This paper proposes a method to enzymatically treat poor-quality cocoa almonds (known as "slate") to ensure the formation of chocolate flavor precursors. The production of flavor precursors improves the quality of these almonds, which are usually responsible for the low quality of the liquor produced. Proteases and carboxypeptidases from different sources were tested under various conditions. The different treatments were evaluated by chemical analysis (hydrolysis efficiency) and sensory analysis of the treated material compared to good-quality cocoa almonds. The results show that it is possible, through the use of microbial enzymes, to generate the mixture of compounds that will release, after roasting, the characteristic chocolate flavor in poor-quality almonds. However, it is necessary to optimize the conditions of enzymatic treatment to obtain better results and thus establish a process that can be used for industrial purposes for manufacturing cocoa and chocolate.
Practical application: The basidiomycete Moniliophtora perniciosa is the causative agent of witches' broom disease (WBD) of the cocoa tree, whose seeds are the source of chocolate. It is the most important phytopathological problem of cocoa-producing areas of the American continent, and has decimated the Brazilian cocoa industry. In Bahia (Brazil), M. perniciosa was identified in 1989 and, as a consequence of its spreading, the annual production of cocoa almonds dropped from 450,000 to 90,000 tons within 12 y, reducing export values from an all-time high of about US$ 1 billion to 110 million. The high incidence of WBD incapacitates Brazil to produce enough cocoa almonds even for the internal market, leading the country to import low-quality cocoa almonds mainly from African countries. Our work proposes an enzymatic treatment to increase the quality of that cocoa almonds and, consequently, to improve the quality of the chocolate produced and consumed in the country.
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