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First of all I want to thank you for the incredibly useful free content on your website. It is a mixed blessing in that I seem to be frozen with indecision where to start. I’m sure you have gone over this but what do you suggest? How do I get started making chocolate?
That is THE QUESTION isn’t it?
First, I lay it all out in How to Make Chocolate.
I admit, there is a LOT of information on the site and it can be overwhelming, which is exactly the opposite of the impression I want you to leave with. My goal is that you leave (temporarily of course) going, ‘oh, that’s not so bad. I can do that!’.
To that end, I’ve set myself a tentative goal in the Ask the Alchemist Articles this year to start at the beginning and lay it out in pretty simple Novice terms. Details and minutia are fine and good but aren’t where you need or even want to start. You need to just get some chocolate making under your belt and get comfortable with the process, then you can fine tune it once you see what you like a don’t like.
Chocolate is really simple. In the same way bread is broadly defined as ground wheat (flour), water and yeast, chocolate is ground cocoa and sugar.
Few people start with whole wheat berries and make fine bread at home and no one starts off worrying about what the variety of wheat is or how to make the absolutely perfect loaf the first time. They just try and make a basic loaf of bread.
You need to approach chocolate making the same way.
Get some roasted cocoa nibs and sugar, grind or refine them in a piece of equipment called a melanger for about 24 hours and like magic, you have made chocolate.
That is it. That is chocolate making.
A bit more detail
Keeping in mind I’m trying to make this really simply and approachable, by necessity I am leaving out details. We will get to those in later weeks and months. Right now, here are the particular details you need to know.
If you want to make smooth, modern chocolate a Melanger is your ONLY choice. Yes, they are not inexpensive.
For the love of all that is holy, please know that if I could offer you a cheaper alternative that gave a satisfying result I would offer it. So just put blenders, food processors and other reasonably common things out of your mind. I assure I’ve tried them all. I’m just trying to save you headaches, frustration and failure.
Which one should you get? I personally like the Spectra 11. The company has been with me from the beginning (12 years ago). There are a couple other cheaper options out there and my stance on those is you will get what you pay for.
As I said, I suggest you start with roasted cocoa nibs. You should not buy random roasted nibs from whatever online seller you can find with the best price. They may or may not be suitable for chocolate making. EVERY cocoa bean and roasted cocoa nib I offer is specifically intended for making a fine homemade chocolate.
Which one should you pick out of the >2 dozen options? Frankly it hardly matters for your first batch of chocolate. Watching and doing the process is the important thing. You want to get in there, mix the ingredients and observe the transformation from nibs and sugar to chocolate.
Read a few of the tasting notes and pick something that sounds like you might like. You do this all the time at a restaurant. You read the description and it either calls to you or it doesn’t. In the worst case you might be overwhelmed because they all sound great and in that case do what you would do in the restaurant. Just instead of asking the waiter, you me for a suggestion.
After that you need a recipe and I’m going to just suggest this one that is roughly a 75% semi-dark chocolate.
· 32 oz Roasted cocoa nibs
· 10 oz granulated sugar
You’ll want to read that How To page about putting it together.
But I have even a simpler suggestion.
I have a handful of ready to go Chocolate making Kits that take care of the proverbial two birds with one stone. If you go with a kit you don’t need to concern yourself with which bean to pick as I will do that for you and you don’t need to worry about what recipe to use as I give you that also, and it goes step farther in making it easy for you as I’ve measured out everything and you only need to follow the very simple directions included and refine it in your Melanger.
After you get a few batches done you can slowly start adding in a few more details like picking your own beans, learning how to roast them and making up basic recipes. I’ll address all those things in coming weeks.
That is it. To start making chocolate you need a melanger and I really recommend you just pick up a Chocolate making kit at the same time.
So, does that now make you go’Hey, that isn’t so bad! I can do that!’?