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Manufacturing Chocolate at Home
Over the years, readers have emailed me asking if it is possible to manufacture chocolate at home. It certainly is possible - you will need to access raw cocoa beans and then experiment with equipment for roasting, grinding and refining. Can you replicate the quality of the manufactured products? - yes and no, depending on how much time you want to put into searching out good cocoa beans and refining your processes and equipment.
Lets start with the beans. When I was in the chocolate business, finding raw cocoa beans (I used them for demonstrations) was difficult and that hasn't changed much over the years.
This site has what I consider to be the best introduction to making chocolate at home. If you start at this page:
http://www.chocolatealchemy.com/cocoabeans.php and then click on the titles in the top right corner, Alchemist John takes you through the process of home roasting, cracking/winnowing, grinding, conching/refining, tempering/molding much better than I could because he's "been there done that!" He also sells dried cocoa beans.
I suggest that when you get serious about manufacturing chocolate at home that you Google the following terms: dried cocoa beans, cocoa beans for sale, cocoa beans and cacao beans to see if there are any other suppliers at that time. Sourcing good cocoa beans is imperative to come out at the end of your processing with a palatable chocolate.
If you decide to manufacture chocolate at home, make sure to have fun along the way – remembering that after all that work the resultant product will be some form of chocolate :o)
Overview of the Chocolate Manufacturing Process
I included this overview to familiarize readers with the steps involved in the manufacturing of chocolate.
Sourcing Raw Cocoa Beans and Blending for Flavor
In order to produce a consistent chocolate, commercial chocolate manufacturers reserve most cocoa bean crops on the world market well in advance of their actual availability. This ensures the manufacturer of a steady supply of cocoa beans. Distributors who supply small chocolate factories purchase the remaining beans.
A variety of cocoa beans are blended by the chocolatier to a specific formula they have developed in order to make their final product unique. Blending also insures that the manufacturer delivers to their customers, the same product year in and year out. Fine chocolate manufacturers also produce chocolates from a particular location i.e."cru", plantation or vintage. This means that the chocolate they produce from these particular beans has its own distinct flavor and aroma – these can vary crop to crop, year to year.
Roasting and Grinding the Cocoa Beans
After blending, the cocoa beans are roasted and ground. Roasting brings out the chocolate flavor and aroma associated with chocolate and is accomplished much in the same way that coffee beans are roasted. Grinding the roasted beans to a fine paste is the first step in producing an exceptionally smooth product. The paste, or chocolate "liquor" as it is called in the industry, becomes a molten mass as the mass heats during grinding and cocoa butter is released from the cells. The mass naturally contains about 45 - 50% cocoa butter. Manufacturers can opt to add more or less cocoa butter to their chocolate depending on the desired flavor and texture.
Refining the Cocoa Paste with other Ingredients
Sugar, vanilla, and possibly dry milk powder (for milk chocolate) are added to the chocolate liquor and the mass is put through a second refining step (usually in a roll refiner) to decrease the particle size of both the chocolate and other ingredients. The resultant mixture from the refiner are tiny flakes of chocolate. The chocolate flakes are then put into a mixer-like machine called a conch. In most cases, a small amount of soy lecithin is added to help with emulsification. Conching is the secret to fine quality chocolate. The chocolate is agitated in a folding or wave motion by the conch for at least a number of hours and sometimes up to days. The conch's action produces heat which releases acidic volatile oils and moisture while at the same time rounding the flakes of chocolate - think pebbles on a beach. The result is a smooth texture that literally melts in your mouth.
You can test the importance of conching yourself by starting with two different quality chocolates. For this test, use products that are very divergent in price so the difference in texture will be more obvious - say a grocery store chocolate like Bakers and then a chocolate bar from a good quality chocolate shop. Take a small piece of each chocolate and let them melt on your tongue, using your tongue to rub the mixture on your upper palette. You will be able to discern a "grittiness" in the lesser quality product. The specialty chocolate should be much smoother.
Tempering the Chocolate for Storage and Distribution
The conched mixture is then moved to a tempering machine. The machine "tempers" the product giving the chocolate a sheen and crisp bite. To explain further, the crystalline structure of the cocoa mass is broken when the chocolate crystals are melted to any temperature above approximately 90 degrees F. The conched mass is further heated to as high as 130 degrees F depending on the chocolate being tempered to make sure and melt all the chocolate crystals. Once melted, the mass is then cooled down to 86 degrees F. Keeping the crystals moving while the chocolate mass cools helps insure the preferred crystals form and line up again in the right structure. Once tempering has been accomplished, the chocolate is molded into bars and shipped to customers.
Not really ready to make your own chocolate? How about making a chocolate/chocolate dessert while you think about it.
"Secret" Marquise Recipe
makes 6 to 8 servings
7 to 8 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate broken coarsely into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces milk chocolate, broken coarsely into 1-inch pieces
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons butter
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Combine the semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate in a food processor with a steel knife and process until finely chopped. Set aside.
Heat the egg yolks and 1/3 cup heavy cream in a 7- to 8-inch heavy skillet over low heat, stirring constantly with a fork or spatula flat against the bottom of the pan. The split second that you feel thickening, remove the skillet from the heat and keep stirring. Add the butter and stir in well. Add the chocolate and stir constantly until the chocolate just melts. Continue to stir for 1 minute.
Remove the bottom from a 7- or 8-inch springform pan; you won't need it. Place the ring of the springform on a platter and spray the inside of the ring and the platter well with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon in the chocolate mixture and place in the refrigerator to chill and set firm (about one hour).
Place a medium mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 5 minutes to chill well. Whip 1 cup cream, not stiff but only to thicken slightly -- the consistency of a thick cream sauce -- add sugar and stir in. Cover individual small serving plates with a thin layer of this cream.
Wet a towel with hot water and squeeze dry. Wrap warm towel around the springform ring for 20 seconds, then open and remove ring. Heat a knife under hot running water and wipe dry. To serve, cut a small wedge of the marquise while it is quite cold and place in the cream on the serving plate. Run the knife under hot water and dry before making each cut. May be served immediately after removing from the refrigerator or cut and held at room temperature up to 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe Credit: CookWise by Shirley O. Corriher.