New bean treatment shown to produce fruitier, flowerier dark chocolate
While many people might say that chocolate couldn't possibly be improved, such may not be the case. According to a recent study, a new cocoa bean treatment results in "fruitier, more flowery-tasting" dark chocolate.
Ordinarily, once cocoa beans have been harvested for use in chocolate, they're covered in banana leaves and then left to ferment for several days.
As they ferment, naturally occurring microbes break down the pulp surrounding the beans, heating and acidifying them in the process. This triggers biochemical changes in the beans, reducing their bitter and astringent taste, while boosting more desirable flavors and aromas.
A new non-microbial process, known as moist incubation, is claimed to be faster and easier to control than fermentation.
It involves drying cocoa beans, breaking them up into chunks called nibs, rehydrating those nibs in an acidic solution, heating them for 72 hours, then re-drying them. Although it was already known to produce aromas similar to those produced by fermentation, scientists from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences set out to get a better sense of how the end result of the one process compares to that of the other.
For the study, the researchers created three types of chocolate bars: ones made from moist incubated beans, ones made from fermented beans, and a control group made from beans which were neither incubated nor fermented.
After sampling all three bars, a group of volunteers stated that the moist incubated chocolate had "higher intensities of fruity, flowery, malty and caramel-like aromas." The fermented chocolate was said to have more of a roasty aroma, while the control chocolate had "a primarily green aroma."
More objectively, gas chromatography analysis showed that as compared to the fermented chocolate, the moist incubated chocolate had higher levels of malty compounds known as Strecker aldehydes, and lower levels of roasty compounds called pyrazines.
The researchers have therefore concluded that moist incubation may be a superior alternative to traditional fermentation.
A paper on the study, which was led by Irene Chetschik and Ansgar Schlüter, was recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Source: American Chemical Society