© Shutterstock / Pierre-Yves Babelon - Cocoa beans, the basic ingredient of chocolate
Firstly, cocoa beans are roasted to develop and release their aroma. They are then crushed to remove their husks, and pass through mills and grinding machines to emerge as cocoa paste. Part of this paste goes into large hydraulic presses in order to extract the cocoa butter.
Cocoa paste and cocoa butter form the basis of all chocolate, but the blend varies depending on the desired product. Plain or dark chocolate contains cocoa paste, sugar, and cocoa butter to ensure smoothness. To make milk chocolate, powdered milk or evaporated milk is added to this mixture. White chocolate, however, is made solely with cocoa butter, powdered milk, and sugar.
The selected mixture is churned and ground again to form a smooth, homogenous paste. At this stage, it is still bitter and grainy, so the next step, conching, is essential. Here, the paste is heated to a temperature of 80°C and then stirred for several hours. This reduces the bitterness and the chocolate becomes a perfectly even blend that melts in the mouth.
© Shutterstock / Deyan Georgiev - Pouring chocolate into moulds
The last stage, tempering, makes it easier to remove the chocolate from the mould. The mixture is again gently stirred, and heated to a temperature of 50°C, before being cooled to 28°C and finally, reheated to 31°C so that it has the right consistency to be poured into open moulds. After cooling, the chocolate is easy to remove from the mould and has a smooth, silky sheen.