Dutch and English Innovations: Cocoa Powder and Eating Chocolates

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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The main reason for this lack of interest in solid chocolate was probably the coarse, crumbly texture of the chocolate paste. The suave confections that are so popular today were made possible by several innovations, the first of which came in 1828. Conrad van Houten, whose family ran a chocolate business in Amsterdam, was trying to find a way to make chocolate less oily so that the drink would be less heavy and filling. The weight of the cacao bean is better than half fat, or “cocoa butter.” Van Houten developed a screw press that removed most of the cocoa butter from the ground bean—in itself, not a novelty—and then sold the defatted cocoa powder, which carries nearly all the flavor, for making hot chocolate. Cocoa powder was a long-lasting success, though recently there has been a revival of interest in richer versions of hot chocolate full of cocoa butter.