Chocolate bars have been around for a long time, but we’ve gotten used to having them any time we want from the grocery store. While it’s not uncommon to bake from scratch using chocolate, making one’s own chocolate can be a whole other kettle of fish. As it turns out the process takes a lot longer and is far more involved than we thought.
To start with you have to harvest the inner seeds of the cocoa pod. Unlike how you may have seen the seeds, also called nibs, packaged in the store they are surrounded by a juicy, white flesh when inside the pod.
This pale flesh can be eaten, but in order to make a chocolate bar the flesh and beans both have to be fermented together. Once exposed to air, this fermented mixture begins to oxidize and turn the brown color we know chocolate to be, but it’s far from chocolate at this point.
Once fermented the beans have to be dehydrated and then roasted. Doing this allows for the skins to be removed.
Once the skins are peeled off then the beans have to be ground up very finely. In the professional world of chocolate making a special tool called a conche grinds and aerates the cocoa. In lieu of conching the nibs, grinding in a blender or using a mortar and pestle are the alternative methods.
Once ground the process of melting the chocolate begins. This helped with the addition of cocoa butter, a naturally occurring product that usually forms during the commercial production process, but which can be made in its own right.
Once melted the chocolate needs to be tempered. This process makes the chocolate appear somewhat glossy and keeps it from melting as quickly. It also improves the texture of a chocolate bar. To do this the mixture is melted and then cooled slightly before a small portion of high-quality tempered chocolate is added to the mix and melted also. This starter chocolate piece sets up the crystal pattern for the rest of the chocolate and tempers it.
After that it’s time to pour the chocolate into a mold. Whew that’s a lot of work! Obviously large operations in candy factories have all the equipment set up and have rigid recipes they adhere to in order to get consistent results each time. Making chocolate bars at home isn’t going to be nearly so streamlined. But, it’s nice to know that’s it is possible– even if we aren’t going to be making our own any time soon.