Chocolate Alchemy The Art & Science of Homemade Chocolate 2016-06-30T14:07:11Z http://chocolatealchemy.com/feed/atom/ Alchemist John http://chocolatealchemy.com <![CDATA[Ask the Alchemist #166]]> http://chocolatealchemy.com/?p=842 2016-06-30T14:07:11Z 2016-06-30T13:00:09Z Level: Alchemist

Read time: 6 minutes

I have been bowl tempering with good success until the ambient temperature in my kitchen went up.  Typically in the morning when I temper the kitchen is about 60 degrees.  We had some unusually hot weather and we have no air conditioning, so my kitchen was about 80.  However, knowing this I took my liquid chocolate directly from the melanger, cooled it with a bowl of 65-degree water to 79 when it started to thicken, then immediately put it into a bowl of 100-degree water and slowly brought it up to 88.  The molds then went immediately into a 45-degree refrigerator for 30 minutes, and then into my basement where the ambient temp is about 70.  It’s with a bean, Bolivia, that I use a lot and my normal formula and melanging time.  Yet the finished product had a soft temper.  It was OK but I would not call it a full temper because it was softer than usual.  It did not have the same snap and when you laid one bar on top of another it did not have that satisfying click.  With this close control over my temperatures why did that 80-degree ambient temp have an effect on it, when the chocolate was not left at that temp at any time?  (I even melted it down and re-tempered with the same result).  Seems like I am not getting enough type 5 in there but can’t figure out why.

 

This is a really great question and I have to admit had me stumped for a little bit.  You are correct, it sounds like everything should be working perfectly.  Yet clearly it isn’t.

When I first read this I had an idea what it might be, but I needed to ask a few question In order to suss out.

It turned out that when it was not as hot, the molds hung out on the counter a little while since there was no rush to get them out of the heat.

This difference, the time on the counter, between going into the mold and chilling in the refrigerator, was the key.

Most of the time this time does not matter.  But it can matter.  Clearly.  The problem was not so much that there was not enough Type V.  It was that there was not enough time to allow it to do it’s job.  By going from 88 F and a nominal amount of V, it was plunged straight into the equivalent of deep freeze.  The Type V didn’t have time to do its job and propagate throughout the chocolate.  Basically it was flash frozen.   And the result was a soft temper.

Chocolate needs a little time for the Type V matrix to form.  Just 5 or 10 minutes will often do the trick.  At 80 F, as in this kitchen, it might have needed 15-20 minutes.  The other alternative, which quite a number of chocolate makers use is to use a cooling cabinet.  Those are cool, say 50-60 F, but not really cold.  They give the Type V time to spread throughout.

In your case here I would have just taken the chocolate straight down to the basement where it was 70.  Or alternatively, just left it in the 45 F refrigerator for 5-10 minutes.  Not enough to flash freeze it as it were, but to take the edge off, get it cooling and crystalizing but not too fast.

And if you don’t have that 70 F basement, and the refrigerator is all you have, you may just need to wait out the heat.   Chocolate can be a demanding and finicky lover.

So, in these warm days of summer, do keep that in mind.  It’s still all about balance.  You have to hit that Goldilocks zone.  Get the chocolate chilling, but not too fast and not too long as you can have too much of a good thing.

Good luck and try to keep cool.

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Alchemist John http://chocolatealchemy.com <![CDATA[Ask the Alchemist #165]]> http://chocolatealchemy.com/?p=840 2016-06-23T15:37:20Z 2016-06-23T15:37:20Z Level: Novice

Read time: 3 minutes

I am confused about the issue of “burning” or “scorching” chocolate. It is widely advised that when melting chocolate for tempering, one should not let it get above 120º F or else the chocolate will be irreparably damaged and will not be able to be tempered.  However, while grinding in the melanger the chocolate gets up to 140º F to 160º F (the hotter being advised as a conching temperature). How come it is not damaged at this point but it will be if reheated/remelted later? I see some people talk about tempering straight from the melanger – which means essentially cooling from >140º F straight down to 84º F or so. Is there something about the chocolate cooling and “curing” after grinding, after which point it should not be brought above 120º but if tempered from these higher temperatures right away (without cooling first) it is OK?  Any insight into this discrepancy would be appreciated.  Thanks.

Nice observations.  When faced with contradictory facts, the key is to tease apart which fact actually isn’t one.

In short this is a false fact from the days before home chocolate melting when people really didn’t know or believe they should gently heat chocolate.   And what exactly it meant to heat chocolate gently.  It seems like many people would put the chocolate in a pan, put the pan on the stove (on low of course) and proceed to burn the chocolate.  How?

The issue wasn’t so much that the chocolate got to 120 F or 140 F or even 180 F, it was that the surface of the pan got much hotter.  As in 400-500 F.  And that is more than hot enough to burn chocolate.  Now, if you constantly stirred, and mixed and kept that heat distributed, there wouldn’t be an issue.  But people don’t tend to do that.  They let it set….and burn that layer of chocolate that is setting on the bottom of the pan.

This is why it is pretty universally suggested that you melt chocolate in a double boiler.  There is nothing magical here.  It’s just that 212 F, the boiling point of water, is below the temperature at which chocolate will burn.

So feel free to heat your chocolate up.  You can go beyond 120 F….if you do with properly.  In a water bath.  A warm oven does well too since the warm air has so little heat capacity.  I often set my oven to 150-170 F and put much chocolate in there.  It never burns and I don’t have to fret over water being near my chocolate.

That said, a variation of this is that you MUST heat your chocolate up to 120 F when tempering.  This too is also untrue.  It won’t hurt anything but it isn’t necessary.  The though is that you have to take it that hot to destroy all the crystals in the chocolate do you get a good temper.  As anyone who has messed up tempering by going to the mid 90’s know, all your crystals are fully melted at 100 F. Anything above that is just wasting time and energy.

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Alchemist John http://chocolatealchemy.com <![CDATA[Organic Belize 2016]]> http://chocolatealchemy.com/?p=838 2016-06-21T21:39:04Z 2016-06-21T21:39:04Z We have a lone bag of 2016 Organic Belize in.  At this point, given how the supplier is handling distribution, I’m not confident we will be seeing any more available any time soon.

For those unfamiliar with it, the raw beans have an odor of old school juicy fruit hard candy.  While roasting there is toasted macadamia nuts, warm proofing spelt bread and a lovely savory quality with a touch of tang from fermentation.  Once in chocolate form (75% for my tests) there is sweet caramel……go read about it.

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Alchemist John http://chocolatealchemy.com <![CDATA[Ask the Alchemist #164]]> http://chocolatealchemy.com/?p=836 2016-06-16T22:14:29Z 2016-06-16T22:14:29Z Level:  Apprentice

Read time: 7 minutes

What is your opinion on the use of cocoa butter?  Can you suggest how much I should add?  I don’t want to add too much or too little.

It seems like if you have 4 chocolate makers in a room, you will have 6 opinions on its use.  And a little surprisingly to me, they are often very adamantly held opinions.  They run the full spectrum too, from loving it to thinking it is an abomination.  Or stuff like  “The best chocolate has only two ingredients”.   I don’t see that.  There is no best chocolate.  It is a matter of what you like.  Sometimes I think it is a type of machismo.  Drinking the hoppiest IPA, eating the hottest wings, only having the darkest or ‘purest’ chocolate.  Whatever.  Me?  I like chocolate with a little cocoa butter in it.

With that out of the way, let’s delve into cocoa butter.

First off, you don’t have to add extra cocoa butter to your chocolate.  Or at least some of the darker chocolates.  The reason being that cocoa beans as they come contain 50-55% cocoa butter naturally.  That is what makes cocoa liquor flow.  That is why I say extra, since it already contains some.

At the very basic level you need about 35% cocoa butter in any chocolate you make or it will be just too thick to refine.  That means any dark chocolate above roughly 70% additional cocoa butter is purely optional because it will flow.  For a  50% chocolate though, if you do the maths, you will find there is only about 25% cocoa butter in there, so you will need at add at least 10% extra just to get a workable chocolate.

But how about over and above what is strictly needed?

I add 5% cocoa butter to nearly all of my chocolates as a matter of routine.  Currently my standard evaluation chocolate consists of 75% cocoa nibs, 5% cocoa butter and 20% sugar.  I do it this way for the same reason many people add a couple drops of water to whisky when they are tasting it.  In a rather counter-intuitive way, it actually brings out more flavor instead of diluting the flavor as you might expect.

There seem to be two prevailing theories why this happens.  My thought is that it is probably some combination of the two.

The first goes like this.   Think about a piece of hard rock candy.  It dissolves very slowly in your mouth.  Sure, it is sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.  What happens on the other hand if you put a teaspoon of sugar in your mouth?  It is instantly and powerfully sweet.  But both are effectively pure sugar.  What is different?  It comes down to how quickly the sugar can dissolve and reach your taste buds.  The sugar granules have lots of surface area and dissolve very quickly giving you an intense punch of sensation.  The rock candy takes much longer.

In chocolate the cocoa butter is what carries the flavor to your taste buds.  The more there is of it, the faster it melts and you can get that punch of flavor.  The more the punch, the more flavor you perceive.

Of course, there is a limit.   At some point you are indeed diluting the amount of flavor in there, and even with the punch, there is nothing behind it.   I’ve found 5% is easy and makes a nice difference.  10% can really bring some extra flavor to the table.  And in some cases 15% can allow flavors that you initially could not perceive to become noticeable.

I just recently did a Ghana bar from 50% cocoa nib, 30% sugar, and 20% cocoa butter.  Technically a 70% bar, it was radically different from one without any cocoa butter.  Without any, it was pretty neutral.  There was a fine chocolate flavor, but not a whole lot else.  With the addition, the chocolate was more intense, and there were notes are caramel and vanilla and overall was actually a more memorable chocolate.

And this show the second  mechanism in play.

Ghana has a very intense chocolate flavor.  It can actually be too intense in that it pummels your taste buds.  The result is that they get saturated and you taste less.  This particularly shows up in something like whiskey.  You hardly ever see it at 55% ABV.  It’s just too strong.  And if you do, like in cask strength, it is very well known and accepted that if you add a bit of water to bring it down to 45% there are very noticeably more flavors and aromas.  I’ve tasted this myself with chocolate.  85, 90, 95%.  You are not macho for being able to handle it.  Hell, there is nothing to handle.  It’s just chocolate for goodness sake.    But you could well be blunting your taste buds from the overwhelming input.  Diluted down just a little bit allows you to taste things that otherwise might be lost.

Many a teenager blasted music to 11.  At that level I’ll grant it is a visceral experience.  And maybe you like it.  But if the music in question has anything else going on, it’s going to be lost.  Dial it back to 7-8 and suddenly there is more to notice and more to appreciate.  As we get older, we learn these things.  We mature.  We learn balance. We discover more is not, well, more.   Quite often, it’s less.

So I submit to you that there is no competition to eat the darkest, hard core chocolate.  If you really, truly enjoy it, then more power to you.  Hell, I love a good vindaloo  dialed to 11.  But maybe try dialing it back a little and see what other melodies and counter points come to light.

You might be surprised.

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Alchemist John http://chocolatealchemy.com <![CDATA[Ask the Alchemist #163]]> http://chocolatealchemy.com/?p=831 2016-06-09T17:18:58Z 2016-06-09T17:18:58Z

Level: Alchemist

Read time: 9 minutes

We roast 300g (10 oz or so) in our Genecafe.

We are trying a new batch at 350 F for 15 minutes, and one for 20 minutes. The beans start to pop really quickly after we start (around 3 minutes) though, is this unusual? Also, after roasting, some beans have their skin cracked open, and others don’t. Should they all be cracked open, or maybe it does not matter at all?

We get a chocolate cake/brownie smell quickly as well, which we’ve heard is a good sign during roasting. 

Regarding the 30 minutes at 300F , we decided on that from what we read online and what we saw in various videos… 

You are bringing back memories of me using the Genecafe.  I too seem to recall popping really, really early on.  3 minutes in is the sign that the heat is quite a bit high.  And that does not correlate with 300 F unless the beans are that hot.

Let’s get a couple simple things out of the way.  You don’t have to have pops or cracks in a roast, but can.  You absolutely don’t and won’t ever have them all pop like popcorn.  At most I don’t think you will ever get more than 2% popping. And maybe only 0.1%.  That said, I personally have found I like chocolate made from cocoa that has popped.  But that is comparing against the same beans that did not pop and are vetted beans that I know are good.

So it looks like we are talking roasting again. That is good. In my opinion, it can be the make or break step after fermentation.  And it seems to be the hardest to grasp in it’s totality.

Let’s see if we can make some connections.  Have a look at this graph.  It is a version of the oven profiles I put up a few weeks ago.  We will talk about it in a moment.

profile

Here is the thing with what you are finding for roasting profiles and what you are using.  300 for 30 minutes sounds like oven roasting.  Not drum roasting with forced air, which is basically what the Genecafe is. You have control over heat and profiles and should be trying to use them if you can.  That means not using one temperature for a set amount of time.  I like to call that baking, not roasting.

At first I thought you were under roasting with a 30 minute 300 F roast.  I am going to back up and say that it may indeed be that you are/were over roasting.

Why?  The key here is understanding how the heat is applied and absorbed by the beans.  In an oven (even convection) the heat transfer is very slow.  Only the top of bean on the top layer of beans is really getting heat.  It means most are not in contact with heat so they can’t heat up quickly.  It’s why it can take 40 minutes at 400 F to get the beans to 250 F.  In a drum roaster, and even more so in one with blowing hot air, the heat transfer is MUCH faster.  And that is what you are seeing in your roaster.

I recall having trouble stretching roasts out in the Genecafe (one reason I never pursued it or recommend it).  Actually, if your bean temperature was indeed 300 F then you over roasted.  250-260 if as hot as you want for  a bean temperature.

Keeping in mind I’ve not used this roaster in nearly 13 years, here is where I would start.

I would first start at looking at that graph.  I’m going to decide I want about a 15-18 minute roast and find the curve/line that corresponds to it.  The 400 F OVEN temperature looks good.  We picked a line.  Now forget the 400 part.  It is for an oven.  We don’t care.  It is immaterial.  What is important is the bean temperature and the time it takes.

Shoot for this profile. I’m mostly just taking numbers off the chart.  Meaning adjust your temperature knob as you go, keeping an eye on your bean vs set point.

65 C/150 F for 5 minutes
80 C/175 F  4 minutes
96 C/205 F 3 min
110C/230 F 2 min
120C/250 F 2 min

In general, those are the set point and I’m trying to estimate where the beans will be at those time points.  So, in this case, if everything goes right, those are also the bean temperatures.  Or to give it its technical name, that is my “roasting profile”.  To say it again, a roasting profile is the plot of bean temperature vs time.  NOT  ambient temperature vs time.  Yes, sometimes you will be given an ‘oven profile’ because it is easier, but as you can see it isn’t that useful whereas a bean profile is.  It is transferable to ANY method of roasting if you can get bean surface temperatures.

And that is where you went wrong.  I mistook an oven temperature profile for a bean profile.  The later is transferable to any roaster, the prior almost never so.

So what is going on up there in my suggested profile is that I hope to hit those bean temperature markers in that allotted time.  I’m not just putting the ambient temperature at 300 F because this roaster transfers heat to quickly and you can indeed burn or scorch the beans.  I’m effectively assuming heat transfer is going to be very fast and so I keep the difference between my target (say 150 F in the first step) and the initial temperature (ambient in this case) pretty small (only about 80 F).  I stretch it out to 5 minutes so there is plenty of time for the heat to soak into the beans before I start my next step or ramp.

A couple final things.  This roaster has a bean temperature thermocouple also.  You get actual feedback.  If at 5 minutes the temperature is at 120 F, then I want to increase my temperature set point to something a little higher.  Press on the gas pedal more as it were to go faster.  If they hit 150 in 2 minutes, the I need to back off the temperature a bit so they are not just hanging out at 150 so long.

I realize this may be way more that many people want or can use, but I also rather hope that if you read it enough, look at the situation different ways, that eventually there is be a click or ah-ha moment where you get it.  With that, see if these make sense, and if not, give them some thought.

  • The more your beans move, the quicker the beans will heat up.
  • The faster beans heat up, the smaller the difference ambient temperature has to be to the bean surface temperature. This can be as little as 50 F in a good drum roaster or as much as 300 F in the oven
  • The faster your beans move, the cooler you can keep your ambient temperature.
  • You can only heat up beans so fast before the outside scorches.
  • If your cocoa beans are not moving much you have to have a higher ambient temperature to keep the heat transfer moving at a reasonable pace.  Make it as big as you can without scorching the beans.
  • Cocoa beans can scorch if the difference in temperatures is more than about 300 F.  A 200 F difference is safer.

Give that a try and report back.

Oh, and one last thing.  I don’t sell or really suggest the Genecafe roaster. It’s not because it can’t do a good job.  It’s because I find it expensive to the amount of beans you can roast.  It’s kind of off putting to my mind and my goal is all about approachability and affordability wherever possible.  If you have one, go ahead and use it, but otherwise don’t go out and get one just for cocoa.

 

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