It's official! Princeville Botanical Gardens will now be sampling our homegrown and homemade organic dark chocolate during the chocolate tastings on our public tours, three days per week. For the time being, we believe we are the only place on the island of Kauai where you can try 100% Kauai Grown Chocolate! Hopefully, that will change in the future, as we know many people who are actively planting large cacao crops. It was my (Jason) first experience processing chocolate, and though I've known for a year what goes into the processing, actually getting your hands dirty (or shall I say chocolatey) and doing it yourself provides a whole new perspective on the process.
It is a bit complicated, very delicate, and quite time consuming. Over this last weekend (July 29-August 1), it took 3 people 8 hours (and a lot of waiting) to churn out a little more than 7 pounds of chocolate!
If we were to actually sell our homemade 2 oz bars, we'd have to ask somewhere around $30+/bar to cover our costs. Yikes! Chocolate processing is economical only on the large scale, which is why farmers in poorer countries have to sell their beans to a cooperative that does the processing in much larger batches.
I filmed every stage of our process, and so hope to have a short video of the process, from "bean to bar," within the next month or so. It takes a lot of editing, though, so please be patient. Below, I will provide just a few pictures and an abbreviated narrative of the steps of the chocolate processing.
1.) We had already fermented and dried many batches of beans which we stored up until we had the time to turn them into chocolate. The fermentation takes place at a low temperature, as does the drying.
Fermentation is the most vital part of the chocolate process. You can develop amazingly unique, gourmet flavor notes if you can perfect your fermentation process. On the flip side, fermentation is so delicate, one misstep and your entire batch is ruined!
2.) The dried beans are roasted at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. You don't want to over roast your beans--it will ruin the flavor! However, you don't want to under roast them either, or they won't be quite dry enough and won't grind quite as well.
The main purpose of roasting is to further release flavor notes and create a more robust flavor that will come out in the finished bar of chocolate when it is mixed with sugar.
3.) Instead of getting small children to winnow our beans, and because we cannot afford a multi-thousand dollar winnowing machine, we have created our own system for separating the chaff (husks) of the beans from the cacao beans. Below, we first run the dried roasted beans through a "Crankosteen" which basically crushes them, leaving us a mixture of chaff and nibs.
4.) We need to separate the husks (chaff) from the nibs which will become our chocolate so we've improvised the system below. Air blowing up from one side, blows the light weight husks out one end, while allowing the heavy nibs to fall down on the other.
5.) We take the resulting nibs and push them through our Norwalk Juicer to churn out a peanut-butter texture paste, known as the "cocoa mass" or "cocoa liquor." Sampling this and we can begin to taste the sort of quality we can expect from our finished bars.
6.) Large scale manufacturers will press this cocoa mass to separate the solids (cocoa cake, to become cocoa powder) from the liquids (cocoa butter, the fats and lipids that become an additive in chocolate bars, for white chocolate, and as a popular cosmetic ingredient nowadays).
We don't have enough to justify this separation so we mix our cocoa mass with sugar and put it into our melange (below). We made about 79% dark chocolate: 79% cocoa mass and 21% dried organic can sugar.
This melange, with its polished stone wheels ran for almost 3 days straight, all weekend long, making the chocolate mixture creamy and smooth and releasing more heat and enzymes, changing the flavor again. Our melange is a modified rice grinder from India.
7.) After 3 days of grinding, out comes our beautiful liquid chocolate:
8.) Now for tempering, perhaps the most demanding and scientific process that can be done in the modern kitchen. It can take a lifetime for a confectioner to perfect their hand tempering technique. Tempering is a process of manipulating the temperature of the chocolate mixture to ensure the correct types of cocoa butter crystals form, while eliminating unwanted types of cocoa butter crystals.
When this is done correctly, the tempered chocolate has a longer shelf life, has a nice beautiful outer glossy texture that we all appreciate in a bar of chocolate, and because of tempering, the finished bar will snap apart firmly rather than crumbling soggily.
I'll get into the details of this process when I put together that video I promised. We take our hot chocolate and use a chilled marble slab to temper it to the right temperature:
9.) We pour the tempered chocolate into our moulds...
10.) The molds are put in the refrigerator to let them chill and get the cocoa butter crystals to contract, thereby releasing the bar naturally from its mold. And voila! Our finished bars:
BEAUTIFUL! And of course, there is a lot of mess to clean up after all of that. The crew is so busy keeping the chocolate at the exact temperatures that cleanup while you go is almost impossible. But cleanup can be fun, too....YUM:
Interested in tasting some of our chocolate? Unfortunately, we will not be selling this chocolate commercially in any form. However, if you come on our tour, offered three days per week, you'll participate in our small gourmet chocolate tasting and get to sample a small morsel of our homemade dark chocolate! We look forward to hearing from you!