bean to bar craft chocolate
first, the bean to bar part. bean to bar chocolate is chocolate making that begins with the cacao bean. most confiseurs, confectioners, and chocolatiers buy pre-manufactured chocolate and then melt it to make confections, bon bons, truffles, and all manner of treats. but a chocolate maker starts with the raw cocoa bean. you might say there are makers and melters, though some makers are also melters.
in bean to bar chocolate making cacao beans are chosen, sifted, roasted, cracked, winnowed, and then ground (melanged) into a liquid paste called chocolate liquor. if the chocolate maker chooses, sugar and cocoa butter are added. the amount of other ingredients determines the chocolate percentage; the higher that number, the fewer the other ingredients. A 100% chocolate has only cocoa beans, while a 75% chocolate has 70% cocoa beans and 30% sugar. once it's in the melangeur the friction and shear of the wheels grinds it down until it is smooth and silky. when it's ready (and this is where the chocolate maker must use their taste, their intuition, and their trust in the cocoa bean) it's set aside to "age" before being tempered and poured into molds.
that's the short version.
some very large chocolate makers also make bean to bar chocolate. they do it with bigger factory scaled equipment that is designed to mass produce chocolate, unlike small batch craft makers who, out of a pioneering diy desire to make chocolate (and necessity) learned to re-purpose + re-invent tools that can be used on a small scale. micro batch chocolate is made in small batches. it's less front-end loader and more hands-on. and that is what separates the craft maker from the factory maker.
a few words on the subject
brewing chocolate: not to be confused with hot cocoa which is made from cocoa powder and sugar. brewing chocolate is crafted from specially roasted cacao beans, and is a quite lovely alternative to coffee. brewing chocolate uses the entire roasted cacao bean. chocolate "tea" uses the husks (shells).
cacao: cocoa beans. these grow in wonkily wonderful pods, straight off the trunk of the cacao tree. all chocolate (the real stuff) starts at the cacao tree. the trees do not grow just anywhere, mostly 15-20 degrees north or south of the equator (thus, in regions of central america, south america, africa, and indonesia). cacao trees thrive in the shadow of rainforests, need heat, humidity, and rainfall. the pods grow year-round, and are harvested by hand using machetes or long knives.
chocolate: a fermented food. after the cacao pods are harvested they are split open. inside the beans (seeds) are encased in a sweet pulp, which is then fermented before drying. the art and craft of chocolate making owes much to the farmers who tend the trees, know the best time to harvest, and then ferment the beans perfectly. under-fermented or over-fermented cacao does not make great chocolate.
cocoa butter: the natural fat within the cacao bean; cacao beans are approx 50% fat (cocoa butter). it is what lends chocolate the "melt in your mouth" beauty. by itself it is solid at room temp, looks lovely and buttery, and tastes remarkably disappointing.
conching: in large-scale chocolate making one machine creates the liquor and another further refines the paste in a process called conching. there is some (okay, alot) discussion in chocolate-crafting circles about melanging vs conching, if melanging alone equals conching, etc etc. the proof is, as they say, in the pudding, and many microbatch chocolate makers grind/melange/conche using one machine to do so.
craft chocolate: by definition craft focuses on quality over quantity, and doesn't use automated processes. it's all about the intent.
criollo: cacao has much diversity, but in traditional thought criollo was often said to be one of the 2 original types of cacao trees. delicate. speaks most often in a whisper, the kate bush of cacao and with a much-welcomed comeback.
dark chocolate: the scale of dark to light slides a range of percentages; the higher the %, the more cacao (and cocoa butter, as it is a natural part of a cacao bean) makes up the chocolate (and less sugar) thus, the darker the chocolate. you might see chocolate listed as 75% (which is pretty intense) or even 80% (which is almost whacked and let's not go near that 100% trend). milk chocolate is on the lower end of the scale because it has not just cacao and sugar in it, but also milk powder.
direct trade: someone ventures to the region where cacao is grown, meets with cacao farmers or grower's co-ops, and sets up a deal to purchase the season's cacao beans and then arrange for shipping. direct trade promotes a working relationship between the farmers and the traders, and helps create sustainability, ie, the farmer has a true livelihood.
fair trade: a standard of payment for cacao, cocoa butter, and sugar that aims to compensate the grower fairly, so that a middleman is not reaping the majority of the profits. that said, to receive the ft label a grower or coop must pay a fee. the same goes with organic cert: small farmers often can't pay the exorbitant cert fees, and co-ops (who over see fermentation) can't handle the paperwork for lots of smallholders.
fermentation: chocolate is a fermented food; after the cacao pods are split open the seeds (beans) must first ferment in the pulp before they are dried. how well (or not) the beans are fermented makes a big difference in the quality and flavor of the cacao.
forestero: the hybrid offspring of criollo and trinatario cacao parents. as offspring go, unruly and with a wide range of behaviors.
grinding: also called melanging. this is the process of smashing the nibs into smaller and smaller particles until the natural fat (cocoa butter) emerges, the nibs become silky and smooth and voila, chocolate. a mortar and pestle is a traditional method of grinding. folks have tried cuisanarts (nope), blenders (not gonna happen), a nifty tool called a crankenstein (best attempted with a cold one at the ready), and a stone wheel/stone base device called a melangeur that can be as big as a washing machine or as unobtrusive as a waffle maker.
lecithin: most often a by-product of soy, but a sunflower product is also sometimes used. added to chocolate (or not; our chocolate is soy-free and does not contain any) to help emulsify, ie. hold it all together in a nice and easily tempered and shelf-stable package. the whole lecithin thing just seems too wordy and factory-prone and the chemical rendering of it is off-putting and hello, there is the gmo thing.
liquor: as in chocolate liquor. the term for ground cacao paste before it has completely smoothified.
melangeur: fancy french word for the whirring device that grinds and smoothes the cacao nibs into a shiny happy people food.
microbatch: small batch. small is, of course, relative. if i can lift it by myself i call it small batch. if it is delivered in metric tons and requires a forklift? maybe not so small.
milk chocolate: adding liquid to chocolate is tricky and unpredictable, and not for the squeamish, so over time chocolatiers figured out milk powder was the way to go. milk chocolate can be made using cow's milk powder or goat's milk powder, or vegan-ish and with coconut milk. because it has the milk powder and often, a heck of a lot more cocoa butter added, the % of milk chocolate is lower than dark, and tastes sweeter.
nibs: through cracking and winnowing (removing the husk, aka shell) the cacao beans become smaller bits called nibs. nibs can be made using a grinder (we use a re-purposed and modified champion juicer) and a winnower designed for removing the husk, or for nano batches a blowdryer, a big bowl, and if you're not outside, a broom and a dustpan.
nutella-ish spreads: nutella is the kleenex of chocolate + nut spreads. one of the wonders of the world, as is toast, and such a happy marriage they make. can be made with hazelnuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, coconut oil.
roasting: after fermentation, roasting is the trickiest and most intuitive aspect of chocolate making: a good roast translates the nuanced flavors of a bean, whereas a bad roast obiterates it (commodity cocoa roasts the heck out of poor quality beans, then dumps in flavorings and lots of sugar). we roast our cacao beans because roasting takes an astringent, bitter, puckery-up and not all that great-in-the-raw cacao bean and helps it taste like something we want to eat. some makers opt for convection ovens, with the beans lying on trays. we prefer drum (barrel) roasting, as the heat is more evenly circulated, and the beans are tumbled as the drum turns. small batch roasting for us means a small oven that can only roast 2 pounds of cacao at a time for our test roasts, and a hundred year-old vintage re-purposed Royal N.5 coffee roaster that roasts 25# for us at a time. she's sweet and squeaky, and we're just a bit in love with Ms. Royal.
single origin: cacao sourced from a single region; most often this means beans are aggregated from many farms by a co-op or fermentary. cacao beans are named after the region where they are found or the co-op where they're collected. and are influenced by terroir (growing environment) of that region. single estate beans come from a single farm. map chocolate uses single origin beans because we want to experience the flavor and personality of a particular bean, not mr. bean and his far-flung relatives.
tempering: a process of heating and cooling chocolate in order to coax the necessary crystals to form, line up and behave. tempering is the science-y part that makes chocolate shiny and have a snap. baking chocolate, because it will be melted or cooked or heated, is not necessarily tempered.
trinatario: one of the (so-called) three basic types of cacao; the offspring of criollo and forestero.