Ask the Alchemist #57

I notice that you have always advocated a minimum 35% of cocoa butter… yeah, I know about the basic 50% pre-existent in the cacau! However, my 62% is an easy pour, – enjoy this – easier than the 60% that I’ve tried.

Would I be right in thinking that the bean I’m using, a 3-day dry, Trinitario hybrid in Fiji, has enabled me to get that wee bit of ‘extra’ cocoa butter that makes the 62% a nice pour, but the 60% that little bit too much of a bother without added cocoa butter.

Well, yes and no to your answer. Maybe, ‘not really’ would be the better answer.

I advocate 35% because I’m painting with a broad brush and talking in generalities. People have a tendency to like hard numbers. Heck, I admit it. I’m one of those. I’m a total numbers geek. I used to be a chemist. I quantitated for a living. But I’m also an alchemist and numbers just don’t always tell the whole story. Or more to the point, there are just too many of them and we don’t know all the numbers involved.

Use 35% cocoa butter!!

Pour your tempered chocolate at 87 F.

Roast at 325 F for 16 minutes.

Cool your chocolate to 80 F when tempering

People seem to like that. What I would much prefer to say is:

Use enough extra cocoa butter to let your chocolate flow like you want it.

Roast at 300-350 F for 10-30 minutes, until the beans smell ‘right’ – chocolate like.

Pour your tempered chocolate about 8 F over your cool temperature, but adjust if you have bloom

Cool your chocolate until it starts to set up when tempering.

I’ve tried that for years…and although closer to the truth of the situation, I found it just didn’t always work. Hence hard(er) numbers. And I’ll admit, it is a good starting place. But that is all it is. A starting place. You start there, observe, change, tweak, revisit and learn. That is the goal. Learn the process by doing the process. Forget (or at least ignore some of) the numbers. Use the Force….or your intuition. Which is another way of saying, use your senses and what your subconscious has learned about what you are doing from starting with numbers.

And you appear to be doing that…but you are still trying to assign numbers. ‘3 day dry’. 62%. 60%. You didn’t get any extra because of those numbers or anything special you did. Next year’s crop may be totally different….or it might not be. You just happen to have a bean that possibly has a bit more cocoa butter than the average…or the cocoa butter from your beans have lower molecular weight chains so it’s more fluid….or the cocoa butter in your beans is a little less saturated….or it’s a combination of all of those.

What it comes down to is that it does not matter.

Start with numbers, but make chocolate by Gestalt. It’s why I say on my from page that it is “The Art and Science of Homemade Chocolate”. You need both.

What matters is that you recognized that you didn’t need extra cocoa butter and you are learning and that is what it is all about!

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