If you look up chocoholic in the dictionary I am pretty sure it will have my name next to it. However, gone are the days of popping to the local supermarket and satisfying my sweet tooth. Since the discovery of craft chocolate my taste buds require the chocolate to be bean to bar certified.
Just like craft beer and craft coffee. I expect the finest ingredients to have gone into the making of my chocolate. I also expect the history of the chocolate to be available, with most chocolatiers explaining the process from bean to bar.
Craft chocolate starts its journey on a cocoa farm. After it has gone through the fermenting process and removed from the white pulp that surrounds it the bean starts to develop its flavour. Once it has undergone this process it is transported to the maker. Here it is regularly assessed along with being sorted and roasted.
After being roasted the cocoa beans have a thin, papery shell around them which has to be removed. It is during this stage that the beans are cracked open, the shell is removed and the bean undergoes a process called winnowing. Winnowing is when the lighter shells are blown away leaving behind what is known as the nibs, which are pieces of pure cocoa bean, Some chocolate makers will have machines that carry out this process for them, whilst others rely on hairdryers/fans.
From bean to bar
After winnowing comes the next stage for the bean. Conching is the process of a surface scraping mixer and agitator that evenly distributes cocoa butter within the cocoa bean. It may also act as a polisher to the particles. This promotes flavour development through heat generated friction.
Throughout this process, the nibs are stone rollered into a paste. This paste is commonly known as cocoa mass. Cocoa Mass contains both cocoa solids (chocolate) and cocoa butter (natural fat).
Hydraulic presses allow the chocolatier to remove the cocoa butter from the cocoa mass if their chocolate creation requires them to do so. Chocolatiers find this process useful as it allows them to add extra cocoa butter if needed. Adding extra cocoa butter allows for a glossier shine on the chocolate bar.
During the conching process, other ingredients like sugar, milk powder etc are adding into the chocolate. It depends on the chocolatier as to how long the conching process can take. It can range from a few hours to a few days. Timing is key to the flavour notes of the chocolate.
After all of this, the chocolate then goes through the final process of tempering, moulding and wrapping. All of these final touches are what adds to the experience of a delicious craft bar.
I can’t drink beer and I am not a fan of coffee but when it comes to chocolate I appreciate a bar that looks great, snaps well and tastes divine. A bar that has undergone an in-depth process and that shows deep within its flavour…. a craft chocolate creation.