Treat Yourself – Make Chocolate from Scratch
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When I found a video online on how to make chocolate from scratch, I thought it would be a creative and romantic date idea. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I couldn’t think of a better time to give it a try! Instead of buying chocolate for your special someone, why not make it from scratch together?
We all know that chocolate and Valentine’s Day go hand in hand but did you know that people have been making chocolate for over 3,000 years? While eating too much chocolate isn’t healthy, having small amounts of dark chocolate can help prevent heart disease and cancer, while improving your circulatory system and acting as a brain stimulator. A BBC news report compared melting chocolate in one’s mouth to passionate kissing and found that eating chocolate produced higher brain activity and doubled participants’ heart rate compared to passionate kissing!
But how do you make it?
The essence of chocolate is beans harvested from the cacao tree. These cocoa beans are harvested from the pods and then fermented for a few days, dried, roasted, shelled, and ground up into a liquid. Sugar, milk, and other ingredients may be added along the way to give the chocolate different flavors.
As much fun as all of that sounds, it’s not very practical to try and accomplish in an evening, so if you want to make chocolate at home you can start with what are called cacao nibs. Cacao nibs are the inside of the cacao bean after the beans have been roasted and shelled. Nibs are available at specialty stores such as Whole Foods and sell for about $10/bag.
Before we began we tasted the nibs and were surprised to realize that they don’t taste anything like chocolate! They are not sweet and basically taste like bitter nuts.
For our date I decided to follow this How To Make Chocolate video.
It looks easy right? Not so much…
We didn’t get off to a good start. We don’t own a coffee grinder and when I tried to substitute that for a chopper, it did not produce the same result. We then switched to a blender which didn’t fare any better. This is an excellent lesson in having the right tools and something that could have saved us a lot of frustration. Luckily we were able to borrow a grinder and it worked much more along the lines of what we were expecting.
We started with a 80/20 ratio of nibs to sugar. After grinding the nibs and sugar concoction for 5 minutes it was still a fine powdery substance, not the thick almost liquid-like substance from video. After grinding for a few more minutes we decided to move on to the mortar and pestle. Unfortunately, even after that we still had a powdery mixture. We decided to improvise and put the whole thing in the microwave for about 30 seconds (I know that wasn’t in the video, but he did say warming up your mortar and pestle helps). Bingo! After crushing it some more the mixture started to resemble actual chocolate! We grabbed two spoons and dug in.
Our chocolate was not as smooth as you would buy from the store, but still tasted pretty good. Next we tried a 70/30 chocolate (I liked it better than the 80/20) and then we got creative and started to add different spices into the mix. We tried adding chili, cinnamon, nutmeg and curry. We really enjoyed our chili and cinnamon combination. The chili gave the chocolate a spicy flavour (in a good way) and the cinnamon was a nice touch too. This was definitely a pleasant surprise.
In the end, this date did not turn out to be the romantic date I was hoping for. Here are a few things to consider before you attempt to make chocolate from scratch:
- Grinders are loud. Standing around for 5 minutes listening to a grinder is certainly not romantic and you have to repeat the process each time you make a new batch.
- It is quite a bit of work and only yields a very small amount of chocolate.
- Sampling too much chocolate can make you feel a bit sick.
While this date did not turn out exactly as planned, I still wanted to write about it. Not everything we do always works out. The most important thing is that we tried something new, spent time together and can now laugh at our failed future as chocolatiers. Next time however I think I’d rather plan a fondu or pick up a box of specialty chocolates to share.
Have you ever tried making chocolate from scratch? Do you have any tips that you think we could have used or spices we should have tried to add?
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