Volumes have been written about its effects, from aphrodisiac to medicinal. And don’t even get us started on the recipes for its use in cooking! Chocolate mobilizes all senses and represents, without a doubt, one of the most valuable things ancient civilizations have left us.
Just like the history of the glorious Ancient Rome cannot be told without at least a partial look at Ancient Greece, the history of international sweets served at various Belgradian restaurants, which truly tickle all of the senses, would not be complete without the story of their main ingredient – the most famous sweet in the world, chocolate. The history of chocolate, dating back to the old Aztecs, is not a neat and orderly system or, as the scientists would put it, a clear collection of facts; it is a creative mix of reality, legend and myth. The answer to the question why this is so lies in the properties of chocolate itself, in its power to provide exquisite pleasure, beguile imagination and awaken the senses. Even old Aztecs had discovered aphrodisiac properties of liquid chocolate, which they mixed with chilli and served as an exceptional drink, while the famous Columbus listed chocolate in his collection of the most valuable things he found on the newly discovered soil.
The history of chocolate is so fairy-tale-like exactly because it invites you to play, awakens your creativity, so the combinations with various other flavours were gradually discovered throughout centuries. This particular property is the crux of a dilemma that is still without a definitive answer: is creation of different chocolate sweets a science or an art?
Chocolatiers, jealously keeping their recipes secret, all agree on one thing – you have to feel chocolate in order to create miracles out of it. Thus, it is not enough just to know the ingredients of the material and its nutritional properties. In one Belgradian chocolate shop, they explain that the irresistibility of their chocolate desserts comes from the fact that it’s made out of pure cocoa, and not cocoa butter – which is used in technological production of mass-produced chocolate available in supermarkets.
Their shelf-life is thus far shorter, but their flavour is unrepeatable and their composition devoid of any additives and preservatives, which is an obsession of our times – to constantly search for a recipe for a healthy lifestyle.
For chocolate desserts of the kind we enjoy today, we can thank Van Houten, who discovered the machine to process cocoa beans. Fermented cocoa beans are processed in presses to remove fat, i.e. cocoa butter. The remaining solids are ground, yielding cocoa powder. Later, the two fractions are mixed and sugar is added to yield the chocolate we know today.
Anything else is just a matter of imagination and culinary skill.