Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Organic Cocoa Beans from Brazil: A Review of the Beans, Where to Buy Them, and Recipes to Try!


I started exploring Brazil-origin chocolate a few years ago, and what I found then was nearly no chocolate of that origin in North America  Since then, some very different chocolate bars, with varied and unique flavour profiles, began to pop up here and there.  But now, Brazil origin chocolate seems to be making a splash among chocolate makers across North America and Europe.


One of the reasons* for the recent increase in Brazil-origin chocolate bars is likely due to a recent increase in access to cocoa beans from Brazil.  They are emerging direct from the farm for many of the bean-to-bar chocolate companies to convert into chocolate.  In fact, I received a wonderful sample of cocoa beans from Cacao Bahia, the global sales and marketing arm of a picturesque organic cacao farm called Fazenda Camboa. The farm is located alongside the Almada River in the southern part of the State of Bahia, Brazil. The cacao trees grown on the 500-hectare farm are mainly sun-dried Trinitario and Forastero type.

I had tasted samples of chocolate made by Chaleur B Chocolat, who also used Cacao Bahia`s beans to create a wonderful 80% dark chocolate bar. I LOVED what chocolate maker Dany Marquis did with those cocoa beans (see the post here).  The chocolate was fruity with a hint of roast and smoke flavours.


So when I received the beans, I decided to do something different.  I experimented a little, and turned them into rustic-style chocolate (think stone-ground chocolate, except due to equipment limitations it is really 'blender ground' chocolate for me). I made a sweeter dark chocolate, one with 70% cocoa solids, and I also made a 62% dark-milk chocolate (see below for the recipes and the measurements that I used).

These turned out beautifully.  There was little acidity compared to other chocolate that I have made (since I do not have the equipment to conche the chocolate, I have to choose beans with low acidity or the chocolate will be too acidic to be palatable!).  The fruitiness was certainly there, and the flavour overall was nice in both the dark-milk and the 70% dark chocolate bar.

Overall, I've been very pleased with these cocoa beans from Cacao Bahia. Also, the information provided from the company was detailed on the quality control, and the processes for fermentation, drying, testing and harvesting at the farm. The company's information kit also explains the working conditions, mentioning that the farm pays their 65+ workers above-average wages for the region.

If you are looking for Trinitario or Forastero cocoa beans from Brazil - single origin and particularly from a specific farm, contact Cacao Bahia at info@cacaobahia.com  or visit their website at: http://www.cacaobahia.com/.


*Short History of the Brazilian Cacao Industry and the Fazenda Camboa farm:

In the late 1980's, Witches' Broom disease infected and killed the leaves of cacao trees all across Brazil.  This reduced the yield of the trees until they no longer produced cacao. In the early 1900's Brazil had been the largest producer of cacao in the world (ref) and was the second-largest pre-1989 (ref), but Witches Broom changed that drastically and caused the collapse of the cacao industry. That year, output went from 380,000 tonnes per annum to 90,000 tonnes per annum less than 10 years later (ref).

Bahia is one of Brazil's 26 states, and it was where Witches' Broom began. Farms like Fazenda Camboa were devastated by the disease, and family cacao businesses folded, causing many of the family members to move into other industries. Two members of the family that owned Fazenda Camboa began revitalizing the farm and applying methods to combat the disease.  They have been successfully reclaiming sections of the farm ever since. The farm is now focused on organic production and on producing higher quality cocoa beans for the fine chocolate industry.


Recipe for Rustic Style Chocolate Made with Brazilian Cocoa Beans

70% Dark Chocolate
Measurements:
  • 6 oz roasted and shelled* cocoa beans
  • 1 oz cocoa butter (see here for methods to extract cocoa butter if you want cocoa butter from the same beans)
  • 3 oz sugar

62% Dark Milk Chocolate
Measurements:
  • 6 oz roasted* and shelled* cocoa beans
  • 1 oz cocoa butter
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1.25 oz skim milk powder (or coconut milk powder if making vegan milk chocolate)

Instructions:
  1. Melt your cocoa butter over a double boiler or in the microwave until liquid (about 2 minutes in the microwave).
  2. Grind all the ingredients in a blender, smoothie blender attachment, or food processor until they begin to look wet and melt. Stop to stir often and be careful not to overheat the motor on your blender. For the milk chocolate, leave the skim milk powder out until you've melted the chocolate.  Add the melted cocoa butter and continue grinding until chocolate is fully liquid and as smooth as you can get it (about 10 to 20 minutes total). If adding, add the skim milk powder now and grind for another minute or so.
  3. Transfer the chocolate to a bowl and temper it. For a guide on how to temper chocolate, click here.
  4. Pour into molds. You do not need to spend money on fancy molds, for instance, I used a silicon snowflake baking pan as my mold for the dark chocolate - you can also use simple cupcake pans for round discs.  I also used a washed and dried chocolate bonbon tray from a gift I had received previously, for my dark milk chocolate - see the top photo for those.
  5. Let set for a few hours on the counter, or in the fridge for just a few minutes (not longer than 15 minutes or humidity will affect the chocolate).
  6. Pop out of the molds and enjoy! These can keep - well sealed - for about 1 year.
*To roast the cocoa beans and remove the shells, place them on a good quality cookie sheet in the oven, and spread evenly.  Roast at 325 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, stirring and turning them over halfway through roasting. When they smell like baking brownies, they are ready! Let cool, then remove the shells by hand, or place in a plastic zipper freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin, then place in a large bowl and use a hair dryer to blow the shells off  (best if this is done outside). Ensure all shells are removed before using to make chocolate.

Explore Other Brazil-Origin Chocolate:

Certainly Akesson's, who I wrote about earlier this year, has contributed to the popularity of Brazil origin chocolate. The company owns a plantation in Brazil and their fine origin chocolate has highlighted unique flavours that Brazilian cocoa has to offer, including that of the local pitanga fruit. Learn more about it here: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2015/07/akessons-single-plantation-chocolate.html.

And if you didn't already click on the link above to my article on a round-up of Brazil-origin chocolate, you can find it here: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2015/09/weekly-chocolate-round-up-its-all-about.html.

Happy Chocolate Tasting!

4 comments:

  1. I've been working on tracking down specialty chocolate based on your influence, and it turns out the Marou Vietnamese chocolate you mentioned awhile back may be here (Bangkok). Or there is always making it myself, but to be honest that looks a bit tricky. I can cook and bake but all that is something else.

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    Replies
    1. Marou is definitely one to try! You may have an easier time tracking down some European brands, and I think there are a few Aussie bean-to-bar chocolate makers that would be closer to you and perhaps easier to get.

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  2. Marau is good or should i say its too amazing.
    Chocolates

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  3. nice post. I like the Recipe you shared for Rustic Style Chocolate Made with Brazilian Cocoa Beans.

    ReplyDelete