“Transforming the simple cocoa bean into chocolate is the most powerful form of alchemy.” Jomo Morris
The aroma is a sign: important things are happening to these beans.
Fresh cocoa beans are fermented in the open to increase their flavor – just like coffee beans. Prolonged exposure increases the risk of bacteria, fungi or mold. When cocoa beans are roasted, several chemical reactions occur. Roasting removes moisture, concentrating and intensifying chocolate flavor. Roasting also sterilizes the bean, and separates it from the outer husk, making cracking and winnowing easier.
The beans then go through a Crankandstein® cocoa mill that breaks the beans into pieces.
It’s a hand cranked cocoa mill, with abrasive double rollers. It’s hard work to crack the cocoa beans by hand, but hard work and perspiration adds integrity to the chocolate making process.
The broken bits are then “winnowed”
Chef uses a common hair dryer to blow away the flaky outer shell and leave the inner kernel or cocoa nib. Imagine seeing hundreds of tiny cocoa snowflakes covering the wall, the sink, swirling up and around as the hair dryer moves back and forth to separate the nibs.
Bring forth the Champion juicer
The Champion juicer was originally created to juice fruit and vegetables; but somewhere in its history, someone discovered it could grind cocoa nibs. The Champion juicer grinds cocoa nibs until they liquefy to produce a sludge called “chocolate liquor.”
The Melangeur – Refining and Conching
The melangeur is a chocolate mixing machine with a granite basin containing two opposing granite rollers. Think of a turn-of-the-century mill with a huge granite stone to crush the grain, and you have an idea of how this piece of equipment works.
Chocolate liquor is grainy in texture and bitter in taste. At this stage, sweeteners and additives like cocoa butter are added to manipulate the characteristics of the finished product. This bar is 70% chocolate, which means that it retains a high level of antioxidant flavonoids which are actually good for you. The melangeur reduces the particle sizes of cocoa solids, fats and sugar crystals through heat and friction. Eighteen hours of frictional heat from granite rubbing against granite refines the chocolate and keeps it liquid. This process is called “conching.”
The next step is tempering. Chocolate can be tempered by hand with the aid of a chocolate thermometer and a little knowledge, but a tempering machine removes the chance of error from this step.
Tempering chocolate is an exacting process that changes its finished characteristics. The process of heating, cooling, stirring and reheating to specific temperatures ensures that the chocolate crystallizes evenly. If not tempered correctly, chocolate will be dull in color and have ugly white streaks on the surface. Tempering also raises the melting point of chocolate (so it doesn’t melt in your hand). Properly tempered chocolate has a polished, shiny appearance and a crisp, clean snap when you break it.
Pouring the chocolate into molds
A large syringe works well to draw the warm chocolate from the machine and fill the molds, and then the chocolate is left to set. The day is done but chef is still in his office with a stack of chocolate-filled plastic molds on his desk. He carefully unmolds each bar and wraps them in shiny aluminum wrapper and finishes with protective paper sheath. There’s a story in his chocolate, and this story intertwines chef, the cocoa beans, and the person lucky enough to taste his artisanal chocolate bar.