For me, making chocolate is a multi step process and here is how I make bean to bar chocolate.
The first step of making chocolate is sorting the cocoa beans. I could spend all day inspecting that each bean is perfect and ready to make chocolate but that would be some very expensive chocolate! I lay all the beans out ready to roast and pick out any broken, damaged or flat beans. These beans won’t make good chocolate because they might burn due to them being a different size to the rest of the uniform beans
Next is the roasting. I’ll be honest I am no expert in the science of what goes on when roasting and I roast in my domestic oven in my home. I had some steep learning curves while testing my first few batches. Domestics oven dials don’t always reflect the actual temperature! I roast my beans at 140c (reads 160c on the dial) for around 20-25 mins, depending on the origin and what flavours I want to be present. A shorter roast time leaves the diverse flavours of the cocoa beans, whilst burning off the acid and volatiles that come from the fermentation process.
Once the beans have cooled I need to crack them, or break them apart into nibs and husks. To do this is use a Champion juicer which does the job nicely and leaves me with a pretty uniform bowl of nibs and husk.
To separate the nibs, the part used for making chocolate, from the husk, the paper like shell of the bean, I use a piece of equipment called a winnower for this. Heavier nibs fall into the container whilst the lighter husk is sucked into the drum of the winnower. Cocoa bean husks are used for various different things. Such as fertiliser, brewing or hot drinks.
The next step combines two processes, grinding and conching. I start off by adding melted cocoa butter to the grinder to lubricate the machine and make sure the motor is not overworked when the nibs are added. Once all the nibs have been gradually added in I let them grind for a few hours before adding in the sugar. After about 30 hours of grinding, I then conch the chocolate, which aerates the chocolate and develops the flavour. I do this by reducing the tension of the stones. Conching is done in the same equipment due to space. The stone grinder does a good enough job that a separate conch in unnecessary.
I then pour out the chocolate and let it set for at least 24 hours before tempering it. Tempering is where you heat the chocolate up and then cool it down to specific temperates. The process of tempering chocolate allows the fatty crystals in the cocoa butter to set in a specific structure. This process gives chocolate its snap and shine. I will go into tempering chocolate in more detail in a later post!
Finally is packing the chocolate, and not eating it all my self! Bars are then packed in a compostable bag, made from renewable and sustainably resourced cellulose. Then boxed in a bold Frankly Delicious chocolate bar box!
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