocolate has gone bad;  the flavor and texture might be affected slightly.”   She further stated that dark chocolate has a shelf life of about ten years and milk and white chocolate can be stored for up to nine months due to the fact they contain milk solids.

(Who in their right mind lets chocolate set around for that long?   It does not last more than a few days in this household!)

Chocolate Cookbook Recommendations from Chef Sarah Leavell of The Canebrake:

I am waiting for the next cooking class at The Canebrake.   To keep up with these and other events, click here.

And for another description of all The Canebrake has to offer, here is what the marketing director commented on a long ago post:

Here at The Canebrake we try to source everything we can locally, from our organic bison that comes from a ranch 5 miles away to all-natural co-operative beef and poultry. Our seafood is flown in fresh every day, but we pick line-caught and seasonal fish.

The Canebrake is the first ECO-certified property in the state – a new program sponsored by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Tourism. We have 16 rooms and suites, a conference center and ropes course, daily yoga classes and our restaurant is open Wed-Sat for dinner and Sunday for Brunch from 10-2.

If you live in Northeast Oklahoma, The Canebrake is definitely worth a day trip.    If you don’t live in the magnificent Sooner State, I would definitely make this a destination.   (In fact, I feel another road trip coming on for brunch this weekend!)

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