What recipe should I use?

This is a follow up from all the possible combinations and permutations that are possible when making a batch of chocolate. Clearly you can’t make all 7 billion combinations. You can’t even make 70 really. But what you can do is go about it systematically and zero in pretty quickly upon what you like. And the best part is you will hopefully learn along the way what various changes produce in a finished chocolate.

What I am going over here is not for everyone. If you want to make a good chocolate, that is pretty straight forward. But if you want to experiment, and learn to dial a bean in to your tastes, this is how I do it.

First you have to choose a bean. I have around 30 beans. It’s overwhelming, I know. But in short order, you can winnow it down to a pretty easy selection. Go by your own preferences in foods. I love meats, nuts and savory flavors. I also like deep bold flavors. Look for descriptors like, well, nutty. And savory. Nicaragua, Honduras, some Ecuador, Tanzania. The corollary to that is staying slightly away from fruity and acidic beans. Dominican Republic, Madagascar, some Guatemalan. I don’t like hoppy, citrusy ales. Nor light fruity drinks. And if you drink coffee, that is a great indicator. Sumatra? That’s earthy and Ugandan is going to be up your alley. Bright Kenya? Madagascar. I think you see the pattern. You know your tastes.

Roasting. That is critical. The current trend is to not ‘over roast’ your beans. And on the surface, I agree. In practice, unfortunately, the result is I am dealing on a weekly basis with people that are terrified to fully roast a bean and the result is under roasted beans that are overly acidic, over astringent and lacking in good chocolate flavor (that is developed from a full roast). So here is my suggestion. Plan to roast twice initially. Once specifically light, once significantly longer. The whole point is making them radically different. So, using the Behmor 1600 as an easy way to talk about profiles, do one roast with 2.5 lbs of bean on P1 for 15 minutes. The second one you are going to take to 20.5 minutes. Yes, 5.5 minutes difference. Cocoa can take it. The idea that a bean can go from ‘perfect’ to ‘ruin’ in under a minute is in my mind totally crazy.

Now onto the recipe. What do to? Well, what do you like? Clearly you are making your own chocolate because you or someone you love likes chocolate. Start there. You can reverse engineer virtually any chocolate bar. If it is 70%, that mean the cocoa nibs plus cocoa butter equal 70%. On average, 50% of the cocoa nib is butter/fat. So if that bar says 35% fat (50% of 70%) then you know they didn’t add any cocoa butter. If it says 40%, you know they added about 5%. And the rest is sugar.

So, take that recipe and your light roasted nibs. 65% cocoa nibs, 5% cocoa butter and 30% sugar. Weigh out your ingredients. This is where we start to go kind of crazy. Put your cocoa and cocoa butter (if you are using any) into your melanger.

And add HALF the sugar. Let it run 24 hours.

Take some out (just a couple tablespoons) and then add the rest of your sugar.

Let it refine another 24 hours. Remove about half of it, and add another equal portion of cocoa butter and let it run another hour. Remove a tablespoon or two sample and let it run another 24 hours.

Remove the chocolate and repeat this with your fully roasted nibs.

At the end of this you will have 8 different chocolates to try that are pretty different – all from 2 roasts. You will have:

1) light sugar

2) “target” chocolate

3) Extra cocoa butter chocolate

4) Extra long refined chocolate.

You (and friends?) should sit down and taste them. Mostly just judge whether or not you like them. Don’t try and rate them or anything fancy. Maybe put them in order if you can. What should become apparent pretty quickly is that the majority are not ruined. Under roasting didn’t ruin it. Over roasting didn’t ruin it. Extra time maybe helped one or the other extreme roast in an unexpected way. Who knows. The main thing here is that you have 8 chocolates and patterns that should help you try the next batch of chocolate. And you didn’t have to make 8 separate batches.

What you should gather from this ‘data’ is what sweetness level was your favorite. The ‘light” was good but the standard too sweet? Split the difference. How about the roast? Maybe split the difference if you can’t decide. Did the extra cocoa butter add or detract? How about the extra time? My bet there is either it had no effect (i.e. relax about how long you refine) or slightly improved the ones that you didn’t like as well.

That’s it. For the next batch try and keep as many things as possible the same, tweaking only the really obvious ones so you can go back and compare. And of course plan out your own changes along the way and turn that single batch into 3 or 4 or 5 different versions. Very quickly you will find YOUR favorite recipe for the bean you picked. And that last part is worth noting. If you finish all 8 chocolate and dislike them all, there is a good chance you don’t like that bean, not that you did anything wrong. Pass it around and see what other people think.

Happy chocolate making.