Sunday, February 24, 2013

Make Your Own Chocolate

Have you ever wanted to make your own chocolate? I never did, being quite satisfied with the chocolate others make that I can buy, but when I came across this kit from Verve, Inc, makers of GleeGum and DIY candy kits, I had to try it, out of civic duty and curiosity, and well.... chocolate!

First, a caveat. I suck at this sort of thing. I don't really cook, and the baking I do is mostly from mixes, and I'm barely competent with those. The only thing I make from scratch is chocolate chip cookies using The Joy of Cooking's recipe, and doubling the chips and using dark brown sugar. They ain't pretty, but they are tasty, and full of chocolate, as I use mini chips to pack more in per cookie. But, I digress.

Make Your Own Chocolate from Scratch Kit
I started off with a handicap. I don't have a double boiler, nor do I have a microwave safe glass bowl. I have a glass bowl, but I wasn't going to risk putting it in the microwave. So I used an old microwave dish that didn't work with the temperature thingie that came with the kit. This is important, as we'll get to later. But since I wasn't going to buy a whole new set of kitchenware for this experiment in chocolate making, I figured I'd just make do, especially since the instructions claimed that if the chocolate doesn't temper properly, it should still taste good!

First up, was melting the cocoa butter, which was included in the kit. In fact, everything you need is in the kit other than the kitchenware and things you want to add to the chocolate, such as marshmallows and/or nuts, none of which I bothered with, though I did toss one blue M&M into one of the chocolate cups.

I've taken photos of the process. I also had an assistant. Ugly Doll Wage stepped up to give me a hand. This is a rather long post for this blog because, well, the photos! I had a lot of fun doing this, but I'll admit that stopping every few minutes to take photos probably threw off the timing of some steps, which might've affected how the chocolate came out, although, as you'll find out at the end of this long post, it came out quite tasty!

Chocolate Making Ingredients
The cocoa butter is the yellow stuff on the left. It's a thin brittle brick. The white powder is the confectioner's sugar, the brown stuff above it is the cocoa powder, and the darker brown stuff is the starter crystals.

Wage Shows the Melted Butter
Next comes stirring in the cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar.
Wage Prepares to Add the Cocoa Powder
Wage Stirs in the Cocoa Powder

Wage Dumps in the Confectioner's Sugar
The concoction is stirred until the lumps are gone. This is NOT my strong suit. I couldn't get rid of all the lumps. I decided lumpy chocolate would be acceptable.

Heating the concoction is the next step, but for only a very short time. In the microwave, that meant on High for no more than 10 seconds. The idea here is to remove moisture and make the chocolate smoother. I'm not sure how much that worked on my lumpy mixture.

Wage with the Blended Chocolate Concoction
This is where my lack of proper container/bowl came into play. The concoction needs to be cooled and the kit includes a little thermometer that sticks onto the bowl or metal pan from the double boiler. You stick it near the bottom and it indicates when the mixture has cooled to the very important 94 degrees F. However, it just never picked up the temperature of my mixture through whatever my container is made of (I have no idea what it's made of!) and therefore, the mixture cooled a bit more than that. At the magic temperature of 94 degrees F. is when you add the starter crystals, which help temper the chocolate, which as explained by the instructions, is how chocolate gets shiny and cracks when you break it. I had Wage add in the crystals, but I have no idea if the tempering went well, especially since the mixture was still rather lumpy.

You can also add a bit of vanilla. I didn't. At this time, the instructions suggest readying your little paper cups by adding to them anything you want in your chocolate: nuts, fruit bits, tiny marshmallows (the cups really are small), jelly beans, whatever.

Wage Adds the Starter Crystals

Close-Up of the Starter Crystals
Next comes pouring the mixture into the paper cups. I didn't fill them and I did only 6 because I was getting it all over the countertop. I have enough trouble getting muffin and cupcake mix into much larger paper cups, so this was a real challenge.

Wage Filling a Paper Cup with Chocolate Mixture
The cups with the chocolate next go into the fridge to cool. It takes about 15 minutes for them to be ready.

Chocolate Ready to Cool

Wage with a Finished Piece of Chocolate
Despite the mess I made, and not having the right tools and all, the finished chocolate was very tasty! It was a bit sweet, but not milk chocolate sweet. It had a bit of a kick to it, and the lumps didn't bother me. They made me think of Rice Krispies. I had a friend over yesterday, and she tried a piece and liked it, too.

Close-Up of a Handmade Piece of Chocolate. Please Ignore the Lumps!

There's a video that pretty much is the instructions brought to life.

Conclusion: If you want to make your own chocolate, this kit's for you! Anyone more competent in the kitchen should have no trouble with this kit.

Feeling: accomplished