How chocolate is made 101

_MG_1759   Although other ingredients are added, most notably sugar or other sweeteners, flavoring agents, cocoa beans are the primary component of chocolate.
Cocoa trees are evergreens grow mainly within 20 degrees of the equator, at altitudes of between 100 and 1,000 feet above sea level. Native to South and Central America, the trees are currently grown on commercial plantations in such places as Malaysia, Brazil, Ecuador, and West Africa. West Africa currently produces nearly three quarters of the world’s 75,000 ton annual cocoa bean crop, while Brazil is the largest producer in the Western Hemisphere.
Because they are relatively delicate, the trees can be harmed by full sun, fungi, and insect pests. To minimize such damage, they are usually planted with other trees such as rubber or banana. The other crops afford protection from the sun and provide plantation owners with an additional source of income.
The pods, the fruit of the cocoa tree, are 6-10 inches long and 3-4 inches in diameter. Most trees bear only about 30 to 40 pods, each of which contains between 20 and 40 inch-long  beans in a gummy liquid. The pods ripen in three to four months, and, because of the even climate in which the trees grow, they ripen continually throughout the year. However, the greatest number of pods are harvested between May and December.
Of the 30 to 40 pods on a typical cacao tree, no more than half will be mature at any given time. Only the mature fruits can be harvested, as only they will produce top quality ingredients. After being cut from the trees with machetes or knives mounted on poles (the trees are too delicate to be climbed), mature pods are opened on the plantation with a large knife or machete. The beans inside are then manually removed.
Still mixed with pulp from the pods, the seeds are piled on the ground, where they are allowed to heat beneath the sun for several days (some plantations also dry the beans mechanically, if necessary). Enzymes from the pulp combine with wild, airborne yeasts to cause a small amount of fermentation that will make the final product even more appetizing. During the fermenting process, the beans reach a temperature of about 125f (51c). This kills the embryos, preventing the beans from sprouting while in transit; it also stimulates decomposition of the beans’ cell walls. Once the beans have sufficiently fermented, they will be stripped of the remaining pulp and dried. Next, they are graded and bagged in sacks weighing from 130 to 200lbs .They will then be stored until they are inspected, after which they will be shipped to an auction to be sold to chocolate makers.

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1 Once a company has received a shipment of cocoa beans at its processing plant, the beans are roasted, first on screens and then in revolving cylinders through which very hot air is blown. Over a period of 30 minutes to 2 hours, the moisture in the beans is reduced from about seven percent to about one percent. The roasting process triggers a browning reaction, in which more than 300 different chemicals present in the cocoa beans interact. The beans now begin to develop the rich flavor we associate with chocolate.
2 Roasting also causes the shells to open and break away from the nibs (the meat of the bean). This separation process can be completed by blowing air across the beans as they go through a giant winnowing machine called a cracker and fanner, which loosens the hulls from the beans without crushing them. The hulls, now separated from the nibs, are usually sold as either mulch or fertilizer. They are also sometimes used as a commercial boiler fuel.
3 Next, the roasted nibs undergo broyage, a process of crushing that takes place in a grinder made of revolving granite blocks. The design of the grinder may vary, but most resemble old-fashioned flour mills. The final product of this grinding process, made up of small particles of the nib suspended in oil, is a thick syrup known as chocolate liquor.

4 The next step is refining, during which the liquor is further ground between sets of revolving metal drums. Each successive rolling is faster than the preceding one because the liquor is becoming smoother and flows easier. The ultimate goal is to reduce the size of the particles in the liquor to about .001 inch.
5 If the chocolate being produced is to be cocoa powder, from which hot chocolate and baking mixes are made, the chocolate liquor may be dutched, a process so-named because it was invented by the Dutch chocolate maker Casparus van Houten. In the dutching process, the liquor is treated with an alkaline solution, usually potassium carbonate, that raises its pH from 5.5 to 7 or 8. This increase darkens the color of the cocoa, renders its flavor more mild, and reduces the tendency of the nib particles to form clumps in the liquor. The powder that eventually ensues is called dutch cocoa.
6 The next step in making cocoa powder is defatting the chocolate liquor, or removing large amounts of butter from it. This is done by further compressing the liquor between rollers, until about half of the fat from its cocoa beans has been released. The resulting solid material, commonly called press cake, is then broken, chopped, or crushed before being sifted to produce cocoa powder. When additives such as sugar or other sweeteners have been blended, this cocoa powder becomes a modern version of chocolate….
7 If the chocolate being produced is to become candy, the press cake is remixed with some of the removed cocoa butter. The restored cocoa butter is necessary for texture and consistency, and different types of chocolate require different amounts of cocoa butter.
8 The mixture now undergoes a process known as conching, in which it is continuously turned and ground in a huge open vat. The process’s name derives from older vats, which resembled large conch shells. The conching process can last from between three hours to three days (more time is not necessarily better, however). This is the most important step in making chocolate. The speed and temperature of the mixing are critical in determining the quality of the final product.
9 Another crucial aspect of conching is the time and rate at which other ingredients are added. The ingredients added during conching determine what type of chocolate is produced: sweet chocolate consists of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, sugar, and vanilla; milk chocolate contains sweet chocolate with powdered whole milk or whole liquid milk.
10 At the end of the conching process, the chocolate is poured into molds, cooled, cut, and wrapped.

In 1828,The Father of Modern Chocolate,Casparus van Houten (of the Dutching process)changed the world of Chocolate Production making Dutch Chocolate one of the most respected in the world.The introduction of cocoa powder not only made creating chocolate drinks much easier, but also made it possible to combine chocolate with sugar and then remix it with cocoa butter to create a solid, already closely resembling today’s eating chocolate.So as you can see Chocolate Making truly is an industrial process, born in the Age of Steam .

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chocolate liquor

Birthdayliciousness a.k.a Portuguese Olive Oil Lemon Cake

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Yesterday I moved even further into my 40’s than I honestly feel comfortable with. Age is relative, you’re as old as you feel , young at heart, blah blah blah pass the cake please, not a slice , the whole damn thing!

Being a Chef and Chocolatier , I’d rather bake my own cake , not because I think it would be better than Shawn’s ( he’s an awesome baker ) but because I just really love doing it. When he asked if he could bake something for my birthday I already had it in hand.

Chocolate is my ‘bread and butter’ but what I love most is fresh, tangy lemon when I think of cake. In my opinion birthday cakes should be gold or yellow or white, just a thing I have and since it was my day , golden lemon it would jolly well be.

I first had an olive oil cake when I was on holiday one January on the Portuguese island of Madeira. “The Island of Eternal Springtime” turned out to be “The Island of Endless Rain, Wind and Hail” but that’s another story. I remember eating this cake at a boulevard Café-Kiosk and falling head over heels in love with the moist yet firm texture and that intoxicating aroma of lemon zest. This is my version of that memory of Portugal and it’s beyond easy.

Ingredients:

4 eggs at room temperature

1 cup powder sugar

Juice and zest of 2 large lemons

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Set oven at 350f.

Beat the eggs, juice and zest , salt and sugar at high speed until frothy and light in colour , about 5 minutes.

Add the oil , baking powder and flour and beat well until smooth, the mixture will be thin and pancake batter-like.

Pour into a prepared 8-9″ cake pan. That means whatever you do to prevent the cake sticking , I usually grease and flour it and place a small piece of parchment paper in the center.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a cocktail stick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cake will not be browned! That is the intention. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan with a saucepan lid on top to trap all the moisture.

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The Lemon Olive Oil Cake I enjoyed in Portugal was dusted with powdered sugar but this one was my birthday cake and you can’t have a birthday without frosting, right?

I took a cup and a half of powder sugar , added 1/4 tsp vanilla extract , the finely grated zest of one lemon and stirred in the juice drop by drop until I had a   thick but pourable Glacé Icing. Then I added one large leaf of fresh basil very finely chopped.

When the cake is completely cooled transfer it to a serving platter and pour  the icing into the center , spread from the middle outwards toward the edges , in a circular motion until evenly coated.

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I finished the top with some white chocolate decor I had in the pantry but you can serve it as is , with some unsweetened sour cream or creme fraiche dolloped on top , or grate some good quality white chocolate over it, whatever…. just keep it light and bright.

This cake is airy but firm and very tender and moist . The citrus is party in your mouth the olive oil accentuating the fruit.

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I have a half a cake left , although it did hear the ::chink:: of a fork against a plate from the kitchen just now . I think I need to go be the Birthday Cake Police before it all disappears.

PJK

 

 

 

Butternut Chocolate Cake

After a day at work, during which all I could think about was putting my feet up with a big chunk of cake, I found self rummaging through the cupboard looking for ingredients to make it happen…
Yes , I had the essentials , flour , sugar , some cocoa powder, but how could I up the volume ? A trip to the fridge and I had it … Butternut squash.

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A friend asked me for the recipe and remarked ” oh ! A vegan recipe that doesn’t p*** me off!” And that’s exactly what this is … No manipulation , no trying to make something that isn’t of animal origin seem like it is . It’s easy , moist and very rich!

Ingredients:
2 cups finely ground butternut squash ( chop to hell in the food processor)
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup almond milk ( or regular milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tblsp any unsweetened nut butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Mix the dry stuff together .
Mix the wet stuff together .
Add to the dry stuff
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Transfer to a greased and floured 9 inch round cake pan and bake at 350f for about 25-30 minutes or until a cocktail stick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cover with a piece of kitchen paper and then a saucepan lid until completely cooled , this traps in all the moisture. Turn out of the pan onto a serving plate.20140621-161008-58208938.jpg
You can eat it as it is but I decided to make it good and gooey with a chocolate frosting creme.

Blend 3 large avocados with a 1/2lb melted dark chocolate, 1/4 cup of raw cane sugar , a tablespoon of coconut oil and a teaspoon vanilla extract . It will be smooth enough to spread over the surface of the cake but when cooled will firm up to create a fudgey layer . It’s basically Avocado Ganache.

I finished the top off with some grated 70% Cacao chocolate .

The cake didn’t last two days … By the next day the Squash had done its work , making the cake even moister than it already was. It really is an amazing result for very little work. My partner Shawn is a cake lover and I am the enabler. Win win .
PJK.

The Devil finds work for idle hands to do .

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I was waiting for it to be a decent time to have a glass of wine here on this solitary Easter Sunday.
I had flour , yeast , evoo and some fridge-stuff , and this is what it became .

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I eyeballed it of course, no surprise there. A packet of dried yeast is something I always have lurking around in the pantry . A coffee cup full of warm water , a half tsp salt and a half tsp sugar , splash of evoo , mix in the yeast , stir stir stir.

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I added organic flour from a local mill .. yeah , I know … a local mill you’re probably thinking it’s some Dutch windmill or something. :::cough::it is::cough::: !

I kept adding flour and stirring until I had a soft dough , then turned it out on the counter and kneaded it until smooth and elastic … about ten minutes. Then I returned it to the mixing bowl and let it rise over night in the pantry.

The next morning I took a big, deep breath of the boozy ,yeasty behemoth rising up out of the bowl and punched it down, turned it onto a floured surface and kneaded it again till smooth and elastic .. how long? The length of time it takes to drink a cup of coffee .

20140420-173144.jpgI rummaged through the fridge and found some sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil  kicking around and then went to the back yard and picked a bunch of fresh rosemary … I flattened the dough and scattered it with the chopped tomatoes and rosemary; “chopped” meaning snipped with a pair of scissors . Finished it off  with a dusting of Parmesan and plenty of black pepper. There are few rules when I’m in the kitchen , if you feel the desire to recreate this just go with what you have available , it’s what I’d do, Dear Reader.

I then rolled it tightly into a sausage and placed it in a baking tin lined with parchment… it formed a nice ring shape.

 

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The scissors were lying there on the counter covered in oil, remnants of tomato and speckled with rosemary.. I cleaned them by snipping into the dough ring about 3/4 inch in.

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I covered it with a plate and set on the table outside in the sunshine , it was awesome weather yesterday . I checked in on it after 40 minutes and it was nicely risen and puffed up.

I had preheated the oven to 220c / 425f .

I wet the top of the ring with my hand , crushed some sea salt over it and baked it for about 20 minutes .

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The aromas of bread, olive oil and rosemary are intoxicating . The bread was torn into hunks of awesomeness and served with  Brabanste Ham, a local Dutch smoked -but-raw ham…. in a multi culti term?  Molto Lekker!

English Christmas in the USA

After a few years not really celebrating christmas in any particular way , the time had come to show my new American Family how we do it on the other side of the pond. Explaining traditional English Christmas dinner reduces the quintessential to English Holiday meal to  ” well … it’s kind of the same as Thanksgiving Dinner , but different” .

Even rereading the last statement feels like a disappointment , but the reality was anything but that………

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The Location for this feast was Utana Bluffs , a gorgeous private mountain community just outside Ellijay in North Georgia. The Park/Hart family have their home there and the surroundings just screamed “Christmas”.

The day began with the preparation of the stuffing for the 14lb organic turkey .

1lb of Pork sausage meat, 2 large onions – finely chopped , half a loaf of white bread- cubed, half a pint of good chicken stock , a bunch of fresh sage – chopped finely, a bunch of fresh rosemary – chopped, 2 granny smith apples – peeled, cored and also finely chopped, fresh ground black pepper.

Bring the stock to a boil and pour over the bread and stand for a few minutes so the bread can absorb the liquid.

Add the chopped ingredients and ground pepper and mix well , then knead the sausage meat into that. Tadaah!

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I stuffed the crop of the turkey, pushing the stuffing up under the skin and over the breast .

The leftover stuffing I pressed into a pie dish and topped with more apple to serve on the side .

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Then the Turkey! I stabbed the breast All over and then mummified it in bacon . As I said, I only stuffed the crop , pushing the stuffing as far over the breast as possible and put a bunch of sage and a whole lemon inside the cavity .

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Foiled it and roasted it on 350 ( convection ) for About four hours . When I took the aluminium foil off it was like I had slow cooked it for a day . It was tender and moist with a crisp bacon crust . I put it back in the oven for a half hour to brown . Slicing through the breast meat you got an evenly sized slice of the sage onion and apple stuffing . The sage and lemon and onion had infused the meat from inside out .

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Sexy , Huh?

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For the Sides I had decided on the traditional English parsnip, carrots and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts. Of course , I can’t just “do carrots” so I made a mousseline of parsnip apple and carrot

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Parsnips peeled and chopped … I love the scented almost ‘perfumey’ aroma of these root vegetables.

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Large Carrots, cut roughly the same size.

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Add an onion , some fresh rosemary and cover with chicken stock. bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. drain, remove the soggy woody twiggy rosemary drama without burning you fingers too much and throw into a blender/food processor with a good sized chunk of butter, a pinch of salt , freshly ground pepper, a teaspoonful of ground coriander and one granny smith apple peeled, core and finely chopped.Puree until velvety smooth ….. O . M . G . this is heavenly.

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The potatoes…. so , you want to know how I became the king of oven roasted potatoes?

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Take firm cooking potatoes… wash them well and take out any eyes and blemishes. Cut the ends off diagonally so you have three pieces , triangular and of even size . Cover with very well salted water and bring to the boil. Par-boil for ten minutes. Drain and lay out on the counter to cool.

Pour the meat juices into a roasting tin , if there isn’t a half inch depth I add oil, light olive is nice.

Heat on 375f/ 220c in the oven ( or on the stove) and throw in the potatoes. DON’T move them … just put them back in the oven and give em about 35 minutes before you hustle them around in the fat . THAT’S the secret to crispy potatoes. Mine are even crispy as leftovers the next day . After you have tossed them around in the pan give them another 30 minutes… That’s it .dsc09149

Other Traditional accompaniments to English Christmas dinner are gravy and bread sauce , but first the Crack- Cocaine of all festive nibbles…. Sausage and Bacon rolls.

Sausage and bacon rolls have no other function in the meal other than to make your hand /fork keep moving back and forth to the dish with the verbal statement ” I HAVE to stop eating these Sausage and bacon rolls” .

They are extremely simple to make with ready made ‘chipolata’ sausages but of course I have to be all fancy and do my own.

1lb sausage meat / pork , pork and beef or turkey.

I added garlic, a little fennel , some fresh thyme, and grated lemon zest ( to tie it in with the Turkey) black and white pepper and a splash of brandy for fun. mix it all together and form into little one inch long sausagettes . roll these in bacon ( I used uncured organic smoked) and place them on a baking sheet .Bake along with the potatoes just before dinner is ready .

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Then Bread Sauce.

BREAD….. made into a sauce . with milk . I know how it sounds and the Americans had a perplexed look when I mentioned that that was what we had instead of gravy . Served with a rather neutral meat like turkey, this smooth aromatic and unctuous smothering is one of the most humble and at the same time luxurious accompaniments you can imagine …. and I’m of the opinion if they were serving it 500 years ago it must be good , Believe it or not the English kitchen was once one of the most revered and envied in Europe and this is the kind of delight that was the envy of the European Courts of that time.

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I used  a pint of milk, put it in a pan with a knob of butter , a chopped onion , 3 bay leaves, 5 cloves, a piece of mace, 6 pepper corns, a pinch of salt an a pinch of sugar. bring up to a gentle simmer and then remove from the heat and allow the spices to steep for a couple of hours .

Just before dinner strain the milk into a second pan and reheat. Add 2 cups of fresh white breadcrumbs (or 100g) and stir well until smooth . Stir in some freshly grated nutmeg just before serving…… awe…… some.

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This+ Turkey= angel doing something on your blissbuds.

So after all that kitchen slavery nonsense I needed a cocktail…. Captain Morgan Spiced rum, half apple cider and a splash of coke, garnish with a slice of sour apple.  The rum and spice are warming and festive, the caffeine in the coke will give you a kick towards a few hours at the table and the malic acid in the apple will aid digestion… really , it’s all science. “pour me another” I said often on that day… in the name of eduction and knowledge ‘n stuff.

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The table was set while I was doing all of the above , and the surroundings were perfect for the feast that followed.

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It was such a hit !

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There will be a follow up about the Hell-on-Earth that is English Christmas dinner desserts but as a teaser here is one of the most enormous tiny treats ever , the Great British Mince Pie…. a buffet of flavourful sweetness in a fun-size pastry crust …. more to come …………….

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