The Science of Baking: Chocolate

From Cacao to Chocolate

Cacao trees bare fruit year around.Pods are harvested twice a year. They are cut off the trees carefully, and can grow anywhere on the tree- even on the trunk.The trees are delicate.

Once pods are harvested they are split open and 20-50 cream colored beans are scooped out and the rest is discarded.

Once the beans have been scooped out they are fermented. They are placed in large piles and covered with banana leaves or burlap for 3-6 days.


  • Enhances flavor
  • Removes some of the bitterness
  • Destroys the ability to sprout

Once they are fermented, the beans are dried. They are usually sun dried. If the climate is too moist, then an artificial method is used. Farmers will turn beans often for drying, this allows them to pick over beans and remove foreign objects and inferior beans.


  • Prevents spoilage
  • Lowers moisture content
  • Develops flavor
  • Causes beans to loose nearly all their moisture and in turn their weight

Beans are packed in 130-200 lb sacks and shipped to processing plants. Once at the processing plant, the beans are stored carefully until ready for cleaning. It is important that the beans are isolated so that they don’t absorb any off odors.


  • Brushes, air, gravity are used (never water!)
  • Removes any dried pulp, pieces of pod, other extraneous materials that have not yet been removed


  • Lasts from 30 minutes to 2 hours
  • Temperature is 250 degrees or higher
  • Lowers moisture content
  • Color develops to a rich dark brown
  • The characteristic aroma of chocolate becomes evident
  • Enhances flavor

After roasting the beans are cooled quickly. This allows the shell to become brittle and easy to remove. This is often done by a machine called a ‘cracker and fanner’. This process is called winnowing. Then the shells are removed from the beans. This leaves you with the ‘meat’ of the bean called nibs.

The nibs are now in small pieces and are ready for the grinding processing. Grinding is done with large stones or steel disks. This process generates heat through friction, which allows the cocoa butter to become liquid.


  • Produces chocolate liquor (which refers to liquid- not alcohol.)
  • Nibs contain 53% cocoa butter
  • Liquor is the purest form of chocolate
  • When poured into molds and allowed to solidify, result is unsweetened or bitter chocolate.

Production of Eating Chocolate

  1. Liquor is put into a mixer- called a melangeur
  2. Various ingredients are added to produce different types of chocolate
  3. Once mixed, the chocolate is still gritty and harsh. The chocolate is put through a roll press that crushes the particles and gives the chocolate a finer texture.


After being refined, the chocolate is conched.

  • Conching further refines the chocolate by shaking, kneading and pressing for up to 3 days (can be as little as a few hours.)
  • The higher the quality of chocolate, the more conching it goes through
  • This process creates a smooth texture and fluidity
  • Aids in the emulsification process
  • Aerates the chocolate
    • Aeration helps evaporate the volatile acids
    • Reduces the harshness of flavor
    • And evaporates the unwanted water


Once the conching process is finished, the chocolate is tempered.

  • Tempering is a process in which the temperature of the chocolate is manipulated to allow for the proper crystallization of the cocoa butter to occur, thus allowing it to set evenly and properly
  • After the tempering, the chocolate is molded, cooled, un-molded, packaged, shipped.

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa Powder Production

  1. Liquor is placed in hydraulic press
  2. Pressure is applied and the cocoa powder is pressed out of the liquor- pressed into wheels
  3. The leftover cocoa cake is then pulverized and sifted. This is cocoa powder.

The cocoa butter content of cocoa powder varies:

  • Grocery store cocoa is about 10% or more
  • Breakfast cocoa is about 22%

Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter is unique among vegetable fats because it is solid at room temp, but melts at 89-93 degrees. It also:

  • Resists oxidation and rancidity
  • Can be stored for years without spoilage
  • Is used for confectionery, pharmaceutical and cosmetic purposes

About Dutch Process

  • Uses alkaline chemicals that neutralize some of the acids in the cocoa
  • Can be done to the cocoa powder or the beans
  • Dutched products have
    • A better, fuller flavor
    • A deeper, darker color
    • Allow for more solubility
    • Are preferred by many professionals

Types of Chocolate & Their Ingredients

  • Dark chocolate- cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, sugar (varying amounts), vanilla and lecithin
  • Milk chocolate- cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, condensed milk or DMS, vanilla and lecithin
  • White chocolate- cocoa butter, sugar, condensed milk or DMS, vanilla and lecithin
    • Not ‘real’ chocolate since it doesn’t contain cocoa liquor


Couverture is bulk chocolate that is produced the same way eating chocolate is but has a higher percentage of cocoa butter. This provides:

  • More fluidity
  • Better shine when set
  • Harder set, good snap
  • Higher quality = higher price
  • Used for production of:
    • Confections, pralines, fine pastries, dipping, enrobing, molding and special fillings.

Coating Chocolate

Some or all of the cocoa butter is removed from the eating chocolate and is replaced with vegetable fat of some kind. This provides:

  • Less fluidity
  • Less quality ingredients = less expensive
    • There are good and bad quality coating chocolates
    • Used for the production of coating items, such as strawberries, truffles, cookies.

Melting Chocolate


  • Microwave or direct method
    • 20 second increments
    • Or alternately, start at 1 minute, then 45 seconds, then 30 seconds, then 15 seconds. Stir each time. Do not heat above 90 degrees for dark chocolate, 88 degrees for milk, or 86 degrees for white to keep in temper
  • Double boiler
    • Keep an eye on the flame
    • watch for excessive steam
  • Oven with pilot lighting
    • Great for large amounts of chocolate
    • Works well overnight
  • Machine method
  • Top of oven- rising heat
    • Use cooling screen so there is not direct heat

Melting temperature for chocolate varies from chef to chef and chocolate to chocolate.

Chocolate, in my opinion, does not need to be heated above 115 degrees. The lower the better. Dark chocolate can withstand higher temperatures.


Tempering should be used for couverture only. The process requires that the chocolate be heated, cooled, then reheated.

Heat Chocolate To:
Then Cool Chocolate To:
Reheat Chocolate To:
Dark 115 degrees 80 degrees 90 degrees
Milk 115 degrees 78 degrees 88 degrees
White 115 degrees 76 degrees 86 degrees
  • Chocolates are then workable from reheated temp down to dropped temp, reheat slightly if necessary.
  • Test for properly tempered chocolate
  • Spatula
  • Paper
  • Should set up in about 3 minutes

Tempering Methods

  • Table method
    • Marble slab
  • Vaccination #1
    • Shavings
    • Melt 2/3 of the chocolate and add 1/3 to bring into temper
  • Vaccination #2
    • Shavings- stir constantly
  • Resting
    • Can add a chunk of chocolate to speed up process
  • Microwave
  • Machine
    • Easiest, no fail
  • Cold water bath
    • Works well for white chocolate

Enemies of Chocolate

Moisture in melted chocolate

Melted chocolate that comes into contact with moisture becomes solid chocolate- it seizes. A few drops of water in melted chocolate will make for very sturdy chocolate which is good for lacy items (like chocolate cups, etc.)

If you do end up with seized chocolate, not all is lost- seized chocolate can be used for fillings or brownies.

Moisture on set chocolate

This will form droplets of simple syrup on your chocolate. Once dried, the chocolate will have white coating called ‘sugar bloom’. It will have a gritty feeling, and does not re-melt.

Excessive heat on melted chocolate

Do not heat chocolate above 120-122 degrees. If overheated, chocolate will become pasty, grainy, and will lose flavor. Depending on how grainy it is, it could be strained and used for baking, otherwise throw it away.

Excessive heat on set chocolate

This is usually due to improper storage practices. It will cause cocoa butter to melt and rise to the surface- this is called ‘fat bloom’. This is fixable- simply re-temper the chocolate.

Storage of Chocolate

  • Wrap well
  • Protect from:
    • Light
    • Strong odors
    • Foreign particles
  • Keep cool- 60-65 degrees is deal
    • Store close to the floor since heat rises
  • Moderate humidity- do not exceed 50%
  • Do not store in the refrigerator
  • Can be frozen, though not recommended

Texture Changes in Chocolate

These are generally caused by:
  • Cold
  • Overheating
  • Air
  • Moisture
  • Overuse


Ganache consists of couverture and water based liquid. Boil the liquid and pour over small bits of chocolate. Allow to sit one minute and stir starting in the center.

Basic Proportions:

Amount of Chocolate
Amount of Liquid
Dark 2 parts 1 part
Milk 2.5 parts 1 part
White 3 parts 1 part

Ganache can set out of the fridge for up to 8 days, but will keep longer in the fridge.

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