Not long ago, I discovered a large supermarket that specializes in primarily Mexican groceries. I found all the things I just couldn’t get everywhere else, like specialty flour for corn tortillas, Adobo sauce, and really good pre-made salsa. To my great excitement I also found minimally labeled 4 oz. bags of whole cacao beans. I bought a few and tucked them away in a cabinet for a few months. I knew I wanted to experiment but had no idea how to prepare them.
Finally, I conquered my fear with the help of youtube. I found an amazing array of people who took the time to record their chocolate making adventures. With incredible patience and in some cases hand-cranked food mills, I watched the magic of chocolate making with simple tools in apartment kitchens.
The roasting process can be a bit tricky. Too little, and you get something of a sour flavor, too much an it can be acrid or burnt. You have the choice and using a stove top with a whole lot of stirring for quite a while, or using an oven or toaster for about a half an hour. In the latter case, you run the risk of uneven roasting. However, this method worked for me. I heated up a convection toaster to 320º and set it for a half an hour. To be honest, I couldn’t be sure if they were roasted or not when I opened the bag. They were varying degrees of brown. I peeled off the outer skin and gave the bean of taste. It was on the oddly bitter side so I figured they were raw. I popped them in the toaster and before long, a delicious, brownie like smell began to waft through the kitchen. I took the tray out periodically to give them a taste and found that some beans were ready sooner than others. As they darkened, I picked them from the tray.
After a short cooling period I was able to peel them pretty easily. The coating is thin and papery. For the most part, the beans stayed whole, but sometimes they crumble and you just pick them apart from the shell. In my zeal to get to the chocolate making process I even managed to give myself a paper cut with one of the skins….typical weird injury for me.
I thought the grinding mechanism on my masticating juicer would do the job….ummmmm…no. There are no pictures forthcoming. The beans jammed in the mechanism and it took a feat of strength to open the machine. Since I didn’t have a food mill I went with the trusty food processor to do the job. At first the beans will crumble and look a lot like coffee grounds, but as the blades continue to spin, creating friction and heat, the chocolate will clump together and then liquify into a beautiful, shiny pool of hot, melted chocolate. At this point, you add your sugar and any dried flavoring you desire such as coconut, nuts, chili, dried orange peels…anything you like. Just don’t add anything wet or the chocolate will be ruined. I didn’t do things in the proper way and measure. I added granulated white sugar in batches and gave a little taste here and there. Because I wasn’t using a food mill, the chocolate wasn’t as hot and all the sugar didn’t completely melt, leaving things a little grainy for the end result. But honestly, I didn’t care….I was still excited that it worked and I roasted the beans just right. I also added a pinch of vanilla bean to the batch. When it was as creamy as I could get it, I poured the melted chocolate onto a sheet of aluminum foil and stuck it in the fridge. It hardened up nicely and I cut it into squares. I didn’t do any tempering experiments yet…heating the chocolate to 92º and keeping it there for a while until it becomes stable. I need a proper thermometer first…it won’t melt and soften so easily and will keep for a good long while in that case. But, I am sure this batch will go fast and I will keep the squares in the fridge in the meantime.
It is rare to meet a person who doesn’t like chocolate. That isn’t really something I can fathom…