Mendiant from The Barefoot Contessa, available at StonewallKitchen.com. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.
Last updated February 2010
Chocolate Terms & Definitions: M
On this page you’ll find terms including marzipan, Mexican chocolate and milk chocolate. If you think we should consider chocolate terms and definitions other than those we have provided click on the Contact Us link on this page. Also enjoy our other 60 food glossaries.
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A natural sugar substitute that provides the most natural sweetness in sugar-free chocolate. Made from malt extract, it is more expensive than other non-sugar sweeteners but used in the finer sugar-free chocolates. See our comprehensive article on sugar substitutes.
A growing region and cacao often associated with a vibrant and crisp citrus tartness. Grape and pineapple-like tones are common as well. Vodka and white wine notes sometimes accompanies these flavors. Although not as common, spice, cedar, and other woody tones are appearing in more Madagascan chocolate. It is a slightly lighter style, sharp on the palate but with no bitterness.
A classic bonbon filled with buttercream and topped with a halved walnut. The couverture can be white, milk, or dark chocolate. Some chocolatiers put the walnut inside the bonbon.
A Criollo cacao grown near the banks of the Maracaibo River in the Sur del Lago region of Venezuela. Soft and gentle, very smooth consistency, fairly noncomplex, the cacao bears flavors of sweet spice, soft woods, and sometimes slight red fruit tones. In old times, Porcelana was called Maracaibo because it was shipped from the port of the same name.
Manon photo courtesy of Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier.
Pronounced mah-RAWN glah-SAY, candied chestnuts (also called glazed chestnuts or crystallized chestnuts). In an elaborate process, cooked chestnuts are are candied in a glucose syrup flavored with vanilla. The glucose creates a crystalline effect that sugar does not.
A thick taste of finely ground almonds and melted sugar, often coated with chocolate; or formed into realistic fruits or figurines and painted with vegetable colors to be enjoyed plain. It was originally used to cover wedding cakes before a layer of fondant or icing and used in some European recipes as the only covering for the cake. Marzipan is not the same as almond paste, which is less sweet, is made from bitter and sweet almonds and can be used in baking, most notably in frangipane fillings, nut cakes and cookies.
“Bambi“ immortalized in almond paste. Available at Albert Uster Imports.
Another word for the nib of the cacao bean.
Mendiants (French for “mendicant”) are disks or bars of chocolate studded with nuts and dried fruits. The colors of the nuts and fruits traditionally referenced the color of the monastic robes of the orders of the Augustinians (hazelnuts), Carmelites (almonds), Dominicans (raisins) and Franciscans (dried fig). Today, a wider variety of fruits, peels and seeds are used. Unlike chocolate bars that enrobe the nuts and fruits, mendiants are generally made so that the beauty of the different nuts and fruits are studded in the top to offer visual appeal as well as flavor. Mendiants are often made in large slabs and then broken into smaller pieces, like bark. The word mendiant or mendicant means ”beggar”: One would gladly beg for a piece. See the photo at the top of the page.
MEXICAN CHOCOLATE or CHOCOLATE MEXICANO
This term has two definitions: (1) a chocolate beverage similar to cocoa, or (2) a semi-soft cinnamon-scented sweet chocolate, also called Oaxaca Chocolate. The cacao beans are ground and mixed with cinnamon, sugar and almonds and then pressed into tablets or bars. Other varieties may include almonds, nutmeg and clove in a mixture of eggs and cocoa beans. The chocolate is used primarily in making hot beverages. The Ibarra brand is most commonly found, in the form of three-inch round tablets that are packaged in octagon-shaped, cylindrical, bright yellow and red cardboard boxes. You can purchase Mexican chocolate at specialty food stores, international markets or online.
Along with white chocolate, the sweetest eating chocolate. Made of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, some form of milk, sugar, and flavorings. Today, fresh, sweetened, condensed or powdered whole milk, depending on the individual manufacturer’s formula and manufacturing methods, is blended with the sugar and added to the chocolate liquor during the crumb or flake process. It is then dried on heated rollers to produce the flavor more typical of European chocolate or mixed with slightly acidified milk to produce the flavor preferred in the U.S. The milk often brings out cream, caramel or butterscotch flavors in the chocolate. All milk chocolate made in the United States must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor and 12% whole milk (usually in dried form). Bars of fine milk chocolate generally contain between 30% and 45% cacao. The most inexpensively made, commercial cacao can have as little as 5% cacao. Since the higher the cacao content, the more “snap” a bar has, milk chocolate has less snap than dark chocolate. Milk chocolate was first made successfully in 1879 after Daniel Peter*, a Swiss chocolate manufacturer, had the idea to substitute powdered milk for the whole milk or cream that had been unsuccessfully attempted previously. Powdered milk had been invented by his neighbor, Swiss chemist Henri Nestlé, in 1867, after eight years of experiments. So while the Spanish were responsible for bringing cacao to Europe from the New World and Englishman Joseph Fry created the first chocolate bar, the Swiss have full ownership of milk chocolate. Today, the trend among chocolate connoisseurs is toward dark milk chocolate.
*Peter was a candle maker who fell in love with and married the daughter of a chocolatier. He converted his candle factory into a chocolate plant—to great success. His original formula using powdered milk is still in use today. In 1879 Peter and Nestlé founded the Nestlé Company.
The flavor combination of chocolate and coffee.
Chocolate shaped in a mold, including classic treats like chocolate Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, and Santas. Tempered chocolate is poured into a mold, cooled, and unmolded. Molded chocolates can be solid or hollow. Chocolates that are not molded are enrobed. Chocolates that were both molded and filled first appeared in 1913. They were developed by Swiss confiseur Jules Séchaud of Montreux, who created the machine and the process.
Molding has two meanings: (1) In the chocolate-making process, after conching, the chocolate is tempered, poured into the molds, passed through the refrigerated tunnel and then unmolded. This creates the large blocks of couverture from which all chocolates are made, and can also create the producer’s individual chocolate bars. The chocolate bars are left to rest for a few days so their flavors will age and to insure stability. Then the chocolate is packaged. (2) In making molded chocolates, the tempered chocolate is poured into molds and the molds are turned so the chocolate creates a fine coat (the shell). The shells are subsequently filled with ganache, praline, whipped cream, or other filling; then closed with a layer of chocolate and cooled. The molds are tapped to remove the finished chocolates. This is known as shell molding. Dipping is one of the four basic methods four basic methods of coating chocolate onto a center such as a caramel, nut or fruit; it was the original method of making coated chocolates and is done by hand by artisan producers. The other methods are enrobing, panning and molding or shell molding.
A wooden spindle for frothing chocolate drinks. While it may seem like an Aztec invention, this wooden frother was developed by the Spanish in the 16th century: The top twists between the hands in a back-and-forth motion to beat the chocolate drink and make it frothy. The Aztecs generated froth by pouring the drink from one vessel into another. (Editor’s Note: We have tried using a molinillo; whoever invented the wire whisk developed a vastly more useful tool. The molinillo may look interesting, but a whole lot of labor produces very little result.)
Photo courtesy of VosgesChocolate.com
A spicy, unsweetened chocolate sauce. The classic Mexican dish mole poblano, composed of turkey in mole sauce, is said to have been invented by nuns in the convent of Puebla, outside of Mexico City.
The texture and other sensations of the chocolate in the mouth. In general, a good chocolate will be smooth and dissolve into liquid in the mouth. A less good chocolate will be grainy, gritty, or waxy (the latter may indicate that cheaper vegetable fat has been substituted for the cocoa butter).
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