Chocolate Walk

One of downtown Athens’ most popular events will return next month with a familiar promise — sweet deals and sweet treats.

Tickets for the annual Chocolate Walk go on sale Friday. The event, which is Saturday, Feb. 8, is a fundraiser for Athens Main Street.

Executive Director Tere Richardson said 250 tickets will be available this year, which is up from the normal 200. Tickets sold out within 48 hours of going on sale last year, so anyone interested in attending should act fast.

“This event is a wonderful opportunity to visit a number of downtown businesses, shop the after-Christmas sales and event day specials, and be treated to yummy Chocolate treats,” Richardson said.

All chocolate has been donated by the more than 15 participating downtown businesses.

The self-guided tour, which runs from 1-6 p.m., will begin at the Athens Main Street office on Jefferson Street. Ticket-holders will receive a list of participating businesses and a bag to collect their chocolates.

Tickets, which are $6 plus processing, can only be purchased through Eventbrite. Visit https://bit.ly/2020Chocolate for more information.

Chocolate facts

 If you can’t make it to the Chocolate Walk, odds are good you may still enjoy a piece of chocolate or two next month. Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14, and National Dark Chocolate Day is celebrated Feb. 1.

Contrary to popular belief, chocolate wasn’t always the sugar-sweetened dessert people consume today. The history of chocolate dates back to 1900 B.C., when Aztecs believed the cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom. Chocolate was made into fermented beverages, and the cacao beans also were used as a form of currency because they held so much value. 

According to the History Channel, some ancient civilizations considered chocolate to be a mood enhancer and aphrodisiac. Chocolate was believed to have mystical properties and was revered so much that it was reserved for rulers, warriors and priests.

It was not until centuries later that edible chocolate became popular among the masses. Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented the cocoa press, which could turn extrude cocoa butter, paving the way for the modern age of chocolate as a confectionary ingredient and gift.

Choosing the right type of chocolate may require gaining an understanding of various chocolate-related terms.

• Cocoa powder: This is the unsweetened raw form of cocoa made from partially defatted chocolate liquor. Dutch-processed (alkalized) cocoa powder is milder and less acidic than natural cocoa powder. 

• Unsweetened chocolate: “Bitter” or “baking chocolate” are other names attributed to unsweetened chocolate. It is best used in baking when it can be combined with sugar and other ingredients. It is also the base ingredient of most forms of chocolate, with the exception of white chocolate.

• Dark chocolate: Chocolate that contains only chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and lecithin is considered dark chocolate. No milk solids are added. The higher the percentage on the wrapper, the more bitter the chocolate. 

• Milk chocolate: In addition to dark chocolate ingredients, milk chocolate also contains dry milk solids or condensed milk. It is sweet and has a mild chocolate taste.

• Bittersweet and semi-sweet: These chocolates are milder than dark chocolate, but not as sweet as milk chocolate. Many chocolate manufacturers derive their own formulations for these types of chocolate, varying the amount of cocoa solids they include.

• Couverture chocolate: An expensive chocolate, this is coveted by professional bakers or confectioners. It contains a high percent of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor, which helps it melt evenly. It is ideal for tempering and can coat candies smoothly.

• Ganache: Ganache is a whipped filling, glaze, icing or sauce that is used in various desserts. It is made by heating cream and pouring over chocolate of any kind. When cooled, it is malleable but not runny, which is why ganache is often used in making candies or fillings.

• Truffle: A chocolate truffle is made from a ball of ganache rolled in cocoa powder. Truffles can be made from any variety of chocolate.

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