Home Chocolate Making for Beginners

It never seemed realistic to make chocolate at home. A chocolate tart, sure, but chocolate made from cacao beans? Impossible. Yet every couple of months, that’s exactly what I do. I even capture this experience on my website, in all of it’s it’s disastrous yet delicious glory. As one of your guest bloggers for this month I hope you will enjoy these fun chocolate excursions. -Max Gandy

For me to make chocolate at home in South Korea, starting with 2kg of un-roasted cacao beans, takes about a month. Over the course of that month, in my free time–when I’m not teaching English, rock climbing, or finding the nearest dance floor–I inspect, sort, roast, break, winnow, and grind those beans into a paste. These brown almond-shaped seeds were grown in football-shaped pods, harvested from large tropical trees grown around the equator, and then collected, fermented and dried before being shipped to me. Fermenting them develops healthy antioxidants as well as the chemicals necessary for the chocolate flavor we desire. Drying and later roasting further develop my unique vintage.

damecacao-picture1Additionally, I add sugar, milk powder, and cocoa butter (for milk chocolate) or added cocoa butter (for dark chocolate) to the cacao paste in my little refiner. It was originally built in India and distributed for the purpose of grinding flour for making dosa. But a particle size-reducing machine like this is just one of many that micro-batch chocolate makers must re-purpose in order to craft the product we think of as chocolate. Bigger chocolate makers use bigger specialized equipment, but every few weeks I take a hammer to the beans I toast in my 1-pound coffee roaster, and then I blow away the light shells with a hair drier. Afterwards I refine my chocolate for 48 hours straight.

damecacao-picture3The twelve or so steps of chocolate making take at minimum one month from ripened pod to packaged bar, but often even longer. Like a fine wine, chocolate is almost always aged before it hits the market, allowing flavors to mellow out and change over time. For a home made chocolate to remain healthy after all that processing requires a focus on sourcing quality ingredients. But these days there’s no need to even leave your home, much less your continent, to find quality cacao beans (shell on) or nibs (already shelled). You won’t be a bonafide chocolate maker after following these simple chocolate recipes, but I guarantee you will better appreciate your local bakeries and chocolate shops. This recipe is vegan & dairy free.

damecacao-picture2.jpgNib-to-Bar Chocolate, 70%

  • 100g cacao nibs, warmed in a 150F oven for 10 minutes
  • 10g cocoa butter, melted
  • 33g white or coconut sugar
  • high-powered blender

Carefully put half of your warm nibs plus the melted cocoa butter into the blender. Mix on high speed for one minute. Add half of the remaining nibs and blend for thirty more seconds. Add the remaining nibs and blend for another thirty seconds. Finally, add the sugar in three rounds, blending for ten seconds between each round. This is also the time to add your powdered herbs. Taste your chocolate now; you may refine for one more minute, if desired, but consider the fate of your blender.

Chocolate is basically one giant emulsion, just like mayonnaise. So the longer it is refined, the easier it will melt in your mouth. Once you stop blending and the cocoa butter starts to harden, you won’t be able to continue refining. This will make what I call “eating chocolate,” meaning that it won’t be pretty or super smooth, but it will be delicious and unique. This exact flavor profile will never be able to be recreated, so savor it.

Max is a chocolate aficionado from Washington D.C, with five years of craft chocolate experience. She enjoys learning languages, traveling, and wine on the beach. Easily bribed with quality chocolate, she revels in feeling familiar in the widely unknown. Read about her chocolate adventures on her website.

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