Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple

30 Apr

With these iconic words ringing in my ears I set about to become the chocolate king I had always dreamed off.

I won’t lie; I have grand ambitions to be the next Willy Wonka.

So with these expectations of grandeur and the craving of chocolate goodness (which has been building up as I watch everyone around me gorge on mini eggs, crème eggs and a plethora of other chocolaty delights) I set out on Easter Sunday to make my own chocolate … sans recipe.

If this was a Shakespearean tragedy I believe we would all analyse this to be my fatal flaw. The inevitable thing that would lead me down a path I could not turn back from, into the depths of the graveyard of broken dreams in which I now reside.

A touch dramatic?

Well yes, probably … but it gives you a hint at how much was riding on this.

Let’s get our feet back on the ground shall we.

So Sunday morning arrives bright and sunny and filled with the hope of summer. I was equally bright eyed and bushy tailed with the undamaged glow of expectation like a school child on the first day of summer – I had so much to look forward to.

I got my cocoa beans (I used about 2oz for experiment 1) and set about making chocolate (again, I remind you, without a recipe).

The man I bought the (magic) beans off gave me this as a working structure for making chocolate:

  1. Roast the beans in a pan until you smell chocolate 
  2. Crack the husks off the beans
  3. Grind the beans
  4. Add hot water

I am sure this works for him and the South American chocolate makers, however it categorically did not work for me.

For starters I probably roasted the beans for slightly too long (burnt chocolate does not smell good). I kept them in a pan for about 15 mins (5 probably would have done the trick).  As an aside I think the ones that were done well didn’t really change in appearance and the husks just cracked off – by this I mean don’t trust your instincts they’re probably wrong!

So stage two. Husking. This was actually fine. It was slightly fiddly with the ones that were overdone, however I would happily do this stage again exactly the same way.

Then we come to the grinding. For this I used my parents coffee grinder and produced what I thought was a fairly thin paste, give or take a few lumps.  Again I was wrong. I think a grinder and a pestle and mortar/two stages of grinding could be the way forward for the future.

Then came the real downfall, adding the water. I added some boiling water to the ground beans and got a lumpy paste.  So I kept on adding and got a watery mess. Then after slowly heating the mix I got to what looked like melted chocolate. Success! I thought, but alas it was not meant to be  as the mixture was still very grainy. The scientist in me reared its ugly head and said ‘Eureka! This is saturated so I need to add more liquid!’, which I did in the form of hot milk.

The outcome = still liquid, still granulated, still 😦

So I kept on heating, mixing, and hoping and then I gave up and poured the liquidy mess into a plastic tub and crossed my fingers that it would set.

I bet you can guess how this ends, and if you can’t clearly my overdramatic narrative has completely failed. Long story short – it didn’t!

It did however form itself into a thick paste- almost a solid – let’s call it a squidgy solid, and didn’t actually taste that bad.

So instead of chocolate I made chocolate paste that got turned into hot chocolate.

Experiment 1 = failure.

The oracle (my mother) very stoically said overcoming obstacles e.g. major chocolate failure, was all part of the experience. However there was a part of me that wanted to cry in despair at my broken dream of being a chocolatier. The child in my head was having major tantrums and screaming ‘It’s my favourite food off all and I can’t make it From Scratch’ I’m a failure!’

THEN just as I was falling into the depths of utter despair (read collapsed on to the floor in a tantrumy mess) I was wrenched out by a gift from the food gods in the form of ‘On food and cooking’ by Harold McGee

This book is a scientific exploration of different foods and the processes behind making them. Unsurprisingly then it has the entire chocolate making process and describes the science behind it. The words smiled down like nectar from a cocoa deity and with that I decided to shake off the failure and start a fresh with batch number 2.

Alas roast lamb, venison casserole, simnel cake and other family meals got in the way (and yes, if you’re wondering we do class cake as a meal).

Nonetheless with the Royal wedding weekend now in full swing, what better way to celebrate than a batch of chocolate truffles.

Experiment number 2: watch this space…

 
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