How to make a bean to bar chocolate from scratch? What are the crucial factors which make or break this process?
Bean to bar is a process of producing chocolate from dried cocoa beans. The cocoa beans undergo various processes to get an aromatic fluid chocolate.
Major factors which affect the making of a chocolate bar 1. Type/subspecies of the cocoa tree 2. Country of origin 3. Cultivation & pod storage 4. Fermentation – crucial step at farm level which will decide the development of flavors 5. Drying duration 6. Roasting – the first crucial area where expertise is required. This is a skilled job as proper roasting will facilitate the perfect aroma to develop. 7. Cracking and Winnowing 8. Grinding 9. Refining 10 Conching – the second crucial area where you need to have the skills of a chocolate taster and chocolate maker. To ascertain that the astringency levels are correct and acids which are not required have evaporated. 11. Ageing
So let’s break down the steps:
TYPES OF BEANS AND COUNTRY OF ORIGIN 1. Upper amazon forastero: primary regions Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil and Peru. The property is bold and complex. 2. Criollo: major regions Central America. The property is nutty and fruity notes but lacks bitterness. 3. Nacional: primary development happened in Ecuador coastal regions. The property is floral and aromatic 4. Amelonado: lower amazon region and primary growth in Brazil. The property is full bodied and fudgy. It is utmost important for you to understand the underlying property of the bean so that you know what has to be enhanced. If you don’t understand the regional impact and inherent property of the bean what will you develop? Put together the region of growth and cultivation practices makes the DNA of a cocoa bean and every bean has its nuance.
CULTIVATION AND POD STORAGE
If the beans have a great DNA that doesn’t mean they will result in great chocolate. Terroir plays a vital role too. Farming practices and regional cultivation habits have great impact on end result. This is a farm level process and mostly out of reach of chocolatiers unless they are involved in the activities like some big companies Cadbury, Nestle, Barry Callebaut, Felchlin etc. The apt example to make you understand the regional play is ‘Sarson’ or mustard. Why it is best from northern belt only. Why can’t we have same taste in Mumbai, Chennai or Bangalore? Answer is Terroir and regional skills to make it.
FERMENTATION Within 10 -12 days of harvest cocoa beans are removed out of pod and sent for fermentation. Fermentation is done by piling up beans on the ground covered with banana leaves or in wooden boxes with enough holes to let the resulting liquid to flow out. During fermentation lot of heat is generated and germination in the bean is killed. It is known as bean death in chocolate industry. Fermentation is the key process and the number of days depends on the origin of beans. It varies from 2-7 days. During this process the complex flavor of the bean is developed. A good fermentation will result in better flavor and you will take less roasting time to optimize the bean flavor. This is a very crucial step at the farm level where all the possible notes will develop in the bean. The inherent flavors of dairy, nuttiness, fruity, wine etc. all develop at this step.
DRYING Beans are very moist at fermentation stage. They must be sun dried to get rid of moisture.
ROASTING A typical bean has 900 hidden flavors in it. How many can you recognize? Whatever happens at farm level we can’t control? But now the control shifts to the chocolatiers hand. This is the stage where you can ruin or enhance all the flavors which were locked in the bean during fermentation. A careful selection of temperature and time will decide the final resulting flavor of the bean. Most importantly first you have to understand the DNA of the bean, whether it requires the low roast, medium roast or high roast. A uniform roasting is mandatory for the proper flavor development. Remember, you can’t sauté beans like vegetable. A good roasting equipment is a MUST. To execute this step you should be first qualified to evaluate chocolate by conscientious tasting. If you don’t know what flavor it should be then what will you develop? Even if you have criollo (the most coveted bean) in your hand and you don’t know which roast profile to follow, it is doomed.
CRACKING AND WINNOWING
After roasting, the beans are cracked and winnowed to remove the husk and get cocoa nibs. A strict winnow is required to maximize the flavor in the resulting product.
GRINDING The next step is to make a paste of the cocoa nibs so that we can refine them further. The resulting paste is known as cocoa liquor.
REFINING It is the process of breaking down the particle size of the paste. A chocolatier can decide to add sugar and other ingredients at this stage or later.
This process develops the flavor of the chocolate liquor by releasing some of the inherent acids and bitterness. This also gives the resulting chocolate its smoothness, melt-in-the-mouth quality by rounding the particle flakes and dispersing the cocoa butter evenly around all the particles of cocoa solids, sugar and flavorings. The conche machine has rollers or paddles that continuously knead the chocolate liquor and its ingredients for hours or days depending on the quality desired by the manufacturer. The refiner produces particle “flakes” which the conche then rounds off and coats with fat. While there is no thumb rule for the conching time of the cocoa liquor, it can be anywhere between 12 – 72 hours which is the standard until the moisture is less than 1%. Conching has two stages. Dry conch where no cocoa butter is added and the latter when cocoa butter is added is called wet conch. This is another key area where lot of experience is required to judge how much to conch. The melt in mouth texture, lasting flavor and controlled astringency is developed at this stage. AGEING Some beans are very acidic, they don’t release all the acids at the conching stage. They need further ageing to mellow down. So in this step we choose to hold the cocoa liquor paste or finished chocolate for few weeks or months.
Bean to bar is a beautiful journey of a creative art with a lot of science. Each chocolate bar has a story behind its creation which is pain and time taking to create a perfect piece. The demand for quality chocolate is making MICRO BEAN TO BAR MAKERS to spring up rapidly across the globe. With the support of consumers and keen chocolate learning enthusiast the market will see more innovativeness.
Hope you enjoyed the read. Let me know in comments if you have any questions
There has been a constant argument between chocolatiers and companies with regard to the use of oil in chocolate making. Most of the big brands want to have a lucrative business and therefore fiercely promote the use of vegetable oils as opposed to high quality cocoa butter which is the true essence of chocolate. We need to understand here, every product is built around certain key ingredients which lend it uniqueness. Therefore, some get labeled as exotic or premium while others remain mundane.
A key question which needs to be addressed is why there is so much of debate on substituting oil for cocoa butter and is it really harmful? This can be only answered once the actual composition of chocolate is understood. What are the hidden benefits of cocoa butter if at all any?
First let’s understand how a chocolate is made. Chocolate is native to the theobroma tree which is also called as cacao tree a small (4–8 m (13–26 ft.) tree which is native to the deep tropical regions of Amazon basin but is commercially grown in West Africa and parts of Asia. After the plantation it takes approximately 4-5 years for the mature cacao tree to produce fruits which are in the form of elongated pods that yield up to 70 annually. The pods range from bright yellow to deep purple colour. Cacao exists in 3 categories forastero, criollo, and trinitario. Forastero are mostly used in commercial production. Criollo are easily susceptible to disease so are not much grown. Only 5% of the world’s production is Criollo. It is used in making premium chocolate. Trinitario are an amalgamation of the above two to produce high quality dark chocolate. Cacao pods take up to 6 months to grow, several weeks to ripen. Thereafter, the beans take about 5 days to ferment in specialized boxes. For 1-2 only weeks they are placed in the sun to dry on large trays.
The dried, fermented and roasted cocoa beans of this tree are then processed to get cocoa liquor and from which finally cocoa butter is extracted. All these ingredients put together and when under gone processes of refining, conching and tempering gives us a fine quality chocolate. The one which has right shine, snap and melt in the mouth feel and taste.
If we analyze the entire process of procuring the beans and then making chocolate is so lengthy, expensive and pain taking. Would it be justified to just add oil and replace the primary like ingredient cocoa butter for a cheap low cost option of vegetable oil? If at all done then end product is definitely not chocolate but a low quality unhealthy substitute called compound.
Let us understand what is a compound? It is a product made from a combination of cocoa, fractioned vegetable fat (usually palm or palm kernel oil) and sweeteners. A compound can never be called a chocolate because of the absence of cocoa butter and many a times the absence of even cocoa liquor. Rather they use cocoa powder in its making.
Pure healthy cocoa butter – heart friendly
Unhealthy saturated fat – heart risky
Smooth fresh after taste
Waxy greasy after taste
Tempering for shine and snap
No tempering lacks shine and no snap
What happens when we add oil to chocolate?
When oil is substituted in the chocolate the chemical composition of the end product is disturbed. It affects the melting point. Oil reduces the melting point of chocolate from 33.5 to 31.6 in case of palm oil (cheapest available and used commercially) in case of coconut oil 33.5 to 30.75 used probably by home bakers. Oils which are nut and seed based usually are ideal for cooking food on high temperatures. Again, their fat composition is also not healthy. In home cooking linoleic acid is predominant (n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid PUFA). Right now companies are substituting high linoleic acid for low cost making it all the more hazardous for human health.
The biggest threat that we are facing is from palm oil. Palm oil is a controversial subject. Palm oil is extracted from the flesh of the fruit and palm kernel comes from the fruit of the palm tree found mainly in tropical climates of Africa and Asia. After USA raised an alarm against hydrogenated fats and banned it from being used in commercial products. Being a cheaper alternative palm oil gained a lot of popularity. For palm oil cultivation massive destruction of rain forests is being done. This is in turn causing 4% of global greenhouse gas emission and 8% of all global emission by burning fossil fuels. Animal wildlife has been most affected forcing them to relocate or species going extinct (orangutan, Sumatran elephant, tiger and rhino) disrupting the symbiotic relationships that the flora and fauna have with their habitat. Not only is this detrimental to animals but even human. The quality of soil gets significantly affected making cultivators either giving up on land or using high doses of fertilizers for production of edible crop in turn affecting our health. I believe this is main reason why palm oil is being hated so much.
On the health forefront, palm oil’s nutritional profile is similar to other cooking oil. One tablespoon contains about 120 calories and 14 grams of total fat, including 7 grams of saturated fat 5 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Palm oil has got a bad reputation because of being high in saturated fat which is linked to heart disease. As saturated fat boosts bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides both of which are risk factors for heart disease?
LDL is called “bad cholesterol” because it takes cholesterol to your arteries, where it may collect in artery walls. Too much cholesterol in your arteries may lead to a buildup of plaque known as atherosclerosis.
The FDA permissible limit in a chocolate of vegetable fat is maximum 5% but companies selling products labeled as chocolate freely use 20% and above violating basic norms. Reports suggest such high usage of oil messes up the chocolate making it sticky and waxy while a good chocolate is always sturdy at room temperature with 70% triglycerides being solid.
Cocoa butter as opposed to oil has a narrow melting point fundamental to chocolate. Therefore, there is the melt in the mouth due to enthalpy. Enthalpy is relationship between Cocoa Content and Melting Enthalpy. As the cocoa content increases, the amount of crystalline cocoa butter also increases and in turns the amount of energy necessary for melting.
Cocoa butter also has health benefits. Cocoa butter is an antioxidant and also it does not affect heart heath. Even though it has high saturated fat, yet one-third of its fat comes from stearic acid which doesn’t raise LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) as most other saturated fats. While oils can create imbalance and increase the risk of high blood pressure and raise unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy HDL cholesterol.
Another thing which comes under debate radar is hydrogenation of oils.
Hydrogenation is the process of treating fats and oils with hydrogen gas in the presence of a catalyst. The result is the conversion of liquid oils to fluid, semi-solid, or plastic fats suitable for use in any edible oil application.
It has been studied that incomplete hydrogenation can lead to unsaturated carbon molecules which leads to circulatory disease including heart attacks.
Here the basic argument is far from oil and no oil. For a product to be termed as chocolate legally require certain key ingredients to lend it a certain taste, flavor, snap and feel. For that cocoa butter is a must, substitutes do not work.
Chocolate is no longer just a temptation. With the exploration of its properties it has been found that chocolate can play a good role in facilitating health. When eaten regularly in the prescribed quantity which is usually 30-60gms.
Did you know that chocolate is a fruit?
Chocolate is a product of the cacao tree. It is a pod shaped golden or orange fruit which is found hanging on the tropical cacao trees. This fruit has very little flesh and has a large number of seeds (called beans) that are white when young and turn brown on drying form which chocolates are made.
Chocolate is truly a feel good factor – contains several mood altering chemicals like
Serotonin which makes one feel good,
Theobromine a stimulant which peps one up,
Endorphins which reduce sensitivity to pain.
Chocolate has 4 times the antioxidant when compared to tea. Catechins are powerful antioxidants found 53.5g per 100g in dark chocolate. These help in preventing against cancer and heart disease.
40% women crave for chocolates as compared to only 15% of men.
Phenylethylamine a neuro disinhibitor released by the brain also found in chocolates causes an increases feeling of excitement and boosts sex drive.
Dark chocolate has 5 times more antioxidant than the equivalent weight of blue berries.
Scientists have also researched that consuming 40g of dark chocolate for two weeks reduces metabolic effects of stress.
Yale University went ahead to state that snacking on dark chocolate often in pregnancy can help in preventing fatal complications from premature births.
Flavanol rich chocolate can protect skin from premature ageing.
Chocolate is the ultimate sense stimulator
Sight – stimulates an indulgent luxurious appeal
Smell – sensual aroma can have a calming effect on temper and releases pent up frustration. So the next time you decide on chocolate please take time to savor the smell.
Taste – chocolate contains up to 500 distinct flavor compounds and aroma. Chocolate uniquely melts at 34C providing a smooth, silky, luscious lingering taste making it so addictive.
So many facts truly substantiates the intense craving for chocolates and gives us a good reason to have it as well.
Let’s begin a journey into the fascinating world of chocolate.
Chocolate was discovered in 1900BC by the Mesoamericans. Since then it has grown to become one of the most coveted food of today’s era.
The rich luscious flavor of freshly roasted cacao beans ground into a paste with various concoctions is the mainstay of most modern western desserts and drinks. In fact any occasion without chocolate seems all most incomplete.
Since chocolate is so loved. Through this blog we have tried to cater to all chocolate lovers with the real insight into this food. We have highlighted the history of chocolate and given a video recording of how we process chocolate from bean to bar. There are also a number of tips and tricks in handling chocolate. A number of interesting chocolate recipes for mom and kids to make at home which are not only delicious but nutritional too. We have the hot chocolate milk drink to small bite size truffles. So the next time why not reward your kid with one of our treats. There are also make at home chocolate dips for parties or rich chocolate sauce for cakes to healthy and vegan options all are available.
We hope this blog is an inspiration for chocolate and wholefood lovers to get their hands on some cool stuff and make their culinary and baking journey all the more interesting.