Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mesocacao: Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Couverture Made at Origin. And a delicious milk chocolate truffle recipe!

A few weeks back, I purchased a few bags of Mesocacao chocolate couverture. For those of you who don't know, couverture is chocolate that usually has a higher cocoa butter content and is sold in bulk for chocolatiers to use to make truffles, ganache, pralines, chocolate art and more. I had my eye on this couverture for some time, and wanted to try it.

Mesocacao is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker who is working directly at the source in Honduras, and sourcing cocoa beans from within the country, as well as neighbouring Nicaragua and El Salvador. Working directly at the source means that the cacao used to make the chocolate is grown within the country, and the chocolate is made from that cacao before it is exported. That is not normally the case with chocolate; often the cacao is grown somewhere warm (within 20 degrees of the equator), then shipped out to be made elsewhere. In other words, Mesocacao is keeping the chocolate-making jobs and profits in the region. If you've read articles like Justin Rohlrich's recent one on slave labour in cocoa farming, you'll understand why this is so important.

I purchased Milk and Dark couverture chocolate of Nicaraguan Origin made by Mesocacao. It is grown in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua, also known for coffee, vegetables and flower crops. Mesocacao also sells 70% and 80% dark chocolate made from El Salvador origin, and also 70% and 80% dark chocolate, as well as cocoa nibs from Honduras.

Mesocacao chocolate actually comes in drops (like chocolate chips),
but I melted and made them into the bars and other confections shown in the photos here.
The Nicaraguan 44% milk chocolate is slightly sweet, but also not too sweet (certainly on the 'dark-milk chocolate' side). There is the slightest taste of aged butter, which is not unpleasant and may have something to do with the age of the chocolate when I purchased it. Otherwise, the flavour is not fruity, closer to nutty, coffee flavours that are quite nice.

The milk chocolate is slightly rustic, meaning it is not as smooth as a Lindt milk chocolate bar. But I like that it does not have additives like artificial vanilla (like a Lindt bar does!). Go to the end of this post for Mesocacao's ingredients list. And although not silky smooth, when melted this chocolate makes a very smooth and lovely truffle.

I experimented and made chocolate bars that certainly highlighted the slightly rustic texture of the chocolate.  And I also made creamy milk chocolate truffles from Mesocacao's milk chocolate, which worked out beautifully and were super smooth. (see below for a quick recipe for milk chocolate truffles). So if you are a chocolatier who is considering using Mesocacao milk chocolate for a couverture, keep in mind that you will have better use of it to make truffles and ganaches, and perhaps chocolate bars with inclusions, rather than solid, plain milk chocolate bars.

The Nicaraguan 70% dark chocolate was smoother than the milk chocolate. The chocolate bars that I made from the dark chocolate were absolutely delicious.  The taste was like coffee and nuts, and like the milk chocolate had no discernible fruit flavours, just a nice balanced chocolate flavour.

I also made Salted Dark Chocolate Pecan Bark (recipe) from the dark chocolate, which paired beautifully with the nuts and salt. Truly a great chocolate for pairing with tree nuts, such as nut clusters, hazelnut truffles and pralines. But also using it for straight up dark chocolate truffles or as bars is perfect! Mine were divine!

You can find a dark chocolate ganache recipe here, to use with Mesocacao's 70% dark chocolate, or see below for a milk chocolate truffle recipe.  Enjoy and have a great day!

Quick and Easy Milk Chocolate Truffles

Time: 5 minutes to prepare, plus 4 hours setting time, plus 10 minutes to roll into cocoa powder (longer if you dip in chocolate like I did in the pic to the right). And 20 seconds to eat each one (don't forget to savour them!).

You need:
4 ounces milk chocolate
1/4 cup cream
Optional: 2 tbsps. warmed butter (not liquid, just warmed and a bit melty)

Instructions:

1. Place the chocolate (chopped into small pieces) and cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute on HALF POWER. Remove and stir until smooth.  If not quite melted, place back in microwave for 10 seconds, remove and stir. Continue with intervals of 5 seconds until smooth - DO NOT OVERHEAT or your cocoa butter will separate from the chocolate. If you dislike using the microwave, heat cream in a small saucepan to near-boiling and pour over your chocolate, in a medium sized bowl. Stir until smooth.

2. Stir in the butter, if adding.

4. Let set in fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

5. Once set, scoop out spoonfuls (about 2 tsps. in size) and roll into balls between the palms of your hands. Then roll into sifted cocoa powder (alternately dip in melted, tempered chocolate). Place each truffle in a mini cupcake paper and serve. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Best when consumed at room temperature.


Mesocacao Ingredients:

44% Milk Chocolate: 19% nibs, 25% origin cocoa butter, 33% raw cane sugar, 23% milk powder.

70% Dark Chocolate: 65% nibs, 5% cocoa butter, 30% raw cane sugar.

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