Ask the Alchemist #169


Level: Novice

Reading time: 5 min 

I’m considering creating a bean to bar chocolate shop.  My reading so far indicates I’ve got a lot of reading to do.  Good thing I’m not planning on starting it for about 18 months.

 Other than Chocolate Alchemy.com and The chocolate life, what other resources & references can you recommend?  I’ve quickly read through all your ‘ask the alchemist’ questions and didn’t see this one, or even similar.

 Amazon seems to recommend Chocolate, Cocoa and Confectionery: Science and Technology 3rd Edition by Bernard Minifie  and The Science of Chocolate 2nd Edition by Stephen T Beckett as decent books.  If maybe a little heavy (especially the first one).

 

You have a good hand on a place to start.  The two sites are invaluable and both of the books you mention are on my shelf.  I particularly like Beckett’s book.  In both though my take is that they are probably of limited value in the sense that my college text books are not useful to me right now on an active basis.  They lay down quite a bit of fundamental information that I know and is worth knowing but do not particularly think about, but instead inform how I approach problems, issues and troubleshooting advice.

Reading them comes with a caveat that I hint at.  I don’t think you should be reading them for the sake of implementing what is in them fully.  My lasting memory of both is that they are geared for large production consistency and dealing with less than optimal cocoa beans.  Basically they discuss using what was generally available when they were first written and on a very large scale.

As you say, they are a bit heavy.  Industrial practices can be a bit heavy.  And if you are opening a bean to bar shop, it isn’t really your world.  And I suspect, you don’t want it to be.  But it is good information you should have in your quiver of knowledge.

There are three other books that I think are worth looking at.

  • Making Artisan Chocolates by Andrew Garrison Shotts
  • Chocolates and Confections: Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner by Peter P. Greweling
  • The Art of the Chocolatier: From Classic Confections to Sensational Showpieces Hardcover –Ewald Notter

You used the phrase bean to bar, and that in the strictest sense may indeed be what you mean exactly.  Stopping at the bar form.  Those three books delve into chocolate confections and presentation of chocolate that is very appealing to many (read many customers).  Again, good information and techniques to have.  Maybe upon reading and experimenting with them you will discover you want to do more than bean to bar.  Not that you have to, but again, it’s another arrow of knowledge.

Right now there is no book detailing the artisan bean to bar method.  It is on my much too large to do list.   But it is all on the site (and one thing that is chewing up time right now are videos and a site overhaul to make that information more accessible).

After all that, the other direction to take is just getting in there and making chocolate.    You have to learn what you like and what you do not like and no book will tell you that.  The heavy industrial books aim toward good and consistent which given the quality of beans now available  and your smallish batches should be a pretty low bar.  They don’t discuss how to make a bean more or less fruity or earthy or piquant.  That is what you have to discover based on your tastes and the equipment you choose.

So that is it.  Pretty short this week.  In effect, go read and treat what you read as text book reading.  Build your base of knowledge.  Pick what works for you but don’t feel there is only one right way because there isn’t.  Hopefully you have a passion for experimenting and learning as that will serve you very well.

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