How Miami’s Chocolate Master Creates the Perfect Bar of Chocolate — Handmade

(smashing) – You can smell all the aroma come out when you crush them which is really nice. All those beautiful chocolate flavors. Chocolate is happiness, it’s something that can really soothe your mind and soothe your soul. I think for a long time, we’ve grown up with this idea that chocolate is either dark or sweet and that’s it. Chocolate can be a lot more just like wine, just like fruits. So this is basically how we receive the cacao. The beans themselves are already fermented and dried, and we bring from different farms throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and we keep them all single-origin. So chocolate is a fruit. It grows on trees, it comes from the cacao pod. Inside you’ll find a pulpy fruit that is called baba. It has the consistency of soursop and then the flavor of a lychee. In our case, what we’re looking for is the actual seed part and that’s the cocoa bean, what ultimately will be transformed into chocolate.


This variety that we have from Peru is from Marañón. It’s considered to be one of the rarest cacaos in the world. It was thought extinct for about 100 years, and it grew wild in that time. It actually looks like milk chocolate because about 40% of the beans themselves are considered white beans or kinda caramel colored, and then over in Guatemala, we also received this variety which tastes a lot like oranges ’cause they grow a lot of oranges on that particular farm. So each farm and each country and even specific regions have different flavors. We have chocolates that can be nutty, earthy, fruity, and that’s all coming form the soil where it’s grown, but also the bacteria that plays a role in its fermentation. We will hand-select all of the best cocoa beans for us to use. We’re really looking to take out anything that’s not a cacao. Sometimes you get twin beans like this. What will happen is they won’t roast evenly.


At the end of the day, we’re trying to make a better product than what’s been commercially available. So to us, this is very important. You’ll notice all these fissures inside the bean. And that means that when the bacteria came in during the fermentation, it really broke down the cell walls and it let all those flavors mix in, so that’s what we’re really looking for is color, flavor and fissures in terms of quality of cacao. And so, we’ll pat it down just to make sure it’s even because we want an even roasting. What happens in roasting is something called the Maillard reaction. The amino acids and the sugars start to interact with the heat and it starts to develop the flavors and also the aroma that comes from the cacao. So similar to sort of searing a piece of steak, the same is happening with our cacao in that process.


We let it cool down usually for a few hours and you have the shell which is called the husk, and the nib is ultimately what becomes chocolate. So a lot of people think that dark chocolate is bitter, and the reality is, when it’s bitter, it’s typically over-roasted, which means that it’s burnt. That’s why we medium-roast. It’s lighter, it’s fruity, you can taste all these different things, and when we do chocolate tastings, people can really appreciate that we have an Ecuadorian that tastes like raisins, we have a Guatemalan that tastes like oranges, and then we have our Haitian that tastes super earthy. So then we let the cacao rest from roasting, and then we’ll wanna winnow, and that process is simply cracking the bean and removing the shell. You’ll notice it’s most of the shell goes out towards the outside and then the nib stays in place ’cause of how heavy it is.

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So this is the machine that we use now. Chocolate’s sort of been monopolized for so many decades, so there’s not really equipment that we can use as small craft producers. We have a Champion Juicer from Amazon and then we have a Shop Vac from Home Depot, and the way it works is just like I was crushing it with a hammer, the Champion Juicer will crush all the beans, and instead of blowing air into it, we have a vacuum which has that same method. As the beans drop down, they’re crushed, as air sucks in, it’ll take that lighter shell or husk up into here, and then that heavier nib will fall down ’cause it avoids the air that’s blowing in there. 15 to 20% of the bean itself is husk which in most places becomes trash, but we actually don’t throw out a single piece of husk. So one of the big ways that we found a home for them has been in beers. It produces a different layer of flavor when they ferment the beer with it.


You can actually brew tea with it, and it tastes almost like this earthy hot chocolate. So we’re gonna pre-mill it in order to make it a little bit smoother on our conching machines. The friction is creating heat and the heat is activating the cocoa butter that’s present in the bean, and that’s what will cause it to liquefy. Starts to resemble when you start making brownie batter. So now, that same cacao suddenly is liquid. This is what we would call a chocolate liqueur. It’s just the nib broken down. It’s almost like a very chunky peanut butter, very, very astringent, you sort of feel here, the texture is quite gritty, so we would need to smooth it out, add sugar,


if we’re gonna make milk chocolate, add milk in order to transform it into the chocolate we’re used to. I spent part of my childhood in Barranquilla in Colombia. Chocolate for Colombians is simply made. It’s just very, very good dark chocolate, and that was something very satisfying and something that I really enjoyed and stuck with me for many years. And then from there, it’ll go into our refiners. So originally, these machines are actually nut grinders, so they’re used primarily in India to make nut butters, sometimes with peanuts. In this machine, you find two giant stone rollers and a granite slab, and what they do is two things, one, refine down so it’s smooth, it’s velvety like we’re used to with chocolate.


The other thing it’s doing is a process called conching, and what it does is air is continuously moving in and out of the mixture and aerating it. So very similar to when you open up a bottle of red wine and you let it breathe, we’re doing the same thing with the cacao. All of those tannins, those volatiles are evaporating as air comes in, and it makes the chocolate milder as the process runs. We’ll let these run for about four days straight, and it’ll refine everything down. So this is the sugar we use. It’s unrefined, has more of a molasses taste to it, it sweetens the chocolate, but doesn’t over power it. In this middle machine, we’re making milk chocolate.

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We added also cane sugar, a little bit of cocoa butter for texture and then we added milk powder because we can’t add any sort of liquids or anything that’s water-based into our mixture, otherwise it’s sort of like when you add water to flour. It will really not work well with the molecules in the cacao. And then in here, we’re making white chocolate. The one thing we don’t have is any cacao nibs, so this is primarily based off cocoa butter, unrefined cane sugar and milk powder.


So typically, when you have milk powder, it’s this color. I’m not a huge fan of that type of white chocolate, so we like to do something near caramelized. We actually take this milk and we slowly roast it in the oven. It has a nice toasty note to it, which is really delicious. (moving music) When we take the chocolate out of the machine, at that point, it is couverture and that’s when most places would buy that finished product in order to make their items.


We use a filter which is actually meant for honey, and it’s catching any nibs that we didn’t refine and that way we have a final smooth product. When you’re producing tons and tons of chocolate each year, you have to buy from a bunch of different places and blend it together in order to sell quantity. Those companies want the chocolate to always taste consistently the same. So when you overroast, you can maintain a consistency and then you can mask it with things like vanilla so that that’s always what consumers taste. In big manufacturing, they’re typically connected via tubes and chocolate has to travel from one side of the factory to the other, so they’ll use a lot of times lecithin to help it run smoother from one side to the next.


So it’s really an aid in production. We don’t use any of those things because you’re tasting exactly what they’re producing on that farm from the soil, from the environment versus just eating something that’s blended together that has no different notes or flavor profiles from it. That chocolate will solidify and will turn from this into this over the course of a day. (banging on tray) The cocoa butter that’s present in all chocolates we eat is a six-phase polymorphic crystal, which means at any point it can be in six different types of stages. At this stage, it’s not in its ideal form so that’s why it creates these weird color patterns. If you were to bite into it, it would be sandy. Because of that textural change, it’ll alter the way you experience the chocolate. It won’t be as pleasant. But if we’re gonna make any sort of bars or bonbons, we’ll have to temper it. We’ve melted down the chocolate to about 40, 42 degrees celsius to take out all those crystals that we don’t want. We’re gonna slowly cool down the chocolate.

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So we’re using temperature and movement to form a crystal formation that will create a chocolate that is silky to your palate. This is extremely important. You can make the best tasting chocolate in the world, but based on that texture will not be as good as when you have a good temper. So the mixing is just adding the good crystals that we just formed in that batch into the rest of the chocolate that is untempered. All the molecules get into formation, form a little conga line, and in doing so, all of the chocolate molecules are in order and look nice. One of the things that’s very important is how we source. Most farm holders live under a dollar a day. It’s a very difficult industry. For us, it’s really important to support these producers who are investing time, money to produce something better. They should be compensated for what they’re doing.

We’re not talking about fair trade, we’re going above that which is direct trade and being able to pay them more than that basic commodity price. So we’re gonna start the process of making bonbons. So this color is made out of cocoa butter, which comes from the cacao bean. It has a little bit of coloring in it, and what we’ve done prior to this is tempered it in order for it to be shiny and glossy just like our chocolate has to go through that process. So one of the things that makes us unique is that we’re a bean-to-bon, and that means that we produce all the chocolate that goes into our bonbon. I actually am an organizational psychologist by training. I worked as a management consultant. I was in Europe, in Paris, and I had this amazing hot chocolate, and it just seemed so simple, yet well made, I just couldn’t stop thinking about what a great thing it was and how I wanted to bring to the US something similar to what I had tasted overseas. So this ganache is made out of dark chocolate and then some rum. And when it crystallizes, we’re able to do the final layer of chocolate which is the foot of the bonbon.

I would use a couverture to play around and see how it worked. I realized it was either too sweet, I just didn’t focus on the cacao, it was blended, it was a lot of the things that just didn’t seem to highlight and recreate that experience that I had had with that hot chocolate. I knew I wanted to take it all the way back to the bean. Making a product like this that’s so labor intensive by hand helps us control the process more from start to finish. When we roast and we analyze,

we have more of a care after what we’re doing as opposed to just everything being fed through a machine, and it takes us about a week, but it takes the farmers two to three years to grow the plant, six months from the time the flower comes out till the pod is ready, and then from when the pod gets cut, another two weeks. So it’s a very long process, behind each bar, there’s a farmer and a story behind all of that and we really wanna make sure that we honor that. We’re talking years in the making to consume that final piece of chocolate that you buy and consume.