There are lots of accessible DIY instructions on the internet these days, especially for recipes. But have you ever followed one, already knowing it would fail? I mean, a lot of things taste better homemade, but unfortunately chocolate is not often one of them.
Making smooth and appetizing chocolate is an involved and expensive undertaking that most all do-it-yourselfers are put off by, often after one glance at the required materials list. Personally, it took 3 years of craft chocolate infatuation before I took the leap to home chocolate making.
All About the Recipe
Off the bat, I should confess something. Even though I started with 2kg of raw cacao, and roasted and winnowed the beans with good intentions, I snacked along the way. In fact, I munched so much so that my 2000g ended up at ~1350g instead of the expected ~1600g. My human weakness explains the following ratios of cacao to sugar that I used in
~Free of lecithin~
(=1900g chocolate at ~35.5% fat)
All About the Beans
Age: unknown. I purchased one bag in January & one in April 2017 (from different companies), but they had nearly identical aroma profiles.
Size: medium & small, hand sorted & then roasted separately.
Pre-Roast Aroma: unbelievably fruity and acidic, with both bags’ scents overwhelmingly reminiscent of strawberry Nutrigrain bars, if you’re familiar with that (if not, think cooked oats and sickly sweet strawberry preserves), although one bag had a slight cocoa undertone. Often, acidity can indicate that fermentation went wrong somehow, but this was a pleasant level of acid.
Post-Roast Aroma: it varied between slightly bitter and rather sweet, but the juicy fruit flavors persisted through roasting. As the beans got older, there was a potato chip scent that I could never quite taste.
Post-Roast Flavor: there was a mix of quality in the beans here, reflected in the varying colors and flavors. The nibs range from slightly bitter and nutty to sweet and fruity. I maintain that the beans are of high quality (despite what happened next).
I wish that beans gave exact origins, but I take what I can get. Using the smell test, I felt pretty confident that putting together these two bags of Vietnamese beans would be a positive combination. For all I know, they could be from the very same farm.
All About the Process
Chocolate doesn’t just appear out of thin air, and logically neither do cacao beans. The trees the beans— which are actually seeds— come from take 3-5 years to bear fruits. After they are picked, it takes at least another 10 days of processing before they are fit to be made into chocolate. Though chocolate making can be simplified into a 10-step process, each of those steps could be broken down even further. But that’s a rabbit hole I refuse to get sidetracked by at the moment. Basically, my responsibilities as a chocolate maker are to sort, roast, break, and peel the beans until I have little pieces of cacao called nibs.
To create this micro-batch, I started off by warming my nibs in an oven that was heating to but had not reached 100C degrees (212F). I added these nibs directly to the machine, a questionable choice at best. With much starting and stopping, the proffered cacao was accepted. But after half an hour of adding nibs 3-4 at a time, I gave in and pre-blended the remaining beans in my cheap and otherwise-unusable blender.
In the already-warm machine, the powdery cacao quickly acclimated. The color was a dull brown, and the acidity coming off the machine was pretty high, though it hadn’t yet lost the strawberry jam smell. There were these horrid stone-on-stone grinding noises every time I added cacao. However, as I slowly added more cacao the weird noise changed to a sloshing. Each time I got bolder, adding more of the mixture until I was down to nothing.
When I finally added the sugar in the last hour, I added it slowly to see how the machine would react. It seemed to be fine, so I didn’t add the cacao butter I had waiting. Because of this, the chocolate turned out quite thick, as I noted when I took it out of the machine. As fast as possible, I transferred the products into molds with several flavors for mixing, and into containers for aging.
All About the Chocolate
Conche time: 48 hours.
Aroma: deep cocoa with earthy and emphatically floral undertones.
Melt: it’s untempered, so it has a hard, crumbly texture. Throw in the thickness from a low fat percentage, and this isn’t my best work.
Flavor: initial impression is one of nice earthiness, followed by the arrival of meaty tannins and astringent cocoa, and finally, a bittersweet aftertaste. In spite of the fact that there are several astringent tastes present, which ideally will become more subdued with time, I continue to believe that I over-conched the chocolate. I feel that it would have been possible to prevent the intense astringency that was produced when the berry taste in the roasted cacao was converted into it.
In comparison to other bean-to-bar chocolates that I’ve sampled, this one doesn’t even make the cut. To tell you the truth, it was probably doomed from the beginning due to the fact that I began it on a Monday night, which forced me to conch for between 20-24 or 44-48 hours in total. Next time, I’m going to leave the lid off the refiner the whole time and confine the conching process to fewer than 36 hours. This means that I’ll have to begin and conclude the process on a weekend in order to avoid contamination. In terms of the impromptu created truffles, the Filipino coconut jam and the Aztec spice mix were, without a doubt, the most successful taste combinations (cayenne pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg).
A number of producers have drawn attention to the fact that Vietnamese beans have a wide variety of tastes because to the country’s size and geography. The vast majority of these bars come from certain parts of the world, and I often find myself wishing that I could do the same thing with the chocolate I eat. Marou, a manufacturer with headquarters in Ho Chi Minh City, is responsible for producing a number of my favorite kinds of Vietnamese chocolate bars. On a regular basis, they collaborate with farmers in the area, and they recruit residents of the surrounding area to work in their factory.
It is partly due to Marou’s impact that there is a growing interest in Vietnamese cacao and chocolate. Marou’s bars are composed of beans sourced from six diverse areas of Vietnam, including Tiên Giang, Dông Nai, Lam Dong, Bà Ria, and Bén Tre, as well as Tan Phu Dông Island. Their bars are still rather pricey, despite the fact that they have a fairly broad distribution and are exposed to a lot of people. Alluvia Chocolatier, whose bars I sampled the previous month, is another another Vietnamese manufacturer about whom I had been reading. My current batch of cacao isn’t quite as tasty as I’d want it to be, so I have high hopes for the next time I get my hands on some cacao from Vietnam.
All About The Future
At the present, I don’t focus nearly as much of my writing on chocolate. Finding chocolate and cacao of a high grade in Korea might be challenging, but it is not impossible. Due to the fact that I reside in a very remote area, shipping costs might be high. Nobody in my town even knows how to make chocolate, therefore it’s impossible to have a conversation about chocolate with anybody here. There are all of my justifications and impediments, but because I want to get rid of them, I will. I commit to writing at least two essays on chocolate each and every month for the next calendar year. The following will be covered: a chocolate-making course that I have recently begun taking online; cacao farms in Taiwan; chocolate tours of Korea and Japan; and the preparation of Ecuadorian chocolate at home.
I believe that chocolate should be appropriate for the event, thus I create it whenever the opportunity arises in my life. But when I’m in the middle of my chocolate making lesson, I’m feeling more motivated than I ever have before to make the greatest product I possibly can for my production team of one and my tasting team of one hundred. I am really excited to learn about the distinctive tastes of the many Asian cacao origins and to see their ever-increasing demand for their products.
Where do you like to get your chocolate from the most? Have you ever sampled chocolate that was produced with cocoa from Asia?