Level: Apprentice

Read time: 12 minutes


Love this channel. I've yet to see anyone skilled enough to produce a quality video making dark milk chocolate without using caster sugar. Using Honey, maple or coconut sugar. Do you reckon you could think about doing such a video in the future?

If any of you are wondering ‘what channel’ we have a Youtube channel and yesterday we put up ‘How to make chocolate with cocoa powder (and why you shouldn’t).

 Aside from wanting you to check out the video, I’m going to reference parts of the conversation going on there in the comments so it is probably handy to go take a quick look.

Go on, I’ll wait.

With only a couple exceptions I am going to take this question as springboard and rift off it into the more general question that is basically either ‘can I use xxxx?’ or ‘what is the recipe for yyyy?’.

 I’ll totally own that I do indeed get a little tired of these questions and that is on ME.  It tells me I have not conveyed a critical central tenant of chocolate making and I am going to try and address that now.

 In short, all chocolate making is the same.  It is refining together cocoa, a sweetener and any other oil or dry ingredient.  Once you REALLY grasp that the above questions sort themselves out.

 I used to live out in the country and it was an hour drive to get my daughter to school.  We often played math games when she was young.  1+1= what?  1+2=what?  What is 2 plus 1?  For a while she attempted to memorize all the permutations.  Then one day it clicked that these were not questions with discrete answers but instructions and the mystery went away.  She grasped that I was not asking what is 1 plus 2 where the memorized answer was 3. Instead I was saying add together 1 and 2 and tell me the answer.

 So, how do you make chocolate with coconut sugar?

 You add coconut sugar. 

 What is the recipe for making soy milk chocolate?

 Take a milk chocolate recipe and substitute dry soy milk powder.

 Do I need to continue?

 Dark milk chocolate with maple sugar?

 Take a milk chocolate recipe, increase the cocoa amount to make it dark and use maple sugar instead of cane sugar.

 It really is that simple.  There is no magic and nothing fancy.  In the above dark milk chocolate it is a given that if you increase the cocoa you have to decrease something else.  That isn’t a curve ball, or anything fancy, it is just a fact.  Should you decrease the milk or sugar?  I honestly can’t tell you that because there is no right or wrong answer.  It is up to your taste. 

 You need to pull your big person pants on and make a decision and then learn from your decision.  My telling you ‘the answer’ won’t teach you anything.  YOU finding the answer will.

 “but I might ruin the batch”

 Yes you might.  And you will learn something.  But you probably won’t ruin it.  And the majority of my best learning moments are when I royally screwed something up and failed.  It is part of life and believe it or not I cherish those times. 

 I feel I’m going all zen and philosophical.  Let’s get back to it.

The only minor catch in adjusting the above recipe (or any recipe) you might run into is the amount of fat.   All combined (that means from the cocoa (it is about 50% fat), milk fat (look up the number) and added cocoa butter(it is all fat)) you need to strive to keep the fat content above 30% and my personal rule of thumb I tell people is 35%.  Below that and the mixture can have issues flowing smoothly in the melanger.

 So there. That is what to do for ANY recipe you could possibly want.

 Let’s talk about alternative ingredients now.

 Chocolate really only has a few rules.

 1)         No water

2)         Greater than ~30% fat and compatible.

3)         It needs some sweetness

 Note - if you pedantic on me about 100% chocolate and breaking rule 3 I’m going to ignore you – we are talking about standard, modern, smooth refined chocolate. Let’s proceed.

 If you want to use a particular ingredient you only need evaluate it against the rules.  If it passes, you are good to go.  If it doesn’t think about if you can do something to allow it to be used.

 Let’s do a few starting with sweeteners.

 Coconut sugar.  Does it have water?  Well, some act like a brown sugar and crawl and that is because of water.  Can you get rid of the water?  Maybe.  Try putting it in the oven and drying it.  After drying, does it still crawl?  Yes?  Then you can’t use it or need to dry it more.  No?  Then there is now no water and you can use it.

 Maple sugar.  Does it have water?  No.  You can use it.

 Honey.  Is there water?  Yes.  You can’t use it in a traditional fashion in the refiner.  Can you dry it?  I’ve tried and even when I can get it to something pretty dry it then gains moisture from the air so fast that effectively it always has water.  So this is a maybe.  Try it.  But be aware if it starts to get tacky that is moisture and it is a no go. And there is another issue with honey I’ll address in a little bit.

 Xylitol? Allulose? Splenda?  Is it dry?  Sure, use it.

 Some other one?  Apply the criteria and make a decision.

 It is worth noting that most dried fruits still have WAY too much water to use.  The exception is if they are freeze dried and powdered.  Those are ok water wise.

 The next class of things you might add I would classify as milk powder substitutes.

 Soy milk powder?  Dry?  Yes.  Go for it.

Oat powder?  Same.

Potato flour?  Ditto.

Spices? How about this random powder I found that has a long list of ingredients?  Par it down to the requirements.  Is it dry?  You are good to go.  Does it have any oils that might not be compatible? Look them up and see.

 I talk about chocolate compatible oils in ATA 120.  Mostly the only one you really need to be concerned about is coconut oil.  It inhibits tempering (I talk about this too and how silk will allow you to temper it - go use the search feature).

 Mind you, none of this says what you add will taste good.  You need to test that and make your own judgement.

 How about various nebulous flavorings?  Apply the water and oil compatibility rules.  I also talk all about essential oils HERE

 There is one other thing you probably do need to keep in mind as you start to get out there on the fringes of what normally goes into chocolate.  Things we humans eat are made up of water, fats, sugars, proteins and fibers.  We can also consume things that while not technically edible are not toxic either in small naturally occurring doses. Those are things like waxes (very common in honey) and cellulose (like in coffee beans).

Certain fibers, waxes and cellulose structures can make your chocolate act very odd.  Dried fruits I mentioned often have too much water.  They also can have fibers that can thicken your chocolate.  I once worked with jaguar beans and their fiber and/or protein content thickened (in a non-seizing way) the chocolate so much I had to raise my cocoa butter content to 55% to get it to flow.  The wax in honey, even when dry and filtered gummed up the melanger. Date sugar is another one that can give you issues. Contrary to what many people thing it is not sugar extracted from dates but instead ground up dried dates so it can give you both moisture and fiber issues that can gum up the melanger. It also works for some people. It is on my todo list of experiments to get to the bottom of.

The same thing happened when experimenting with some savory off the shelf protein powders and dry alternative flours.  I had to add more cocoa butter too keep it flowing.

 This then leaves us with recipe formulations.  There are literally infinite combinations of recipes and I can’t give them all.  But there are also literally an infinite number of addition problems and you don’t have to have seen one to know how to do it.  So in that you learned how to add, you need to learn how to formulate.

 Look at whatever your proposed recipe is.

 Is there water?  Of course there isn’t, RIGHT? RIGHT!

Is there at least 35% oil?  More if you have odd fibers in there?

Are the oils and fibers all compatible?

Is there some sweetener in there?

 If the answer is yes to all those, then you are good to go.  If not, find the problem area and fix it.  I’ve just given you those tools.

 So, “Do you reckon you could think about doing such a video in the future?”

 The answer is no for the same reason that if I had done a video teaching you how to add, I would not then do a video teaching you how to add 1 + 2 + 3.   


 I do reckon I will think about turning this ATA into a video in the future though..