Why is Belgian chocolate better ?

Belgian chocolate (chocolat belge in French or belgische chocolade in Dutch) is a worldwide  reference for chocolate-lovers. The specificity of Belgian chocolate is that the actual production of the chocolate must take place in Belgium, while cacao beans and other ingredients such as sugar can originate from outside of Belgium. Belgian chocolate is internationally known, and dates from as early as the 17th century.

The composition of Belgian chocolate has been regulated by law since 1884 and, to prevent adulteration of the chocolate with low-quality fats from other sources, a minimum level of 35% pure cocoa was imposed. Adherence to traditional manufacturing techniques also serves to increase the quality of Belgian chocolate. In particular, vegetable-based fats are not used. Only cocoa butter. Many firms produce chocolates by hand, which is laborious and explains the prevalence of small, independent chocolate outlets. Famous Belgian chocolate companies, like Neuhaus, Guylian and Marcolini, strictly follow traditional recipes for their products.

Historically, the association of Belgium with chocolate goes back as far as 1635 when the country was under Spanish occupation. The chocolate became later very popular among the upper and middle class, particularly in the form of hot chocolate. From the early 20th century, Belgium was able to import huge quantities of cocao from its African colony, the Belgian Congo. The chocolate bar as well as the praline are both inventions of the Belgian chocolate industry.

Pralines, sometimes called chocolate bonbons in English-speaking countries, are chocolate pieces filled with a soft centre. They were first introduced in 1912 by Jean Neuhaus, a Belgian chocolatier. There have always been many forms and shapes in pralines and they nearly always contain a hard chocolate shell with a softer or more liquid filling. Belgian pralines are not limited to the traditional praliné filling and can include butter cream, liquor, nuts, marzipan or even a chocolate blend that contrasts with the hard outer shell. They are often sold in designed boxes, in the form of a gift box.

With 500 chocolatiers and almost 2.000 chocolate shops in Belgium, one for every 5.500 inhabitants, every Belgian consumes an average of 8 pounds of chocolate per year, one of the highest rates in the world. The country produces 172.000 tons of chocolate every year, the majority for the exportation. A symbol of Belgian quality in the world.

Pralines are chocolate pieces of many forms and shapes filled with a soft centre, which can include praliné, butter cream, liquor, nuts, marzipan or even a chocolate blend that contrasts with the hard outer shell.

La mousse au chocolat belge

The mousse au chocolat is a dessert of French origin whose composition may vary but all recipes have as common ingredients chocolate and egg whites. It can sometimes be adorned with egg yolk, butter, milk or cream, or spices. The "mousse au chocolat" was described in 1755 by Menon as "mousse de chocolate", a term also applied to the foam on the hot chocolate drink. In 1820, Viard gives a recipe in his book Cuisinier Royal, which was the recipe created by Charles Fazi, a Swiss servant of Louis XVI.

With the success of chocolate since the 17th century in Belgium, it has also been a common dessert here, where the recipe is made of dark Belgian chocolate, which makes obviously the mousse taste even better.

Recipe for 6 people

  • 3 white eggs and 20gr of sugar
  • 125gr dark Belgian chocolate
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 75g butter
  • 50g icing sugar

Melt chocolate in double boiler (bain-marie), then remove from heat, add the butter while whisking. The mixture should be ointment.

Stir in two egg yolks. The mixture should not be warm, it would be too liquid to be mixed with the egg whites. Mount the three egg whites until stiff, adding at midterm 20gr of sugar. Pour the mixture over the beaten egg whites and mix gently.

Pour the foam in individual ramekins or in a deep dish. You can, if you wish, sprinkle it with chocolate chips and icing sugar. Refrigerate 4 hours and serve it cold.