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.