"Intentional Chocolate" - Your Thoughts [sic]?
Posted in: Opinion
This appears to be nonsense to me. Singular farming method is typical from what I know and the chocolate is expensive.
Thank you Tom. We did an initial gritty grind in the DR and it has aged for 4 months now. I didn't know if I should age it after I conch it, before the temper and mold. The paste I am using is pretty rugged. I did buy 100 pounds of fermented beans from a farmers cooperative and a women's cooperative roasted the beans over wood and then hand cracked and winnnowed the beans before it was put through a hand grinder. The 12 hour conch seems to work. Thank you again.
Looking for a little advice on how to better work with the chocolate as I go through the process of learning. I purchased a Cocoa Town melanger and have made about 10 - 2 lb. batches in the last month. I am using the balls of paste we made in the Dominican Republic last summer.
I break up the balls using a meat grinder and soften the pieces on a double boiler before I put in in the melanger. I have been adding about 2 cups of pure cane sugar and am testing 2 1/2 cups on my current batch. The conch time has ranged from 4 - 8 hours and one 20 hours conch. Clay warned me about over conching and the gleam appears after about 4 hours.
When I take it about I generally let it harden at room temperature and store in the refrigerator until I temper it. When I visited Mast Brothers they told me they age their chocolate for a month and I read in Maricel Presilla about chocolate being aged for more than three months. AT WHAT POINT DO YOU AGE IT? After the conch and what are the ideal temperatures to store it?
When I took samples of the 7 hr conch to the chocolate show in NYC, it is obvious it is missing something, especially at the end. Are the flavor notes primarily determined at the bean selection, fermentation and roasting processes? How much influence do I have with the conch machine? Or am I mostly working on texture and appearance at this point.
I also lose probably 10 -15% (a guess) transferring it between the machine to a bowl and then during tempering to the molds.
I take it to school (I am a teacher) and share it with the students and get a lot of good feedback. I talk about making chocolate with kids at every opportunity. And they love it.
I also made my first batch of ganche and made some truffle balls rolled in a variety of nuts and roasted quinoa works well. Tried a little batch with reduced orange juice. Not the same as those I purchase around NYC but it is a start.
Cacao plantations are generally considered sustainable environmentally speaking if chemicals are not used? The areas in the DR will cacao are very forested and allow for complimentary crops to be grown for personal consumption. Plantanos, bananas yucca, and other root vegetables, citrus mango and zapote to name a few are found scattered all over the place with and around the cacao.
From a cultural perspective. I find the cacao regions to generally be better off economically, are organized, have good schools and access to health care. Those that own a decent amount of land travel to the US when they want and are often leaders in their communities. They tend to take care of each other and everyone does their part. I would argue that cacao areas that I am associated with in the Dominican Republic are sustainable. The income provided to these areas by cacao production is their base.
The minimum wage in the Dominican Republic is listed at RD$4,900. That is inaccurate information. In May of 2011 it was raised and the campo worker minimum wage is about RD$200/day, about US$5.25. That comes out to about RD$8000 a month or about US$210. They way it works in the area I work is that people are available as day labors for the busy times. Each cacao producer generally have their trusted employees who work full-time on aspects of running a farm and harvesting other products. These trusted employees almost become part of the family and are often related in some manner. My guess is that a 300 tarea cacao farm (60 acres) will bring about US25,000 a year in profits with a land value of US$70,000-100,000. It is a lot of work and then you need to have fermentation and dryers if you do not sell it wet.
So who are we talking about getting the fair price for their labor and investment, the farmer/worker or the worker/employee?
After spending a little time on the UTZ website, it is unclear how they are different or the same from fair trade and or organic. From the little I know about what goes on the DR, it appears as if the farmer cooperatives have went the fair trade route and the larger producers may use the UTZ track, Roig for instance in the DR. Rizek and Munne seem to be happy with the organic label. These large producers and processors of cacao have set up quality operations. You see a number of the Roig associated farms with sign in the campos near Castillo. The farmer cooperatives work primarily with the smaller farmers in much the same manner, while trying to get to the same level of control and quality.
The machine using a air fan to cool and heat up the chocolate. It holds around 24-25 oz of chocolate and probably takes around 45 minutes to go through the entire process until I am ready to pour into the molds. My instructions were to add the seed when you achive maximum tempurature and there is an indicator which beeps when it reaches 90 degrees so you can remove the seed. I end up using 3 1.2 oz bars for seed to produce 21 bars, meaning I really make 18 1.2 oz bars with a pound and half.
I was trying to table temper without a seed on the countertop for many months with inconsistent results. My problem was when it got down into the 80's, the tempurature would fall too fast and get to the low 80's before I could mush it into the other, warmer chocolate. I also had because after I mushed the cooler and warmer chocolate, the tempurature would still be above 90. I have someone in the industry who wants to teach me how to table temper. I could see doubling or tripling the size of my batches, getting more molds and increasing my capacity. Right now, I can usually temper and mold about 4.5 lbs in a 4-5 hour stretch.
I am a small chocovision tempering machine and set the temperatures at 118 drop it to 86 and take it back up to almost 90. After I get it in the mold, I have been putting them in 50-60 temperatures and can pop them out of the mold in about an hour. No bloom and great snap. When I let the mold harden at 70 degrees plus and it took many hours, bloom started coming out after about hours in the mold if the chocolate was not hard yet.
I have been using similar proportions of liquor, butter and sugar. I try to get my percentages closer to 65%-70% liquor, 5-9% butter and 25-30% sugar. I have been making slight adjustments to see how different the results might be. As far as the timing in the small cocao town melanger, I usually run the liquor by itself for 12 hours, and then start adding the sugar over about an hour period while I also add the additional butter. I stop the machine somewhere between 20 and 24 hours. Used some nice Equadorian liquor last time and was able to use less sugar and only conched for 16 hours because I liked it so much at that point. I added the sugar at 8 and needed those 6 hours to grind the sugar, the cacao was really good.
This summer Dominican cacao farmers are earning US$145 for a 100 lbs. (quintal) of dried Sanchez beans. They earn about US$158 for fermented, Hispanola. I paid $190 for a quintal of dried Hispanola beans from a cooperative to make into paste. The tree type seems to be of little importance because the price is the same. What is a fair price for the farmer for premium beans? People in the campo tell me a tarea (X 6 to get an acre) produces from 1up to 3 quintales. Medium sized farms are usually between 300 and 1000 tareas and rarely their only source of income. Small parcels can be any size and many times managed by others due to the owners lives outside the country. So someone with 300 tareas (50 acres) of cacao probably has at least US$500,000 worth of land, and at least $45,000 in revenues a year and maybe $30,000 in cacao profits if it is Sanchez. You raise you revenues $4,000 minus additional costs by fermenting. Those of you who know more, please adjust or add to anything I have posted.
Few farmers have fermentation boxes and when they do ferment, it is with plastic tarps. In recent years, cooperatives and the larger buyers are purchasing the beans wet from the farmer and they do the fermentation. Not sure about how they price it.
I have not seen any incentive to produce higher quality beans for the farmer. Just produce more or maybe ferment. I am told there is an $800 differential per ton in premium cacao prices and the commodity price in the DR. If that is the case, that would the the $.40 difference per pound I paid at the cooperative. I do not know if individual farmers are getting more $$ for select beans or the cooperative takes the difference.
This is a very good read.
I recently returned from the Dominican Republic with 7 or so pods in my check-in luggage. You can bring avocados with no problem. I usually declare chocolate, honey and avocados. I have been told by a friend in the chocolate business that if you clean the part that was connected to the tree, you won't have any problems. I will be going back next week and see if I can get a few in my luggage.
I use the percentage as as a range of sweetness I may expect. After trying a number of chocolates, I can't agree more with Clay. Some 75% are less intense then the 70% of some brands. The more expensive chocolates of similar percentages are less intense in general. The amount of butter from my limited time making small batches, is more about a creamy, buttery texture. I would guess that the range of butter percentages range from 5-12%. Some like Mast Brothers, do not add additional butter to the paste.