Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Marou Chocolate Tasting Line-Up: A Delicious Way to Experience Vietnamese Cacao

Boy was it hot this summer. And humid. So after dealing with temperatures in the high 20s beginning in early June this year (believe me, that's pretty early for where I live in Canada!), and trying to make chocolaty treats with the air conditioner and dehumidifier running constantly, I can't even imagine how the chocolate makers at Marou Chocolat do it all year long in Vietnam. They are making chocolate in the country of origin - where the cocoa beans are grown.

I haven't had the opportunity to taste much of Marou's chocolate, only their Dong Nai 72% chocolate bar in January of 2015 (see review here) and Marou's Tien Gang 80% dark chocolate in February of the same year. But truthfully, other than remembering how beautiful the chocolate bars were, and how fruity the Dong Nai chocolate tasted, I didn't really remember much about the flavour or texture. This new line-up of four Marou chocolate bars, that I asked a friend to purchase for me from JoJo CoCo in Ottawa, is a perfect way to sample Marou's product offering.

The chocolate bars are more than simple single-origin chocolate bars; each chocolate is being made from cocoa beans grown in different regions of Vietnam. This is even more fun than the usual country-of-origin chocolate tastings because Marou showcases how regional differences can vary so significantly even within a small country. It is much like the amazing Nicaragua-tasting line-up made by Chaleur B Chocolat that I tasted earlier in the year. The fascinating part is tasting the small differences from region to region. Many chocolate makers create just one chocolate bar from a single country, but Marou focuses solely on Vietnamese cacao. And believe me, they do a great job with that cacao.

Marou has also been doing wonderful things in the study of fermentation (cacao is fermented for several days after harvest and prior to drying), as you can see from the series of study on their website.  For more information about Marou Chocolate, visit:  http://marouchocolate.com/. The website has extensive info on retailers who carry the chocolate bars all across the world, with Miss Choco (in Montreal), JoJo Coco (in Ottawa) and Thin Blue Line Cheese (in Toronto) being some of the Canadian carriers of Marou.  For more details on each chocolate bar, check out my tasting notes below.

Marou Chocolate Tasting Notes:

Marou Dong Nai 72%, Batch #2805:  Brightly fruity with a citrus taste and light acidity, which then leaves a bit of a nutty roast taste. A little blackberry-raspberry mix hides behind the heavy molasses taste. A redder shade and more 'milk chocolate' in appearance, although there is no milk in the product (the shade is the result of the colour of the cocoa beans) than the Dak Lak and the Treasure Island.  In one  tasting, I also thought of it as having a bitter-chocolate-and-caramel flavour. They use cacao that has been processed in their own fermentation stations near Cat Tien National Park in the Upper Dong Nai region. The chocolate is then handcrafted in Saigon.

Treasure Island 3/4 Cacao (75%), Batch exp: 09 03 2017:  So strange, shocking almost after eating the Dong Nai. The heavy coconut flavour nearly overwhelms the chocolate for me; it has a strong-tasting coconut oil or coconut milk flavour. Yes, that's it, it reminds me of a vegan milk chocolate bar made with coconut milk.

Dak Lak 70%, Batch #2929:  Tastes of the roast with a hint of smokiness, mint, berry fruit, smooth and full-bodied with a hint of blackberry flavours and a hint of black liquorice.

Heart of Darkness 85%, Batch #3201:  Highly acidic, citrus fruit and a little berry, much like a Madagascar-origin chocolate would taste with 85% cocoa solids.  Quite powerful, and definitely not a 'sweet' 85%, although with the fruitiness, 'bitter' is also not quite the right word. Tart might be the appropriate descriptor here.

Closing Notes: My favourites of these four were the Dong Nai 72% for the roast and fruit flavours, and the Dak Lak 70% was a runner up. I will try the Treasure Island again in the future, to see if the coconut taste was a one-time thing (introduced by external smells perhaps in processing or packaging) or if it is a flavour inherent in the beans. But for now, it was my least favourite.  The Heart of Darkness was a bit too bitter for me, although I do enjoy 85% dark chocolate, I prefer the extra bitter stuff to be less fruity and acidic than this chocolate. I would enjoy these beans with a little more sugar added. But I do know many people who would enjoy this chocolate bar as is.

No matter how I feel about each chocolate bar, Marou is one chocolate maker I will be coming back to time and time again!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dark Milk Chocolate Recipe! Plus, The Mexican Arabica Bean Company supplies cocoa beans to Canadian chocolate makers!

I've been making chocolate!  That's right folks, I have been making chocolate from bean to bar in my commercial kitchen using a Premier Chocolate Refiner, which I purchased from chocolatemelangeur.com last winter. And I am loving every minute of it!

And recently, I received some cocoa beans samples from Ontario's first supplier of single origin cocoa beans, The Mexican Arabica Bean Company. Owner, Juan E Gonzalez, supplies organic cocoa beans and cocoa butter from a farm in Mexico, and also from a co-operative in Honduras. And so I made a variety of chocolate bars using these beans, including two single origin 70% dark chocolate bars, and some blended Honduras-Indonesia 51% dark-milk chocolate (it's blended because it had a high non-deodorized cocoa butter content, which means that single origin flavours from both the Honduras beans and Indonesian cocoa butter are affecting the flavour of the final chocolate). All the chocolate bars turned out to be delicious.

The two dark chocolates, from Mexico and Honduras, both had fruity flavours, yet were very different.  Mexico had a coffee flavour and perhaps nutty flavour, combined with bright, acidic fruit flavours, while the Honduras had a funny fruit flavour that perhaps reminded me of the pitanga fruit flavour in Akesson's Brazil-origin chocolate. I wasn't sure about it when I first made it, but then as it aged a week or two, I really began to love the flavour. And the Honduras worked out so beautifully in the dark-milk chocolate that I truly gained an appreciation for the bean.

Although the beans were very different (the Mexican beans were washed before processing and the Honduras simply fermented and sun-dried for 5 days), I found them both fairly easy to work with. I tasted a lot of the beans before and after roasting them and found no beans to have mould flavours or anything strange.  Overall, both batches were good to work with.

Juan tells me that the new harvest of Mexican cocoa beans, from the Tobasco region of Mexico, have a high percentage of white Criollo beans mixed in with the Trinitario beans. So I am definitely ready to put my order in for more! If you want some beans from Juan, and cocoa butter to make them truly single-origin, contact him via the website at www.mabco.ca or on Facebook, Twitter (@mabcoimporter) or Instagram (@mabco.ca). He's knowledgeable and fun to talk to, and he even worked on cacao farms when he was growing up in Mexico, so he certainly has a handle on cacao!

Since I loved the results of my dark-milk chocolate recipe, I thought I'd share the recipe with you here. If you don't have a chocolate melangeur or refiner, you'll want to use a good juicer (Champion), and Indian spice grinder, or a really good single-blade blender or coffee grinder to grind the chocolate as fine as you can (and until it begins to 'melt' into chocolate) Enjoy!

Dark Milk Chocolate Recipe with 51% Cocoa Solids)

for Lisabeth`s Honduras-Indonesia Dark Milk Chocolate, but you can use any beans and cocoa butter!

Taste: Lightly fruity, acidic, buttery caramel, low roast.


24.53%     400 grams organic/fair trade cane sugar
24.53%     400 grams milk powder (I used non-instant skim milk powder)
30.70%     500 grams cocoa butter
20.24%     330 roasted, shelled cocoa beans
100%      1,630 grams total batch size
                (16 3.5oz or 100g chocolate bars,
                 or 25 65g chocolate bars)
50.94%     830 grams cocoa solids


Step 1: Sort and check the beans: Remove any twigs, metal or other strange particles that could be in your cocoa beans. Remove strange shaped beans, or beans that look bad or broken.

Step 2: Roast the cocoa beans. 30 minutes (with occasional stirring/turning of the beans) on 300º F to 325º F should be good.  You can play around with roasting times, depending on what you are looking for.

Step 3: Shell or winnow the beans.  Hand shelling can be very slow, but it is helpful to have rubbery thick kitchen gloves to remove the shells. Or crush the beans in a large Ziplock bag and then place them on a flat pan and remove the shells using a hair-dryer or fan to blow the shells off of the beans - outdoors because this is messy.  You can also remove the beans with a winnower, by building or buying it.

Step 4: Melt the cocoa butter in the microwave (about 2-3 minutes) or over a double boiler (ensuring no water gets into mix).

Step 5: Pre-grind your roasted, broken and shelled cocoa beans (nibs) and half of the melted cocoa butter with a blender, automatic coffee grinder, juicer, or an appliance designed for pre-grinding cocoa beans.

Step 6: Place the other half of your melted cocoa butter in the chocolate refiner/melangeur, along with the pre-ground chocolate mixture.  Refine for 15 to 24 hours, depending on how long you want and to get the taste and texture you like. If you are using a blender or coffee grinder, just a few minutes is all you can do so as not to burn out the motor.

Step 7: Either pour your chocolate out into a plastic wrap-lined pan and let rest and age for 3 or 4 weeks, or immediately temper it and pour into moulds, depending on your preference. If you pour out into pans, the chocolate will have considerable boom, so it will need to be melted and tempered before pouring into moulds.  Learn how to temper the chocolate here.

Seal in plastic bags or foil to store. If stored in a cool, dry place, with no exposure to sun, your chocolate should last one year!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The 'Pralus Pyramide' - What's old is new again (to me, at least)

I am sure everybody who is anybody in chocolate has tasted the Pralus Pyramid by now, but for me, this is brand new. I've seen pics on social media for ages, while anxiously waiting to get my hands onto this perfect single origin chocolate tasting line-up. And when the 'mini' pyramid arrived last week, I immediately dug in for some serious chocolate tasting.

I was in France in 2004 and 2005, but at that time my chocolate knowledge was limited.  So needless to say, I am kicking myself for not spending more time on chocolate research that year, rather than just blindly tasting my way through the country. If I had put the extra effort in, I would have known that Maison Pralus was 'the' place to visit in France, with at least eight 'boutiques' that can be found in different cities, including Paris, Roanne, Lyon and Charlieu and Renaison.

But I will not wallow in my own self-pity about chocolate experiences that could have been, and instead focus on the wonderful chocolate that I have now, which is this amazing mini pyramid of single origin tasting chocolate.  I took four days to taste these small morsels of chocolate that burst with every kind of origin chocolate flavour imaginable. This was perfect for a taste comparison, since all 10 chocolates have 75% cocoa solids and the same ingredients (other than a difference in the origin of the cocoa beans used), so origin flavours can really be compared among them.

With 10 chocolates, it was difficult to keep track of the chocolate flavours, so I created a list and added some simple bullet points to describe them, which I would modify on the second and third tasting depending on my taste buds each day. My summary list is below, if you care to see, or you could just taste them yourself and see what flavours you discover! The mini pyramid is ideal for one person, maybe two, to taste. The full-size pyramid would be ideal for a group chocolate tasting party.

I purchased the Pralus mini Pyramyde de Tropiques for $10.49 CAD from La Tablette de Miss Choco in Montreal, which ships to Canada and US locations (www.latablette.ca). You can also purchase direct from the Pralus website at: www.chocolats-pralus.com. I believe they ship worldwide.

Here are my tasting notes on each single origin chocolate bar:

Papouasie 75% - high roast and fruity, lingering smoke on the melt.
Ecuador 75% - straight up chocolate flavour, taste the roast, nutty on the melt.
Sao Tomé & Principe 75% - creamy, fruity but not high acidity so no citrus, perhaps dried fruit, prune?
Venezuela 75% - bright, upfront roast, almost fruity, but chocolaty, creamy
Indonésie 75% - a lot smoky, woody. Nearly overpowering smoke, yet enjoyable.
Tanzania 75% - strange, is it leather and fruit? mild. Not very astringent. A little fruit and roast in the aroma.
Madagascar 75% - roasted fruit, berry including raspberry and blackberry, red grape.
Trinidad 75% - I originally thought 'tobacco', but was unsure of what I was tasting. But I think Pralus label makers were confused on this one too, package says: "spices grilled smoked dried herbs, mild tobacco".
Ghana 75% - blackberry, spicy, sweeter than the others because of less acidity.
Columbie 75% - coffee with milk, and chocolate flavour.

Ingredients: single origin cocoa beans, sugar, pure cocoa butter, GMO-free soya lecithin. Contains 75% cocoa solids.  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Willie's Cacao: Not One, but TWO Tastings of these Venezeulan and Columbian Origin Chocolate Bars

I find it difficult to review a chocolate makers' chocolate, after tasting just a few of their chocolate bars. So when I scarfed down two of Willie's Cacao chocolate bars earlier this year, and realized I hadn't put the thought or time into really tasting it, so I waited to purchase more before writing about it here. And purchase more, I did.

Since Willie's Cacao is a British craft chocolate brand, I unfortunately have limited access to the chocolate here in Canada (well, that is if I want to order from within Canada and not pay shipping fees direct from England). So I ordered what I could, which was just two bars: Willie's Columbian Gold Los Llanos 88% and Willie's Venezuelan Gold Rio Caribe 72%.  This tasting mix was just fine with me, since craft chocolate made from Venezuela-origin beans has been fairly predictable and nearly always good. And Columbian-origin chocolate still mystifies me, so there is always a learning opportunity when comparing a Venezuelan-origin chocolate to anything new. That Venezuelan straight-up chocolate flavour, with a hint of nuts or coffee, provides a good base comparison for another origin with a spicier, fruitier or something-ier flavour to it.  And in this case, it was no different.

After tasting both chocolate bars - twice - I can say I enjoy Willie's Cacao chocolates. They are not exceptionally high in cocoa butter - perhaps a little on the 'stiff' side, but they are not entirely without the melt of cocoa butter either, so the mouthfeel still holds some creaminess.

One of the major 'plus's' of Willie's Cacao is minimal ingredients - just three in fact - which means no soy lecithin, no artificial flavours and no other 'junk' or even natural vanilla getting in the way of the origin flavours. This 'three-ingredient' chocolate is quite nice, and seems to bring out maximum flavour from the cocoa beans.

My only real note of caution is to bring a knife to your tasting of Willie's.  The solid, square shape of the chocolate bar is lovely to look at, but it does sometimes require a knife and chopping board to cut the pieces. I tried breaking off small pieces with my hands and could only succeed in breaking large pieces, nearly half the bar.

For Willie's Venezuelan Gold Rio Caribe 72% chocolate bar, there is an upfront dark roast flavour. I often taste the roast flavour in Venezuelan-origin chocolate, I think because there is generally low acidity and mild other flavours in many Venezuelan beans, so the roast tends to stand out.  But that is not the case here, I believe there was a dark roast applied to the beans used to make this chocolate. This highlights the notes of coffee (dark roast, of course) and roasted nuts in the chocolate. It is a nice chocolate that keeps me coming back for more.

As for Willie's Columbian Gold, Los Llanos 88% chocolate bar, it seems like a mystery to me. The first time I tasted it, I detected cherry and plum, as written on the package, with a little citrus and acidity is there in this very dark and very bitter chocolate. And yet, my second tasting produced a chocolate with no strong fruit flavours and it seemed to have low bitterness and low acidity. My third tasting produced the cherry flavours again, but mild and still not-so-bitter. Funny how that happens.

The Columbian chocolate is harsher to the bite than the Venezuelan, but that is expected with a chocolate with higher cocoa solids. Overall both chocolate bars are enjoyable.

Here are the package details on these two chocolate bars:

Willie's Cacao, Venezuelan Gold Rio Caribe 72, 50g
Willie's Cacao Ltd. (Uffculme, UK)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter. May contain traces of nuts. 72% minimum cocoa solids.

Willie's Cacao, Columbian Gold Los Llanos 88, 50g
Willie's Cacao Ltd. (Uffculme, UK)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter. May contain traces of nuts. 72% minimum cocoa solids.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Where to Buy Cocoa Beans, Nibs and other Cacao Ingredients? This is the Ultimate List of Cocoa Bean Suppliers!

Many of the most unique and respected chocolate makers are traveling the world for their cocoa bean supplies. By buying cocoa beans directly from farms in Dominican Republic, Honduras, Madagascar and other tropical locations, they make a unique product that is truly single origin - and not the same origin that everyone else is making chocolate from.

However, not every new chocolate maker has the time or money to travel the world looking for cacao. Yet many want beans that can be purchased at a price that is fair to the farmers, and with guarantees of quality. But it is a tough job looking for a steady bulk source of beans or nibs to make bean-to-bar chocolate, so I have put together a list of all the suppliers I have come across over the last few years.

This list includes export/import entrepreneurs, farms, cacao processors, and co-operatives who supply from the source.  This list is NOT complete - it is definitely a work-in-progress - so please feel free to add any cacao suppliers to the comments below, so I can research them and get them added to the list. Also, I often work with cacao to make chocolate and review it, and I will try to include the links to cacao reviews in this list where possible. If you want to send me your cocoa beans for review, please contact info (at) ultimatelychocolate.com for more information.

In Canada...

The Mexican Arabica Bean Company (Toronto) - provides two delicious beans, from Honduras and Mexico. A review will be up shortly of these beans and the wonderful chocolate that I made from them. Also supplies Mexican organic cacao butter and cocoa nibs. Visit www.mabco.ca for more information, or follow on Twitter: @mabcoimporter and Juan Gonzalez on Instagram.

In the U.S.A....

Tomric Systems, Inc. (Buffalo, NY) - Offers four types of beans from Nicaragua, in partnership with Ingemann Cacao Fino (see below for more info on Ingemann). Of the four types offered, the O'Payo beans are Organic. Farmers are paid a high price for the beans, and scientifically fermented. Contact cocoa@tomric .com for more information or visit: http://tomric.com/cocoa-beans-new.

Cacao Bahia (Brazil, sales office in California) - Providing 'single-estate' organic cacao from the Fazenda Camboa farm in the state of Bahia in Brazil. The farm cultivates fine Forastero and fine Trinitario cacao. These beans have a nice, lightly acidic, fruity flavour. Read my review of the bean samples from this farm here: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2015/11/cocoa-beans-from-brazil-where-to-buy.html. For more information, contact: info@cacaobahia.com or visit www.cacaobahia.com.

Edgar Soria - beans from Ecuador edsebas@yahoo.com possibly selling out of New York. If you have further information on this supplier, please post below in the Comments.

From Origin:

Casa Franceschi - provides high quality cocoa from South America, including Trinitario and Criollo beans from Venezuela and Ecuador.  This company has been supplying Europe and Japan since 1830, and now has a warehouse in the U.S. They work to ensure the post harvesting process is sound, so customers receive the finest flavour beans are delivered consistently. They currently have Hacienda Victoria beans, which are rare Arriba Nacional beans from Ecuador. According to Casa Franceschi, it has low acidity and typcal Arriba Nacional flavour, including a taste of sweet and dry fruits, caramel, brown sugar and "well balanced between floral and bitterness." The finish offers a cocoa taste. Learn more about these beans at: http://www.hacienda-victoria.com/. And learn about Casa Franceschi at: www.casafranceschi.com. Sales rep: Pedro Rojas projas@casafranceschi.com

Cacao Fiji  http://www.cacaofiji.com

Ingemann Cacao Fino - Producing Fine Flavour cacao varieties of Trinitario-Acriollado, "A Trinitario with Criollo genes." produced by heirloom Nicaraguan trees. They are decidedly 'fair trade', claiming: "The price we pay our producers is reportedly amongst the highest paid worldwide to cocoa farmers" (ref) and claim it is also 100% traceable, and provide a 'lot identity sheet' to chocolate makers to show where the cacao came from, cacao type, analysis, etc. Learn more at: http://ingemann.com.ni/cocoa-id/ or e-mail: info@ingemann.com.ni. Also supplying through Tomric Systems out of Buffalo.

Ucayali River Cacao (Peru) - located in the Ucayali Province in Peru. Does NOT accept any CCN-51 from any of the farms, in order to stay a true supplier of fine flavour cacao. This business collects the cacao wet from each farm and tags it, so they can trace the supply chain throughout the processing of the cacao. They have specially built fermentation boxes on site to ensure fermentation is done well to produce a consistent product. 20 - 25% of their cacao is 'of the white variety' with very little bitterness or acidity. E-mail Robin Jordan  at robin_jordan14@yahoo.com for more information or follow on Instagram at: @ucayali_river_cacao. Website: https://ucayalirivercacao.wordpress.com/

Blue Cacao from Honduras - Honduras exporters, although contact has been difficult since samples were sent out initially.  If anyone has contact information, please add it to the comments below.

Maya Mountain Cacao (Belize) - Sources cacao from smallholder Belizean farmers for chocolate makers looking to make fine chocolate. Ensures farms keep up with organic certification requirements, picks up wet cacao and has a processing team to ensure fermentation and drying is consistent. CEO and Co-founder is Emily V Stone.  Contact: (+501) 630-9206 for more information or visit the website at: http://mayamountaincacao.com/.

Cacao Verapaz (Guatemala) - founded by Uncommon Cacao Group (Emily Stone - see above under Maya Mountain Cacao) in 2013. Connects producers of fine cacao in Guatemala with chocolate makers around the world. Learn more at: http://www.cacaoverapaz.com/.

Uncommon Cocoa Group - Founder of Maya Mountain Cacao, Emily Stone, is involved in this organization, having also founded Cacao Verapaz under the Uncommon Cacao name.  They supply various origins of cacao (including Bolivia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, etc.) with ensured quality and consistent processing methods. Learn more at: http://www.uncommoncacao.com/.

Maranon Chocolate - Discoverer of USDA Certified Pure Nacional Cacao and exclusive provider of world renowned Fortunato No. 4 of Peru. Considered "the world's rarest cacao". Family business. @MaranonChoc www.maranonchocolate.com

Heartblood Cacao - exporting Guatemalan Cacao https://www.heartbloodcacao.com/pages/about-us

Cacao & Beyond (Philippines) - Cacao farming, fermented cacao and "producing Pure 100% Cacao Tableya Davao, Philippines" (ref: Instagram). E-mail: comvaltropialharvest@gmail.com for more information.

Lilycious Chocolate (Indonesia)  - cacao farmers with a goal of preserving "biodiversity of cacao trees to good quality beans and strive towards implementing a sustainable chocolate farm ecosystem." ref: www.lilycious.com

The Haitian Chocolate Project
www.haitianchocolateproject.com - seeking to build US demand for Haitian grown chocolate to help build infrastructure in Haiti.

Cocoa Family (Dominican Republic) - Certified organic and kosher cocoa beans, nibs, paste, etc. from the Dominican Republic. Dorcas Astacio
Tel 626-544-0200

JT SocEnt Ventures, Inc. (Philippines) - Offering cocoa beans, nibs and liquor, as well as coconut sugar and virgin coconut oil from the Davao area of the Philippines. Works directly with farmer's groups, NGO's and cooperatives to ensure farmer's get a fair price for their beans. Contact Jowell L. Tan by e-mail at: jowelllt@gmail.com.

Monday, August 15, 2016

What is Cocoa Butter? What Kind of Cocoa Butter Can Be Used in Chocolate?

Over the last few weeks, I have been taking a little time to learn about cocoa butter. Although I have been using it for a few years to either 'seed' my chocolate (a way of tempering chocolate), to make 'home-made' bean-to-bar chocolate with a variety of grinders and refiners, and to use in my EZtemper (which I am pretty sure I can no longer live without), I have not really spent a lot of time researching the differences in cocoa butter, and the best types to use in chocolate making. Until now, that is.

I am fascinated with what I have learned. And I want to share these tidbits of information with you, which will hopefully save you some time, in case you are following  a similar chocolate-making path (and chocolate-knowledge-gathering adventure) as me.

So let's get started with the basics...

What is Cocoa Butter?

Cocoa butter is the fat pressed from of the cocoa bean. According to Chloe Doutre-Roussel's book, The Chocolate Connoisseur, "50-55% of a cocoa bean's weight represents cocoa butter."* And because the cost of extraction is so high, cocoa butter is generally the most expensive ingredient in chocolate.

Why is Cocoa Butter Important and how does it Affect Chocolate Making?

Cocoa butter is used by chocolate makers, who roast cocoa beans, and then grind the beans up with sugar and added cocoa butter (in addition to the amount present in the cocoa beans), to create chocolate 'from scratch'. It is added to enhance the texture of the chocolate. According to Peter P. Greweling, in his book Chocolates and Confections, cocoa butter is "a crucial part of chocolate for the mouthfeel it provides and for its working characteristics."+   Chocolate makers also use varying amounts of it to create their desired mouthfeel. Simply taste a Bonnat dark-milk 65% chocolate bar, and you will see how the addition of cocoa butter can affect the mouthfeel of the chocolate.

Chocolatiers, who work with chocolate to create confections, truffles, and artistic chocolate pieces, might add cocoa butter to the chocolate they buy to "increase viscosity and give chocolate a smooth texture"*.  This makes it easier to create thinner or thicker shells for truffles and ganaches, depending on the desired outcome.

Cocoa butter can also have other effects on the final chocolate product.  According to Greweling, "cocoa butters are not all identical", with their main differences found in their melting points. Apparently, cocoa butter pressed from beans grown near the Equator have slightly higher melting points than cocoa butter from beans grown in more moderate climates. This means the chocolate made from beans grown closer to the Equator requires "slightly higher temperatures for tempering and handling" than chocolate made from beans grown in a cooler climate.+

Cocoa butter flavour can also differ in taste, depending on the origin. Therefore, if a chocolate recipe requires a lot of cocoa butter, a chocolate maker might want to consider the flavour of the cocoa butter.  This is discussed in detail below in the sections about deodorized and non deodorized cocoa butter.

Cocoa butter quality also plays a role, since the butter is often pressed from poor quality beans (the 'leftovers', which can also have mould and be overly acidic), so a chocolate maker must consider all of these factors and decide if and when to invest in a cocoa butter press (which are very expensive). There is a good thread on The Chocolate Life forum^ on this topic, discussing whether or not to use cocoa butter, non deodorized or deodorized cocoa butter, and whether to invest in a cocoa butter press.

What is Deodorized Cocoa Butter?

Deodorized cocoa butter means: "The cocoa butter is deodorized via steam being injected into the melted cocoa butter to "drive off" the volatile components which contribute to the odor. The product is then treated with diatomaceous earth (clays) which remove the color agents (it is basically an extremely fine filtration process) to create a nice, white butter" (ref or see below for full link^^).

You might use deodorized cocoa butter in chocolate making when you are making single origin chocolate from, say, Madagascar, Vietnam, or any other single origin/single plantation beans, and you do not have a cocoa butter press to extract cocoa butter from the same beans, nor can you acquire it. So you would use deodorized cocoa butter in small amounts to ensure the origin flavour of the beans is the featured flavour. If you use non deodorized cocoa butter instead of deodorized cocoa butter, pressed from beans of a different origin, you could potentially drown out the original natural flavours of the origin beans that you are working with.

What is Non Deodorized Cocoa Butter?

Non Deodorized cocoa butter is natural, unrefined, and holds its original yellow-ish colour. It also  holds many of the acidic flavours of the cocoa bean, as well as regional 'origin' flavours. When choosing this cocoa butter, you must test it with the beans you are using, particularly if the cocoa beans are of a different origin than the cocoa butter, because you will be blending flavours. Also, non deodorized cocoa butter can have strong flavours, so you may want to test many different kinds/brands to choose a taste that works for you and your final product.

Where Can You Buy Cocoa Butter?

Cocoa Butter does not come cheap. Keep in mind that cacao beans are pricey to begin with, and the fat pressed from them requires large machinery to get a good yield. Deodorizing it is an extra step that also costs time and money.

Cacao Barry sells Deodorized Cocoa Butter in 3kg buckets. No matter where you are located, there is likely a wholesaler near you who stocks it. For instance, in Ontario (Canada), I can buy Cacao Barry deodorized cocoa butter from Signature Fine Foods (see product catalogue here) for $84.50 for a 3kg pail,  and from McCalls.ca for $98.79 per pail.

These days, most health food stores, as well as the health section in large grocery stores, sell organic, unrefined, non deodorized cocoa butter. In fact, Bulk Barn in Canada sells the Organic Traditions brand of Cocoa Butter, as does Amazon.ca (yikes for $24.94, much higher than at Bulk Barn) as well as another organic and unrefined kind of cocoa butter of Vietnamese origin at a better price (click here to see) or buy it direct from the wholesaler here. You can also buy organic, raw cocoa butter in small bags or in bulk from Upaya Naturals (with free shipping on orders over $100). In Canada, you can buy Mexican-origin bulk cocoa butter from The Mexican Arabica Bean Company in Toronto (www.mabco.ca).

If you Google 'cocoa butter bulk', you will find a host of web sites that sell all types of cocoa butter in your area. Good luck!


*Chloe Doutre-Roussel, The Chocolate Connoisseur, page 206. Penguin Books Ltd., London, England, 2005.

+Peter P. Greweling, Chocolates and Confections, 2nd ed., page 27, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (Hoboken, NJ), 2013.

^The Chocolate Life forum: https://www.thechocolatelife.com/community/forums/opinion/12683/cocoa-butter-press-really-necessary


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Fudge Cheesecake - An Explosion in Your Mouth!

If you like Peanut Butter Fudge, or flourless chocolate cake, or any kind of peanut butter anything, you will love this cake! I made it as an experiment for one of my restaurant customers and it certainly sold fast. We never really did come up with a proper name for it, but I've started calling it the Peanut Butter-Milk Chocolate explosion cake, because it is layers of milk chocolate and peanut butter that come together in an 'explosion' in your mouth.

It looks complicated, but it really doesn't take that much time to make.  Add a comment below if you have any questions, and I will try to get back to you in a timely fashion.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Explosion Cake Recipe


Cake Ingredients:

For the Flourless Milk Chocolate Cake
8 ounces of good quality milk chocolate, cut into 1/2" squares
1/2 lb of butter, cut into 1/2" squares
4 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
1 cup sugar
1.5 cups PB
1 tsp salt

For the Peanut Butter Cheesecake layer
1 package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 tsp salt

Toppings Ingredients:

Milk Chocolate Ganache:
5 ounces milk chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream or coffee cream)

Peanut Butter Buttercream:
1 cup of store-bought or homemade vanilla buttercream icing (if you need a recipe, click here)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/8 tsp salt


For the flourless chocolate cake base...
1. Beat the egg whites until fairly stiff peaks form and until they look glossy. Set aside.
2. Melt the chopped butter and chocolate together in a plastic or glass bowl in the microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds, or in a stainless steel bowl over a double boiler (place bowl on top of a small or medium pot of barely simmering water on the stovetop). Stir with a spatula until smooth.
3. Once melted, remove from the heat and add the sugar and stir until combined.
4. Add all four egg yolks and beat in (with a fork, hand mixer or immersion blender. Add the peanut butter and salt and stir until smooth.
5. Gently fold in the egg whites.
6. Pour into a greased 9" or 10" spring-form pan.
7. Set aside while you make the peanut butter cheesecake layer.

For the cheesecake layer...
1. Beat the cream cheese in a bowl with a stand mixer or hand mixer. Stir a few times to soften the cheese.
2. Add the sugar and beat for 30 seconds or so, being sure to stir several times to remove any cheese lumps.
3. Add the egg and beat in until smooth, lump free and combined (about 30 seconds).
4. Add the peanut butter and salt and stir until smooth.
5. Pour the batter on top of the chocolate cake layer and spread around until smooth and it entirely covers the chocolate layer.

Bake in a preheated 350º F oven for 40 minutes. The top edges should look cooked about 1" from sides and middle can be a little jiggly (although not entire wet).  Remove from oven carefully and let cool for 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold (about 2 hours in the fridge).

Prepare the ganache topping...
1. Place your chopped milk chocolate in a bowl with the cream and microwave for 1 minute. Stir until smooth (add back to microwave for 10 second intervals if lumps of chocolate still remain).
2. Pour over the cake and push to the edges. You can gently drip it over the edges, or push enough over to seal the edges entirely by smoothing with an offset spatula.
3. Let set in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes while you prepare chocolate shavings or peanut butter icing for the top.

Prepare and apply your peanut butter icing...
1. Beat the peanut butter into the buttercream icing. Place in a decorator bag or in a Ziplock bag and cut a small hole off of the corner. Making criss-cross patterns, decorate the top of the cake with the peanut butter icing.
2. Top with milk chocolate shavings.
3. Serve cold or at room temperature, using a hot knife to slice. Serves 12 to 16.