When I worked in pastry kitchens we used chocolate on a daily basis. Mixed with other ingredients, it was incorporated into cakes, pastries, ice creams, glazes and sauces. On its own, though, chocolate was both frustrating and fascinating. To make hand-dipped truffles or candies we had to 'temper' the chocolate by melting, cooling and re-heating it to precise temperatures that changed according to whether we were working with bittersweet, milk or white chocolate. If we didn't do it correctly, the chocolate would be dull rather than shiny, and instead of having a nice 'snap' when broken, it would crumble. Chocolate burns easily and if even a tiny amount of liquid gets into it while it is melting, it 'seizes' and turns into a solid mass. Manufacturing chocolate is time consuming and labour intensive. Cocoa beans are removed from their pods, processed, then ground to separate the beans into their components: cocoa butter, which is also used in beauty products, and chocolate liquor. With more steps - additional refining; mixing in sugar, milk solids and vanilla; and/or using a blending process called conching - the chocolate liquor is made into cocoa powder and bars of solid chocolate. White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla and doesn't contain any chocolate liquor. The Aztecs, an ancient tribe in central Mexico, considered chocolate to be the 'food of the Gods' and an aphrodisiac (there are still some who credit it with the latter attribute). There is an array of books and magazines about chocolate, and clubs whose members are devoted to finding the most exotic and esoteric versions of it. In order to meet the increasing demand for quality, some manufacturers label their products with its percentage of cocoa mass (a combination of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor, and which is also referred to as cocoa, cacao or cocoa solids), list the provenance of their cocoa beans and even make 'single varietal' chocolates of specific types of cocoa beans. When buying chocolate, check the label: it should contain cocoa butter - never vegetable shortening or any other fat. If another fat is listed it is not the genuine article and should be labelled 'con-fectionery coating', 'chocolate flavouring' or 'coating chocolate'. This tastes inferior and leaves a greasy coating in the mouth. Top-quality dark chocolate contains a high percentage of cocoa/cacao, sugar (unless it's bitter, or unsweetened, chocolate) and milk solids (for milk chocolate). Tastes differ but I look for a minimum of 35 per cent cocoa in milk chocolate and 60 per cent and above for dark chocolate.