inspired small batch bean to bar chocolate: the stuff of hidden stashes and a cross-country sibling who demands i send her more.
sweet + small, and it all starts at the bean.
for us that means four pounds of single origin, organic, direct trade cacao at a time. couldn't we start with more? well yes and no. the roaster and grinder we use are designed for small batch craft chocolate. small to us means as hands-on as we can be. it's why we craft chocolate in the first place.
we sift the beans and pick out the interesting things (feathers, small stones, leaves, once even a tiny dried kernel of corn)that can appear in the burlap bags of cacao. then we roast the beans. if we had to choose a favorite part, roasting might be it. the smell is amazing, warm and biscuity and hints of chocolate.
after roasting + cooling the beans are cracked and winnowed (fun but dusty) which removes the husk and turns the beans into smaller bits called cocoa nibs. after this we grind the nibs on a stone base between two stone wheels in our melangeur, which brings the cocoa nibs a step closer to what we think of as chocolate. this step takes a long time, with the melangeur running non-stop for sometimes several days. while the nibs are melanging we might add organic cocoa butter and organic cane sugar, and if we're making a batch of milk chocolate, organic dried milk powder. the melanging smoothes the chocolate, and the friction of the stone wheels heats the chocolate (conches it) and coaxes the complex flavors of the beans to come into their own. ] the whirr of the wheels in the workshop is like a hive of bees humming. the smell is days of heaven.
YEP, WE EAT A LOT OF CHOCOLATE.
once we taste the batch and decide it is ready, we pour it into blocks and set it aside to age and rest. well, that's the idea. it needs to be tasted (oops, tested) so each week we whittle off a bit and see where it's at. the effect of aging is another aspect of chocolate making that is a wonder. as the chocolate rests its flavor profile settles, lifts, or rears up and kicks its heels; from batch to batch, even with the same beans, this can differ. once we decide the resting is done we chop the chocolate into chunks, melt it down and temper it; tempering reminds us why we should have paid better attention to mrs. kraczynski in chemistry class, because in order to get snap, a nice shine, a higher melting point, and the chocolate in temper, it must be heated and cooled and re-heated within a margin of particular temperatures for the right crystals to form and do their thing. finally we pour it into the molds, then hand wrap each bar.
so this cacao bean walks into a bar.
chocolate bars are good and we are quite fond of them. they tuck nicely into coat pockets, stuff into backpacks, and on more than one occasion have served us well as nothing less than emergency first aid. but there's more to a cacao bean than meets the eye: specially roasted cacao beans brew a swell hot beverage, make a cool cold brew, the crispy nibs can be sprinkled onto yogurt or stirred into cookie batter, and of course, good chocolate is worthy of all manner of baking + confection-creating.
only organic ingredients.
out of respect for not just ourselves, our progeny, the earth we live on, the good farmers who deserve a sustainable livelihood, and for our customers, but for the teensy cacao flower pollinating midge that, without its help we'd have no chocolate.