AHHH…chocolate. If my best friend was a food this would be it. So amazingly satisfying on many different levels with so many options in flavors and taste. Milk, dark, bitter, organic, fair trade; the spices and flavorings are endless. Little does one realize though, chocolate is simple, easy, and quick to make yourself. You just need the right equipment and a few simple ingredients to get started with beginning chocolate making.
There is a huge range of quality in the market. From the low end with some mass market brands that, by looking closely at the ingredients, are not really chocolate, but chocolate flavored corn syrup with added chemicals to some of the very best specialty made. I tasted some of the most wonderful chocolate while living in France and miss visiting Joel Durand, one of the best chocolatiers in the world. He was famous for having an alphabet of flavors with the letter imprinted on the chocolate for reference: J for jasmine, L for lavender, E for earl grey. A very good, somewhat local chocolatier in the Hudson Valley is Oliver Kita, who makes high quality, award winning chocolate in a multitude of spices and flavors.
So why make your own chocolate? What’s the point? Can’t I just buy some?
Cost wise I would say it’s a about a break even when comparing the cost of a yummy higher end bar and your homemade chocolate. But here is the kicker….YOU control the ingredients and the taste completely. YOU control your spices and flavors, YOU control if your bar is vegan, dairy-free, nut-free, if it’s a 82% dark or a 56% milk, and it’s fun to say you made it all by yourself. This is chocolate at it’s purest and the taste is incredible. So fresh! Like you just picked a chocolate bar off the chocolate tree. There is no way to replicate that unless you make it yourself.
Chocolate is a great way to experiment what you like and how you like it. If you have any food allergies mass produced bars will probably have some sort of cross contamination issue, so this would be perfect for you as you control the environment where the chocolate is made.
Chocolate starts off with it’s main ingredient – the cocoa bean. Found in tropical regions around the world, most notably from South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia; with The United States and the United Kingdom being it’s largest consumers. They grow in pods that need to be chopped open to release the 30-50 beans that grow inside. The cocoa nib, and other cocoa solids are extracted to make a range of different products, most notably cocoa powder and cocoa butter to make chocolate from the bean. For the purpose of simplicity and in the interest of time, I am using already roasted and chopped cocoa nibs, not the whole bean.
What are nibs?
The inside of the cocoa bean; the meat. Cocoa nibs will impart the flavor of however the beans are roasted, so find a brand that fits your taste. As a side note though, the only way to control the true flavor is to roast beans yourself. Roasting is a very work heavy, involved process. But go for it! Here is a wonderful how to video on how to roast your own beans. They also describe the chocolate making process in greater detail for the continuation of more advanced chocolate techniques.
Taste some nibs straight out of the bag, to get a good feel for how bitter they are. That way you can gauge your taste buds for bitter/sweet and give you an idea where you want to go with your added sugar and extras. If you love it that way, don’t add any sugar and make a 100% dark.
RECIPE: HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE BARS
- some sort of blade grinder that can grind fine, like a coffee or spice grinder (not a burr grinder, the cacao will plug it up)
- double boiler (or make your own!)
- a mold of some sort (optional). I am using a basic small bar silicone mold, but go crazy! Skulls and crossbones, flying pigs, ninjas, unicorns…..be creative!
- cocoa nibs
- cocoa butter
- powdered milk (optional: only to make milk chocolate, skip this ingredient if you are making dark chocolate)
Where to get the ingredients?
Your local health food or Whole Foods-esque type store will carry these items. Or online. I purchased my cocoa nibs, cocoa butter, and a silicone mold on Amazon.com Sugar and dry milk came from the grocery store. One really great, not too expensive brand is Navitas. I like them because they are organic, no additives, and not too expensive. They have cocoa nibs, cocoa butter, and even sell raw cocoa beans. Other brands that sell nibs include Scharfenberger, Dagoba, Valrhona to name a few.
The spices and flavor choices are endless. Below are just a few. Feel free to experiment on amounts and mixtures. This is YOUR chocolate, do as your taste buds wish.
Examples of possible spice and flavors:
- any and all nuts
- curry powder
- coconut flakes
- dried fruit – berries work great, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, goji berries
- chili powder
- pumpkin pie spice
- sea salt
- teas – Earl Grey works great
This list can go on forever, as you can literally put so many added flavors and spice combinations. Be creative. This is yours to play with.
- If your taste buds like spicy and strong, a little goes a long way, especially with chili and cayenne. You don’t want to overpower your chocolate with a strong flavor. So just put in a pinch and taste. You can always add more spice, but it’s hard to take out.
- If you don’t want to use refined white sugar you can use raw or brown. Or a sugar substitute, like stevia. Do not use powered sugar as it has added corn starch and will ruin your chocolate.
- The pictures and steps below show a simple milk chocolate, 50% cocoa.
I am writing this from the standpoint of a DIY’er, first timer; not a trained chocolatier. This is an instruction on a very base level, to make it seem easy and accessible for all, including myself!
Tip before you start: do a really small batch for your first try, so you can figure out your chocolate/sugar ratio and you don’t waste too much of your product if something doesn’t go right.
Step 1: Figure out how sweet you want your chocolate to be and if you want make a dark or milk.
Add your sugar to your grinder. Grind your sugar in until in becomes superfine which should only take 15-30 seconds or so.
How do you figure out how much sugar to use? It’s one part sugar for every 10% of sweetness you are going for. If you would like to start with a standard dark chocolate, 70% is a good starting place, so 3 parts sugar to 7 parts nibs. So if you are using 100g total you would use 70 grams nibs and 30 g sugar. 80% dark is 2 parts sugar to 8 parts cocoa nibs. Etc, etc. If you don’t know how sweet you would like your chocolate, start small, with one part sugar and go from there.
A typical milk chocolate recipe is 2 parts powdered milk, 3 parts sugar, and 5 parts cocoa nibs. It has to be powdered dry milk or powdered dry milk substitute. Not liquid milk or milk substitute as that will make the chocolate runny and it will never set. Easy peasy.
Step 2: Now add the nibs. Again to the amount desired.
Depending on how fine and powerful your blade in your grinder is this can take about 5 minutes. If you have a super cheap grinder like me, don’t let your grinder over heat with a continuous run. Stop the grinder every 30 sec or so to scrape the sides down.
You will see your chocolate start to look like ground coffee but keep grinding! The more refined it is, the smoother your end product will be. You want it to start getting a little pasty and sticky, but not much. You will melt your chocolate in a later step, so it’s OK if your mix is still a little powdery.
If you are making milk chocolate (skip this step if making dark chocolate) add in your powdered milk now. Since my powdered milk that I purchased had somewhat large granules, I found it easier to remove your chocolate/ sugar mix, put the powdered milk in the grinder to make it superfine and then add back the chocolate/ sugar mix to blend. Now grind the sugar/dry milk/cocoa together until mixed well.
Step 3: Add your spices!
Be creative. Once they are added grind for about 15-30 more seconds.
Step 4: Melt your chocolate.
Put your mix in a double boiler, or if you don’t have one, create your own.
How to make your own double boiler:
Get a sauce pot and fill it 1/2 way with water. Put a non-reactive bowl that will fit on top of your sauce pot. Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water below. Heat your water and the steam will come from below to melt your chocolate.
Step 5: Add your cocoa butter.
This will thin the product and let it melt effectively. Start small with adding 10% of total weight. If you are making a 100g chocolate then start with 10g cocoa butter, for example. If it is not melting start adding more little by little. Be careful not to add too much cocoa butter as it can make your chocolate too runny. With this batch, I used approximately 15%.
Step 6: Mold your chocolate
Now you are ready to pour into a mold. So do that. And then let it set. Mine set in about 30 minutes with a very thin silicone bar mold. If you have a thick shaped mold it will take longer.
The end product does have a slight grainy texture but it is barley noticeable and almost a welcome difference from what we are used to in store bought chocolate. There are ways to get your chocolate to have that smooth velvety mouthfeel, but that is a more complicated process, above my skill level. Please refer to conche and tempering chocolate as your next steps to a more professional end product. Chocolate Alchemy is a great online resource for those getting started in this yummy hobby.
Your chocolate will last for quite a while now. I have read that putting your chocolate aside in a dark, cool place for up to three months will bring out the flavors. But I already ate it so that will never happen.