As if I needed yet another hobby, we decided to try our hands at making chocolate. From scratch.
After complaining that I eat too much chocolate and he’s worried about all the sugar in it, Ric announced that he was going to try and make me some “healthier chocolate”. He thought mixing cocoa powder with cocoa butter and using an alternative sugar like fruit syrup might work. He tried it. It didn’t. It was really horrible. So he went searching for a proper way to make chocolate.
We discovered that it’s possible to make chocolate from scratch, or from bean to bar, in our kitchen at home. Real chocolate, not chocolate-adjacent grainy weirdness. So we bought some equipment and some cocoa beans and gave it a try.
First we roasted the beans in the oven, which smelled amazing, then we cracked and peeled the shells off them – this took a long time and left us with very sore fingers. The inside part of the bean is called nibs. We ground the nibs in a food processor until they looked like coffee grounds, then processed them in a stone grinder for twenty-two hours, along with some additional cocoa butter and enough sugar to make a thirty percent ratio. It’s necessary to use proper sugar rather than the fruit syrup Ric was hoping to replace it with, because water causes chocolate to seize, so all the ingredients need to be water free. In fact, to make sure our sugar was definitely dry, we baked it lightly in the oven before adding it to the grinder.
Once the molten chocolate was smooth and shiny, we poured it out into a bowl and started learning to temper it. Before you can mould chocolate into bars, you have to heat and cool it to particular temperatures to enable the right kind of structure to form as the chocolate sets, otherwise all sorts of things can go wrong, such as blooming – when the cocoa butter separates out from the other components, resulting in greyish, waxy chocolate with a grainy mouthfeel. It’s important to get the temperatures right, and it took us a few tries before we got it spot on. After some frustrating attempts with various tools and methods that didn’t work for us, we managed to temper the chocolate and mould it into bars.
We still have some issues, there are a lot of bubbles in the chocolate, some of the bars slightly overflowed the moulds so have extra bits on the backs, and they were generally a little bit messy. But for our first attempt, I’m really pleased with the results. And we really enjoyed making chocolate.