Issue 05: Chocolate
Everybody loves chocolate, whether dark, milk or white. Throughout its long history, cocoa beans were highly prized and used as god offerings by the Aztecs or as money by the Mayans. It was later brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 16th century, where only the royalty and aristocratic could indulge in this pure decadence. Now, it has become a product of globalisation and mass production; one could just reach out his hand to grab a bar of chocolate.
Chocolate has the ability to command passion and (healthy) addiction. There are wine, coffee, cheese, tea or even olive oil connoisseurs; and chocolate is right there among the elite. It’s about knowing the beans, the soil, the people who harvest them, the process, the ingredients, and the techniques. In the world of pastry, chocolate on its own demands plenty of attention and a different set of skills. That is probably why there is a World Championship dedicated to this magical brown stuff.
(I was quietly surprised that a Chocolate Directive exists in the EU government. But knowing how much Europeans love their food, perhaps its only normal to see why such strict rules exist for this commodity.)
As children, our encounters with chocolate were endless. Books such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Chocolate Touch tempt our little greedy minds. We would press our noses on windows of gourmet chocolate shops. If we were nice that day, our father would reward us to a nibble of those beautiful chocolate creations. As we grew older, an appreciation for proper chocolate grew. (I’m slightly proud to say I’ve never eaten a Mars Bar or Hershey’s Kisses, and stopped consuming Cadbury’s for a decade now.) Then, there were luxurious chocolate buffets and high-end chocolate stores to visit. Us and chocolate, the marriage was still going strong.
Naturally, our path to chocolate would be a progression from a taster to a maker. Honestly, it’s the most delicious issue we have had so far. The aromas lingering in the air when N bakes were intoxicating. It was never easy keeping one’s hands away from the fresh pastries as it seduces you to just taste it. Even dish-washing was fun – lick the chocolate off the spoons before dumping them into the sink.
However, chocolate requires plenty of expertise and precision. And a very dry and cold atmosphere – which proved to be a challenge when our kitchen is on tropical mode almost every other day. Pair this up with the ingredient’s temperament (yes, it’s difficult to understand chocolate at times), this mouthwatering issue also proved to be quite a challenge.
But we can safely say that all bakes were ready for Easter, and that I do not mind the next issue to feature this lovely food again.