Chocolate is one of the oldest foods in the world. The Mayans are widely believed to be the first civilization to cultivate the cacao bean to create a delicious treat sometime around 400AD. When the Spanish conquered the Aztecs in the sixteenth century, chocolate become available in the Western world for the first time.
These days, anyone can walk down to their corner store and purchase a chocolate bar. Why not try making your own?
First, you will need is a supply of cacao beans. You can find these at some markets and specialty grocers, or purchase online at Chocolate Alchemy or any number of other suppliers.
Start by roasting the beans. This can be done in your oven. Beans should be roasted initially at a high temperature, about 160 degrees Celsius, and then slowly reduce the heat down to 110 degree Celcius. They are ready when the beans are cracking, but before they begin to burn. This shouldn't take any longer than 40 minutes.
Remove the husks once they have cooled down by cracking the bean with a hammer and blowing the husk away. You will be left with the centre meat, or the nib, of the cacao bean.
Now it's time to grind the nibs. You will need to purchase a special grinder for this part, as a regular juicer or meat grinder isn't tough enough for the job; a chocolate grinder also has functions that separate the husks from the chocolate liquor. Continue to push your cacao nibs gently into the juicer until the husks and the liquor have been separated.
Next, you need to refine and conch your chocolate. This is where you add milk, cocoa butter and other flavours to determine the taste of your chocolate and mix it with an industrial machine to ensure a smoother texture. Read more about refining and conching here.
Once you have a chocolaty mix, you can temper your chocolate to give it a glossy 'snap'. This part takes a lot of practice to get right but the good news is, you can always melt it down and start again if you ruin it.
Melt your chocolate slowly and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Using a candy thermometer, ensure that the chocolate's temperature does not drop below 37 degrees Celsius.
Pour one third of the chocolate onto a hard, non-porous surface like a marble counter top or cutting board. Using a spatula, spread the chocolate out and then bring it back together. Continue to do this for about ten to fifteen minutes, or until the chocolate is thick and gooey, and put it back in the bowl. Stir the chocolate gently, ensuring that no bubbles form.
When the chocolate has cooled to about 32 degrees, you can pour it into a mould and refrigerate.
Making chocolate from the bean is a tricky pursuit to master, but the pursuit of perfection can make for a fun and delicious hobby.