Why our chocolate?
It takes 2 days.
Why would anyone in their right mind start a chocolate business, after having a totally different business, a house ware store? The answer for all of us was the Internet. Never have we had so much access to information; comparison shopping; product reviews etc.. Increasingly, we are becoming aware of a transformed retail landscape. The Powers That Be (TPTB) don't have your good health in mind. They cleverly use tall thin lettering on the ingredients panel to discourage you from finding out what's inside. That's intentional, as the results lead to Type 2 Diabetes, which feeds into their other businesses: medical and pharmaceutical. The cheapest sugar is High Fructose Corn Syrup HFCS, which is a few cents per pound, which is very addicting and can kill you. Our sugar costs $3.00 per pound and is one processing step away from the sugarcane. Did you know, there are 61 names for sugar?
Our approach to chocolate is health, as the Myan people were fond of documenting in their
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 achive smoothness to 20 microns. You need a microscope to see 20 microns. The overall goals is to remove the natural acids in the chocolate taste.
Did you ever wonder how chocolate is made? No, it's not made from brown cows.
First, let's get the preliminaries out of the way.
Chocolate makers are as rare as snow leopards. What's rarest is a chocolate maker roasting a pound at a time, shelling each bean by hand, to yield the wholeness of a particular country's cacao bean.
What is the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier?
A chocolate maker begins with the cacao bean and the chocolatier with a block of melting chocolate.
The chocolate maker: roasts, shells, grinds, then tempers. The chocolatier: melts a block of chocolate in a melting tank, them 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.
Makers make chocolate bars and chocolatiers make ganaches, truffles, fancy decorated candies, etc..
What's the difference between 'real chocolate' and confectioner's chocolate?
Confectionery coating (note: they cannot use the word 'chocolate' unless it has a minimum of 17%) uses a vegetable fat (GMO hydrogenated oil) to replace the cocoa butter that is found in genuine chocolate. Artificial chocolate flavors are to be expected.
What's the difference between our hot chocolate disc and hot chocolate powder? Ours is 'real chocolate' not requiring milk, has 'real sugar' and is mixed with hot water. Their's is cleverly written prose that does not mention the word 'chocolate' in the ingredients and contains unidentified sugar (likely high fructose), and must be mixed with milk, otherwise you would choke on the powder.
What is the difference between cacao and cocoa?
Cacao is the bean unprocessed and cocoa when it's been processed into a product.
A Melanger/Conch machine: two granite rollers rotating on a spinning granite surfaced bowl to create the smoothness we associate with chocolate.
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. Rubi roasts each pound separately in order to observe and control the changes taking place in the roasting. She's using her acute sense of smell to determine the stages in the roasting progress, similar to roasting coffee. The focus toward the end stages is to determine the degree of shell casing separating 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
This step is the 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.
In the morning I bring the beans to the store for the next steps. I weight the cocoa beans to calculate the amount of fibrous cane sugar to be added to the mixture. Then using a cracking machine I crack the beans. At the same time I heat up the granite based bowl to ease the feeding of the beans into the Melanger. It takes about an hour to two hours to feed the beans and then the sugar into the vessel. 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.
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. Acitate sheets are placed on the mold trays and placed into a cooling enclosure to let it harden for the next day.
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.