Having been inspired by the improvisation at La Iguana and my desire for understanding the chocolate production process, I have decided to attempt the processing of my own chocolate at home from bean to bar. Sadly, I don't have access to fresh cacao beans here in England. Therefore, I will have to omit the first few steps (the harvesting, fermenting and drying of the beans). Unfortunately, I do not have enough beans from La Iguana to carry out this challenge; so I have bought a separate 1kg batch of fermented, unroasted Criollo beans from South America. The remaining steps I intend to carry out to process a ~70% cacao dark chocolate bar will include:
This should be one of the most straightforward stages. There are two main techniques which I can carry out at home for this step without having access to specialist equipment.
This is, effectively, the removal of the shells of the cacao beans once they have been roasted. There are, again, two main techniques for this method which should be feasible at home.
This is the first step that will be quite challenging since it will require specialist equipment. The size of the cacao particles will need to be below 20 microns in size in order for them to be undetectable by the tongue. It will be difficult to track down a refiner which I can use at home to get the particles to this size!
Once I have refined the cacao and added the sugar, the chocolate then needs to go through the conching process. I anticipate that this will be the most difficult stage of the home chocolate processing. It involves the churning of the chocolate at a continuous speed and elevated temperature for a minimum of 12 hours. I have doubts about my ability to complete this stage!
I have already tempered chocolate, but not at home. There are three techniques for tempering; the marble method, the seeding method and the water bowl method. If I manage to track down a slab of marble, then I will attempt marble tempering!
This should be simple enough, however, it depends on how I wish my chocolate to be moulded. This will involve either searching for a suitable mould or trying to create one myself.
Before I carry out any of the processes, I plan to read about home chocolate processing as much as possible. I, of course, expect to come across plenty of bumps along the way but this is all part of the learning process. I can only hope that I will manage to overcome these obstacles so that I can complete the challenge and taste my own homemade chocolate!
If anyone has any advice or ideas then please do share them!