Friday, May 22, 2015

I’m in love with the choco(late) 05/21/15

Today we went to the Choco Museo (Museum) for a chocolate making class. As a chocolate lover, this was like a dream come true. When we arrived, we learned that cocoa beans come from a fruit that grows on the trunk of a tree. We also learned that the beans must be fermented before they can be made into chocolate, and that this process can take up to two weeks. Then, we were introduced to our Chocolate Professor for the day, Gladis. Gladis first passed out fermented cocoa beans and let us try them. To open them, you have to crack them open and peel off their outer shell. Most of us thought that the chocolate tasted very bitter. However, Paloma thought that it tasted like goldfish, and Adam thought it was the best thing he has ever tasted and was even asking others for their leftover beans. Gladis explained that having four to five cocoa beans a day can prevent diseases such as cancer. However, she said that the more milk and sugar that you add to the cocoa beans, the more it blocks their health benefits. After fermentation, Gladis explained that the next step in the chocolate making process is toasting the cocoa beans for five to seven minutes. After the cocoa beans were toasted, Gladis instructed us to peel them. She then passed out stone bowls with a separate stone shaped like a whisk for mixing. Gladis said that we were going to have a competition, and she instructed us to try to make a paste with the cocoa beans by mixing them in the stone bowl. 
She explained that the Mayans and the Aztecs used this paste to make offerings to the gods. She also said that during the era of the Mayans and Aztecs, 100 grains of cocoa could buy you a slave, and four grains of cocoa could buy you a cuy (guinea pig). While we were stirring the cocoa beans, Gladis prepared cocoa tea, which is made out of the cocoa shells, water, and a spoonful of sugar. Gladis then instructed us to stop stirring, and she declared that Adam, Linus, and Profe Steve were the winners of the competition. She gave them each a bag of cocoa tea as a reward. Then, she poured us each a cup of cocoa tea. I thought that it tasted like honey bunches of oats with a hint of chocolate, but it tasted different for everyone. Nonetheless, we all thought that it was delicious. Then, Gladis made a drink with chili and the paste that we stirred. She then said that the Mayans used to add human blood to this drink and offer it to the gods. She asked if any of us wanted to volunteer to put our blood in the drink so that we could do the same. We were all sure that this was a joke, and Elliot, playing along, volunteered. To our surprise, Gladis got a sterile needle and told Elliot that she would take the blood from his tongue. After a little hesitation, Elliot stuck out his tongue, and she pricked it with the needle. 
However, no blood came out. Gladis then started laughing and said that she was just joking. She then added honey to the drink instead of blood, and we all had a cup of the drink. I would never think to mix chili and chocolate; however, it was very tasty. Then Gladis made another drink that consisted of warm milk, cinnamon, sugar, and the cocoa paste. She instructed us to take turns stirring the drink and encouraged us to sing while doing so. We were probably too loud for the chocolate factory, but we had fun singing both English and Spanish songs while stirring. Then we tried the drink. This drink tasted like a fancy chocolate milk, and it was probably the most delicious drink that we tried. Then Gladis told us that cocoa powder and cocoa butter both come from the paste that we made. However, she said that cocoa powder and cocoa butter have to be mixed in order to make chocolate. She then took us over to a machine that was stirring an entire bowl full of chocolate. Gladis explained that after the cocoa paste is turned into cocoa powder and cocoa butter, this machine mixes them together with sugar to make chocolate. She said that this step is when milk is added to make milk chocolate. Also, she said that the chocolate must remain in the machine for 24 hours before it is ready to move on to the final step, molding. Then we finally got to start making our own chocolate to take home with us. First Gladis asked us if we wanted milk or dark chocolate, and then she gave us a variety of shapes of molds to choose from. Then she showed us all of the toppings that we could put in the molds, such as Oreos, marshmallows, coconut, and coffee beans. After we filled our molds and put them in the fridge, we got to end our visit by licking the bowls of chocolate while we waited for our masterpieces to cool. 

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