Review: Ecuador Coconut w Pink Salt

by constantineSept 11th, 2020


@RidgewoodChocolate -- Paint the rainbow with TTTT starting this week. With pink. With Ridgewood Chocolate formerly of Ridgewood, Queens (just a stone's throw away from East Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn). They're now operating out of Manhattan.
New York City is teeming with hidden gustatory wonders, but it was only a few months ago that I learned of its bean to bar top secret. That's Ridgewood Chocolate, of course. Constantine Kalpaxis is a chocolatemaker who talks the talk and walks the walk. His Ecuador 75% Coconut & Pink Salt (there you have the pink) is the result of nine minutes and seven hours of chocolate alchemy.
This is an intensely smoky and overcast take on classic Ecuadorian cacao. Like a brumous morning sky in Catamarca, Newcastle or Paarl (read: anywhere). Like a passel of Cambridge burnt cream, barley bread, tobacco, lapsang souchong tea, tuba fresca and wu mei in a coco chocolatero from the 1600s.
Literally like no chocolate bar you've ever had in your life -- a found object.
And underline that word "smoky" again.

My response:
Thanks for the review of @Ridgewoodchocolate bars, with a nudge from @chocambas It looks like a pretty good review from our perspective. We embrace the Mallard reaction and caramelization that takes place in our alchemy, which leaves the evidence of minimal oxidation, therefore the antioxidants are intact as are the intense flavor notes. The benefits are physiological, hence the phrase "food of the Gods". The Mallard reaction is magical.

You can research it yourself, but basically imagine eating bread without the crispy browning effect on top.

Extraordinary and Rare

by constantinejun 25, 2020

Healthy Chocolate.  Simply, that's our claim. We asked ourselves: "Can we produce chocolate bars that are healthy, while producing a livelyhood?"
Only you, the consumer can answer the question. 

Chocolate Aromas and Taste Development

by constantinejan 2nd, 2020

What remains as an ongoing, simmering battle in the chocolate industry: the roasting of the cocoa beans.  What's better: computerized roasters, or hands-on roasting on an open fire?  
Machine vs. human. An ongoing question of which method is superior to the outcome.

First, some academic research on the science of roasting.

Flavor formation and character in cocoa and chocolate.
Chocolate characters not only originate in flavor precursors present in cocoa beans, but are generated during post-harvest treatments and transformed into desirable odor notes in the manufacturing processes. Complex biochemical modifications of bean constituents are further altered by thermal reactions in roasting and conching and in alkalization [reducing acidity, which is good for ridding your body of free radicals*].
However, the extent to which the inherent bean constituents from the cocoa genotype, environmental factors, post-harvest treatment, and processing technologies influence chocolate flavor formation and relationships with final flavor quality, has not been clear. [in other words: not settled science].

Sensory properties of chocolate and their development.
Sensory attributes of eating chocolate are determined by processing variables and inherent characteristics of the cocoa bean. Flavor precursors develop during fermentation and primarily interact at roasting temperatures. Complex browning reactions occur during roasting. Numerous heterocyclic flavor compounds produced then contribute to the characteristic chocolate flavor.  Feel of chocolate in the mouth (mouth feel) and textural properties are determined by the unique properties of cocoa butter.  Careful processing and selection of ingredients is necessary to produce desirable attributes.

Hello Adulteration
[When science and poor-quality cocoa beans meet, the outcome is not in the consumers favor.]
The different treatments were evaluated by chemical analysis (hydrolysis efficiency) and sensory analysis of the treated material compared to good-quality cocoa almonds [beans]. The results show that it is possible, through the use of microbial enzymes**, to generate the mixture of compounds that will release, after roasting, the characteristic chocolate flavor in poor-quality
almonds [beans].

* Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, which can lead to cell and tissue damage. Oxidative stress occurs naturally and plays a role in the aging process.
** Microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and fungi and their enzymes are widely used in several food preparations for improving the taste and texture and they offer huge economic benefits to industries.

Chocolate taste and aromas in roasting plays an integral part in the process of making chocolate products.  Relience on a computers' program does not take into account: the age of the beans, moisture content, humidity of the environment of the facility, outside temperature and humidity. 

In my next story we'll explore the Mallard effect in roasting and how it influences the outcome.

Healthy Chocolate

by constantinenov 29, 2019

We started out as a houseware store, transitioning into chocolate making.   My partners' desire for genuine hot chocolate — like back home in the Phillipines — directly influenced our business decision.  
The powdered blends available in the US were not making her feel blissful.  In fact, heart palpitations, sweating episodes, and an alarming unease of high sugar, followed by the anxiety of what could have been in the brew. 

We went to the nth degree in every step of the chocolate making process to create a truly unique chocolate, in a category of its own.  

We started out by discarding the notion "proprietery process" and instead, challenge chocolate makers to do the same, namely: make healthy chocolate.

Do you know what chocolate tastes like when it's hand-shelled? 

Have you tasted real sugar in isolation of everything else? It's not sweet.

Tasting notes of a particular chocolate are one part of the experience. There's more. There is the mental feeling part that becomes evident when cocoa beans are not over-processed. 

Our approach to chocolate is health, as the Myan people were passionate about, as documented in their hieroglyphics.  The Aztecs called chocolate xocoatl
("bitter water") and added spices like chili and vanilla
for flavoring before mixing it with water into a frothy beverage.  ... Chocolate wasn't just a food, though; the beans were one of the main forms of currency of the day.

Chocolate is healthy as long as you don't over-process the cocoa nibs. Today most chocolate manufacturers conch the cocoa for up to 3 days, to achieve smoothness to 20 microns. A size so small you need a microscope to see it. Their goal is to remove the natural medicinal properties, which can have a sour, acidic, or bitter taste.  

Nothing good for your physiological health tastes sweet. 

by constantineoct 28th, 2019

Chocolate Maker
Chocolate makers are as rare as snow leopards.  What's even rarest is a chocolate maker roasting a pound at a time, shelling each bean by hand; yielding the entire contents of the cocoa bean. 

What is the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier?
A chocolate maker begins with the cacao bean and the chocolatier with rectangular blocks of highly processed chocolate.  The chocolate maker: roasts, shells, grinds, then tempers.  The chocolatier: melts blocks of chocolate in a melting tank, then transfers to a tempering machine.  

A chocolatier cannot tell you where the beans came from, when it was processed, or if there was blending with other ingredients involved.  

Chocolate makers create chocolate bars and/or melting discs. Chocolatiers make ganaches, truffles, fancy decorated candies, etc..

Chocolate makers focus on the inside: the chocolate.  Chocolatiers focus on the aesthetics of decoration, packaging: the outside.

What's the difference between chocolate and confectioner's chocolate?  
Confectionery coating (note: they cannot use the word 'chocolate' unless it has a minimum of 12% chocolate,) uses a vegetable fat (GMO hydrogenated oil) to replace the cocoa butter that is found in genuine unadulterated chocolate.   

What's the difference between our hot chocolate disc and hot chocolate powder? Ours is 'real chocolate', has 'real sugar' and is mixed with only hot water.  Cocoa powders' ingredients are cleverly written, but do not mention the word 'chocolate' in the ingredients and contains UFO Unidentified Fructose Objects, high fructose corn syrup, and must be mixed with a fatty liquid, otherwise you would choke on the watered powder. 

What is the difference between cacao and cocoa?  
Cacao is the bean unprocessed on the tree and cocoa when a process takes place.

A Melanger/Conch machine
Two granite rollers rotating on a spinning granite surfaced bowl to create the smoothness we associate with chocolate. The capacity of the bowl ranges from 5 to thousands of pounds.
The making of Ridgewood Chocolate bars

Sorting the cacao beans
Stones, tying wire, nylon cord, bag fabric, and pulp encrusted beans are among the items we have encountered in the sorting task. We select from the smallest to the largest cacao bean into pound bags, which we store in a larger bin for later use.

We prepare five pounds in a batch.
Each pound is roasted separately in order to observe and control the changes taking place in the roasting.  Rubi uses her acute sense of smell to determine the stages in the roasting progress, similar to our experience roasting coffee. The focus toward the end stages of roasting is to determine the degree of shell casing separation off the cocoa nibs. This is critical as it determines the amount of time devoted for the next step in the process.

Shelling the beans
closeup of hand shelled cocoa beansThis step is the humans most time consuming, tedious, and rewarding, for the final product taste. It takes one hour to hand-shell one pound of cocoa beans.  Rubi spends the next four to five hours shelling the cocoa beans until the wee hours of the morning.

Chocolate manufacturers typically feed the beans into a bean cracker, crushing the shells encasing the beans. The cracked beans are vacuumed to separate the shells, dirt, pulp, and particles of cocoa beans. The remaining large fragments are the only chocolate you will have the pleasure to taste. A lot of the smaller particles end up in the garbage. To recover the entire contents of the cocoa bean, we remove the shells by hand, one by one. A tedious process, but imagine what the taste would be, as the entire beans' content is in the chocolate
bar. No chocolate maker in the world claims this distinction (except To'ak, but their bars are a little more expensive) except us.

In the morning we bring the beans to the store for the next steps.  Weighing the cocoa beans to calculate the amount of fibrous cane sugar to be added to the batch.  Using a cracking machine to crack the beans. At the same time, heat up the granite based bowl to ease the feeding  of the beans into the Melanger. It takes one to three hours to feed the beans and then the sugar into the vessel, which depends on the ambient temperature. After six or seven hours, the liqueur is smooth as thick honey.
By this time Rubi arrives to transfer the liqueur into the tempering machine. This step takes a half-hour, scooping and scraping each fragment of thick liqueur into the tempering bowl.  

The chocolate industry would have you believe that multiple days are required to bring out the true taste of the chocolate.  Not true. Chocolate aromas are developed in the fermentation stage, not the conching stage.

Here's what you taste as a result of over-processing: wax, sweet, then chocolate; ending
with sweet.  Catering to the sugarholic – mission accomplished.

This machine heats up the liqueur to 108 degrees, then lowers the temperature to 87.7 degrees. This procedure lines up the crystals in the chocolate to form a strong body, which prevents the penetration of moisture. When it is "in temper"  the chocolate bar will have a distinct snap when you break it.  If you ever experienced a bending and not a snap, it means moisture is in your chocolate and is not safe to eat. This step takes about an hour, depending on the ambient temperature and humidity inside and outside the store.

Inclusions are prepared by roasting nuts, seeds, berries, and roots, encapsulating the product with caramelized sugar.
At this point Rubi begins to scoop the liqueur into the molds with or without inclusions. Acetate sheets are placed on the mold trays, then placed into a cooling enclosure to cool down and solidify for the next day.

Mold Detachment
The next day Rubi pops the chocolate out of the molds. She trims the overflow on each mold from the tray, then scores the 3 oz breakaway molds with a knife, then splits them into 1 oz bars. She then hand wraps each bar with a triple fold of aluminum foil paper to prevent little critters laying their eggs inside. Then folding the ends of the foil at an angle and creating a folded endcap, which will be used to join the other end into an opposing clasp.  She uses glue to enjoin the endcaps to prevent tampering. She then wraps and glues the outer label to the foil.
Finally, she places the bars in display cases for sale. Any extra chocolate is saved and sent to the Philippines to be enjoyed by her relatives.
Adding all the time spent amounts to 17 hours over the next two days.