(I demonstrated this chocolate recipe at the 2012 SF Bay Area Maker Faire. Welcome, Food Makers and Food Eaters!)
While home cooks can’t easily concoct a solid, smooth bar, this method of roasting and blending cacao beans with simple syrup creates something chocolatey that is entirely sharable – and though it is certainly more rustic than tempered, wrapped bars, it’s insanely satisfying. Expect good chocolate flavor, but know that the finish will certainly be more gritty than a store-bought bar. The milk chocolate recipe variation below is far smoother than the dark – and this is coming from a girl who is a dark chocolate devotee.
Cacao beans and nibs (broken up pieces of the beans) aren’t quite as easy to find as coffee beans, but you can often find them at health food stores or online. God help you if you can only find them still in the husk. If so, each bean must be peeled one at a time. Your best bet is to go for peeled raw beans – they’re the easiest to work with and the least likely to burn. And if you can find cacao already roasted, then you can skip right to the blending.
Time commitment: 0-3 days
For Plain Chocolate:
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 ounces of raw cacao beans or nibs
For Milk Chocolate, all of the above plus:
- 1/4 cup low fat or whole milk
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1/8 teaspoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Up to a week ahead of time, make a heavy simple syrup by combining the sugar and the water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Pour into another container until cool and store in the refrigerator.
To roast the cacao, place a metal bowl in the freezer to chill. Pour the cacao into a heavy bottomed skillet or Dutch oven (like cast iron or Le Creuset) and set a timer for 9 minutes if you’re using whole beans, or 7 minutes if you’re using nibs – timing is important here, because burnt cacao tastes terrible. Place over medium/medium-high heat and after two minutes, stir continuously and vigorously with a wooden spoon to allow for even roasting. Visual change to the cacao will be subtle, but it will get somewhat darker and choco-fragrant.
When the timer buzzes, take the cold bowl from the freezer and pour in the cacao. Stir constantly for 3 minutes to quickly cool the cacao and stop the roasting. The beans should be cool enough to comfortably touch.
Once cool, transfer the cacao to the work bowl of a food processor and blend for 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and the bottom, turn the machine on, and stream in 1/4 cup of the simple syrup. Blend another 2 minutes, stopping halfway through to scrape down the sides.
This, at its essence, is homemade chocolate. Enjoy immediately on a spoon, spread on toast or between cookies, or stir it into hot milk (start by mixing it into a couple of ounces of milk, then add more milk).
To make a chocolate “bar”, lay a piece of parchment paper onto a squat baking sheet. Using a bowl scraper or an offset spatula, spread the chocolate out into a rectangle about 1/8-1/4 inches thick. Allow the chocolate to set for about 2-3 hours. At this point, the chocolate can be sliced or carefully broken into pieces (but it is still fairly delicate).
For Milk Chocolate:
When adding the simple syrup, also include the milk, butter, salt, and vanilla. Note that the chocolate will appear very watery – be certain to really scrape up everything from the bottom of the bowl. Spread it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet as above, but allow 2-3 days for it to set and dry out. It will begin to crack naturally a bit at the surface when it’s ready to eat. Try not to stick your finger into it every time you walk past :>.