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Chocolate making: Things I learned in my early months

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2 hours ago, Tri2Cook said:

Something I'm learning as I start into a new (to me) area of the chocolate experience... simple, not elaborate or artsy, polycarbonate bar molds in the 60 - 75 gram range are incredibly difficult to find other than the break-apart-rectangles type, which isn't really what I had in mind. I'm close to admitting defeat and using that type anyway.

 

Any particular shape you’re looking for? ~~Larger half-sphere/dome molds are available from 1 or 2 sellers on AliExpress.~~ Didn’t read properly, you asked for bars. I’ll have a look.


Edited by jbates (log)

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3 hours ago, Tri2Cook said:

Something I'm learning as I start into a new (to me) area of the chocolate experience... simple, not elaborate or artsy, polycarbonate bar molds in the 60 - 75 gram range are incredibly difficult to find other than the break-apart-rectangles type, which isn't really what I had in mind. I'm close to admitting defeat and using that type anyway.

 

 

A vendor contacted me looking for help launching a range of private label chocolate bars.  I told him, sure,  first figure out what molds you want to use, then how to package and label them ... easier said than done!  (But hopefully the process will help him understand why small makers charge what we do) :SxD

 

Do you want a thinner bar or room for inclusions or layers?

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7 hours ago, pastrygirl said:

 

A vendor contacted me looking for help launching a range of private label chocolate bars.  I told him, sure,  first figure out what molds you want to use, then how to package and label them ... easier said than done!  (But hopefully the process will help him understand why small makers charge what we do) :SxD

 

Do you want a thinner bar or room for inclusions or layers?


I'd like to have room for inclusions but I want to use the same molds for everything, inclusions or not, so I don't want to get too thick. Not worried about fillings, hadn't considered layers but most of the molds I've been looking at are in the 7 - 9 mm range for depth which would be plenty for a couple layers if I decided to do that at some point. Kerry gave me a nice list of places to check, so I'm still looking through those. I found a couple I like on one site she suggested, a bit pricey compared to getting them on this side of the ocean but not unreasonably so. I'm waiting to hear from them regarding shipping. Their site isn't set up for calculating shipping to Canada or the US but apparently they do, just have to ask for a quote. I still have a couple more on the list to check out as well. Packaging isn't going to be an issue at this point. I know what I'm going to use just to get started and it's nothing fancy or costly. I'm not even close to a point where I'm going to be trying to get things in stores or anything so labeling beyond what it is won't be an issue for now. Just going to be word-of-mouth sales and local markets and craft shows and the like, so I'm not going to invest too heavily in anything until I see how it goes.

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For small runs of labels, I get blank, pre-cut sheets of labels from onlinelabels.com and print them myself.  They come in a huge variety of sizes and have design templates.  Order extra in case of paper jams!  I used the silver foil at Christmas and my printer had a hard time with it, though the kraft and clear have been fine.  Oh, except some truffles that have been frozen and thawed got smeared, but that might be my inkjet ink, not the paper.  But fine for dry applications like chocolate bars.

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I browsed through the topics and did a topic search and still couldn't decide where to stick this... so here it is stuck. Can't really say I've learned a whole lot yet because I'm just getting started with this particular aspect of chocolate work but I'm sure there will be a whole lot to learn in the early months (and probably the later months as well) so...

...these...

nibsroasted12.jpg

...have been joined by a couple friends and are all getting to know each other better...

churnin123.jpg

Only a couple hours in so a long way to go. Right now, it smells kinda like somebody's melting chocolate with slightly sour wine. :biggrin:

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My melanger is also running in the basement as I type! I’ve made one batch since the workshop, a dark milk chocolate made from Ecuadorian nibs that I really like, and I’m doing a simple 2 ingredient dark right now. Planning to temper the milk today and mold it into bars. If they come out pretty, I’ll post photos later. If not, we’ll just eat them.

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53 minutes ago, tikidoc said:

My melanger is also running in the basement as I type! I’ve made one batch since the workshop, a dark milk chocolate made from Ecuadorian nibs that I really like, and I’m doing a simple 2 ingredient dark right now. Planning to temper the milk today and mold it into bars. If they come out pretty, I’ll post photos later. If not, we’ll just eat them.


Sounds tasty. The nibs I'm using for this batch are just sold as "organic raw cacao nibs" with no origin given. I bought a couple kg's on amazon mainly to do my early learning and experimenting with. I have a couple kg's of nibs that I ordered with the melanger, the Sambirano from Madagascar and the Sur del Lago from Venezuela. I tasted them both and was pretty amazed at the difference between them so I'm looking forward to working with them. Just wanted to get a learning batch or two under my belt first with something a little less pricey. The nibs I'm using right now didn't taste as good to me as either of the other two even after roasting but they smelled really good while roasting so I'm holding out hope. The sharpness and sour notes coming from the batch in progress last night have already pretty much disappeared. I'm doing a 65% dark for this round and I did use added cocoa butter. When it's done, I'm going to start a batch of 50% milk using the same nibs. 

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1 hour ago, Tri2Cook said:


Sounds tasty. The nibs I'm using for this batch are just sold as "organic raw cacao nibs" with no origin given. I bought a couple kg's on amazon mainly to do my early learning and experimenting with. I have a couple kg's of nibs that I ordered with the melanger, the Sambirano from Madagascar and the Sur del Lago from Venezuela. I tasted them both and was pretty amazed at the difference between them so I'm looking forward to working with them. Just wanted to get a learning batch or two under my belt first with something a little less pricey. The nibs I'm using right now didn't taste as good to me as either of the other two even after roasting but they smelled really good while roasting so I'm holding out hope. The sharpness and sour notes coming from the batch in progress last night have already pretty much disappeared. I'm doing a 65% dark for this round and I did use added cocoa butter. When it's done, I'm going to start a batch of 50% milk using the same nibs. 

 

Mine were actually fairly inexpensive. I brought a pound to NOTL to experiment with, so you may have tasted them - I put most of the resultant chocolate out on Sunday. There was some plain, and some with a sprinkling of sea salt.

 

http://www.cocoasupply.com/cacao-nibs/, $30/5# plus shipping, which was reasonable, as I remember. They are quite floral in flavor, but that calmed down quite a bit with 48 h in the melanger. These nibs are not sold roasted, unlike many that I see online. I also got some of the nibs along with the melanger, but I’ll wait until I know a bit more before I use those.

 

I tempered the dark milk and put some in a bar mold and the rest out on some parchment, which I broke up into pieces and bagged when set.  It unmolded nicely but it was a tiny bit streaky and not terribly shiny. It’s hot and humid here, even in my normally cool and dehumidified basement, so I suspect that is the problem. I have about a kg, so I’ll try tempering again on a cool evening, if we ever get one.

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After over 40 hours in the machine (planning to stop at 48 unless somebody says I should go longer based on what I'm about to ask), the chocolate smells like chocolate and tastes like chocolate but is pretty high on the tannin scale. It's pretty astringent for a 65% chocolate. Can I safely assume at this point that it's just a characteristic of the nibs I used or is it possible I caused a problem due to improper roasting? I know for sure they weren't over-roasted but I'm less confident about them not being under-roasted since they're sold as "organic raw". I let them go in a 275 F oven, stirring them around occasionally, until they smelled like somebody baking chocolate cake or brownies. If it's likely to be just a characteristic of this particular nib, would it probably work better as a milk chocolate? I plan to do a milk chocolate batch next anyway so I'll find out for myself but it never hurts to hear from those who have already been there, done that.

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I’d say astringency is most often a bean characteristic 

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Might the flavor mellow or meld witha bit of aging? I remember when we toured Soma the mentioned that they age their chocolate liquor... I just don’t remember why they did that. Anyone remember or have more information?

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26 minutes ago, curls said:

Might the flavor mellow or meld witha bit of aging? I remember when we toured Soma the mentioned that they age their chocolate liquor... I just don’t remember why they did that. Anyone remember or have more information?

I think for flavour development - might reduce astringency a bit.

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1 hour ago, Kerry Beal said:

I’d say astringency is most often a bean characteristic 


Ok, that's pretty much what I was guessing but wasn't sure. Guess it's a good thing the no-origin/type-given nibs were just for the initial learning phase. I'm still going to do a batch of milk with them and see how that turns out. If this batch doesn't tone down a little on the astringency, it will probably be destined for uses other than a bar.

Edit: or if the milk turns out better, I suppose I could melt the dark, toss it back in the machine and add the necessary stuff to turn it into milk as well.
 

45 minutes ago, curls said:

Might the flavor mellow or meld witha bit of aging? I remember when we toured Soma the mentioned that they age their chocolate liquor... I just don’t remember why they did that. Anyone remember or have more information?


It will be getting some aging regardless of whether it helps anything or not, the bar molds I ordered haven't come in yet. :D


Edited by Tri2Cook (log)
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The beans I used were very floral (would not call them astringent) but they were dramatically different as a fairly dark milk, in a positive way, and I’m not a huge milk chocolate fan. I added both milk powder and cocoa butter. So you might just think of adding the stuff for a milk and see how it turns out, if you want to experiment.

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So the first curve ball in the learning process is, using these particular nibs, the dark chocolate is way too astringent. Unpleasantly so even after close to 48 hours in the machine. Astringent to the point of numbing the tongue and throat for several minutes after a small taste. So I've begun adding what's needed to convert it to a 50% milk chocolate. If that doesn't solve the problem, I'll start slowly reducing the cocoa percentage until it's good or a I run out of space for more ingredients in the machine. 

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3 minutes ago, tikidoc said:

The beans I used were very floral (would not call them astringent) but they were dramatically different as a fairly dark milk, in a positive way, and I’m not a huge milk chocolate fan. I added both milk powder and cocoa butter. So you might just think of adding the stuff for a milk and see how it turns out, if you want to experiment.


Thinking alike. I've already begun the conversion. :D

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4 hours ago, Tri2Cook said:

It will be getting some aging regardless of whether it helps anything or not, the bar molds I ordered haven't come in yet. :D

 

So you decided?  What did you go with?

 

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1 hour ago, pastrygirl said:

 

So you decided?  What did you go with?

 


These. I wouldn't so much say I decided, more like got tired of searching. Not exactly what I had in mind so I only ordered 5 in case I change my mind later but they're in the size range I was looking for (though at the high end of that range). They're just not as plain and simple as I had wanted. If I decide to stick with them, I'll order a few more.

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3 hours ago, Tri2Cook said:


These. I wouldn't so much say I decided, more like got tired of searching. Not exactly what I had in mind so I only ordered 5 in case I change my mind later but they're in the size range I was looking for (though at the high end of that range). They're just not as plain and simple as I had wanted. If I decide to stick with them, I'll order a few more.

I like those, the angles reflect the light really well - I use them with metallic cocoa butter. They also snap cleanly.

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~2.3 kg 50% milk chocolate just out of the melanger. Looks good, smells good, tastes good... but I know better than to get too cocky with the chocolate gods. I'm not calling it a success until I have tempered bars out of the molds snapping and shining like they should.

milk50.jpg

Since this started out to be dark chocolate until I discovered these particular cocoa nibs weren't going to work too well for that 48 hours into the process, my hands were somewhat tied on ratios. I didn't want to add more nibs this late in the process. So this is 750 grams cocoa nibs, 400 grams cocoa butter, 575 grams sugar and 575 grams milk powder. This was supposed to be a learning batch so I guess I don't mind that I got some additional learning in the form of having to see what the beans were giving me and adapting to it on the fly.
 

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Not actually chocolate but I'm putting it here anyway...

corny23.jpg

Freeze dried corn (a gift from Kerry Beal that inspired this idea), cocoa butter, butter powder, sugar and sea salt.

corny34.jpg

The live action shot. It's actually out of the machine now and tucked away to cool. After about 20 hours in the machine, the final color isn't as nice as I'd hoped (picture the above with a slight grey-ish cast to it) but this was just an idea test anyway, there are ways to solve that problem if I decide the buttered corn bar is worth doing again once I get it tempered and molded. Assuming it will temper and mold, it's still pretty soft right now after 4 hours out of the machine. 

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I'm not calling it a solved mystery at this point but, unfortunately, I may have some evidence to present on the problem with starch. I can't remember where we were discussing it but there was a post regarding Michael Laiskonis running popcorn through a melanger with other ingredients and mentioning that it shouldn't work. We were puzzled why that would be a problem as long as there was sufficient cocoa butter present. While I don't know what the difficulties he was alluding to were since he never specifically said, I've encountered a difficulty with my little corn experiment and I can't think of anything to pin it on other than the starch in the corn. Everything I did is a proven process other than using a starchy item as the base. Regardless, after over 10 hours out of the machine, this stuff is still the texture of a nice ganache. I don't think there's much chance it's going to set up any more than it already has. 

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What have you done to make it set up?  i.e. seeding with CB, tabling ... and how much butter vs CB did you add? 

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10 hours ago, pastrygirl said:

What have you done to make it set up?  i.e. seeding with CB, tabling ... and how much butter vs CB did you add? 


I used 200 grams of the freeze dried corn, 250 grams of cocoa butter, and 100 grams each of the butter powder and sugar plus 5 grams of salt. I haven't done anything to temper it yet but the batch of milk chocolate I made before this hasn't been tempered yet either and it's solid, not soft at all. This stuff is literally like a really nice soft ganache. I asked the question regarding high milk fat levels from using butter or heavy cream powder having negative effects and was told by someone who does the bean to bar thing as a business that they haven't observed any negative effects caused by that.

Edit: So with pastrygirl asking about the cocoa butter amount I used and another person (Rob... aka: gfron1) mentioning the same thing on my Facebook post, I think I'm going to give upping the cocoa butter level a shot. Nothing to lose at this point, it's not going to do what I want it to do the way it is now and the entire purpose of this batch was to learn. 


Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

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Next up, Sur del Lago from Venezuela. This is only a few minutes in so it's still really coarse and the sugar hasn't been added yet. Intense aroma and taste at this point, as would be expected. End goal is 70%.

nibs3.jpg

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