Sunday, February 26, 2017

Batch #5 - 65% Dark Chocolate – Peru Piura Blanco 2016/17

Batch #5 is the third Peruvian bean from the special Chocolate Alchemy had a few weeks ago. The special included four Peruvian bean from 4 different parts of the country. The first source I tried was the Peru Chuncho (Batch #3) which made a great chocolate with a distinct apple tone. The second source bean was the Peru Oro Verde Criollo (Batch#4) which had an amazing fruity taste. To me the words Fruit Bomb came to mind when I tasted my finished Oro Verde chocolate.

This third source bean is named Peru Piura Blanco Organic 2016/17 and comes from the Chulucanas region of Peru. The Chocolate Alchemist describes the beans as having “well developed chocolate notes with tons of elegant fruits.” Other descriptions include, “lovely rose aroma and sweet full bodied florals.” Sounds divine.

On this batch I did a little more experimenting with putting the nibs directly into the melanger without any added cocoa butter to help things along. With Batch #4 I added the nibs too quickly and the machine bogged down, so this time I started out with about 1/2 cup of nibs and I pre-heated the bowl of the melanger with a hair dryer. I read somewhere that this will help the cocoa nib heat up quickly and release their internal cocoa butter faster.

Friday, February 10, 2017 @ 1:38 pm - I added the first 1/2 cup of nibs to the melanger and pushed the power button. I added more nibs at 1:46, 1:59, 2:18, 2:35, and 2:45. In total 903 grams of nibs were added, and surprise, surprise I didn’t have to add any additional cocoa butter to keep everything moving. My reason for not adding any additional cocoa butter at the beginning is I read somewhere that the refining step (reducing the particle size) is more efficient and faster if you don't add extra cocoa butter.  The cocoa butter coats the sugar and solid cocoa particles and makes them slide past granite wheels rather than crashing into the wheels and getting pulverized.  Sounds reasonable to me so now I don't add the cocoa butter till the very end.

Friday, February 10, 2017 @ 3:30 pm - I did a taste test and found a earthy taste to the chocolate, and a mild bitter bite.

Saturday, February 11, 2017 @ 5:00 am - I added 632 grams of sugar.

Saturday, February 11, 2017 @ 2:00 pm - The mixture is very, very thick, and it hardly flows.  The mixture is much thicker than any of the other batches I have made.  But this one didn't have any added cocoa butter so that may be the reason.

Saturday, February 11, 2017 @ 2:30 pm - At approximately 24 hours of run time, I added 271 grams of melted cocoa butter and the mixture gets very thin.

Saturday, February 11, 2017 @ 10:30 pm -Turned the melanger off.  Processing time with cocoa butter - 8 hours.  Total processing time was approximately 32 hours.

Sunday, February 12, 2017 - Tempering and Molding

I'm still having problems with tempering and molding - my finished chocolate just don't look perfect.  I've read some articles and how-tos so I tried some new things.  First off I polished the molds with melted cocoa butter, and warmed the molds to around 85 degrees before adding the melted chocolate.

I also skipped the water bath during the tempering.  I just started added small amounts of the grated Cocoa Butter Seed Silk at 95 degrees.  The last bit of the Silk went into the chocolate when it was about 93 degrees.  I let the chocolate sit for 2 minutes till it reached 92 degrees, and then pour into the waiting molds.

After my six bars and 12 tasting squares were molded and vibrated to remove the bubbles I put them in the refrigerator for 5 minutes.  I let them sit for 24 hours and then unmolded.

I was happy to find no bloom on my bar, but sadly, my finished chocolates still didn't look great. There was no swirls of bloom, but the bars just didn't look shiny.  And those stupid release marks!!!  Every piece of chocolate had a release mark!!

Polishing with melted cocoa butter was also a bust.  The molds I'm using have a lot of grooves and creases and the melted cocoa butter pooled in the corners.  The melted cocoa butter also didn't give the bars a shiny look so I just don't see any added value in the step.  Not doing that again.  

So my chocolate bars are still a work in progress, but hopefully one day I will get it right.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Tempering Batch #3

My lastest attempt at tempering (Batch #3 - Peru Chuncho) was the best so far; not perfect, but getting close. In the past my most nagging issue was a sharp drop in temperature after I added the 0.75% of Cocoa Butter Silk to the melted chocolate. I would stabilize the melted chocolate at 94 F, but after adding the Silk, the temperature would drop rapidly to 89 or 90F rather than the suggested 92F.

This time I decided to add the Silk a little bit at a time instead of dumping it in all at once, and it seemed to work better. By the time I stirred in the Silk and waited 2 minutes, the chocolate was sitting at the perfect 92 degree F temperature. (Note: I tested all three of my thermometers against boiling water (two infrared and one contact), and found that the contact candy thermometer was the most accurate.  The infrared was easier to use, but the readings fluctuated too much to be counted on for chocolate tempering.)

I poured the chocolate into my new molds with the cocoa pod design, and shook to smooth out the top and release the air bubbles. One of the cavities was a little overfilled, but I didn’t scrape it smooth. I hate scraping the molds. Chocolate goes everywhere, and it is such a mess. You lose a lot of your precious and expensive chocolate too.

So once rattled, I popped the molds into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. After removing the molds I noticed that the top of the chocolate in the overfilled cavity had cracked. I guess the rapid cooling and the domed shape of the chocolate caused it to split. Lesson learned. When a cavity is overfilled – Scrape it off not matter how messy.

I let the chocolate sit in the molds overnight, and the next day every bar popped out as soon as I flipped the mold over. The tops of the bars looked pretty good, but not perfect.

They weren't as shiny as I would have liked and there were some contraction marks/release marks/condensation marks (?? don't know exactly what they were) in the center of each bar, but overall they looked pretty good. And best of all no veins or stringers of bloom. The bars also made a loud clinking noise when they were stacked, and they had a nice snap when broken.

But I wasn’t too happy with the bottom of the bars. I’m still seeing these patterns on the bar that looked like oil or grease slicks. I’ve noticed these slicks on the chocolate when it is still in the melanger. I’m not sure what is causing the slicks. Will need to do some investigating.

I brought all the chocolate to work, and the people devoured it.  They said is was very, very good and they liked the unique "apple" taste of the Peru Chuncho bean.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Molds, molds, and more (Chocolate) molds

One big decision on my chocolate making journey is which molds to use. There are all kinds of molds out there, everything from the super cheap, super flimsy plastic molds, to super expensive, super sturdy polycarbonate molds. Silicone too. After trying the cheap molds and the silicone I decided on the polycarbonate. The really cheap plastic molds just flexed too much when trying to pour the chocolate and tap to release the bubbles, and the silicone molds just didn't give the chocolates that nice shine. I did find a slightly more rigid plastic mold at Hobby Lobby. I think it was the Sunny Side Up brand. It worked great for three or four times, but then the plastic just cracked. I guess it couldn't take all the tapping and pounding that takes place to get the air bubbles out.

So the polycarbonate molds were the only real choice. They run about $20-25 each, but you can’t beat them for ease of use and quality of finished product. The first two I bought were from Amazon, but while they worked great, I wasn’t happy with the “look”. They just seemed too generic. More like a Hershey bar than a craft Bean to Bar chocolate.

I also tried this cute, cute little owl mold. There is a whole barn yard of different animal shapes available, each one cuter than the next. I had hopes of using these as tasting squares or offering them in little mini Easter baskets, but they turned out to be very small and very thick. (There were no size descriptions on the web page, and I didn’t think to ask.) I could live with the small, but they were too thick to offer as solid dark chocolate (too hard to bite through). I guess they are meant to be used as filled chocolates. Maybe I’ll make filled chocolates one day, but not anytime soon.

So my search continued for the perfect mold. I wanted something unique and different, and also the correct weight. I needed to keep the size of my bars small (1-2 oz.) so I could offer them at a reasonable price. I figured someone might be willing to risk $3-4 dollars on chocolate from an unknown maker, but an $8-$12 price tag would be too steep. There are a bunch of websites selling the polycarbonate molds, and I finally settled on a cocoa pod design I found on the Canadian site Chocolat-Chocolat. I bought the 1.2 oz and 2.0 version of the same design. I also bought a tasting square size that had a similar design. The molds set me back about $150, but hopefully I can use the molds for many years to come.

And as you can see from below -- I'm still having tempering issues :-(

So no I’m one step closer to making my first “production” chocolate bar. Next decision will be on packaging.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Batch #4 - 65% Dark Chocolate - Peru Oro Verde Criollo 2015

Batch #4 is the second Peruvian bean for the special Chocolate Alchemy had a few weeks ago.  I was very happy with the taste of the first bean I tried: Peru Chuncho 2016-17.  The chocolate from that bean had a noticeable apple tone.  It was really unique and delicious. 

Chocolate Alchemy labels this Peru Oro Verde Criollo bean as "a light balanced cocoa bean with notes of soft tropical fruits and nuts."  The more detailed write-up says that the flavors are vibrant and dynamic.  Fruits galore: banana, strawberry, plum, mango, and other general tropical fruit flavors, but no one flavor dominates so you get a very soft fruitiness.   

I can't wait to try it!

Saturday, January 28, 2017 - 9:00 pm - Batch #4 begins....

After the issue with husks in the last batch, I pick through this bag but found very little in the way of husks.  I ended up with 912 grams of nibs.  I put 1 cup into the melanger and let her rip.  I also had to keep the cover on the melanger because it was spitting out nibs left and right.  I even got one in the eye.  Talk about hurt!!

I think I may have added to many nibs at once. The melanger got seriously bogged down...

9:15 pm - I had to added 40g of melted cocoa butter to keep it happy...

The melanger was okay for a short while, but it started straining again as I added more and more nibs.


9:30 pm - All the nibs are in but the melanger is struggling again.  I didn't want to add any more cocoa butter, so I took out my "chocolate" hair dryer, and heated the nibs so they would release the cocoa butter locked inside.

9:45 pm - The mass is flowing somewhat, but still very chunky.  The granite wheels seems to be jump and skipping a lot.  I guess I added the nibs too quickly.  Lesson learned.

10:15 pm - I've been sitting in a room next to the melanger, and at about 10:15 I noticed that the melanger was running smoothly.  No more jumps and skips due to large nibs.  I removed the plastic cover so the moisture and volatiles could escape.   I also put my improvised bug guard over the meleanger.  Don't want any nasty stuff falling into the open bowl.

Sunday 5:00 am - I let the melanger run all night, and by 5:00 am on Sunday everything was flowing smoothly.

10:15 am - After 13 hours of run time I added the sugar.

11:40 am - After an hour of refining the sugar, the mixture still looks grainy but it feels smooth in the mouth.  Taste Test: You can really taste the fruit in this one, and there is a sharp bite at the end.  Not bitter, just a bite.

1:11 pm -  Off while we leave the house.  16 hours of processing time so far.
5:15 pm - Back on.
9:30 pm - Off.  20 hours of processing time so far.  At this point I would normally add the cocoa butter, but I ran out.  Oops.  I have some scheduled to arrive on Monday.  Thank you, Chocolate Alchemy!

Monday, 9:00 am - The chocolate has hardened to a solid block overnight, so I had to use the hair dryer to melt it.  It took about 30 minutes.

9:30am - Everything melted, finally able to turn the machine back on.

3:15 pm - Yeah, the cocoa butter has arrived.  Added 234 g of Natural Cocoa Butter and let her rip.  I'm going to give it about 4 hours to incorporate everything.  I can't wait to taste it, and see how it differs from the Peru Chuncho I did last week.

Monday, January 30, 7:45 pm - Finished !!  Approximately 30 hours of processing. 

So how does this Peru Oro Verde Criollo  taste?  In a word: Fruit-Bomb.  (Or is that two words?)  Lots of fruity flavors, and sweet.  I can't wait to temper and mold this stuff to see how it tastes once it is solid.

One thing that concerns me is the presence of a oily looking sheen on top of the chocolate.  (The sheen doesn't photograph well so I didn't include a picture.)  I wonder if the melanger is leaking some lubricant???  I will have to read the manual.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Batch #3 – 60% Dark Chocolate - Peru Chuncho Criollo 2016-17

The Chocolate Alchemist had a special on a multi-pack of 4 Peruvian beans, so of course I bought some. I have quite a pile of beans on my To-Do list, and hopefully I can get to them before they start going bad. Do roasted cocoa nibs go bad? -- I need to investigate that.

So Batch #3 is a Peru Chuncho Criollo Organic 2016-17. It is listed as a Criollo with an aroma of warm, juicy apple pie, and a clean earthiness. I’m not very good when it comes to identifying the nuances of chocolate tones, so I’ll just have to take the Alchemist’s word for it.

For this batch I purchased roasted nibs. As yet I don’t have the equipment to roast, crack, and winnow the beans so I’m just buying the beans in their final state.

Initially I started this batch with a 65% cocoa ratio ( 50% nibs and 15% cocoa butter), and 35% sugar.

Saturday, January 21, 2017, 5:15 pm – Lift-off of Batch #3 –  I put 1 cup of nibs into the melanger, and being an adventurous Chocolate Maker I didn't add any melted cocoa butter just so to see what would happen. The machine wasn't happy.  It was spitting out pieces of nibs left and right, and just seemed to be struggling.

I shut it down, added 50g of melted cocoa butter, and started up again.  It worked much better this time. I also found that this batch of cocoa nibs had a lot of husks still attached to the nibs.  I spent almost an hour carefully picking through the nibs.  I guess this is why the Chocolate Alchemist recommends using the Champion Juicer.  The Juicer pulverizes the nibs but also removed any stray husks at the same time.   I have read that legally you can't have more than 0.5% of husk in chocolate.  Additionally, the husk will give the chocolate a very undesirable taste (or so I've read). This is the first time I've notice husk in nibs, so there must be something different about these beans that makes the husk harder to detach.

6:20 pm – All the nibs are finally picked clean and are happily churning in the melanger.

7:40 pm – The mass in the melanger is very fluid, almost as fluid as water. And BITTER!! I know there is no sugar in mix, but still it is bitter beyond words.

10:30 pm – After four hours of refining this stuff is still wickedly bitter.  I don't like bitter, so it was very noticeable to me.

Sunday 12:30 am – After seven hours of run time I added the sugar. I read somewhere that some makers allow the cocoa to refine and conch up to 20 hours before adding the sugar. Their reasoning makes sense. Sugar can absorb the odors and taste of things it comes in contact with, so you should allow the nasty acids and moisture to vaporize out of the cocoa mass before adding the sugar. I didn’t wait 20 hours, but instead I added the sugar after 7 hours.

2:30 am – I woke to check on the progress and give it a taste test. The taste is still nasty bitter (even with the sugar), but I’m starting to get a bit of apple tones. Also no grit. After just 2 hours of refining all the sugar has been ground down to nothing.

5:30 am – More apple tones and the bitterness seems to be fading. 12 hours run time.

9:45 am – 16 hours in. Not happy with the taste, still too bitter for me. I decide to add more sugar and take it from 65% cacao to 60%.

10:30 am – In under an hour most of the grit from the second addition of sugar is gone. Not completely smooth but close.

12:30 pm – Leaving the house so turned off the melanger. Taste test finds that it still has a slight bitter after taste, but not nearly as bad as before. Mixture is also getting a little thicker, not nearly as fluid as earlier.

2:45 pm – Back on.

5:50 pm – Added melted cocoa butter and soy lecithin.

6:30 pm – Mixture is very fluid and liquid-y. Back looking like flowing water in the melanger. The taste is getting very mellow.

11:30 pm – 28 hours of run time. I had wanted the batch to run for 30 hours but I woke up at 11:30 pm (I misread the clock and thought it was 1:30 am), and just started unloading the melanger. I put everything in plastic bowls until I could temper and mold the chocolate.   The bulk of the chocolate went into a large bowl, and about 12 ozs went into a smaller bowl that I could use for taste testing.

Final Ratio/Recipe for Batch #3 :
60% Dark Peru Chuncho Criollo Organic 2016-17

Cocoa Nibs - 870g - 45%
Cocoa Butter (mix of Natural and Deodorized Dominican Republic) 290g - 15%
Sugar - 773g - 40%
Soy Lecithin - 2g - 0.1%

36.2% Fat; 

Sunday January 29, 2017 - Tempering & Molding of Batch #3

Using the 12 ounces of chocolate I had reserved for taste testing I did/attempted a quickie tempering job.  I just heated up the chocolate and threw some Silk in when it reached 94 degrees.  The temperature of the chocolate dropped rapidly after I added the Silk, so I really wasn't surprised when I got bloom.  I was just  testing three new molds that I just bought so I didn't care.  I knew I was going to re-melt the chocolate.  My new molds are: 20g tasting squares, a 1 ounce bar, and a 2 ounce bar all with a lovely cocoa bean motif.

So  after setting up I noticed that the bloom got worse as the bar got thicker.  The 20g tasting squares had no bloom, and the 2 ounce bars were covered in it.  I guess it has something to do with the rate of cooling.  Interesting.  I need to read up more on bloom, and get me a tempering machine.  (I think I have said that 100 times already.)

And how about the taste???  Well it was really, really good.  There is a real sense of baked apples.  Almost warm and spicy tasting.  There is also a bite at the end.  It is not bitterness, but it is something that dances around your mouth and grabs your attention.

I'm going to bring it to work and see what my taste testers there think.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Yikes!! Are you afraid of bugs falling into your refining chocolate liquor?

Have you ever gotten a bug in your melanger as it was running? Do you throw the whole batch of chocolate liquor away?

On my last batch of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate I was in the early stages of refining so I had the cover off the melanger. (You need to leave the cover off so the volatile vapors and moisture can dissipate.) I was watching the granite wheels pulverize the nibs when I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

It was one of those big Daddy Longlegs mosquitoes (Crane Fly) flying listlessly around the room.

I freaked out!

I didn't mind the bug itself, it was harmless, but I didn’t want it falling into my chocolate!!

I shooed the mosquito out of the room and started thinking about ways to protect the precious chocolate inside the open bowl.  It need some kind of canopy that would allow air to circulate but keep the bugs away.

The next day on a trip to Wally-World I found this:

It is a collapsible laundry basket made from a tight mesh fabric. It unzips and fits right over the melanger. The mesh is open enough to let the vapors escape, but tight enough to keep the bugs out. I also bought some fabric with a even tighter weave than the basket, but the fabric was a pain to keep on the basket.  If I see any bugs getting through the mesh of the laundry basket I will have to take the extra  step and sew a fabric bag to go over the laundry basket.

So what about you? Do you have nightmares about bugs falling into your chocolate while it is refining?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Batch #2.5 Honduras Wampusirpi with Satsuma Zested Sugar

2016 saw a banner crop of Satsuma in South Louisiana. I picked about 8 satsumas from my poor little tree, and my Aunt picked 100 times that much from her tree.   I was bring box after box of satsumas to my happy coworkers just so the fruit wouldn't go to waste.


So with this overabundance of satsumas I had to find creative ways to use them. I put them in pound cake, cookies and scones, and then I decided try them in chocolate!! I had previously zested a few cups of sugar, so I figured I would add the zested sugar to the melanger and see what would happen!!!

I melted some (500g) of the Batch #2 65% Dark Honduras Wampusirpi that I had made a few days ago, and added 142 grams of the zested sugar. I was afraid that the moisture heavy satsuma sugar would make the liquid chocolate seize, but everything turned out well. There was a lot of crunching when I slowly started to add the sugar, but things quickly settled down.

After about 3 hours of refining I added an additional 34g of melted cocoa butter, and let it refine for another hour. Based on what was already in the 61% Dark of Batch #2, I figured my additions of sugar and cocoa butter Batch #2.5 ended up being 50% ( 36% cocoa liquor, 14% added cocoa butter, and 50% sugar).

To temper I used the Cocoa Butter Silk from Chocolate Alchemy, but sadly I got streaks of bloom once again. Tempering is really my Achilles heel.

But streaks aside, how did it taste with the addition of the Satsuma???

Well honestly, I didn't notice a difference between the zested and unzested chocolate.  I was sad.  I thought the zest would give it a more citrus flavor.   But no such luck.  It was good, but there was not citrus pop.

I also tried tempering the chocolate again, and this time I had better success.  I used a different thermometer, and put the mold in the refrigerator for a few minutes after the chocolates were tapped and allowed to setup for ten minutes are so.

I really need to figure out why the tempering works one day and flops the next day...