Luisa Abram’s bean-to-bar chocolate features bars made from Brazilian wild cacao harvested in the Amazon Rainforest. Besides loving Luisa’s chocolate I’ve also attended her talks on Brazilian cacao the past two years at the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle and this lady knows her stuff! I don’t know if she will have a talk next year at the festival, but if she does I highly recommended attending it!
Luisa has been helping to educate and improve on the process of cacao fermentation in Brazil and this blog post is entirely about cacao fermentation.
Why is cacao fermentation important? What is the process? How does it affect the flavor of the cacao beans? Read on to find out more!
*All photos used in this blog were provided by Luisa Abram and were taken from the first ferment on Juruá river, Novo Horizonte Community early 2018.
Luisa Abram checking cacao fermentation in Brazil
Victoria Cooksey: Will you give a brief description of the cacao fermentation process?
Luisa Abram: I can give a rather technical answer, but you can find about all that on the web. Instead, I will say what I smell, sense and see. The cocoa pods are broken and inside them there are several beans covered with a thick white pulp. Beans are thrown in a wooden box and covered with banana leaves. After 24 hours, I remove the leaves and look at them. They should still be green. Then I get my face close to the beans in the box, close my eyes and take a deep breath. My nose searches for a very typical smell, a smell that takes my mind to a bakery, when the baker is making bread! Then I check the temperature of the beans. I don’t use a thermometer. Instead, I stick my arms inside the mass. Should be a bit warm, not hot. I look at the mass to see its colour, should be white still, and to check if little white dots are present at the edges of the box, the coldest part of it. These dots are the yeasts, the same ones responsible for bread making bread. Next couple of days, the beans are moved to another box, so that oxygen can end the anaerobic conditions the beans were subjected until then. The smell changes , from a bread like odourto an alcoholic one. The pulp begins to disappear and the colours of the beans change to ochre. By the fourth day, a light vinegar smell appears in the mass, the temperature reaches close 50 C and you can really feel that the beans are being cooked! More turnings of the boxes are done for the next few days, until the mass loses temperature. This indicates the end of the fermentation. It should last between 5 to 7 days depending on the size of the beans, outsidetemperature, the size of the mass and how mature the fruits were in the beginning.Continue reading “Cacao Fermentation with Luisa Abram”
I’m amazed that it is already time for the 4th Annual Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews Craft Chocolate Awards! Each year chocolatemakers are upping their game and 2019 was no exception. With so many amazing bars to choose from it was quite the challenge to narrow down the list!
How do I choose winners? Throughout the year I taste hundreds of bars and I keep a running list of bars as nominees for various categories. I look for chocolate that is complex flavor-wise, extra pleasant textures and the representation of single origin and/or inclusion that stands out above the crowd. (It’s important to note that different cacao harvests and separate chocolate bar batches all lead to potential changes in the flavors that come through so the bars tasted in 2019 might taste different than the current 2020 version).
The bars that are eligible to win are ones that I tried in the same year, meaning that the bar might have been made in 2018, but I didn’t actual taste it until the year 2019. Some of these bars are limited editions and some may be part of a makers regular line up.
What disqualifies a bar for being a nominee? As a reviewer, makers sometimes send me bars. (Which is quite a treat! Thank you makers!). If I am given a bar for free then I leave it off the nominees list. I received bars this year that I truly believe deserve awards, but alas, I must continue to stick to my own rule.
On the eve before Caputo’s 8th Annual Chocolate Festival, which featured the Icelandic Omnom Chocolate, they held their first private media dinner with Kjartan Gíslason, chef, Chocolate Maker and Co-Founder of Omnom Chocolate with a theme of a traditional Icelandic dinner. Also present from Omnom Chocolate were, Thorlakur Thor, Export Manager and Hanna Eiríksdóttir, Marketing Manager. While the meal was presented in an elegant fashion, it managed to also be casual and family style. Traditions, especially family and food traditions, are important to Caputo’s Matt Caputo and Yelena Caputo with this meal captured these sentiments.
2019 marked the 5th year in a row that I have attended the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA. With each year different trends emerge. This article focuses especially on craft chocolate trends at NW and may or may not be reflective on trends seen elsewhere.
Trend #1: While makers still offer 100% bars I noticed a much greater presence of milk and dark/milk bars this year including an increase in milk chocolate inclusion bars.
Trend#2: For several years various salts have been featured in bars, but this year makers are turning to a range of peppercorns and/or a combo of pepper with salt.
Tomomi Kaneko of Sweets ESCALIER (Pic taken by Victoria Cooksey at the NW Chocolate Festival)
Tomomi Kaneko of Sweets ESCALIER is a great example of someone able to live in multiple chocolate worlds by creating both pastry and his own bean-to-bar chocolate in Niigata, Japan. Each year at the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle I make sure to stop by his booth, which always has such a pleasant energy about it, to pick up bars for both myself and to give as gifts. Tomomi also draws the pictures for the wrappers and each bar comes with the option of various wrappers so the purchaser may pick the one that speaks to them best.
Enjoy this mini-interview!
Victoria Cooksey: When did you start making your own bean-to-bar chocolate and what was your inspiration to start making chocolate? How long have you been making chocolate?
It’s time to sit back and be whisked away to Vanuatu, an archipelago of around 80 islands located in the South Pacific Ocean, with Olivier Fernandez of Gaston Chocolat located in Port-Vila the capital of Vanuatu, located on the island of Efate.
I’ve had the chance to try seven bars by Gaston Chocolat thus far, and have enjoyed them all! Their Coconut, Caramelized Nangae Nut and Rum Drummed Raisins bars are tied for my top favs!
If you haven’t tried Vanuatu cacao yet, guess what? Gaston Chocolat is planning to be at the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA this year in November! As you dream about trying their chocolate (or if you have and you need some more) enjoy this interview with Olivier!
Albert Chau and Russell Pullan are the co-founders of Fifth Dimension Chocolate and I am very pleased to say we get to hear from both of them on the majority of my interview questions! I’ve been lucky enough to try their bonbons twice. The first time, they were on a visit to New York and posted me a box of bonbons from there. The second time the lovely ladies of Dormouse Chocolates brought over a box for me when they were visiting Seattle, WA at the Nov. 2018 Northwest Chocolate Festival. Fifth Dimension bonbons are all amazing, but my favorite is New York with Apple and Calvados Caramel.
Albert and Russell each came from different professions prior to starting Fifth Dimension Chocolates. Many of their caramels and bonbons are award winning products, they have participated in chocolate judging with the Academy of Chocolate Awards and they use single-origin chocolates to make their bonbons adding a complex layering of flavors to their creations. While they are based in England, their bonbons are often inspired by their world travels.
Read on to find out the time it takes to create a new bonbon flavor, how they approach chocolate judging versus eating chocolate for pleasure, tips on growing cacao trees at home, why they find it important to use single-origin chocolate in their chocolates and more!
Russell Pullan and Albert Chau of Fifth Dimension Chocolates
Victoria Cooksey: How did you each get interested in making chocolates?
Russell Pullan: It first started many years ago one Christmas, when I made some simple chocolate truffles as a finale to a big Christmas dinner for friends. The reaction was so positive that I then continued making chocolates as a hobby for many years, experimenting with different styles and fillings as I gained more experience. Then in 2013 I decided that I no longer enjoyed working in the media, and wanted a complete change in career and be my own boss, and the natural step was to go into making chocolates.
In Baking with Craft Chocolate Part 1 we looked at what is craft chocolate/specialty chocolate, cocoa powder/cocoa butter, using single-origin craft chocolate in recipes and how different origins affect recipe creation and and enjoyed a lovely Maison Marou brownie recipe.
In Part 2 discover thoughts and inspiration behind baking product line development, how consumers and makers thoughts have changed on chocolate since using craft/specialty chocolate in baked items, where makers would like to see craft chocolate baking grow in the future and so much more!
Be sure to check out Lauren Heineck’s Strawberry Lemon Nib Muffins Recipe and Caroline Schiff’s Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe included in this post.
Lawren Askinosie, Jael Rattigan, Lauren Heineck, Mackenzie Rivers, Caroline Schiff, Joanna Brennan, Sam Maruta, Steph Shafer and Victoria Cooksey
For years I have enjoyed both baking, creating recipes and watching cooking shows especially if the show included chocolate recipes. As the instructions for the recipes often go “use good quality 70% chocolate” and as a viewer I would be all “ohhh chocolate!”. Nowadays after reviewing hundreds of craft chocolate bars I am left thinking “Yes, but what chocolate and why only 70%?”. Sure, 70% helps standardize recipes with viewers and readers are easily able to locate 70% chocolate to bake with, but thanks to the continuing rise of craft chocolate/specialty chocolate now there is a larger variety of high-quality, single-origin and varied percentages chocolate out there to work with. Many makers now have both their own craft chocolate baking items for both home bakers and professionals to purchase which is elevating baking to another level.
Over the next couple of blog posts we will take a look at a wide variety of baking with craft chocolate topics including the ways single-origin craft chocolate affects recipe creation and existing recipes, inspiration for products, product lines, obstacles for getting bakers/chefs to use craft chocolate, the enjoyment of baking with craft/specialty chocolate, where makers would like to see craft chocolate baking evolve to in the future and more!
Paul John Kearins is both a chocolatier and pastry chef, and if you follow his Instagram stories (you know who you are!) he is a bit of a comedian as well. Paul works at the Purple Feather Cafe in Provincetown and runs his own chocolate business, Chocolatasm. (Let’s just say you “need” his buttermilk bonbons in your life! One of my personal favorite bonbons of all time!).
I’ve actually been wanting to interview Paul for almost a year and a half, but the timing never seemed right until now. Good people are worth the wait and what a pleasure it’s been to interview Paul officially after our long-time online/direct message interactions!
Did I mention Paul uses craft chocolate in his bonbons and bars? Find out how he started using craft chocolate in his creations, tips on pairing chocolate with wine, how a growing social media following impacts his life and more in my interview with a true flavor master, Paul John Kearins.
Paul John Kearins of Chocolatasm
Victoria Cooksey: What is your first memory of chocolate?
Paul John Kearins: My first memory of chocolate was an Easter egg I received as a small child. It was a milk chocolate egg filled with chocolate buttons and I remember there being the smell of the carton and the chocolate combined. I can conjure that nostalgia just by thinking about it. The carton revealed part of the Easter egg wrapped in deep purple foil and I remember opening the foil ever so gently and eating the buttons and then reassembling the two halves of the egg and re-wrapping it in the foil. I guess I didn’t want the magic to end and that is something I still have to some degree. Continue reading “Interview with Paul John Kearins of Chocolatasm”