How Do You Make Chocolate From Scratch?
Did you know that with the right equipment, some instructions and some time you can make chocolate at home?
Absolutely! Imagine being able to give chocolate gifts, not just chocolates that you had melted and molded but super luxurious chocolates that you had controlled at every step, from roasting the beans to pouring the melted chocolate into the molds!
Making chocolate is a difficult craft but one almost anyone can learn if they will invest time and patience. If you are up for the challenge of experimenting and creating creamy chocolate on your own - read on!
Step 1: Choose the Beans
This is an important step. Like coffee, cacoa beans come in different varieties and flavors. There are four main varieties in use today.
The Criollo beans are the original beans that Christopher Columbus "discovered" in 1502The are grown in South America, these beans are considered to be the best for producing the finest in chocolates. They grow in a mild climate and require rich soil. The beans are highly aromatic and have low acid levels, helping to create an incredible, fine chocolate.
Forasteros come from the Amazon. These beans account for about 80 percent of the world's cacao production. They are not considered as fine as the Criollo because they produce a weak aroma and have a bitter taste prior to processing. After processing, however, they can create a fine end product. They have a higher yield than the Criollos and are more disease resistant.
Less common for chocolate making than the Forasteros and not as high quality as the Criollo, the Trinitario is a hybrid bean. This combines the superior taste of the Criollo with the more generous yields of the Forasteros. It is a hardier tree, and is grown in several areas including South America, and various Caribbean islands.
The Nacional is mostly cultivated west of the Andes. It is difficult to grow, partially because it is disease prone, but does have an excellent aroma. It is the least known or used of the cacao bean varieties in common use.
Within the types of beans there are differences according to the area it is grown and how it is harvested. Because there is an upsurge in interest in making chocolate from scratch there are more varieties of beans showing up.
You can find more of them in the resources in the blue box to the right.
A Cocoa Plantation
Step 2: Roasting
Cacao beans can be roasted in your oven at home. If you are going to do this as a hobby, though, you are probably going to want to invest in a roaster which you should be able to find for about $200.00 or so. Usually cacao beans can be roasted from 5-35 minutes in a 250-325 F oven.
Initially the beans should be at a higher temperature and the temperature should slowly be reduced. The roasting process should be stopped when the beans are "cracking", but before they start to burn. This is similar to the way coffee beans are roasted.
The cocoa beans will begin to crack as water vapor is released. This begins when the cocoa bean temperature is around 300F. At this point you will know that the roasting process is about done.
As with so many food related processes experience is the key to knowing when the beans are finished roasting. There should be no burnt smell.
When the beans are roasted and have cooled try slipping the husk from one. If the bean has been properly roasted the husk will slip off and the bean will have a roasted flavor without any burnt taste.
Step 3: Winnowing
Now it is time to remove the husk from the chocolate.
First crack the cacao bean and then blow the husk away. A coarse grinder will crack the husks or, if you plan on doing this more than once, you can purchase a special roller to crack the beans. You can also, if you are just experimenting, crack them with a hammer and use a blow dryer to blow the loose husks away. A meat grinder does not work.
At the Chocolate Alchemy site (link below) they have instructions for using a champion juicer. This step must be done before grinding the beans.
Step 4: Grinding
You can buy a special grinder for chocolate or use a Champion juicer. The instructions for using the juicer are at the Chocolate Alchemy site (link below). Do not use a grain grinder! You will ruin the grinder and the chocolate.
As you grind the cacao beans they will exude liqueur and pulp. Continue to pass the nibs through the grinder to remove more husk and refine the chocolate.
Step 4: Refining and Conching
You are almost finished.
The refining process is one of the most important parts of making your chocolate. This is where you will add milk, cocoa butter, lecithin, sugar and any other ingredients that you will be adding to your chocolate.
There is a special machine needed at this point. Many people use a Spectra 10 melanger. This is an extremely expensive specialty item that you may be able to find on eBay. I fyou have to pay full price for it plan on spending over $800.00. This is the machine that agitates and folds the chocolate for a long time. Depending on the beans, the type of chocolate you are making, and the texture you want the process can take anywhere from 12 hours to a couple of days.
Conching is used to remove the grittiness from the chocolate and turn it into that melt in your mouth luxury that everyone loves.
The World's Most Expensive Chocolate?
Bloom- The result of improper tempering chocolate. A dull, white film on the surface of the chocolate. The product is fine to eat.
Cacao Bean- the proper name for cocoa bean. Seeds from the pod of a Theobroma tree.
Chocolate Liquor-The ground up center or nib of the cocoa bean in a smooth, liquid state. This occurs during the grinding process. It contains no alcohol.
Chocolatier- Person who makes chocolate
Conching Chocolate-Putting the chocolate through a machine which is constantly agitates the chocolate, thereby achieving desirable flavors and liquefying the refined chocolate mass.
Fondant- A mixture of sugar, water and corn syrup used in the production of creamy-textured confectionery for chocolate centers.
Lecithin- A natural emulsifier made from soy beans, used to stabilize the fats and improve the texture of chocolate.
Molded Chocolate- individual chocolates or chocolate shapes made by pouring melted, tempered chocolate into molds and allowing it to set.
Nib- The center (meat) of the cocoa bean
Tempering-Preparing chocolate by cooling and heating so that it will solidify with a stable cocoa butter crystal formation.
Step 5: Tempering the Chocolate
Tempering changes the texture of the finished product as well as adding a glossy finish to your chocolate. Proper tempering will also prevent chocolate from producing "bloom" after a few days.. Bloom is the whitish discoloration that sometimes develops on chocolate.Although it is unsightly and may make the texture somewhat gritty it does not affect the taste.
Tempering brings the cocoa butter to the place where it is most stable and will have the longest shelf life with the best quality. It is important that it is done properly and that no water comes in contact with the chocolate during the process. Moisture will cause it to clump (also called seizing) and the damage is irreversible. You can invest in a special machine to temper chocolate or you can do it yourself with careful attention to the temperature.
Tempering Chocolate by Hand
To temper chocolate by hand you will need to melt it carefully. Chocolate Alchemy recommends using no less than one and one half pounds for best results. . The temperature should be between 110 and 120 degrees F. You can melt the chocolate by putting it in a gas oven with a pilot light on for a few hours or by using a double boiler.
If you use the double boiler be very careful that no water splashes into the chocolate or all your hard work will be wasted.
- Be sure that the water is simmering but not touching the bottom of the melting pan.
- Stir constantly until chocolate is melted.
- Maintain the chocolate at 95-100 degrees as you begin the next tempering process.
- Using a marble slab pour some of the chocolate out on the slab and begin working it back and forth with a rubber spatula for about 15 minutes or until the chocolate reaches 82-85 degrees. It will be thickened.
- At this point you will add more of the warm, 100 degree chocolate and begin the process of working it again.
- Carefully stir it back into the chocolate that is being held at 100 degrees.
- Stir gently and slowly so you don't introduce air into the melted chocolate.
- Check the temperature. It should now be between 90-92 degrees. Do not let it go over 92 degrees.
- The chocolate is now tempered and ready to pour into molds. If you find that there is a problem the tempering process can be repeated.
Tempering Chocolate in a Microwave
You can temper chocolate in a microwave if you are careful.
- Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave uncovered on medium (50 percent) power for 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the amount.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir the chocolate gently after a minute and a half.
- Continue microwaving in increasingly shorter time increments, and stirring, until most of the chocolate is melted.
- Place the bowl on the work surface and continue stirring until the chocolate is smooth and shiny.
Tempering and Refining Chocolate
Step 6: Molding and Dipping
To Mold: You can use almost anything to mold your chocolate. Plastic molds are available at many craft stores like Michael's and Hobby Lobby, as well as online at stores like Wilton. You can also find antique tin molds in fascinating shapes and patterns.
Carefully pour the melted chocolate into your chosen mold, using a syringe, a small ladle or a spoon. Tap to get any air bubbles out of the chocolate and place in the refrigerator until hard. For hollow chocolates you would remove the mold when there was a thick outside layer and pour the still melted chocolate out of the mold.
To Dip: While chocolate is in a liquid state carefully dip your chosen centers in it. You can dip the center first in dark chocolate and let it set, and then dip in milk chocolate, or vice versa, for an interesting coating.
Centers for Dipped Chocolate
Truffle- Bring ½ cup cream just to the boil. Remove from heat and add 8 ounces chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Chill until firm. Round into balls with a melon baller and, using a dipping fork, dip in melted chocolate. Refrigerate.
Earl Grey Truffle: Heat cream as above but then steep 2 Earl Grey tea bags (or loose tea) in it for 20 minutes. Remove tea bag (or strain) and heat just to the boil again and proceed as above.
Coffee: Proceed as above but substituting coffee for tea.
Fondant is one of the most popular centers for chocolates. It is a little tricky to make but with some practice you can make smooth, sweet fondant centers just like the professionals.
- 4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup hot water
- Pinch salt
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Combine the first five ingredients in heavy pan and place over low heat until sugar dissolves and mixture boils.
- Cover and cook 3 minutes and then remove cover and cook without stirring until a candy thermometer reaches 240F.
- Without scraping pan pour fondant onto a marble slab. Add butter, but do not stir. Let sit until center of fondant is lukewarm.
- Beat with a broad spatula or (clean!)putty knife until the fondant is white and creamy. Use a pushing motion to turn it over and fold it into itself from underneath.
- When it is cool enough, knead the fondant with your hands until completely smooth.
- Add vanilla and knead it into the fondant. Cover and let ripen in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before using.
How Good Is This Fondant?
Most of All-
Most of all have fun! Chocolate making, like anything else, is a learning experience. It is an unusual hobby that could lead to many other opportunities. Who knows, perhaps your recipe will be the next luxury chocolate!