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I make a 75% dark chocolate using cocoa nibs, cocoa butter and coconut sugar. It's very nice but I would like to make a lower % chocolate for my customers who prefer a less intense chocolate experience. Pardon my ignorance, but would I keep the cocoa butter % the same (5%) and alter my cacao nibs and coconut sugar accordingly (60% chocolate = 55% cacao nibs, 5% cocoa butter, 40% sugar)? Also, if I want to add mix-ins (dried fruit, nuts etc) would you recommend I do so after the chocolate has been tempered and set in the molds (and lay the mix-ins gently on the chocolate)? For extracts (vanilla, peppermint etc), I assume I add that while the chocolate is in the melanger? Thank you! This is clearly very new to me!
With the holiday season upon us I am seeing an uptick in this kind of question so it is the perfect time to address it while keeping this kind of light this week.
Generally speaking, yes, you would reduce the cocoa solid content to reduce the intensity of the chocolate flavor. But you don’t necessarily have to replace it with sugar. That can, at times, result in too sweet of a chocolate. There is no reason you could not just increase your cocoa butter content to 10% or even 15% while keeping your sugar at 25%. That way it is less intense but not too sweet.
Really there are no rules about formulations. There is no reason you could not split the difference and use 60% coco nib, 10% cocoa butter and 30% sugar for a less intense 70% chocolate.
The only token rule of thumb is to keep your total fat content (50-55% contribution from the nibs plus cocoa butter) to greater than 35%.
You certainly want to add your inclusions to tempered chocolate. There are too many nooks and crannies in the bits and bobs you might add and they can harbor Type IV crystal that may lead to bloom.
When I do inclusions I like to add them after I have poured the bar up but before it has solidified. That way I get a nice even tempered surface on the bar. Really though it is up to you. If you don’t want the inclusions to show than putting down a thin layer of chocolate, the nuts or whatever and then more chocolate works fine. The main thing to keep in mind is to try and match the add in’s temperature to that of the chocolate so you don’t disturb the temper. I’m not a great fan of adding the nuts or fruits to your tempering bowl as it is hard to get an even distribution.
I covered adding oils and extracts in Ask the Alchemist #208 The very short answer is verify any oil before you add it to your chocolate and yes, it can go in the melanger or just in your tempering machine or bowl.