The delicious art of Belgian chocolate

This beautiful chocolate sculpture sits in a shop window in Brussels.Â

Those who have tried the Belgian chocolate say that it is one of the most delicious in the world and that its secret is derived from the high percentage of pure cocoa in the preparation. But also for its build-up and design.

In Brussels, a city where the people consume an average of 10 kilos of chocolate per person per year, chocolate has become an art. Its elaboration and design are part of the charm of this city, which offers plenty of shops where clients can buy, taste and enjoy this wonderful food. The shop windows are genuine works of art with sculptures, images and symbols created by hand. It is the same as a museum just that here, the artworks are edible.

The grace in the Belgian chocolate lies in the rigorous selection of the ingredients, mainly in the choice of cocoa beans that must have the adequate maturity, color, size and weight. Chocolate is a very simple food which consists of cocoa powder (ground seeds from the cocoa), cocoa butter (which is extracted after squeezing the seeds), along with sugar and natural milk powder: a sweet mix that forms this delicious foodstuff. “The secret of Belgian chocolate is in the cocoa concentration,” according to Yorrick Vernaillen, a chocolate chef situated in Brussels, who adds that “chocolate is a product that is accessible to everyone”.

Belgian chocolate is one of the finest products that exist in the world. It is known worldwide for its exquisite taste and texture. But the history of Belgian chocolate, like all chocolate, dates back to the early centuries of the American continent where the natives drank cocoa. The Aztecs tasted it as a drink, which was very bitter at this time. Cocoa was a luxury product in those days and even used as type of currency. But with the arrival of the Spanish, the chocolate spread to the old continent and there begins the history of Belgian chocolate.

A chef chocolatier handcrafts a piece of chocolate.

But what makes Brussels unique to Belgian chocolate is that here this product is prepared and treated as if it were handcrafted traditionally. The chefs are not only cooks; they use their hands and produce art as a sculptor. Creating a chocolate figure is a very hard work that requires many hours and lots of effort. First, the chef draws a sketch of the future chocolate design. Secondly, he tries to shape the figure with a paste-like chocolate and he paints and decorates it with great delicacy, as if it was the final work. Ultimately, when everything is perfectly measured and studied, the chocolatier is released to work in this wonderful dish. “As a pastry chef you can give free rein to your imagination making with it a thousand different things,” explains master confectioner Vernaillen, and this is because the chocolate is “a bit of happiness”.

One of the great delicacies of Belgian chocolate is the famous praline, an almond or walnut coated or covered with chocolate. In Brussels, the praline is considered an authentic candy that is also the perfect gift for any occasion, a delicate and tasteful present that could pass as an authentic hand-carved sculpture by a renowned artist — mainly because everyone loves to eat them! To try a chocolate in Brussels is an experience that no chocolates lover can miss. The unique taste of the praline is a demonstration of why the chocolate in this city is so special. But also because in Brussels, when one is going to take a bite of this chocolate, one always thinks: ‘I´ll destroy an art work, should I do it?’

A customer tastes chocolate in "Mary," a famous chocolate shop in Brussels.

Chocolate envelops the city in an intense and sweet smell that makes the mouths of passersby water time and time again. There are also museums dedicated solely to chocolate. Without going any further, on the famous Grand Place of Brussels stands a building of high historical value, The Falcon House. Here, people can walk the origins of chocolate and get “a delightful insight into the world of chocolate,” in the words of a visitor.

White, black, milk, stuffed, liquid, solid — no matter how you eat it–, the Belgian chocolate is a gem. In addition to making life sweeter, it´s part of the existence of Brussels where the shop windows on days like Valentine’s Day or Easter, become authentic street art exhibitions that brings together thousands of gourmands looking for a great little bite that melts in your mouth.

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