Madagascar batch

This week we made chocolate again and this time, it was delicious, fun, and scientifically documented. Who am I kidding – that’s always what our chocolate-making process looks like!

(Side note – we wish we could be in two places at once, but we will not be able to attend the Northwest Chocolate Festival this weekend. Instead, we’ll be celebrating our wedding anniversary and attending a good friend’s wedding in Kansas City. For all you chocolate-makers out there, let us know how it goes, and we’ll see you there next year!)

We started this batch on Friday the 26th with the roast. Using the Madagascar 2012 harvest that our friends, David and Leslie at Arete generously donated to our “research and development” fund, we put 932 grams of beans on our two new trays into the oven.

roasting Madagascar beans

We roasted them for 5 minutes at 400, then 15 minutes at 250, then finally 10 minutes with the oven off. Then we removed them from the oven and placed them to quickly cool on our new homemade (!) quartz table. (Richard re-designed our entire apartment to include a chocolate factory in our former dining room a couple weeks ago while I was away at a wedding, including building our new tempering table from a beautiful chunk of quartz and some Ikea table legs – wow!)

quartz tempering table

On Monday night, we had our next chance to work on chocolate. It was time to test the winnower that Richard built out of our vacuum cleaner, a bucket, some serious tubes, duct tape, and the champion juicer. Check it out! This is mock 1 and we definitely have some ways to go on improving this, but I’m super impressed with the speed and ease of winnowing with this! Our first batch had a 65% yield of 607 grams, which we intend to improve with some adjustments to the engineering.

roaster and new winnower

We sent the nibs through our trusty Nutribullet to make them into a powder, then put the grinder, rollers, and resulting cocoa powder in the oven to heat. We set the oven to 200 F then turned it off before putting the items in. We’ve learned that the refining process is a lot smoother (and less noisy) if we heat our tools and ingredients first!

I then spooned in the cocoa powder slowly over 45 minutes, using a heat gun to warm the powder and the grinder as the cocoa mass began to liquify. By 10:35pm, all the powder was in the wonder grinder and we were off to bed!

The next morning at 8am, the liquid looked beautiful (and tasted like chocolatey mud)! Richard added 236 grams of sugar, which he had previously ground in a coffee grinder, making 72% chocolate.

Tuesday night, we finished it off with an hour and a half of conching with the spring-loaded grinder unlatched, so the wheels turned freely in the cocoa liquor without the pressure of refining as well. At 9pm, we turned off the wonder grinder and started tempering! We tried some new tempering scrapers and abandoned them halfway through for our trusty Home Depot plastic paint scrapers. Sometimes fancier doesn’t equate to more functional. That said, the quartz table worked perfectly!

tempering table

To temper, we raised the temperature to 112 in the microwave, then poured the liquid out onto the table. We agitated it and spread it around, reducing the temperature to 81 F with very few chunks. In previous batches, when we hit the low 80s, the chocolate tends to chunk off, which makes it difficult to later reintegrate as a liquid. This time, we encountered much less of that for some reason.

We tried a knife test to check the temper, which was inconclusive. Maybe we don’t wait long enough to see if it hardens with a shiny, hard coat. Maybe we eat it off the end of the knife too quickly. We’ll never know!

We decided to go for it – we poured the chocolate into our molds and for the first time, it oozed into them easily without clumping at all. We tried vibrating the molds by hand, to ease the chocolate into every nook and cranny, and in the process were able to successfully remove bubbles as well!

Madagascar bars

Overall, I’m pretty pumped about this batch. We simplified some of the steps and were more successful at most of them as well. Here’s what the final products look like – much less bloom than previously, beautifully shiny (especially that big one on the right), and delicious. We still have lots to learn, but we’re definitely improving!

Madagascar chocolate

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Chocolate Texture

Let’s take a step back for a moment and talk about texture. Whenever texture and food are discussed in tandem, opinions seem to go to extremes. Either the texture is absolutely amazing or incredibly disgusting. I, for one, am appalled by the texture of rice pudding. Besides the fact that cinnamon isn’t my favorite flavor, the mushiness of the rice completely turns me off. And I don’t have much of a poker face, so you’ll know if I think something is gross.

That said, I don’t seem to have quite as drastic a reaction to differing textures in chocolate. Our first few chocolate batches were made in a coffee grinder and with a molcajete, as you can see from our original post on how to make chocolate at home. The resulting texture was slightly grainy, giving it a rustic and some may even say “homemade” feel on the tongue. The Chocolate Alchemist is not a fan of this version of chocolate and doesn’t consider it “modern chocolate.” In fact, he has called out the definitions and process used in the video that originally inspired us to try our hand at homemade chocolate. He makes a lot of great points, particularly about conching, refining and equipment.

We now realize that we were not conching our chocolate by rolling it around a molcajete. Conching is a somewhat mysterious process that could mean covering sugar particles with cocoa butter or eliminating the bitter flavors of the cocoa beans. Either way, it does not have to do with reducing the particle size of the chocolate; rather it relates to movement over time… a very long time. That is, more than a few minutes on a molcajete.

Similarly, we did not refine our nibs to the point that is traditionally acceptable for “modern chocolate.” Our first batch of chocolate certainly did not feel like the kind of chocolate you could buy in a store or even the smooth bars of most small batch chocolate-makers. There is some debate as to the appropriate micron size of chocolate, though most people seem to agree that it’s somewhere between 14 and 20. This can be measured by your handy dandy micrometer (much cheaper and more accessible than you’d expect). That size is the best fit for the human tongue’s taste buds, in order to access maximum flavor from the chocolate. Our first batch was no where near 14-20 microns. The average size was probably closer to 50-70 microns, which the tongue can certainly still feel. Check out this useful comparison chart for reference.

He also makes three very convenient lists of equipment for the dedicated at-home chocolate chef. I’m including them here for your reference. You can also buy all of these products directly from Chocolate Alchemy (I get no commission from this, but my experience buying from him has been stellar, so this is unbiased promotion):

  1. At minimum: buy nibs, roast them in your oven, and buy a Premier Wonder Grinder for $195.
  2. To go from bean to bar, you’ll need the following:
    1. Your oven $0.00
    2. Champion : $265
    3. Winnowing: Bowl and blow dryier.
    4. Refining: Melanger. $195
    5. Total minimum: $460
  3. For the easiest process and the most money, you’ll need the following:
    1. Champion: $265
    2. Behmor: $299
    3. Sylph: $195
    4. Melanger: $195
    5. Total Deluxe minimum: $954

Given all that, I still believe strongly that it is possible to make a small batch of tasty homemade chocolate, though admittedly not “modern,” with the following equipment and ingredients. Consider it the Root Chocolate variation, to be made at home in your own kitchen.

Equipment

  1. Toaster oven
  2. Coffee grinder (KitchenAid BCG111OB Blade Coffee Grinder – Onyx Black)
  3. Spatula
  4. Marble slab
  5. Paint scrapers

Ingredients

  1. 115 grams of fermented cocoa beans
  2. 40 grams of cane sugar

Your texture will definitely be a little gritty, but if you’re ok with that, then this is your simple homemade chocolate recipe. Let us know what you think by commenting below!

Siriana Cacao

About a month ago, Piper reached out to me through The Chocolate Life. (Have I mentioned how much I appreciate the connections I’ve made to the local and online chocolate-making community?) She let me know that a dear friend of hers moved to Costa Rica this year, purchased some land and began farming. His plot is surrounded by farmers who having been doing the same for hundreds of years. His goal was two fold, to save the land from developers (tourists attractions), and to help other farmers move their beans at good prices.

That caught my attention. Saving the land, working together with farmers to promote their economic well-being… I was sold. And I’m glad I was!

Piper told me that “the cacao is grown in Matina conton in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica. The trees are indigenous to the area, so these are considered Fine beans. All the practices are organic and sustainable. The beans have been fermented, and sundried and are considered Raw. They are considered one of the best tasting beans in the world by the ICCO and the Tasting salons in Paris. And this year, they had a good spring harvest and the fall harvest will be incredible because of the rains (they thought El’nino would cause a drought). It should be a vintage year.”

Well, we purchased a 2 lb sample from Piper through Siriana Cacao, and made a new batch of chocolate this week. We have a few new tools that helped us along in the process, and the result was both delicious and fun!

Siriana Cacao cut test

First of all, we did a cut test on the beans and they looked a little purple but overall flaky and dark and good! I’ll go into the details of cut testing in another post, but suffice it to say for now that it means they were fermented well – not too much and not too little. Goldie-locks, style.Champion Juicer, modified

Then, after a solid 5 minutes at 400 degrees and 20 minutes at 250 in the oven, we pulled out our first new tool, the Champion Juicer! Chocolate Alchemy sells this for $265, but we found a refurbished one on Ebay for $99. This tool serves as both cracker of beans and later as a way to create the first crude liquor before setting the Premier Wonder Grinder to work. Ours is a littler older than we expected, so we don’t quite trust it to create the liquor. For cracking, though, (and with a few creative modifications to keep our kitchen relatively clean) it was amazing!

wide winnowing basket

We then tried another interesting tool for winnowing – the wider, shallower basket, thanks to a suggestion on our Winnowing Woes post. It worked marginally better at first, then the nibs started flying away along with the husks. So, we returned to the large bin method. We ended up with a 76% yield from full beans to winnowed nibs. We recently learned that a perfect winnowing process would result in a 88% yield, but that almost doesn’t exist in the industry. So, we’re still working on a solution for this portion of the process.

We heated the beans and stone grinder in advance, at the suggestion of some local chocolate-makers, and left the chocolate refining & conching for 24 hours in the wonder grinder this time. The result was beautifully dark (70% again) rich chocolate.

infrared thermometer

Once again, we struggled with the tempering process, though this time we had some extra help in the form of an infrared thermometer as well as a food thermometer. Our first attempt at tempering did not pass the paper test, so we left it overnight and remelted the next day to try again. The second attempt wasn’t perfect, either, but we think it was closer that it has been in the past. There’s still some bloom on some of the bars, but the largest one is beautifully smooth and shiny!

Siriana chocolateSiriana chocolate flakes

The result, 813 grams of delicious Siriana chocolate. Richard’s new favorite part are the flakes or shards that come off the tempering table when we’re done. And I’m actually enjoying our ice cube tray molds, even more than the official bar molds we bought online!

Thank you, Piper!

Tempering and bloom

Tempering has been the most magical, elusive part of the chocolate-making process for us. For the newbies of our readership, tempering is the final step in the chocolate-making process before setting the mixture in a mold. Successful tempering results in glossy texture and a clean break in your chocolate bar. Scientifically, it crystallizes the chocolate correctly, ensuring that the Beta crystals remain and the other five kinds of crystals melt away. In order to do this, the chocolate-maker must be able to determine the crystallization structure by temperature, sight, and touch. And let me tell you, it’s not easy!

Unsuccessful tempering results in fat bloom (the white streaks in the bars in the picture), very low melting temperature of your chocolate so it starts to melt as soon as you touch it, a short shelf-life, an unsatisfying break when you try to tear off a piece of your finished product.

So, what has our experience been like? Well, the more we think we know, the more fat bloom we’ve discovered in our final products. Frustrating? No! Science? Yes! Here’s what we’ve learned, so we can continue improving the shiny surface and clean break of our chocolates:

  1. There are many “right” ways to temper chocolate. Every home brew chocolate-maker has their own method and most of them work! So, like Clay told us, don’t believe anyone who says “this is the only way.”
  2. Despite that advice, there are smart guidelines to follow regarding temperature and movement. We’ve learned that exact temperatures are very important (and quite difficult to measure without a good thermometer, which will be our next chocolate purchase). We now understand that we should initially melt our chocolate liquor to at least 114 degrees, some say 122 to melt all the cocoa butter, and some even say 131 F. The next step is rapid cooling down. At this stage, we can either add some existing tempered chocolate (in which case, our cooled chocolate should reach about 88 degrees), or lower the temperature of our chocolate to about 80 degrees. We’re stubborn and want to try to get tempering right without adding any “seed” chocolate, as it’s called, so we always try the latter. The final step is to reheat the chocolate to the high 80s again. And as long as it doesn’t go above 94 degrees (or 90), when the beta crystals would melt and reset the whole process, the chocolate should be melted.
  3. Stir. 
  4. Let me rephrase. Stir constantly. Movement is key! It helps keep the temperature of your chocolate uniform and exposes the chocolate to the forming beta crystals.
  5. Additives that emulsify (imagine shaking up mustard in your homemade oil & vinegar salad dressing) make it easier to temper chocolate. The most common emulsifier for homemade chocolate is lecithin. Lecithin helps coat the tiny chocolate particles with fat, evening out the texture of the chocolate.
  6. Finally, believe it or not, our chocolate still tastes good, even though it has fat bloom (and occasionally sugar bloom, which occurs due to condensation among other reasons). So, we’re not too hung up about this, but we intend to continuously improve our chocolate, which should, given our scientific process, eventually eliminate fat bloom!

There are some great resources online to learn to temper chocolate better. As usual, The Chocolate Life and Chocolate Alchemy are among the best:

For those experts out there, if you have any suggestions to reduce bloom and temper better, share your magic!

Premier Wonder Grinder

The Premier Wonder Grinder was made to be an Indian spice grinder, but the Chocolate Alchemist, among others, recommends it as a small batch melanger. This recommendation was seconded by Greg D’Alesandre at Dandelion Chocolate, who has been an excellent mentor as we work with new recipes, ingredients, and processes.

[Update 12/14/14 – We previously linked to Chocolate Alchemy’s sale of the Premier Wonder Grinder. Unfortunately, John Nanci is no longer selling this unit (though check him out for replacement parts). So, if you’re thinking about buying a Premier Wonder Grinder, please consider clicking this link to Amazon, as Root Chocolate will receive a small percentage of your purchase. Thank you!]

On Friday, we received this beautiful box in the mail and were so excited to start using it!

Premier Wonder Grinder melanger

And Saturday morning, just over 12 hours after we received it in the mail, we tried using this melanger (beyond our trusty but tiny coffee grinder) for the first time. It was a big step, taking our itty bitty batch sizes of 100 grams of cocoa beans to 888 grams, pre-winnowing. (For our winnowing woes, check out this post.)

Our first use was mostly trial and error, with some guidance from the brilliance of the Chocolate Alchemist’s instructions on using a slightly different melanger and some advice from The Chocolate Life. (Have I mentioned how much I appreciate the online chocolate-making community?) Here are a few lessons we learned:

1. We cleaned the Premier Wonder Grinder with vegetable oil, as recommended by the Chocolate Alchemist. It came out of the box pretty dusty and the vegetable oil came out a muddy brown color. We wiped it clean with paper towels, then washed it with hot water and soap. We let it dry overnight to avoid any residue of water. Solid cleaning lesson, learned.

2. We realized the next morning that we had nowhere near enough beans for a typical batch size in this machine! Dandelion Chocolate to the rescue! We bought 2 kilos of Oko Caribe from the Dominican Republic after tasting their bar samples in the store. Yum – I don’t necessarily expect ours to turn out like that, but maybe someday! We roasted 888 grams of beans and they winnowed down to 773 grams. I wouldn’t recommend putting much more into this melanger, at least not when it’s dry.

roasting Oko Caribe beans

3. That leads us to lesson #3. The Premier Wonder Grinder is a wet grinder. That means, it works best when it is full of liquids, not solids or powders. That said, we don’t yet own an infamous Champion Juicer, as recommended by both Chocolate Alchemy and The Chocolate Life. It’s a little outside of our price range at the moment, though it may join our collection of inordinately large kitchen gear soon enough! So, we used our Nutribullet to grind the cocoa nibs to a powder. Then we heated them slightly in the oven. Our oven only goes down to 170, so we set it to 170, then turned it off and let the cocoa nibs sit in the warmth for about 15-20 minutes. The heat lowers the resistance and provides a closer-to-liquid experience for the melanger. We also used a hair dryer, blowing it on high heat into the melanger as we slowly added a spoonful at a time of cocoa powder. We realize that starting with a solid is not recommended in a wet grinder and that it may wear out the stones faster. We’re working with what we have for now, and it seems to be working ok!

Premier Wonder Grinder with cocoa powder transforming to liquor

4. Nice transition. The melanger can’t handle 773 grams of cocoa powder all at once. So, we added it slowly, and only after about an hour of melanging did we add in the sugar. We’re aiming for a 70% chocolate, so that’s 325 grams of sugar, ground up in our coffee grinder in advance.

Grinding sugar

5. Next lesson, the melanger is loud… kind of like a washing machine or a dryer. We have it far in a corner of our kitchen, but our one bedroom apartment isn’t quite big enough to avoid the noise entirely. We decided to consider it white noise and went to sleep with it in the background. It kept working, even through our surprise 6.1 earthquake!

6. Wow, does it work! Just tasting the liquor after about 4 hours in the melanger changed our world! It’s smooth and delicious and amazingly tastes like  the samples we tried at Dandelion earlier that day! Then again, I’m sure we have a lot to learn before we pump out bars like they do.

Premier Wonder Grinder pouring chocolate into double boilerdouble-boiling chocolate

7. It is hard to clean. After leaving it on for 15 hours and 25 minutes, we poured the chocolate into a double boiler, serving as our tempering machine. Another post, another time about our tempering troubles! Now Richard’s trying to get all the chocolate out of the stone wheels and it is not super easy!

And here we are, approximately 18 hours after we started the process… This chocolate is amazingly smooth and delicious. And, this being our biggest batch ever, we ended up with this chocolate war zone!

chocolate war zone

Winnowing woes

This weekend we attempted our first “big” batch. By big, I mean more than 100 grams of fermented cocoa beans at a time. This is very exciting, because we’re using our new melanger, the Premier Wonder Grinder for the first time!

I’ll go into more details about the Premier Wonder Grinder in another post. In the meantime, I’d like to bring it to the chocolate-making world’s attention my opinion about winnowing. It’s not my favorite part of making chocolate. In fact, it may even be my least favorite part.

For those who are new to the process, winnowing means to remove by air flow. In the chocolate sphere, we’re referring to removing husks from nibs. Cocoa beans are surrounded by a husk that needs to be removed before grinding, refining, and conching. To do that, you first need to crack the husk. And without some serious equipment, that cracking and removal just ain’t easy!

Dandelion Chocolate has a giant cracker and winnower (see the machine in back, the front machine is a roaster).

Dandelion cracker and winnower in back, roaster in front

Richard and I have attempted many iterations of cracking and winnowing. First, the rolling pin and hair dryer method. The cracking moves relatively quickly, as long as you have a very small batch (about 100 grams). And the hair dryer method works with an OK yield of remaining nibs, but be sure to wear those safety goggles and do this part outside. It’s a mess!

hair dryer winnowing rolling pin cracking

We’ve also tried a combined cracking and winnowing process using a garlic peeler. The Oxo garlic peeler does a decent job, but it takes quite some time and needs to be rinsed and dried frequently.

And today, with our large batch of beans (888 grams before cracking and winnowing), we had a new challenge. A pint-sized ziploc bag doesn’t fit that many beans, so we had to use a gallon. And even then, the cracking process came out all unevenly. So, Richard began to design a separating system, to ensure we had uniformly-sized nibs before winnowing.

cracking separator

This creation did help by separating the beans that somehow escaped the rolling pin from those that had been smashed to smithereens. However, we still had to winnow. And with that quantity of beans, it was NOT easy! In fact, as I write this now, a thin layer of cocoa husk particles coats my entire body!

Others have tried to build a winnower for home use, but they tend to require mad engineering skills (which Richard could supply if need be) and/or a minimum of about $200 cash. Explore with me, these interesting options for winnowing:

This part of the process clearly could use some solid innovation. I’m interested in the ideas and strategies out there from chocolate-makers, engineers, and geniuses. Does anyone have a design that costs less than $100 and requires little to no build time?

Let’s put our heads together and help keep chocolate-making fun! 

Roasting beans

Discussing roasting temperatures reminds me of our friend Kevin, whose coffee-roasting contraptions challenge MacGyver’s most creative gadgets. His enthusiasm for coffee rivals ours for chocolate, so it’s only fitting to feature him here!

As Kevin, and all coffee aficionados know, bean roasting time is a critical factor in flavor. Similarly, cocoa bean roasting times have a strong part to play in determining the final taste of chocolate. In our original recipe, we started with 5 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by 10 minutes at 250 degrees. Only recently, in our first experience hosting a chocolate-making class, did we test those numbers.

As I’ve mentioned, my brother is a recent transplant to the Bay Area and now attends Stanford University, pursuing a PhD in Physical Chemistry. To congratulate him and his girlfriend, Malenca, on graduating from college, we had them over for a chocolate-making adventure. We gave them the opportunity to use their chemistry genius to test a variable and as you may have guessed, their variable of choice was roasting time.

We split up a batch of beans we bought from a small market on Mission and Cortland Ave in San Francisco, and created what we believe to be our best two chocolate results yet. We roasted both batches at 400 for 5 minutes. Then, the first batch, which we’re calling Light Roast, continued for another 5 minutes at 250. The second batch, which we’re calling Xtra Toastygot 15 additional minutes at 250. Then we ground and tempered each batch and rolled them into sticks.

2014-08-03 17.59.30

Xtra Toasty turned out with a flavor similar to roasted peanuts, very nutty and almost smoky. It was the favorite of the night. Light Roast ended up almost fruity in flavor. And both broke apart with the snap that characterizes well tempered chocolate!

Our roaster is currently a Black & Decker toaster oven – not exactly a high-end roaster. The best option is a customized rolling roaster like Dandelion Chocolate uses or the Panamanian hand-made coffee bean roaster adapted from car parts we saw on a family operation in Boquete.

Panamanian roaster

However, none of these beat Kevin’s engineering feats!

Kevin's lab

Sugar sugar!

Every time we make chocolate at home, we try a new experiment. Richard is a scientist, after all; this is in his DNA! Sometimes, we test different cocoa beans, like we did here. Other times, we test percentages of sugar. This time, we tried different varieties of sugar. And wow, we learned a lot!

With the same exact cocoa beans, percentages, roasting times and temperatures, and process, we created three batches. The only difference among the batches was the type of sugar. Our first batch, we’ll name it A, used regular bleached cane sugar. The second batch, let’s call it B, included raw sugar or turbinado. And the third batch, you guessed it – C, had Truvia, made from stevia.

We also tried a new method of cooling. Rather than plopping the finished chocolate onto the granite slab and separating it into bite sized pieces with our paint scraper, we created “kisses.” We filled Ziploc bags with the chocolate liquor after it was roasted, winnowed, ground, and tempered and squeezed it out onto the slab. We ended up with about 50 tiny kisses per batch (yes, we’re working with infinitesimal quantities at the moment).

The first major lesson we learned from this process was that stevia is really sweet. That seems obvious, since it’s sugar. However, if you taste it right before or right after cane sugar, the difference between the two is palpable. The difference between turbinado and cane sugar is less stark but still noticeable. And this is all before we put it in chocolate.

Next, during the grinding process, we learned that turbinado results in a drier mixture. So, even though we still refrained from adding any cocoa butter to the list of ingredients, the result was thicker and a little grainier than the other two samples.

With our new cooling method, we learned that the crystalization process happens more thoroughly when in direct contact with the granite slab. In other words, our kisses were well crystalized, harder, smoother, and more likely to have that traditional chocolate crack when we tried to break them apart, but only in the first centimeter or so from the granite. The parts of the kiss that didn’t touch the granite had the same partial crystalization that our previous chocolates had. We’re still working on optimizing this process to create the best possible texture and shelf life.

The fourth lesson takes us into scientific territory. Batch C with stevia provided a particularly strange tasting experience. Typically, if you were to put chocolate on your tongue, it would begin to melt as it warmed to the temperature of your mouth. However, the chocolate with stevia seems to cool as it melts. In other words, it melts colder than room temperature, rather than the other way around. Richard and my brother (a PhD student at Stanford) dug into the deeper meaning behind such a surprising phenomenon. They’ll have to follow up with their conclusions, because I don’t share in their scientific understanding. Another subject for another day!

Our final lesson was the most fun – taste testing the kisses and sharing them with friends and family. According to our many official tasters, the batch A with cane sugar was the clear winner. Batch B with turbinado came in a close second. And Batch C with stevia had only one fan of the many who tried the three batches. In fact, most people tasted one kiss and wanted nothing to do with it afterwards.

And as a bonus, we learned the opinion of a repeat taster, one who tasted our very first batch of chocolate from the beans we bought at the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. She let us know that these three batches of chocolate’s texture, taste, and overall experience are leagues ahead of the first batch we ever made. Thank you, Helen, for being our first brand ambassador!

Update (August 14, 2014): For those of you curious about why stevia melts cold, Matt (my PhD of a brother) has figured it out:

So I found out why the chocolate with the Truvia causes a cooling effect in your mouth as you eat it. So, the sweetening agent in Truvia is stevia, but Truvia has other ingredients, like erythritol (erythritol is basically glycerol but with one extra carbon atom and hydroxyl group). Erythritol has a negative heat of solution, meaning that it takes more energy to dissolve the stuff than is released upon dissolution. So, as the erythritol dissolves, it takes up heat from its surroundings and the temperature decreases. So, if you drink something with erythritol in it, you do not get this effect since it is already in solution.

 

Cool, right? Mystery solved!

How to make chocolate at home

Our first attempt at making chocolate at home was educational but our second was more measured, literally. In fact, we photo-documented the process to share with friends and now with our readers as well. We’ve learned a few things since this attempt, so I’ve added any more recent notes in red below.

Trial 2, April 6, 2014 (yep, that’s how seriously we documented this round)

Ingredients

  • 115 grams of cocoa beans
  • 40 grams of powdered (confectioner’s) sugar (We later learned that confectioner’s sugar has corn starch in it. Richard’s brilliant scientific background came into use when he explained that corn starch is an anti-coagulant. In other words, it prevents substances from liquifying. That’s a particularly important feature to consider when attempting to create chocolate liquor from just cocoa beans and sugar. Bottom line – use regular cane sugar and blend it first, so it’s finer.)

Tools

ingredients and tools

  • Toaster oven
  • Sandwich-sized ziplock bag (We realized that with small batches, it’s easy enough, and more effective,  to winnow beans by hand, so there’s no need for the sandwich bag, rolling pin, hair dryer, mesh strainer, or safety glasses.)
  • Rolling pin
  • Hair dryer
  • Bowl or mesh strainer
  • Safety glasses
  • Coffee/spice grinder (We’ve experimented with a variety of coffee grinders. Our current favorite is the KitchenAid BCG111OB Blade Coffee Grinder – Onyx Black, in red – not shown here. It’s easiest to clean and has enough power to both heat and grind quickly without overheating or missing large portions of the mixture.)
  • Spatula
  • Molcajete or mortar & pestle
  • Marble slab
  • Paint scrapers

Step One: Roast

2014-04-06 14.26.27

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 (We’ve since tried variations on these temperatures and durations. See future posts for more details)
  2. Measure out 115 grams of cocoa beans
  3. Spread out in roasting pan
  4. Roast for 5 minutes
  5. Reduce heat to 250 and roast for additional 10 minutes
  6. Let beans cool for 5-10 minutes

Step Two: Separate husks from nibs

2014-04-06 14.32.41

2014-04-06 14.47.44

  1. Fill plastic bag with cooled beans (As I mentioned, it’s easier to do this by hand. Let the beans cool, then pull out two bowls. Crack the husks and place the the nibs into one bowl and the husks into the other. This can take some time, so turn on some good music as you do this!)
  2. Crust all beans with rolling pin
  3. Bring hair dryer, safety goggles, and beans inside of bowl/strainer outside
  4. Blow hair dryer on low & cool into the bowl to separate nibs from husks
  5. There should be about 90 grams remaining

Step Three: Blend chocolate

2014-04-06 14.55.19

  1. Measure out 40 grams of powdered sugar
  2. Pour into coffee grinder with nibs of chocolate. This may have to be done small portions at a time, depending on the size of your coffee grinder.
  3. Blend the chocolate, scraping the sides occasionally with your spatula. The consistency will go from coarse coffee grounds to a mud substance to wet clay.
  4. Continue until it no longer looks “rough”
  5. Add cocoa butter if desired at 10-15% of total chocolate weight

Step Four: Conch chocolate

2014-04-06 15.36.22

  1. Preheat oven to 200.
  2. Pour chocolate into molcajete
  3. Place molcajete with chocolate in oven for 20 minutes
  4. Remove molcajete and grind it until your arm is tired (This eliminates most of the bitterness from the beans and accentuates the delicious flavor of the chocolate. Professional conching processes last for days, but we’ll settle for less for now.)

Step Five: Temper chocolate

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  1. Pour chocolate on marble slab
  2. Fold it on top of itself with paint scraper until it thickens (We bought two from Home Depot for quite cheap!)
  3. Check it by placing a small amount on the end of a knife. Run your finger through it. If your finger leaves a clear spot in the middle, then it’s tempered correctly.
  4. If there are white streaks in the chocolate, you can retemper by heating the chocolate to at least 122 degrees and retempering it

Step Six: Eat

  1. Let it sit 10-15 minutes in molds.
  2. Eat!

For variations on this recipe, view our other blog posts!