Eeeeek... over two months have passed without my posting on here! I'm so sorry! Life has been even busier than usual and very chocolaty too. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know what I've been up to! Sorry to ruin the surprise, but I completed my first bar a couple of months ago and I'm now on my third batch of chocolate! I am learning a lot, and I have much to share with you!
The fourth stage of my home chocolate production is conching. There are two main purposes for this stage; flavour development and texture development. In essence, conching is the churning of the chocolate at an elevated temperature (ideally 40°C to 50°C) for an extended period of time.
I mentioned in my refining post that I bought a stone grinder because I would be able to carry out two stages of my chocolate production with it (grinding and conching). Although the machine has no temperature control, some heat is produced from the friction during the mixing. This keeps the chocolate at around 30°C which seems to be good enough to "conch" the chocolate!
I conched my first batch for 24 hours and despite the small particle size (from the grinding), it still felt a little dusty in the mouth and not very creamy. I decided to conch my second batch for 48 hours. The difference was quite significant! The extra conching time gave the chocolate a much smoother and creamier texture. This is due to the even distribution of the cocoa butter coating the sugar and cocoa mass particles. During the conching process there is also flavour development from the release of volatiles, which reduces the acidic and astringent notes. This makes a more rounded flavour and better overall quality chocolate. Delicious!
The next stage is probably the most tedious... tempering!