Saturday, February 21, 2015

Making Chocolate Nib-to-Bar at Home: Experiments in Chocolate Origins and Aging

I recently received a small package of Madagascar cocoa nibs from friends who had visited Soma Chocolatemaker in Toronto. So instead of snacking on them or adding them to a savoury dish, I decided to make my own Madagascar single origin chocolate. If you have read my article about making chocolate from the nib, rather than from bean to bar, you'll know a little about how to make chocolate at home (Click here for the recipe and instructions to learn how).

I wanted to experiment by making Madagascar origin chocolate with Soma's roasted nibs, and then following the exact same recipe a second time to make Peruvian origin chocolate from other organic roasted nibs that I had on hand. My result was two very different tasting chocolates.

I used the coffee grinder to grind the chocolate into a liquid, and because of that I was forced to add a little melted cocoa butter to each batch. My grinders are getting a bit old, so admittedly the chocolate was on the crunchy side. 

Upon first taste, I was delighted with the Peruvian chocolate that I made, and completely appalled by the Madagascar. Why? Although the Madagascar chocolate was slightly smoother than the Peruvian, it was so acidic that is was nearly unpalatable. The Peruvian, on the other hand, was sweeter and although there was some acidity, it was mild compared to the Madagascar chocolate.

So in order to save the Madagascar chocolate, I decided to see if there is any truth to this 'chocolate aging' process that I hear so much about. Many chocolate makers believe that an important part of process of bean-to-bar chocolate is to age the chocolate for at least 30 days. But not all do this. So I decided to experiment with the few pieces that I had left to see if that would help.

I waited (not so patiently) for a month and what do you know? After 30 days, the Madagascar chocolate became more palatable and all the common fruity flavours that can be tasted from that origin became identifiable. The Peruvian chocolate got even better, with a slight floral and sweet flavour and very low acidity.

So what did I learn? Aging certainly helped both origin chocolates, however, it was not necessary with the milder Peruvian batch, and it was necessary with the Madagascar. I am sure that technique, better equipment and a good conche would have done more justice to the Madagascar beans. But from this experiment, it is clear that a good chocolate maker should assess their beans, and then adjust the aging accordingly.

If you want to learn more about aging chocolate, Ritual Chocolate has a great article on their website here: