Ask the Alchemist #34

I had the honor and privilege of showing a class of 8th graders how to make chocolate. Here are a few of the quick questions they asked over 3 days.

If you roast the cocoa beans darker, does that make dark chocolate?

No, dark chocolate is a rough designation that indicates that it is not milk chocolate, and technically not ‘semi-sweet’. Basically, 70% cocoa content or more.

Why are we adding cocoa butter?

Because we have decided to make a 65% chocolate, and if we add just 35% sugar, it will be too thick, so we need less solids in there so it can still flow.

Can’t we just add a syrup or honey?

Nope, it would cause the chocolate to seize.

What happens if we refine it for a week? Will it make it extra good?

No, most likely it will make it extra boring as so much of the flavor is driven off.

What is your favorite chocolate?

The one I am eating right now.

What’s the yellow stuff you are adding?

Lecithin. We had to rush just a little through the cooling stage, and the moisture is a little higher than I want. So I am adding the lecithin to help bind up the water (drawings ensued on the board) so it does not seize.

Why did you add the lecithin to the cocoa butter?

It’s how I prefer to add it. It distributes evenly that way as it melts and I’ve found does a better job than just adding it directly to the Melanger. But you can do that also.

Are we going to add vanilla? I thought vanilla was in all chocolate. Would we use that stuff from a bottle?

No and No. If we were going add it, I would scrape out a vanilla pod into my cocoa butter, and then add it that way. The vanilla extract is water based so it would seize the chocolate. And we are not adding it as I want you to be able to taste the full array of flavors in the chocolate.

What’s the funny descriptions on your bags of cocoa beans?

{snicker}. Those are tasting notes. Sure, all chocolate (worth eating) tastes like chocolate, but they also have their own individual flavors. Just like apples all taste like apples, but also taste different.

Can we taste the chocolate while it is in that machine (Melanger)?

More than can you , you should. I want you to taste it as it refines. See how it changes. Just remember, clean hands and no water.

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