Ask the Alchemist #3

Do I have to use granulated cane sugar to make chocolate? What about refining with alternative sweeteners or making unsweetened milk chocolate?
Well, first and foremost, there is a ton of information over in the forum about this.

Next, there are actually quite a few alternative sugars you can use, to a greater or lesser degree and success.  In addition to the classic, sucrose, you can if you desire use maltose (or just malt, or dry malt extract DME if you are brewer), fructose, galactose, etc.  If you can find them in granular form, you can use them.  Why granular?  Well, it’s not so much that you want granular for it’s own sake, but you do not want “powdered” sugar per se.  Why, well, again it is not so much that it is powdered but very often something like corn starch is added to powdered sugars to keep them from caking and you don’t  want those starches and binders in your chocolate because it has a tendency to make it gummy and/or oddly textured.As for ‘alternative sweeteners’ or maybe what would be termed artificial sweeteners, the ones usually used are compounds called sugar alcohols.  You can identify them most of the time because they end in -tol.  As in xyitol, erythritol, maltitiol (the alcohol of malt above) etc.  But there are others, used for other reasons.  Inulin is a good example. Now, before we get into this, be aware in can be overwhelming.  There IS NOT one simple answer.   Chocolate is pretty simple.  Sugar free chocolate is not.

That said, I found the following response in the forum:

The main reason you’re looking at looking to use inulin with it is because erythritol (etoh) has a very negative heat of solution (-43j if i remember) – which means it’s extracts heat from your mouth when it dissolves, and that’s what makes it feel cool. Inulin has a slightly positive heat of solution. However, as with everything, there are pluses and minuses. Inulin comes in many shapes and sizes – go with the long chain inulin to minimize gas production. You’ll not be able to put enough inulin into it to erase the cooling of the erythritol. look at some other polyol’s to mix into it to cut the level of erythritol. erythritol, molecularly, is 3x smaller than tyipcal polyols – which means it’s handled by your kidneys for as it’s small enough to pass the intestinal barrier and enter your blood stream (other polyols are just the opposite). this means you’ll pee it out. sorry to be blunt. most work i’ve done on it suggests 0.3g/kg of body weight for say maltitol is tolerated well, vs erythritol which is up towards 0.8g/kg body weight for bolus dose situation.”

Ok, hopefully I did not lose you there.  If I did, the summary is this.  There is no perfect artificial sweetener that you can just use in place of sugar.  Some cool your mouth.  Some heat your mouth.  Some have diuretic effects.  Some have laxative effects.  Some taste bad.  And honestly, I have not played with these sweeteners much at all.  Maybe someday I will.  Right now (and I know this can’t work for some people) I simply take the adage “moderation in all things” and don’t find a bite of chocolate with standard sucrose every few days that bad.  But that is a conversation for another time.  This is about what you can use.Moving on.  Stevia seems to come up a bit.  I personally don’t care for the flavor.  But some people do.  So, putting flavor aside, Stevia is very sweet.  As in 300-500 times sweeter than sucrose.  Meaning you need very little.  But that in itself can be an issue where we have become used to a particular texture and mouth feel to chocolate, and 100% dark chocolate is too hard.  Sugar ‘bulks’ out chocolate.  It dissolves in the mouth.  If you were to try adding Stevia to 1 lb of chocolate you would use very little.  For instance, in 1 lb of 70% chocolate, you need about 5 oz of sucrose.  But only 0.016 oz or about 0.5 grams of Stevia in theory to get the same sweetness.  Like half a teaspoon if that.  And I say theory, because I’ve not tried this.  Now, I recall a Stevia product that bulks up the product, so that it is very close to sucrose in regards to how sweet it is per volume.  Meaning I think you might be able to add it as a straight substitute for sucrose and get something workable.

So, you don’t have an issue with actual sugars, but don’t want highly refined sugars.  I won’t get into the political, sociological, spiritual, health or other reasons you might have for not using sucrose and just deal with the item at hand.  Date sugar, coconut sugar, brown sugar etc.  Generally speaking, you can use any and all of these, BUT many of them contain a good bit of moisture and you know water and chocolate do NOT get along.  See the FAQ if you don’t know.  What that means is you may need (or not) to dry these in the oven for some length of time (30 minutes to 2 hours) to make them suitable (i.e. it won’t seize) for adding to your chocolate.  But basically, they are fine, and have fun.Finally, the other ‘other’ sweeteners.  Syrups.  Honey, agave, etc.  NO.  Clear enough?  NO.  How’s that?  Water!  NO!. Clear?  Good.  Now, more detail.

Under no circumstances can you add any water based sweeteners to a Melanger.  The sheer will just cause it to seize up.  But, you have seen chocolate sweetened with agave or honey?  Well, I have seen both of these at various times as fully dehydrated granules.   But that isn’t quite what we are talking about here, in this paragraph.  I have spoken with some people that have used honey and agave syrup in their finished chocolate.  I started to say ‘successfully’ but changed my mind.  What they ended up with resembled chocolate, but I found it was not quite ‘right’.  Most likely it was the odd or lack of temper.  The water content disrupted the tempering.  Also, I tend to be a purist, and found the other flavors (honey, agave and such) distracting to the flavor of the chocolate.  It was not bad, but not classic chocolate either (at least to me).  So, now I go back and say ‘sure, you can use honey’ BUT it may not (and probably will not be) classic chooclate.  It will be more fudge like.  Less snap.  Etc.  And when you incorporate it, stir VERY gently.  Not using the Melanger still stands.  At least that is what I was told.   They stirred very gently, added extra cocoa butter to keep it flowing and did not rush it.In summary.  You can use other sweeteners.

  • You can use other refined sugars, but you will probably have to adjust the amount you use because they vary in sweetness.
  • You can use alternative sweeteners, but you will have to experiment.
  • You can use alternative sugars, but may need to dry them.
  • You can NOT use water based sweeteners and get classic chocolate, but can use them if you don’t mind ‘something different’.

And as a final closing thought…I’ve tried and like quite a bit, unsweetened milk chocolate.  The lactose in the milk does give a touch of sweetness and is an interesting and refreshing change to sweet chocolate.

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