Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tempering Chocolate is HARD – Trying the Sous Vide method

Tempering my homemade Bean-to-Bar Chocolate has become my Achilles heel. I try and try and try, but I still end up with bloom.

Tempering my first batch of 55% Belize Dark Chocolate Bean-to-Bar Chocolate actually wasn’t all that bad. Sure there were a few streaks in the chocolate, but overall the finished pieces were shiny and had a nice snap.

When I converted my first 55% Belize Dark Chocolate to 34% Milk Chocolate is when the problems really started. I was using the tempering instruction from the Chocolate Alchemist’s Cocoa Butter Silk, where tempered cocoa butter is used as seed instead of tempered chocolate. As a tempering seed the Cocoa Butter Silk is very aggressive, and according to the Chocolate Alchemist, the Silk creates the desired Type V crystals very quickly.  When using Silk you only need to stabilize the chocolate at 94 degrees, add the Silk, and then stir for 3 minutes.  The Type V crystals grow very rapidly, and when the chocolate reaches 92 degrees you can pour the chocolate into the molds.   It sounds like a simple process, but I had trouble stirring my chocolate for 3 minutes and keeping my chocolate above 92 degrees.  The chocolate would drop below 92 after just a minute of stirring, and when I tried to rise the temperature with a hair dryer, it went up too much. 

I messed up the tempering so bad I started to look for ways to better control the temperature. Of course a tempering machine was the solution to my problem, but at this stage of my “hobby” I wasn’t ready to plop down $600 on a ChocoVision. So I trolled the web looking for alterative, and immediately found someone (Serious Eats) showing how to use a Sous Vide to temper chocolate. A cheap-o Sous Vide would only cost me $80 so I decided to give it a try.

The original instruction on the Serious Eats blog (not Alton Brown's Serious Eats BTW) recommended placing the chocolate in a sealed plastic bag and immersing the closed bag in the water for the melting, seeding, and cooling phase.

The process worked okay, and after I added the seeds I just squished the bag instead of trying to stir the cocoa butter seed into the melted chocolate. And because the chocolate was already in a bag, it was quick and convenient to snip off the corner and pipe the chocolate directly from the bag into the mold.

But sadly the end results weren’t very attractive. The bloom was even worse, and the entire back of the bar had a gray cast. The chocolate had almost no shine, and it stuck to the mold in a number of places.

I thought maybe I hadn’t stirred and agitated the seeds enough, so I tried again. This time I replaced the plastic bag and used a glass measuring cup. The cup actually worked much better than the bag. Hooking the cup to the side of the pot kept the chocolate submerged in the warm water, and best of all it kept my hands free to stir and shear the chocolate against the side of the cup.

But in the end I still didn’t get a good temper. The back of the chocolate bar still had that gray look, and this time there were lots of tiny flecks of Silk seed that hadn’t completely melted. When I was stirring this batch I thought I noticed tiny, un-melted lumps of cocoa butter Silk, but I figured it was just my imagination.... I should have trusted my eyes.

How about this for some horrible tempering...

Sigh … Things are not going well in the land of tempering.   This particular batch of chocolate had been manipulated so many times I wasn’t sure what the actually percentages of liquor, butter and sugar were. I didn’t want to waste any more of my lovely Cocoa Butter Silk on this Frankenstein batch, so I decided to try tempering my batch with pieces of already tempered chocolate.  And because I wasn't using the very aggressive Cocoa Butter Silk, I went through the entire tempering temperature cycle for Milk Chocolate: Melt at 113 degrees, start cooling to 81 degrees while adding bits of tempered chocolate seed, reheat to 86 degrees and hold which will  destroy type IV crystals, mold the chocolate.

Here is the chocolate after the FULL tempering cycle.  Still a bust as far as tempering goes, but it actually looks kind of pretty.  Almost like a marble effect or a drizzle of while chocolate against the milk chocolate.  And it IS shiny and has a nice snap.

So at this point I really don't know why the tempering is not working.   This chocolate is from the batch that went through some major screw-ups (see blog entries Batch #1.5 and Batch #1.75.  First I inadvertently used Non-Fat Milk Powder, then to correct the mistake I added some Full Cream Powder.  Is it the Full Cream Powder that is preventing a good tempering?  Is that cream swirling around in the chocolate and not bloom?   Or am I just a spaz at tempering??

I'm not sure, but I'm not going to experiment with it any more.  I am retiring this batch to the stomachs of my family and friends, and moving on to Batch #2.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Batch #1.75 – Belize Criollo/Trinatario – 34% Milk Chocolate with Powdered Cream

So when I reprocessed my Belize Criollo/Trinatario Dark Chocolate (55%) to Milk Chocolate I made one big mistake – I used Non-Fat powdered milk instead of Whole Milk powder. Hey I’m a novice Chocolate Maker, remember!

When I realized what I had done wrong I ordered both Full Cream and Whole Milk powder so I could try making milk chocolate with both and see if there was any difference. I started with the Full Cream Powder, and because I’m once again modifying the Belize Criollo/Trinatario, I’m calling it Batch #1.75. At this point in the manipulation of this batch I wasn’t sure how much powder to add, so I just guessed and added 70 grams. The Full Cream Powder was 75% fat, so my new batch of Milk Chocolate ended up with 34.4% cocoa and 33% fat.

I started Batch #1.75 on December 19, 2016 at 3:30 pm.  Just dumping the powder into the liquid chocolate seemed to worked fine, and I also didn’t get as much “fluffing” as the explosion in Batch #1.5.  This lack of fluffing was probably because I used a lot less volume of powder.

I let the chocolate refine for about 3 hours till it had a mouth feel that was as smooth as silk. At this point the liquid chocolate tasted really, really good.  But sadly, with all the addition of all the milk, the blackberry tones of the Belize Criollo/Trinatario chocolate were lost.  Again, it tasted as good as anything you could buy in a store, but it didn't taste unique anymore.

For tempering I once again used the Cocoa Butter Silk method of seeding the chocolate, but sadly each attempt at tempering seems to be getting worse and worse. See all the veins and splotches of lighter chocolate – I recently read that this is cause when you don’t agitate the seeded chocolate enough. Another problem I had was with the chocolate sticking to parts of the molds. I guess this is another symptom of badly tempered chocolate.  But, hey, they did still have a nice shine and snap.

So at this point in my Chocolate Makers Journey, my biggest stumbling block is with tempering and getting the liquid chocolate to stay at the correct temperature as I stir in the seeds.  As per the Alchemist's instructions when my chocolate stabilizes at 94 I add the seed and stir for three minutes.  Based on his instructions the chocolate should now hover around 92 degrees, but mine drops more to the 86-87 degree range.  I can't seems to stir and keep the temperature at the optimal 90-92 range.    I tried warming it with a hair dryer, but it didn't work.  I tried placing it in warm water but that didn't work either.  I was going to try a heating pad, but I couldn't find one in the house.  Very frustrating.  What I really need  is a tempering machine.

Maybe I’m buy myself one as a Christmas present.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Batch #1.5 – Belize Criollo/Trinatario – Milk Chocolate with one big Oops

Since my first batch of chocolate – The Belize Criollo/Trinatario 55% Dark Chocolate- turned out a little too hard, I decided to do some experimenting on it and turn it into milk chocolate!   Everyone loves milk chocolate. Right?

I melted some of the bars from Batch #1, and added additional stuff to turn it into soft, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth milk chocolate.  Knowing the percentage of cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, and sugar already in the original batch I calculated what I needed to add to convert the 55% Dark Chocolate into 40% Milk Chocolate.

And since this batch was not totally from bean, I called it Batch #1.5.

Below is a photo just as I added the powdered milk to the melted chocolate.  Do you see my big OOPS?  Imagine a big, flashing red arrow pointing to the bag of powdered milk.

When I decided to make the milk chocolate I just willy-nilly picked up a container of powdered milk from the grocery store. The Carnation was the only kind they had so that is what I used.

Stupid, Stupid me. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So Batch #1.5 - Belize Criollo/Trinatario – 45% Milk Chocolate was started on December 14, 2016 at 3:57 pm.  I added the melted chocolate, melted cocoa butter, sugar, powdered milk, and vanilla bean seeds scraped from a vanilla pod.  Time is 3:58 pm, and the melanger has only been churning for about 1 minute.  Look at all those lumps....

Dec 14, 3:57 pm; start
Dec 14, 3:58 pm; run time 1 minute

After just 6 minutes it gets much smoother, and very pale in color.  Time now is 4:03 pm.

Dec 14, 4:03 pm; 6 minutes run time 

But then something strange happened after about 10 minutes into the spinning - the chocolate started to fluff in volume.  The chocolate kept sticking to the center column of the melanger, and I kept pushing in down.  What is happening????

Dec 14, 4:11 pm; run time 14 minutes

It took almost two hours, but the fluffiness finally subsided, and the chocolate really started to flow.  Time is 5:44 pm.  At this point the temperature of the mixture was running about 108-114 degrees.

Dec 14, 5:44 pm; run time 1 hour 47 minutes

So at 8:32pm I decided that the mouth-feel of the chocolate was good.  I didn't feel any more grittiness from the added sugar and milk solids.  Total running times as 4 hours 30 minutes.  I figured I didn't have to run it as long as the first batch, because I was starting with bars that had already been refined and conched for 20+ hours.

Dec 14, 8:32 pm; 4 hours, 35 minutes run time.

Next I tempered with the Cocoa Butter Silk, molded, and waited 24 hours to unmold.  My mini squares looked good, they were shiny, and had a great snap when I bit into them.  BUT sadly they weren't as creamy as I was expecting from milk chocolate, and they were still very hard.

What did I do wrong?  I went back to the Chocolate Alchemy web site to see what kind of milk solids they used.  I only had to look at their products to realize what I had done wrong!!!  Stupid me,  I used NON-FAT powdered milk instead of Whole Milk powder.  Damn!!

So I ordered some Whole Milk and some Full Cream Powder from my close friend Amazon, and I'm just waiting for it to arrive.

Stay tuned for Batch #1.75...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Batch #1 - Belize Criollo/Trinatario - 55% Dark

Batch #1 – Belize Criollo/Trinatario - 55% Dark

So here goes, Batch #1 of my Chocolate Making Journey: Belize Criollo/Trinatario – 55% Dark

Batch #1 Recipe (55% Dark)

Nibs 450 g - Belize Criollo/Trinatario (purchased roasted) ; 52.7% (Fat Content 450g x 54% = 243g)
Natural Cocoa Butter 23 g; 2.7% (Fat Content 23g x 100% = 23g)
Sugar 380 g; 44.5% (Fat Content 380g x 0% = 0g)
Total: 853 g (Total Fat Content: 266 g / 853 g = 31.2%)

For my first ever batch of bean-to-bar chocolate I wanted to eliminate as many points of failure as possible (ie roasting, cracking, winnowing), so I purchased pre-roasted nibs. This would leave only refining/conching and tempering in my inexperienced hands. This way if something went horribly wrong, I would know exactly where screw-up occurred.

For this first batch I started with a little over a pound of nibs which I pre-ground in my regular blender. The Chocolate Alchemist recommends using a Champion Juicer for this step, but I didn’t want to buy another piece of equipment so I just used my trusty Oster Versa. The Alchemist says that in addition to pulverizing the nibs the Champion is will separate any remaining husks from the nibs, so before I dropped the nibs into my regular (non-husking) blender I spent 30 minutes carefully examining the nibs and removing any husks still stuck to the nibs.

But one question I have -- is it really necessary to pre-grid the nibs before putting them in the melanger ??? The documentation that came with my Premier Refiner-Melanger said I could place the nibs directly into the bowl and have it do all the work. Hummm… Will the course nibs cause the melanger stone to wear down prematurely? Will a quick buzz in the blender cut off hours from the melanging process? I didn’t know the answer so I took the safe path. I didn’t want to break the melanger on the first batch, or add more hours to the run time. But next batch I’m may try adding a few nibs directly into the melanger bowl.

So into the blender went 1lb 1 oz of nibs, and out came about 1 lb of cocoa liquor. I lost a little liquor because I just wasn’t able to scrape out every bit of cocoa from the blades of the blender.

Next step was to melt the cocoa butter in the microwave, mix a pinch of lecithin in the melted butter, and then throw the cocoa liquor and butter mixture into the melanger. I was so excited. This was history in the making. I pressed the power button on my Premier and officially started my journey as a Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Maker on December 3, 2016 at 8:43 am.

Here is the time line and some limited observations made during the process.

Saturday Dec 3, 8:43 am – Lift off… Batch #1 started. I added ground nibs and melted cocoa butter to melanger. The chocolate looked a little stiff so I heated the mixture with a hair dryer to make it flow better.

9:27 am – I allowed the liqueur and cocoa butter to churn for about an hour before slowly adding the sugar to the melanger. It looked very lumpy at this point.


10:30 am – After an hour of refining, the liquor/sugar mixture looks smooth, but in the mouth the texture still feels very gritty. Also it tastes really bitter and acidic. Running temperature of the mixture in the melanger is about 102 degrees F.

11:45 am – After about 2 hours of refining, the texture of the chocolate is smooth, but it still has a somewhat gritty mouth feel. Taste a little mellower, but still has a bitter aftertaste.

12:45 pm – Almost all bitterness is gone. I turned machine off while I left the house. Total refining time so far: 3 hours.

4:30 pm – Returned home. Chocolate is still soft and liquid inside the melanger’s bowl, but surprisingly the bitter aftertaste is back. Turned the machine back on.

8:00 pm – Taste is very mellow with no bitterness.

10:30 pm – Machine turned off. Total refining time so far: 9 hours.

Sunday Dec 4, 6:00 am – Overnight the chocolate had turned to a solid so I used a hair dryer to melt the mixture before I turned the Premier on.

7:45 am – A little of the bitter aftertaste is back. I scooped out some chocolate and filled a mold. No tempering of this test bar. I just wanted to see what would happen. The bar turned out very soft and crumply with lots of bloom. The bloom I understand, but I’m not sure if the texture problem was because of tempering problems or because the chocolate hadn’t been refined enough.

12:45 pm – Going out to lunch so I turned the Premier off. Total refining time so far: 14 hours.

3:30 pm – Turned machine back on. Chocolate still soft.

9:30 pm – Turned machine off. Texture and tasted seemed good. Very robust chocolate taste, with hints of fruitiness. No bitterness or acidic aftertaste. Total refining time: 20 hours. After removing liquid chocolate from melanger bowl, I ended up with 654 grams of liquid chocolate.  It was to late to start tempering and molding, so I covered the bowl of chocolate and let it sit overnight.

Monday Dec 5, 8:00am – Tempering & Molding – The chocolate had setup overnight so I melted the mass using a hair dryer. Next came the tempering. I had purchased some Cocoa Butter Silk from the Chocolate Alchemist which is just tempered cocoa butter than can be used as tempering seed. I followed The Alchemist’s instruction and grated enough Silk to equal 1% of the chocolate mass waiting to be tempered. I stirred and cooled the melted chocolate till it reached 94 degrees F, and then added the Silk. Stirred to incorporate the Silk, waited 2-3 minutes till the chocolate reached 92 degrees, stirred again to make sure all the melted Silk was incorporated, and then poured the now tempered chocolate into the molds.

Sounds easy enough, but I had some problems…

First problem was the temperature of the chocolate dropped rapidly to 89 degrees (rather than the suggested 92 degrees) after I added the silk. In the future I may need to find a way to keep the chocolate at the recommended temperature while I mold the chocolate. The chocolate tempering machine might be the next piece of equipment I buy…

Second problem was pouring the chocolate into the molds. This just didn’t work very well. I didn’t have enough control over the flow and the volume. Some cavities in the mold got too much chocolate and some didn’t get enough. The chocolate was also setting very rapidly so the chocolate didn’t want to flow into the corners of the mold.

Third problem was the chocolate had lots of bubbles. I tapped the mold to get the bubbles to rise, but the surface was marred but a lot of ugly, popped air bubbles. I guess I must have stirred the liquid chocolate to vigorously which incorporated air into the mixture.

After molding I let the chocolate setup for 24 hours. During the unmolding step, all the chocolate released from the molds without any problems. My first batch of bean-to-bar chocolate is complete, and Fifloet Chocolates it born !!!  

(FYI: Fifolet [fee fo lay] is Cajun for swamp fire fairies.  These bright, colorful lights are seen at night, and are said to misdirect those who try to follow the light.  )

Below are all the chocolates I made from this batch.  I tried 3 different types of mold.  The top row of chocolates were formed in cheap, very thin plastic molds.  The plastic is so thin it will almost bend in half!  Notice the weird haloing on the bars - this is formed when the chocolates cools and shrink and pull away from the mold.  The thin plastic can't hold the chocolate in place so the chocolate pulls away from the mold creating the ugly marks.  I guess you get what you pay for.  On the bottom left is a bar formed in a mold I picked up at Hobby Lobby.  The brand names is Sunny Side Up Bakery  and it cost about $2.  The plastic is still flexible although it is much thicker than the cheap-o molds.  It created a little bit of haloing, but not as much as the really thin molds.  The segmented bars on the bottom right where created in a super rigid polycarbonate mold. 

These polycarbonate molds are very expense ($25 each) but the chocolates from this mold came out with a super shiny finish and no haloing.  But I'm not sure what caused the pale streaks the chocolate???  Did I not mix the cocoa butter tempering Silk in enough?  Is it some kind of bloom?  I'm going to melt the chocolate and re-temper to see what happens. (Update: Re-tempered and re-molded the chocolates and they still had the streaks.  Not sure what is wrong.)

Final analysis of Batch #1 (Dec 3, 2016):

So how did my first batch taste??? Well pretty damn good if I do say so myself. The chocolate had a bright, fruity tone that was very unique and pleasing. My taste testers were surprised that the fruitiness came from the bean itself and not some flavor additive. The chocolate also had a very “dark” taste even though it was only 55% cocoa. I think the dark, robust tones were because my percentage of added cocoa butter was low??  I'm not sure - remember I'm very new at this...

As for tempering, The Alchemist method of Cocoa Butter Silk tempering worked well, especially when compared to my un-tempered test bar that I made after 9 hours of refining. (That one was a mess.) The tempered bars had a nice sheen, and the bars broke with a sharp snap. There were some stringers of discoloration through the bar, but I think it might have been un-melted silk rather than bloom. Next time I will have to mix the silk into the chocolate better. (Note: I have since learned that these stringers ARE Bloom.)

The only real negative about my finished chocolate is that it was very hard. Some of the taste testers even said it was too hard to bite. There was a definite crunch/pop to my chocolate. I think it may need more cocoa butter to give it a softer texture. After I made the batch I read on some site that the fat content of a bar should be between 42-46%, and my first batch had a fat content of 31%. Oops. I have another pound of the Belize Criollo/Trinatario nibs so I will make another batch with more cocoa butter. Will report on those results later. (Note: I have since learned at 25% fat is the minimum needed to get the chocolate to flow properly.)

So Batch #1 comes to a close. Can’t wait for Batch #2.

Monday, November 28, 2016

And So It Begins ....

So one day I decided to become a Chocolate Maker.

I had always been fascinated by chocolate, and after reading a book on the chocolate making process I decided to give it a whirl. I needed a new hobby anyway. I had been making custom cakes for a few years, but after a run-in with a bridezilla I decided fancy cakes were too stressful and prone to disaster.

So in November 2016, I started my Chocolate Maker’s by journey.  I began, of course, by looking for some cocoa beans. Actually, first I read some books, then I bought a couple of cocoa seedlings (I killed one but the other is still hanging on), and then I went looking for beans. An internet search of “cocoa beans for sale” brings up the be-all-end-all site for the novice chocolate maker. It is John Nanci’s Chocolate Alchemy. WOW! I was like a kid in a chocolate store.

But confusion soon set in.  There were so many varieties of beans and so many choices of format. (Is format the right word?)  Which cocoa bean should I get?  There were cocoa beans from all around the world: from Belize and Bolivia to Venezuelan and Vietnam.  Once I selected a cocoa bean, then I needed to decide on the format: did I you want whole beans? Roasted or un-roasted, or maybe nibs?  Again, did I want them roasted or un-roasted.   Can you understand my dilemma?

In the end I decided on the Honduras Wampusirpi cocoa bean in honor of my mother who is from Utila, Honduras. The Chocolate Alchemist site offers a “Apprentice Kit” so I opted for that. It comes with the bean of your choice in both roasted and unroasted forms, and nibs again in both roasted and unroasted forms.  The kit also has cocoa butter, lecithin, and some chocolate molds. The kit has almost everything you need.

So now I have the beans so next I needed some equipment.  After reading the info on the Chocolate Alchemist I decided that the only thing I really, really needed was the Chocolate Melanger/Refiner/Concher. After a little research I settled on the Premier Tilting Chocolate Refiner – Melanger.

Now I'm sitting at my front window waiting impatiently for the UPS/USPS guys to arrive.  I can't wait to begin my journey as a Chocolate Maker…