Healthy Chocolate

by constantinenov 29, 2019

Ridgewood Chocolate's hand shelled cocoa beans.

We started out as a houseware store, transitioning naturally, 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.