How to Make Chocolate by Hand
I, as well as others could write odes to the cocoa trees that grow right here in the yucatan in uninterrupted peace. Cocoa a tradition older than history records.
It brings my heart such joy to even think of chocolate, I am sure many can relate. We have happy memories and dreams of our mouths full of melty sweet morsels. Love is chocolate, and we love chocolate.
It wasn’t until one rainy fall in 2008 that I had my first raw cocoa bean. I was sitting in a critical small reading group as we respectfully clutched our coffee thermals and waited for the last member to slush in. Attempting to perk up the mood my professor offered us what he called cacau (and sounded to me like cow-que). I crunched into the bean thinking it was a nut and suddenly I was rushed over by a strong acidic, sour taste. I chewed through the whole thing as he continued to tell us the cocau bean was antidepressant and full of antioxidants. A medicine for many tribes in Brazil and other parts of the amazon. It was then I realized I was eating a raw cocoa bean and not something called cow-que.
It was in that moment a new love was born. A recognition of the plant and bean that made up the sweet goodness I cherished in my life. February more than other months is full of chocolate. Therefore to honor this month and this food we love so much I take you on a chocolate journey.
I’ve learned chocolate as we know it is a European invention, the chocolate they had here in Mexico was a thick, dark, unsweetened drink used in ritual and for great celebrations. With good reason, to slowly process the beans in a molcajete would take hours of work and sugar wasn’t part of diet. Chocolate is a beautiful thing but the rich smooth and creamy treat we get in most bars isn’t’ the real story of chocolate it’s the final step of many.
After being harvested cocoa is fermented for multiples days. It is only after the fermentation that the bean can start to be used as something like chocolate. You can make raw chocolate, but the flavor will be bitter and flat, it is the roasting that brings out most of the flavor of the beans. It is best to roast hot and slow to release the best flavors but any method will do the job and make a different bar. You can heat them i cast iron over an open fire, constantly stirring or do the same in a big stock pot on the stove. It will take about 30-40 minutes to pan roast but the investment is worth it. The fastest method is about 15-20 minutes in the stove. You will still have a rich and complex flavor even if you speed cook them, but time and energy do pay off when making slow foods.
The next step is the remove the outer paper and grind.
Grinding is mostly done by machines and the key to smooth and creamy chocolate. The big industry machines grind non stop for 3 days. That isn’t possible at home, especially by hand but a good baking and hot chocolate chocolate grinds up in about 1 to 1½ hours.
The most important thing is once you start grinding to not stop. You can take 5 minute pauses but you have to keep in the process until you finish. I have found 300 grams is about all I can do alone. If you have help feel free to grind up to a whole kilo or more. IT takes time, but you will feel amazing as your chocolate comes out smoother and smoother each time.
You will have to grind the beans through the machine at least 10 times, but the more times you grind the smoother and more delicate your chocolate will become.
The first grind is the easiest and the second and third grinds are the hardest, don’t give up it gets easier again. When you have flakes that stick together but aren’t yet creamy it is best to spoon only a ½ cup into the machine at a time. It’s easier for the grinder to process smaller amounts at this stage. Later when you have a creamier consistency you can put much more into the hopper. I can never put the whole amount at one time, but maybe you have a bigger grinder than me.
You can also add flavors to your chocolate, but you can only add dry ingredients.
If you add any water or liquid the oils being released from the cocoa bean will seize up and you will not have smooth chocolate.
Homemade Bakers Chocolate
300 g raw cocoa beans
100 g sugar (or more depending on your taste)
Optional cinnamon, or other dried spices.
First, toast the seeds in a heavy bottom pan for 30 minutes, moving constantly.
Or toast on a baking sheet for 20-30 minutes shaking the pan every 10 minutes.
Allow the seeds to cool.
Once cool to the touch peel all of the seed paper off of the cocoa beans. If you have toasted the seeds properly the paper should be fairly easy to remove. Keep you peeled seeds and paper waste separate as you go because some of the beans may break easily.
Once all the beans are cleaned prepare yourself for grinding.
You will need the sugar and two big containers or bowls to catch the ground portion in. Attach your grinder firmly to your table of choice.
Make sure you are comfortable and your hair is pulled back, once you begin you can only take small pauses you must finish the chocolate grinding in one setting while the beans are warm. Each time you pass the bean paste through the grinder it will warm up and release more oils.
When you are ready, fill the hopper with beans and turn the handle for your first grind.
On the second time through grind only a few spoonfuls at a time and start adding the sugar.
The paste is already sticky but hasn’t released enough oils to pull the rest of the paste through yet.
On the third time you can use a spoon or pestle to push the paste towards the bottom, you will still add only ⅓ or ¼ of the paste at a time.
By the 4th and 5th times through the grinder your chocolate will have started to be more creamy and smooth. The more times you grind the paste the more creamer your chocolate will be.
(see above photo gallery for comparison)
You will want to grind your paste through the machine 10-50 times, however many your body and friends can handle.
Finally while it is still warm and playable, press into a chocolate mold, silicone pan, or a parchment lined cookie sheet.