What is Belgian Chocolate?
In the 17th century, when Belgium was still ruled by the Spanish, explorers brought cocoa beans from South America and introduced them to the Belgian community. At the time, chocolate was a sign of luxury and was mostly used to make ‘hot chocolate’ for the nobility or to impress new visitors. This started a love affair with chocolate that persists to this day and is why Belgium has a global reputation as the best chocolate producers in the world.
The secret to the flavour lies in the ingredients used and, of course, in the production process. Laws created in 1884 prevented the usage of low-quality fat sources to modify the composition. Belgian chocolate is unique in the quality of ingredients and an almost fanatical adherence to Old World manufacturing techniques
Where is Belgian Chocolate From?
Real Belgian chocolate must be produced in Belgium however, the Cocoa beans themselves can only grow in equatorial regions of the world. The Belgians source beans mainly from Western Africa. This is then paired with Belgian milk and sugar to produce the distinctive flavour we all crave.
Belgium may be a small country, but love and attention to detail leads to Belgium producing 270,000 metric tons of chocolate each year and boasting more than 2,000 chocolate shops.
What is the difference between Belgian Chocolate and normal chocolate?
The Belgians have their own rules around every step of the chocolate making process, this starts with sourcing the highest quality beans, and follows the whole process. Beanogolgists blend and roast cocoa beans using carefully guarded recipes and processes to control the chemical changes within the beans to that produce more than 600 flavour compounds. Ensuring that each batch of chocolate made has the characteristic Belgian Chocolate taste and aroma that we expect from chocolate of this quality.
Since 2000, the European Union has allowed chocolate makers to substitute up to 5% of the cocoa butter in their chocolate with other vegetable fats such as palm oil or shea butter. However, Belgian chocolate makers pride themselves on using 100% cocoa butter, which enhances the quality and smoothness of the chocolate.
Also, crucial to obtaining the typical smooth Belgian chocolate is the refining step, in which sugar and cocoa particles are ground down to a size of 18–20 μm, you will never have a grainy feeling in your mouth after eating Belgian chocolate. In contrast, chocolate factories in many other countries consider particle sizes of 25–30 μm to be acceptable. The secret is making the size of the particles smaller than the distance between the papillae of the tongue, so that when you eat a chocolate you cannot feel the particles on your tongue. The papillae are the tiny bumps on the surface of the tongue that contain the taste buds. On the other hand, particles must not be ground too small, or they will produce a dry feeling in the mouth.
The precise conditions for the next step in chocolate making, known as conching, are a carefully guarded secret at most Belgian chocolate companies. In the conching stage, a shearing device heats and thoroughly mixes chocolate for up to 78 hours. Unwanted flavours, such as the acetic acid produced during the cocoa fermentation stage, are removed by evaporation. Chocolate passes through three phases during the conching stage: dry, pasty, and liquid. The balance between dry and liquid conching develops the caramelised flavour of a good Belgian chocolate. This is different to Swiss chocolate, which is conched very liquid – they use almost no dry conching. This makes Swiss chocolate milkier, less caramelised, and with a different body than Belgian Chocolate.
Is Belgian Chocolate Gluten Free?
There is no use of gluten in Belgian Chocolate. The only ingredients in Belgian chocolate are cocoa power, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, and soy lecithin, and in the case of milk or white chocolate there is also milk powder. This is another difference with Swiss chocolate which often includes Malt, and if so, is not gluten free.
Belgian Dark chocolate is also dairy free, again this is not always the case with other countries chocolate. You do need to be aware that when the chocolate is made in truffles, bars etc., gluten and dairy can be added, so always check the label.
What makes Belgian Chocolate Different?
Belgian Chocolate has a unique flavour Profile. All countries have chocolate cultural differences, and this is reflected in the taste of chocolate made there. Unique nuances in flavour are due to where a particular country has a history of sourcing cocoa beans, local ingredients, cultural taste preferences and the national standards. Chocolate lovers worldwide know that one of the most famous of chocolate countries producing a unique style of chocolates is Belgium.
Although time-consuming, handmade Belgian chocolates fetch a premium price. Also contributing to a high-quality praline is the use of couverture chocolate for moulding and enrobing. Couverture chocolate contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter (32–39%) than regular chocolate and is thus shinier and snaps more firmly when broken.
Where can I buy Belgian Chocolate
At Chocolate Country we pride ourselves on a Great Chocolate Taste, that is why we work with sustainable chocolate crafted in Belgium. We take this fantastic base product to produce a wide range of chocolates, from truffles and pralines to bars and chocolate gifts. You can purchase our chocolates from our unique store in Montville Queensland, an ever-expanding range of chocolate shops and quality grocery stores, or online at www.chocolatecountry.com.au and we will deliver Australia wide to you.