The making of chocolate is often described as a balance of art and science. We tend to believe that the selection of beans, inclusions and design are very much art but that the production is pure science. We thought others might benefit from our methods and techniques in identifying the optimum methods for preparing the beans from selection to final products.
Roast Test Protocol
Roasting brings out the good and bad on any bean. A wonderfully fruity bean at 18 minutes may be a nasty sour mess at 12 minutes. Heck, some even change minute by minute so how do you solve this without blowing through 50kg of beans?
At Casa Chocolates, we use a small 1 kg sample roaster and run a test panel with a range of times and a standardized temperature profile. In our case, we include an initial drying time followed by a controlled ramp in temperature then we dump the beans and force cool them in order to stop the cooking process. This allows us to define very specific points of inflection which are repeatable.
After running our test panel of 5 times, we then make chocolate. At this point, we are focussing on only one variable - the roast time. All other steps in our process including grinding, melanger time, conching and other mechanical factors are left the same. We add sugar at the same time and ensure that it is the only added ingredient.
What to Add
Including anything beyond sugar in chocolate has always been an issue for discussion.
I personally enjoy the pure form of the chocolate bar wherein only the bean is the dominant flavoring. I will admit that there are some inclusions that can be blended to make the chocolate even more interesting.
You'll see us use specially dried fruits, hand selected Texas Pecans from local farms and add a twist once in a while with a bit of peppery zest from select peppers. Our Fire and Ice bar is an example of blending the deep chocolate taste with following flavors of fruit then warmth from just enough cayanne pepper.
This is a grindometer. We use it to ensure that the chocolate is ground to below 20 microns in particle size ensuring a smooth and balanced mouth-feel.