Author Megan Giller invites fellow chocoholics on a fascinating journey through America’s craft chocolate revolution. Learn what to look for in a craft chocolate bar and how to successfully pair chocolate with coffee, beer, spirits, cheese, or bread. This comprehensive celebration of chocolate busts some popular myths (like “white chocolate isn’t chocolate”) and introduces you to more than a dozen of the hottest artisanal chocolate makers in the US today. You’ll get a taste for the chocolate-making process and understand how chocolate’s flavor depends on where the cacao was grown — then discover how to turn your artisanal bars into unexpected treats with 22 recipes from master chefs.
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About the Author
Megan Giller is the author of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate. She is a food writer and journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Slate, Zagat, Food & Wine, and Modern Farmer. Giller has written extensively about the food scenes in both New York City and Austin, Texas, and her blog Chocolate Noise was a 2016 Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist. She offers private chocolate-tasting classes, hosts “Underground Chocolate Salons,” teaches classes at shops across the country, and judges at chocolate competitions. She lives in Brooklyn.
Michael Laiskonis is Creative Director of New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education, and manager of its bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab. Previously Executive Pastry Chef at Le Bernardin for eight years, he was awarded Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007 by the James Beard Foundation, and in 2014 the International Association of Culinary Professionals tapped him as its ‘Culinary Professional of the Year’.
Read an Excerpt
FROM THE BEAN
IT TURNS OUT that chocolate doesn't appear fully formed out of thin air, a gift from the flavor gods to us gluttons. Instead, it starts as a flower and pod on a tree. (While this fact has convinced some people that chocolate is technically salad, this isn't quite the case.) The process of creating chocolate is long, complicated, and, for most people, completely obscured. We mostly know chocolate in its final form, a candy bar, as it makes its way to our open mouth. But over the past 15 years or so, more and more people have started making chocolate from scratch and calling it "bean-to-bar chocolate." To understand what the heck that means, we have to look at other types of chocolate.
WHAT IS BEAN-TO-BAR CHOCOLATE?
ALL CHOCOLATE IS MADE FROM the bean, but bean-to-bar chocolate has come to mean something distinct. For contrast, most of the chocolate that we eat is made by big companies. They mix low-quality cocoa beans from all over the world in big batches and then overroast them and add a ton of sugar, vanillin (fake vanilla!), cocoa butter, and emulsifiers like soy lecithin to guarantee that the taste and texture are always the same. What we think chocolate tastes like is usually just sugar and vanilla (but we'll get to that in chapter 3). This type of product is generally called industrial chocolate, and though not all of it is bad, it's often a shorthand way of saying that low cost and consistency are the primary goals. Industrial chocolate turns up in many places, especially in the candy bars and chocolate bars we buy at the grocery store and often in the truffles, candies, and bars we buy from chocolatiers.
What's a chocolatier? It's someone who makes candies and confections (think truffles, chocolate bark, and so on). Most of the time chocolatiers buy premade chocolate, melt it down, and use it to make their own bars and confections. Once in a while they make their own chocolate from bean to bar and use that to create confections. Think of a chocolatier as a chef who uses a premade ingredient to create his or her own masterpieces.
"Bean-to-bar chocolate," on the other hand, is made from scratch, usually by a single person or small group of people. (Of course, some big companies make high-quality chocolate: Valrhona, for example, turns out exquisite products that have become the gold standard of pastry chefs and high-end chocolatiers everywhere.) A bean-to-bar chocolate maker sources whole cocoa beans and then roasts, grinds, and smoothens them into chocolate in a single facility. Think of a chocolate maker as an engineer, creating chocolate from the raw materials.
Bean-to-bar chocolate doesn't always taste better than industrial chocolate, but it generally means that the chocolate is made with better ingredients and with a lot of care. Bean-to-bar makers want to celebrate the unique flavors of each type of cocoa and each batch of high-quality beans. They spend a lot of time bringing out those flavor notes and use just enough sugar to bring out the sweetness and creaminess already in the cocoa. That's why almost all bean-to-bar chocolate contains a high percentage of cocoa. A few makers also build their own machines and pay careful attention to each step in the complicated process.
Many bean-to-bar makers insist on using only cocoa beans and sugar in their chocolate. That's a huge departure from the typical industrial chocolate as well as from European-style chocolate, which uses extra cocoa butter to add creaminess and often vanilla to add flavor.
Recently some American makers have started to use cocoa butter and vanilla in their chocolate, though, as well as additions like sea salt and almonds. There's a lot of debate in the community about whether this is a good thing, but in my mind, there's no hard-and-fast rule. For example, Alan McClure of Patric Chocolate, which was the second company in the United States to make two-ingredient chocolate and is widely considered to be one of the best in America, has added cocoa butter to his chocolate for quite some time. As he puts it, "If you can have a delicious 70 percent chocolate bar that has a little bit of added cocoa butter or one that doesn't taste as good or the texture is not as good, are you really going to make the second one because it's more 'pure'? That's just dumb to me." Art Pollard of Amano Artisan Chocolate, one of the original American bean-to-bar companies, which is also considered to be one of the best, has added both cocoa butter and vanilla since the beginning. He said the two-ingredient attitude is all about "ego." Of course, others like Dandelion Chocolate say they create two-ingredient chocolate because that's the type of chocolate that they personally like to eat. I happen to like all of these brands; two ingredients, three ingredients, or more, they all make fantastic chocolate.
One caveat about ingredients, though: you'll almost never see craft makers use industrial emulsifiers, and no one would dream of using a fat or oil besides cocoa butter.
HOW DO YOU MAKE BEAN-TO-BAR CHOCOLATE?
YOU'VE PROBABLY NEVER thought about how that chocolate bar got to be, well, a chocolate bar. And you're not alone: Art Pollard, the owner of Amano Artisan Chocolate, said that he thought "chocolate comes from chocolate" before he started making his own. Turns out it's actually a pretty involved process.
Chocolate's Green Beginnings
It starts at the farm. Theobroma cacao trees grow in a range from 20 degrees above to 20 degrees below the equator, and much of the cocoa that bean-to-bar makers use comes from Central and South America. Many makers actually visit the farms themselves and work with farmers to make sure that the cacao is fermented and dried in a way that creates the best possible flavors. Here's how it happens.
1. PODS GROW. Cacao flowers grow into pods when tiny insects called midges pollinate them.
2. FARMERS HARVEST THE BEANS. The pods are carefully removed from the tree and then opened (sometimes with a machete!). Inside each pod are about 30 cacao "beans" — technically they're seeds — and the farmers scoop them out of the pod. The raw bean itself doesn't taste much like chocolate; that taste will be developed in processing. In the Caribbean, they call the raw beans "jungle M&Ms," and in every country where cacao grows, people love to eat the tart-sweet pulp that surrounds the beans, which tastes kind of like lychee.
3. THE BEANS ARE FERMENTED. The beans and pulp are fermented for three to seven days. The sweet pulp attracts microorganisms that launch fermentation. For high-quality chocolate, farmers rigorously monitor the process to ensure that the beans ferment consistently. Some farmers ferment them under banana or plantain leaves or in plastic tents, while others ferment them in wood or plastic boxes. Fermenting the beans removes tannins and makes them less astringent. This stage is crucial for creating the best flavors possible. Unfermented beans will not have that signature chocolate taste and will be bitter, and improperly fermented beans will have off-tastes like smoked ham.
4. THE BEANS ARE DRIED. In most cases, the wet beans are dried in the sun in a single layer on a concrete patio, on a road, or in a drying shed. After the beans are dried to approximately 7 percent moisture content, they are stable and ready to be made into chocolate!
Many of the tastes we find in chocolate are cemented during the fermenting and drying stages. When beans are fermented and dried correctly, the chocolate flavors come through; when they're not, other flavors (acid, smoke, and so on) overwhelm the chocolate. For example, beans from Papua New Guinea are notorious for their smoky taste. But that's not inherent in the bean. In Papua New Guinea, it rains almost every day. So farmers dry their beans over wood fires, where the smoke seeps into them, changing the flavor. Some call this a defect, but more recently a few makers have started celebrating that distinctive flavor note, like Scott Moore Jr. of Tejas Chocolate, whose smoky bars do well in Texas, the land of barbecue.
Regardless, after this four-step process, the beans are often shipped to other countries for bean-to-bar companies to make into chocolate in their factories at home. But the process is far from over — in fact, it's just getting started!
WHEN ROBERT STEINBERG AND JOHN SCHARFFENBERGER started making chocolate from scratch in 1996 in the Bay Area, they thought it would be a nice "weekend project," John told me recently. Little did they know that they were starting an American revolution and inspiring a generation of bean-to-bar makers. In fact, they coined the term bean to bar!
Scharffen Berger's delicious blended bars took off almost immediately, and they soon became a staple of the West Coast scene. In the early 2000s the Hershey Corporation offered to buy Scharffen Berger for much more than the company was worth, and in 2005 they sold to Hershey for about $50 million. Hershey immediately moved the headquarters to Illinois and changed their methods of production.
Many bean-to-bar makers, including Todd Masonis of Dandelion Chocolate, say that this acquisition convinced them they needed to make their own bean-to-bar chocolate. It was a defining moment, revealing both how good chocolate can be and how frustrating it was that an artisanal company would sell out. They saw the event as the turning point in their careers, when they knew that their passion had to shift from a hobby into a business.
How Cocoa Beans Become Chocolate
Once the beans find their way into the chocolate maker's hands, it's really time to have some fun. The entire chocolate-making process helps get rid of acidity and off-tastes to bring out the chocolate notes and let other flavors shine. Here's how it works.
1. ROAST THE BEANS. Chocolate makers use everything from conventional kitchen ovens to reengineered clothes dryers for roasting, and the temperature and time aren't standardized at all. But the roaster, temperature, and timing hugely affect how the chocolate tastes, so this is one of the most important steps in the chocolate-making process. Almost all chocolate makers roast the beans, though a few have sidestepped this part of the process and choose to make chocolate straight from dried beans.
2. CRACK, SORT, AND WINNOW. After roasting, each cocoa bean needs to be cracked to reveal the cocoa nibs inside. The cracked beans are then sorted into nibs and inedible husks in a process called winnowing. The husks will be turned into compost or thrown away, while the nibs will become chocolate.
3. GRIND AND REFINE THE NIBS. The cocoa nibs are ground into tiny, tiny particles in a machine called a melangeur so that the resulting chocolate "liquor" is, well, liquidy. It's often pretty gritty at this stage, so it's then ground again with sugar and other ingredients, often in machines called roll refiners or ball mills, to make sure all the particles of cocoa, sugar, and anything else are the same tiny micron size. Some makers then use a machine called a conche to mix and polish the chocolate and release volatile acids, making it even smoother and more like the European-style chocolate that we're used to eating.
4. TEMPER. The final chocolate must be heated and cooled to the correct temperature to have a nice snap and sheen. After this process, the chocolate is shelf-stable and ready to be eaten!
By changing variables like the roasting temperature and the type of machine they use, makers can shape the chocolate and bring out different flavors, creating chocolate that fits their personality (and taste buds).
Cocoa nibs are the broken pieces of the cocoa bean after the bean has been separated from the shell. The nibs can be eaten on their own or ground to make chocolate liquor.
Chocolate liquor refers to the ground-up cocoa nibs, whether in molten liquid or solid block form, without sugar. It is not alcoholic in any way (sorry). Chocolate liquor + any added cocoa butter = cocoa percentage.
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH "CACAO" AND "COCOA"?
AH, THE GREAT DEBATE: Which word do you use when? And will you sound pompous if you use the word cacao? I can't answer the second question for you, but I'll try to answer the first. Everyone seems to have a different opinion. For example, chocolate maker Jacques Torres has said that the word cocoa means nothing to him, whereas other experts and makers say they prefer the word cocoa because it's less intimidating to the uninitiated. Meanwhile, pastry chef and chocolate expert David Lebovitz says in The Great Book of Chocolate that cacao refers to the pod, the beans, and the paste you make with the beans (also called chocolate liquor). Cocoa, on the other hand, refers to the powder made when you press the liquor enough to separate it into cocoa butter and powder.
That might be true, but within the bean-to-bar movement, cacao generally refers to the pod and the beans until the beans are finished being fermented and dried. From that point on, it's referred to as cocoa. I suspect that the word cocoa has developed a bad reputation because it often connotes alkalized cocoa powder (that is, a very processed food). So health food companies have started using cacao, even though it's not technically accurate.
It's worth mentioning here that cocoa doesn't mean an inferior product; alkalized cocoa, sometimes called Dutched cocoa, has simply been treated with an alkaline solution. Compared to natural cocoa powder, it's a deeper, darker brown. It's a familiar taste for Americans; think packaged hot chocolate or, in expert Ed Seguine's words, "the essence of an Oreo cookie." Natural cocoa powder, on the other hand, has not been processed with alkali. It looks lighter brown than alkalized (Dutch-processed) cocoa and tastes slightly more bitter but has more chocolate flavor.
But honestly, no matter which word you use, everyone will know what you're talking about: something awesome, something chocolate.
W ater-Based Drinking Chocolate
Recipe from Aubrey Lindley, co-owner of Cacao
YOU MAY HAVE HEARD that water and chocolate don't mix, but this simple recipe from specialty chocolate store Cacao, in Portland, Oregon, proves that old adage wrong. Flavor notes come alive when you melt chocolate and drink it, leaping from subtlety to center stage on your tongue. This recipe will work with any singleorigin or dark chocolate blend and is a fun way to try different chocolates. Using water instead of milk or cream intensifies the experience without introducing any other tastes, so you can concentrate on the chocolate goodness. I like it served warm, like a cup of tea.
* 1 ½ cups water
• 8 ½ ounces dark chocolate (68 to 75 percent cocoa), chopped
1. Bring the water to a boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Cover and let sit for 30 to 45 seconds.
2. Whisk gently and scrape the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula to make sure the chocolate isn't stuck to it. Put the pan back on the burner (keep it turned off) and let rest until the chocolate is completely melted, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two to emulsify completely. Check the consistency by seeing if it sticks to the back of a clean spoon. If it is lumpy, keep mixing. If it sticks and is smooth, you are finished. Don't confuse bubbles for clumps; small air bubbles are okay! Some bits of chocolate will stubbornly remain at the bottom of the pan, but don't worry about them.
4. Serve warm. The flavors and texture will evolve as it gradually cools and rests.
Recipe from Miss Choco
I VISITED A CUTE LITTLE CHOCOLATE shop in Montreal a few years ago called La Tablette de Miss Choco and found a wealth of craft bars as well as knowledge. Miss Choco (otherwise known as Karine C. Guillemette) walked me through some of the best bars on the market and the stories of their makers. She also pressed a delightful cold drink into my hands: subtle, fruity, and refreshing in the unprecedentedly hot Montreal summer. Turned out it was iced cocoa tea!
Excerpted from "Bean-to-Bar Chocolate"
Copyright © 2017 Megan Giller.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Michael Laiskonis Introduction: Chocoholics Anonymous: From Cake to Craft About the Recipes in This Book 1 From the Bean 2 A Sense of Place 3 Tasting and Eating 4 Chocolate Snobs Don't Eat Milk Chocolate (and Other Myths, Debunked) 5 Labeling and the Art of Design 6 Ethics for the Next Century 7 The Future of Chocolate Epilogue: Chocolate Revolution Appendix: Chocolate Timeline The History of the World ... in Chocolate! My Top 50 Bean-to-Bar Makers in the United States Farms, Co-Ops, and Companies Glossary of Chocolate Words Selected Bibliography Thanks Index