New ingredients

One of the areas of innovation in chocolate where we have not yet ventured is that of ingredients. Well, that’s not totally true… When we first started out, we tried a bacon batch, but we added way too much bacon. Another time, we tried a salted chocolate batch, but we added way too much salt. (Noticing a trend?) We’ve strayed away from new ingredients since then.

However, our visit to John Nanci in Oregon taught us many things. One of them was the appropriate use of cocoa butter and soy lecithin. Cocoa butter is the fat of the cocoa bean. Most beans have about a 50% cocoa butter content compared to cocoa mass, though the percentage varies by genetics, origin, and even roast profile (which can dry out the beans). See John Nanci’s post on cocoa butter percentages here.

The percentage you see on many chocolate bars is an indicator of the amount of cocoa butter + cocoa mass in the bar. That means a bar that advertises 70% could have 20% cocoa mass and 50% cocoa butter or the opposite: 50% cocoa mass and 20% cocoa butter. It is not required for chocolate makers to publish the amount of mass vs. butter on their bars. You can read more about this complicated practice in Clay Gordon’s post on The Chocolate Life.

It was that discovery that led us to stick with just two ingredients up until now, for the most part: cocoa beans (natural combination of both cocoa butter and cocoa mass) and sugar. However, John asked us a tricky question as we stood in his workshop, waiting for a batch of beans to roast: “Which will taste more chocolatey – a bar with 55% cocoa butter or a bar with 50% cocoa butter?”

Richard and I looked at each other, understanding this was a trick question. I ventured, “They taste the same amount of chocolatey?”

John laughed and informed us that cocoa butter actually provides more chocolatey flavor than the chocoa mass! We were very surprised, which is why we’re making our very first batch with the addition of cocoa butter now. Cocoa butter also should help smooth out the cocoa liquor, making it easier to temper and pour into molds.

50 g of cocoa butter

50 grams of cocoa butter

The other ingredient, soy lecithin, has the effect of reducing the viscocity of chocolate liquor, causing similar results as cocoa butter – making the chocolate easier to pour and temper. Its added benefits include preventing bloom (related to its tempering improvements) and increasing the shelf life of the final chocolate. All of this has to do with improving the tempering process. There’s some controversy, since it’s basically a soy byproduct and not a natural part of chocolate, but we decided to try it out to see how it really works…

After some research, we’ve noted that most people recommend adding the cocoa butter and soy lecithin an hour or so before refining is complete. Since we started at 7:45pm on Wednesday night, we added the melted cocoa butter and soy lecithin around that time Thursday evening, and pulled it out of the Premier Wonder Grinder shortly afterwards. We read that the soy lecithin should only be in the melanger for up to 2 hours, or else it will grind out all its properties.

The result? A delicious and creamy chocolate with a slightly more chocolatey flavor, as John Nanci promised! The jury’s still out on whether these ingredients contribute toward reducing bloom and improving temper, since our chocolate still has the telltale streaks of fat bloom. What do you think about using these extra ingredients? Are we diluting the final product or are we adding functional benefits? Comment with your thoughts!

8 thoughts on “New ingredients

  1. I have not used lecithin as of yet and find your post interesting. The fact you add it so close to the end of the process seems to mitigate most of the advantage of making it easier on the grinder. With the Premier (Santa and Cocoa Town) I tend to leave the nibs or liquor in the grinder for about 24 hours. The owner of Cocoa Town advised me to leave it for 36 hours before adding sugar. If I can add whatever percentage of sugar I am using and the machine keeps a steady grind, I tend to leave cacao butter out. I am now usually leaving it in for at least another day with the sugar grinding. If the mass gets a little too thick as I add the sugar, I will add usually up to 4-5% butter. I do play around with times sometimes and have done up to 3 days total and know some who will let it work in the machines for up to 5 days. I do find the added butter makes the tempering process a lot cleaner but I prefer to go without if I can.

  2. I haven’t ventured to add lecithin in my chocolate as my preference is to eat chocolate without it. Chocolate that I’ve tasted with lecithin, compared to chocolate without it, seemed to have a waxy mouth-feel that I didn’t like.

    As for adding cocoa butter, I’ve added it on occasion to make tempering easier for origins that have a lower cocoa butter content in the bean (specifically Camino Verde beans from Balao, Ecuador; 70% needed added cocoa butter, 75% did not). I also infused oil/fat-soluble flavors into the cocoa butter to give some of my bars a different taste.

  3. I agree with Thomasforbes and also do recommend the use of cacao butter.
    cacao butter is a 100% cacao product and brings benefits to the end product.
    I do suggest to only add it at the end of the conching time. If added too early it just extends refining time by hours, in my experience, and it creates less heat in the process extending conching times as well. Heat is needed, let the machine create it with friction.

    It does helps with tempering and moulding, making it easier and cleaner to work with.
    The quantity I add depends on the bean used and the required viscosity.
    I my case it ends up between 3 and 5% for a 70% dark chocolate.

    It provides more gloss and snap and changes melting point and mouthfeel and thus influences taste. All is relative and personal, off course.

    Lecithin seems to have very little benefit in high quality single origin dark chocolates because of the higher cacao butter level. However it is more beneficial in milk chocolates. I did test it on some bolivian 80% dark and 58% gingerbread milk I made. (half the batch conched with lecithin and half without) but only found a (debatable) difference in the milk choc.

    I did not find enough incentive to stock it, calculate, measure and time its addition so I have not added since, in any of my chocolate.

    It’s mostly used in commercial chocolate production to stabilize cacao butter/other fat for longer shelf life. It is up to you to decide if it has a place in a high quality chocolate.

    Just my 2ct.

  4. Hm, great feedback. Thanks for all your expertise, Thomas, Milford, Dave, David, and Olivier. We’ll probably adjust the timing of lecithin for the next batch, if we add it at all. Great suggestions all around!

  5. Pingback: Venezuelan batch | Root Chocolate

  6. Pingback: To cocoa butter or not to cocoa butter? | Root Chocolate

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