Ask the Alchemist #16

Hi, I have just been put on a salycilate and amine free diet, and was already gluten intolerant. I miss my chocolate!!! :( I can have carob. The only difficulty there is that I can only have sunflower, safflower or canola oils which rule out buying commercially made carob chocolate. I was wondering if it is possible to make carob in the form of chocolate at home with any of these oils, or if it is impossible as I think it may be. I have never attempted to make homemade chocolate before, so can you please give me instructions on how to go about this with these ingredients, if indeed it is possible.

Roast, Grind, Refine and Bob’s your uncle.

Oh, you needed more than that? OK. Well, sit back, it’s story time.

This is almost like 9 years ago when no one knew how to make chocolate at home, I was told by more than one source that it simply was not possible, and to top it off, there was no raw ingredient around to experiment with.

Basically, there is very little about how to make ‘eating carob’ that is an analogous substitution for chocolate. There are a couple things about mixing carob powder with butter and/or sugar for a gritty concoction. But no one told me it’s not possible this time (saves me laughing in their face). So, what is an Alchemist to do but do it himself and disseminate the information to the eager masses.

I started off tracking down a source of carob. Myworldhut. Go to it. You will find out that there are a handful of choices. Whole pods. Kibbed pods (cut and sifted). Powder. Of course, I choose some of each, the thought being I would work backwards from the powder, making sure I knew what to expect, and how it would lead me onward – just like I did so many years ago with chocolate.

The powder I received was roasted, so I was basically ready to toss my ingredients into the Melanger and go for it….except I didn’t know what else to add nor how much. After a lot of research, I found, not unlike chocolate, the proportions were all over the board. Taking my own advice that I wanted/needed at least 33% fat in my recipe for the Melanger’s sake, I verified that those proportions would fall into the various proportions I had researched (they did) and started off. Next, what fat to use? As it turns out, I also make soap, so have a handful of slightly off beat oils laying around. After a little looking and cross referencing, the formulations muses were shining on me, because I had in my possession an oil that melts between 70-80 F (not unlike cocoa butter) and just so happens to be in the ingredient lists of more than one carob chip I found – Palm Kernel Oil. With that out of the way, I kept it simple and just made my first foray into home made carob making it mathematically pleasing with 1/3 each roasted carob powder, palm kernel oil and granulated sugar.

A quick side note – as I write this, I see the question specifically asked about ‘sunflower, safflower or canola oils’.  Technically, I think you can use these, but what is most likely going to happen, in that they are true oils (i.e. a liquid at room temperature) the resulting carob is not going to set up, but be more of a carob sauce.  Why didn’t I try one of these?  Honest mistake.  But after a looking a bit, it would appear that Palm Kernel oil is listed on many lists as acceptable for those on a “salycilate and amine free diet.  So, hopefully this still helps.

As they say, the best battle plans are only good until the first shot is fired. (yes, that is foreshadowing). After that you either think on your feet or fail. I melted the palm kernel oil (PKO) and added it to the Melanger. Next, in went the carob powder…..and it was rather thick. At 50/50 (no sugar yet), was this even going to work? Hrm – not good. But persevering, I started adding my sugar….and got about one half in before deeming the caution was the better part of valor- at least for this first foray.


The final proportions were:

8.2 oz carob (41 %)

8.2 oz PKO (41 %)

3.5 oz sugar (18%)

24 hours later. It probably did not need 24 hours, but that’s when I had time to deal with it. And what did I have. Well…..solid carob – oops – unheated laboratory. This stuff apparently does not behave just like refining chocolate. No harm, but….

A little applied heat, and we have refined carob. At only 15% sugar , the carob itself has quite a bit of sugar, so the result was amazingly palatable. Earthy. Dark. Rich. Better than what I’ve tasted before. But also a little flat in flavor. The start had not gone exactly as planned, but good enough to proceed. Emboldened with my success, I moved on to taking the process one step back.

The kibbed pods. Basically, the raw pods have had their seeds removed, and dried. Unlike raw cocoa, and much more like raw coffee, this stuff is not really edible. Very little flavor, and if you are not careful, you just might break a tooth. On to roasting. But how? Well, I did say it’s not unlike coffee and I’ve had many years experience roasting coffee. The first being in my hacked West Bend Poppery – a little alchemically turbo charged air popcorn popper. In went a small handful of carob kib. Around and around it goes, where it will stop no body knows. But I was about to find out. Unfortunately, the kibs kept stopping on the thermometer I had put in. Bugger. Out comes the thermometer, and away we go. And first off, I am hit by the aroma. To this day, I am not sure what I think of it. Very sweet….but almost too sweet like certain lilies. Not bad, but not really good either. With some spot checks from the thermometer, the kibs started changing color as the temperature got past 220 F, and continued to darken. Somewhere in the 280-300 F range, at 5 minutes or so, they have gone to a deep mahogany, and hints of smoke are starting to come forth. Not knowing what to expect, I dumped a couple out and to my surprise found out they were very soft – way softer than going in. Remember that sugar I mentioned that was part of carob? I think at this point that it had melted. Upon breaking open the kib, I saw it was still pretty light inside, so I turned down my roaster heat (pretty classic roasting profile – high start, lower as you finish) so the inside would roast without burning the exterior. A few minutes later, SMOKE is being produced, but I am REALLY trying to stretch out the roast, going for just a little more time to make sure it’s roasted all the way through. It was probably at 330 F or so. 10 minutes. Done. Off goes the heat, and they cool – into little hard crystallized sugar carob kibs. The melted sugars I think went to the hard crack stage (as in candy making) and set up. The raw kibs were hard and unyielding. The roasted kibs were hard and very friable – and rather tasty (molasses like). Great! Success! Now what?

Well, you and I know you can grind nibs in the Melanger, but it’s really less work to pre-grind the nibs into liqueur if you have the time. Since the carob is nearly fat free (about 0.5%) it was not going to do that, but, hey, the first test was carob powder! Into the blender the kibs went, and what do you know? Freshly roasted carob powder! (Warning, Will Robinson, Warning – carob powder is LIGHT and will coat everything – cover that blender well and give it time to settle.)


Alright, that worked…but I only have 2 oz of carob kib – I need more. More kibs into the drum roaster, and off we go. A roasting we will go, a roasting we will go, hi ho the carob-o, a roasting we will go. Mostly, it’s about the same. Pre-heat about like cocoa to 300 F. Temperature drops to 200 or so. The kibs darken around 220 and keep darkening to 300 F and 330 F OMG…SMOKE. 1 lb of kib makes a LOT more smoke than 2 oz. Duh, Alchemist! Turn that heat down, and keep the smoke under control for 2-3 minutes. Then cool. The results – just about the same. Crunchy roasted carob kib. Boldly onward to the next batch in the Melanger.


Learning from before, I’ve adjusted the recipe. More oil, more carob, less sugar. First shot was fired…and there goes that plan….again. This time the mixture is WAY thinner. I don’t know if the carob powder had moisture or what, but this batch with freshly roasted carob was acting way different. OK, forget the plan. I started adding ingredients (keeping track along the way) until I had minimized the oil (recipes I found had 20% oil but from the first test, I could not see how – now I do), and added sugar to taste.


The result was a nice viscosity and flavor with the following proportions.

8 oz carob (50%)

5 oz PKO (31 %)

3 oz sugar (19 %)

As it turned out, I was nearly right the first time. About 30% oil was right and not too thick. 30% sugar was too much, and to my taste, 19% was about right. And this time, battle plan thrown to the wind, formulating by my wits and whiles, this batch had a much richer, more full-bodied flavor. Mostly I think because, big surprise, fresh is best. Which is the perfect segue to the final test; going from the whole pods.

Did I mention these things are hard? They are. After a little on-line research (I found about 9 sources, but really only one – they ALL parroted each other word for word) soaking is often suggested to soften the pods enough to remove the seeds. Water? Like bloody hell I’m getting water anywhere near this process. I’m holding to the same water phobic stance as in chocolate. What to do? It hard. Need break. Hit {grin} HAMMER! (Which actually worked remarkably well.) I put the whole pods into a bag, and with a raw hide mallet, broke it up pretty well.


As I sit and write this, I think it also might well be possible to drum roast or even oven roast the whole pods and take advantage of them either being soft when they come out or waiting until they are cool and more brittle and crispy. But, at this point, having proved I can break them open, pick out the seeds, and get rid of the fines, I would recommend (since they are available) just getting the already broken up carob kibs.  They are already cut, dry and sifted and you really have nothing to gain by using the whole pods (unless you need to feed your inner neanderthal and play with a hammer).  If you do go the whole pod route, you will have to separate out the kib (left) from the seeds (right) and filter the dust off.


Where does that leave us? Well, you can pour up the carob into molds or just free form. Since it does not have cocoa butter in it, there is no need to temper. After days, it has not bloomed. So, in that regard it’s easier than chocolate. Pour and go.

And that, my friends and readers, is the end of our story. There are probably lots of variations to the recipe formulation that could be done. Other oils could be experimented with. Coconut oil seems a good candidate melting within a degree of PKO. Other sugars (or maybe no sugar) could be tried. But in the long run, it is as I said:

Roast, Grind, Refine and Bob’s your uncle (with fresh carob).

2 Responses to “Ask the Alchemist #16”

  1. You state that “there was no reason to temper”. But does it snap and break at room temperature, or do you have to freeze it up to consumption to keep it hard?

  2. All dark chocolate snap and break at room temperature. You don’t need to freeze any for them to remain hard. The phrase used about tempered chocolate having a nice ‘snap’ is very subjective.

Leave a Reply



Articles and other Helpful pages

Alchemical Formulations