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.
A huge thank you to Jael Rattigan of French Broad Chocolate, Sam Maruta of Marou Chocolate, Lawren Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate, Joanna Brennan of Pump Street Bakery and Pump Street Chocolate, chocolatier Steph Shafer of Bella Sophia Chocolates, Mackenzie Rivers of Map Chocolate, Lauren Heineck of WKND Chocolate and Well Tempered Podcast and chef Caroline Schiff of ParadigmSchiff for sharing their time, expertise and experience in regards to the topics involved with craft chocolate products and baking.
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!
(Be sure to check out the Maison Marou Brownie recipe at the end of this post).
What is bean-to-bar craft chocolate/specialty chocolate?
If you love baking but are new to the craft chocolate scene bean-to-bar is when makers get cocoa beans (often through direct trade with the farmers that grow the cacao) and then the maker completes the whole process from roasting the beans all the way through the several steps needed to turn it into chocolate which they then temper and use to make their chocolate bars and baking chips, etc out of it. (For a good blog read specifically on what bean-to-bar is, check out this one by Estelle Tracy of 37 Chocolates).
Talk to ten people and you’ll get ten varied answers on the exact term of craft chocolate/specialty, but to put it very simply it’s makers who make chocolate in the bean-to-bar method using quality ingredients, often just made from the cocoa beans, some form of sugar and sometimes extra cocoa butter added in with bars made at a variety of percentages all the way up to 100% bars. Craft chocolate makers are also very open about the source of their ingredients, including the country and often the region the cacao was grown. Makers often make small batches, or micro-batches, of chocolate as part of the hands-on quality control. There is more to it than this, but you get the idea. (To learn more about making chocolate there are many books now available including Dandelion Chocolate’s book Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’more).
Cocoa powder/cocoa butter
A large part of a cocoa bean is made up of cocoa butter. By pressing the beans the cocoa butter comes out and, voila, cocoa powder. Besides making chocolate some makers also make their own cocoa powder (sometimes also referred to as cacao powder).
Victoria Cooksey: What is the process of making your own single-origin cocoa powder at Map Chocolate?
Mackenzie Rivers/Map Chocolate: I roast the beans, winnow, and then use a small-batch oil press, which separates the cocoa butter and the “fiber” of the beans, which then becomes cocoa powder.
VC: What prompted Askinosie Chocolate to press your own cocoa butter?
Lawren Askinosie/Askinosie Chocolate: We’ve done it since the beginning. It was something my dad was passionate about. He wanted to create a true single-origin experience and we aim to highlight not just the specific and singular flavor of each region, but also to honor the work of our amazing farmer partners by showcasing their beans as much as possible. We also believe it gives our bars a better flavor and mouthfeel.
Lawren Askinosie Chief Marketing Officer of Askinosie Chocolate and Co-author of the Book Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul
A Chocolatier who makes chocolate
Chocolatiers make things out of pre-made chocolate (melting it down, tempering it and then make bonbons, bars, molded items, etc. out of it) Sometimes the chocolate they use is purchased from craft chocolate makers. On occasion, a chocolatier might choose to wear both hats, so to speak, and also choose to make their own chocolate.
Steph Shafer of Bella Sophia Chocolates went about learning to make chocolate in a more unusual way; by starting with the pods, fermenting the beans and so forth to make her own chocolate. (As part of learning, fun, experimenting and before she knew she could just buy the beans).
VC: In the beginning, how did you end up starting with the pod; fermenting the beans versus buying the cocoa beans? Are you working with farmers directly? How hard was it to get actual pods then?
Steph Shafer/Bella Sophia Chocolates: Well, I wanted to make my own chocolate and after doing my research on how some of the best chocolates were made, I was infatuated with the entire process, from how the pods grow on a tree, how farmers harvest in the rain forest to fermenting, conching, etc. It’s such an amazing process. I wanted to learn everything about how you take that pod and turn it into a bar, and in my case bonbons. At first, I didn’t realized they sold beans, I have only researched, about the pods. I’ve been lucky to travel the world, meeting people from all over, with connections to the cacao farms, families I’ve worked with for many years, in a different capacity, and now that I’m interested in the cacao world, my long time friendships are excited for me to learn about their world. My connections are specifically in the Dominican Republic and Peru, but as I grow my business, I’m in touch with more farmers throughout the world, it’s all very exciting. It hasn’t been hard getting pods, but then again everything I do is unconventional. I like to just do things, I don’t waste time thinking about how, or if it’s ok, I just make contacts and get what I need.
How does single-origin craft chocolate affect baking, recipe creation and incorporating it into pre-existing recipes?
If you like wine, craft beer and/or single-origin coffees then you know the scents and taste may be highly varied in each one. The same goes for single-origin chocolate. (Single-origin is the county, a certain region of the country or even the exact farm/estate the item is grown). Depending on the origin and how it’s fermented, roasted, etc., chocolate might taste earthy, nutty, fudgy, fruity, and so forth. These flavors exist in the chocolate itself. (Several countries are able to grow cacao, especially rarer varieties. Some cacao growing countries include, but are not limited to, Madagascar, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Columbia, Vietnam, Cuba, Mexico, India, Brazil and more. In the USA cacao is able to grown in Hawaii).
When baking with craft chocolate first think about the taste of the chocolate you want to use. Does the taste of the chocolate match what you are looking for in your finished products?
The next thing to consider is that each single-origin chocolate has various amounts of cocoa butter in the cacao beans and each chocolate tends to have varying levels of viscosity when melted. This can affect recipe development as well.
VC: Do you find different origins change recipe outcomes? If so, what steps do you take to make adjustments? From your own experience, any suggestions for home cooks that want to incorporate single-origin craft chocolate into their own recipes? ,
Mackenzie Rivers/Map Chocolate: Origins do have an impact on recipes, not just with flavor (some origins are very fruity-forward, while others are malty/earthy, etc.) but also the effect on baking has to do with how the chocolate was crafted. Ecuador Camino Verde is often touted as super-viscous, which in some thinking implies “less cocoa butter” but in fact, it is more likely it is the composition of the cocoa butter fats (it’s not just “one” type of fat) that causes the ganache-at-higher-temps effect. If you think “I’ve heard CV is low is super viscous” and jump to the conclusion that it must certainly require a higher fat/added fat recipe, the end result won’t be what you might expect. As for using single-origin chocolates at home, I say just go for it. It is no different than learning to work with any other good ingredient. When I test out a new origin for baking–recently it was Ecuador Costa Esmeraldas-I treat it the way I do when I roast a new origin and make the first batch of chocolate: same test roast profile, same test % batch, so that I have a baseline for comparison. so for baking cocoa I use a recipe for brownies from Alice Medrich, make it with the it with the new cocoa powder. For solid chocolate I add chopped up bits of the chocolate to a chocolate chip recipe that uses spelt flour–spelt absorbs a bit of liquid, so if the chips come out super runny or disappear into the batter it’s obvious. My only “rule” is I’d never bake with a chocolate that did not taste good out of hand, or a cocoa powder that didn’t make me jump out and down the minute I smelled it.
VC: When developing recipes do you notice a differences in the outcomes depending on which chocolate origin you use?
Lauren Heineck/WKND Chocolate/Well Tempered Podcast: Absolutely. In a professional sense, it’s important to taste the chocolate with the suggested pairing and/or final product, separate and together, and then again with the same process and another estate/batch side by side, and so on.
VC: How has your baking and recipe creation changed since you started making your own bean-to-bar chocolate?
Lauren Heineck/WKND Chocolate/Well Tempered Podcast: To start- many more trials than before! For me personally, using my own bean-to-bar chocolate or buying from colleagues, has converted my use of chocolate into something incredibly dear, or the upmost respect. I’ve learned its strong, unique, or delicate flavors (depending on the bean/origin) can be used with more restraint, but still offer an incredible flavor profile. Because specialty craft chocolate makers in general are working to highlight nuances while maintaining purity of ingredients whilst offering high percentages, additive, lecithin and oil-free chocolates. Less is more in my opinion. For instance, I’m shocked when I read chocolate chip recipes that call for 2 cups/350g/12oz of chocolate, that much craft chocolate is: a) expensive for the consumer intending to match 1-for-1 in traditional recipes and b) overpowering, considering its original target was for a semi-sweet &/or bittersweet chocolate (required to have 35% cocoa solids minimum).
Additionally, it’s fascinating to watch how the humble – and complex – cocoa bean that has previously been clumped in myriad recipes as “chocolate” is a multifaceted ingredient as diverse as your spice or liquor cabinet. Not only flavor, recipes, or makers’ interpretations on various regions mentioned above, but textural changes, absorption rates, fat content/balance; traits that can affect ganache ratios, buttercream frostings, etc. all of that to say, eaters and bakers shouldn’t fear the process or shy from incorporating into their baking traditions and routines, however it helps to understand that chocolate is as dynamic as a seasonal fruit, and we can seek out its optimal use. We’d never make banana bread with unripened bananas, would we?
VC: What are some of the difficulties and some of the pleasures with incorporating bean-to-bar chocolate into recipe creations?
Joanna Brennan/Pump Street Bakery/Pump Street Chocolate: The great pleasure or using bean to bar chocolate in cooking is the variety that is on offer. Instead of chocolate being communicated as one flavour – perhaps with “intensity” marked by percentage – you have a range of different characteristics to choose from depending on what you want the final dish to taste like. This also means that you have challenges to make many different test dishes to see what works best with the other ingredients you are using. And if you’re not in the position I am in of also being a chocolate maker, you may have to adjust your expectations of how the chocolate will behave compared to standard couverture, particularity if it’s two-ingredient chocolate.
VC: When you have baked with over-the-counter chocolate versus your own bean-to-bar chocolate what differences have you noticed? What challenges have you had with baking and creating recipes with single-origin chocolate? What has been the greatest pleasure?
Steph Shafer/Bella Sophia Chocolates: Well, a lot of us grew up with Hershey and toll house. I was fortunate to grow up with real cacao, both my mother and my grandmother hand grind their own, for health reasons and it went culturally with a lot of recipes we ate. The difference is no waxy feeling in your mouth, from store bought chocolate and the smell from real chocolate is out of this world. I haven’t found any challenges using single origin, but what I have found is your palette tells you how to create it, after roasting, depending on your own process, some have a bit of a smoky flavor, some more fruits. So, the best part is finding that perfect baked good to compliment it.
VC: How did you come to the decision to make your own chocolate versus buying pre-made? How many of your creations typically involve your own chocolate versus purchased chocolate?
Steph Shafer/Bella Sophia Chocolates: I’ve traveled a lot, one of my guilty pleasures is European chocolate, there’s nothing like it. Until now, it was pretty hard to find something of quality here in Orange county. The texture, flavor, small, all come from using real cacao, I decided I would learn everything I could about it, and I make it myself, I just can’t buy pre-made anymore, plus I’m knid of a control freak, I like to control the roasting time, the amount of sugar I add, I like to know exactly where it came from, and how it was handled. Everything I create has chocolate in it.
VC: What are the easiest types of recipes to incorporate single-origin chocolate into? What are the more challenging ones?
Jael Rattigan/French Broad Chocolates: Well, it depends on what chocolate you’re using! The formulation, viscosity, and cocoa butter content can have major impacts on a recipe. Ganache is an easy place to start, as you can adjust the formula by adding more cream as necessary. This simple recipe (start with 1:1 chocolate to cream) can be the foundation of so many desserts, from hot chocolate to truffles to chocolate tarts.
I would say ice cream is the most challenging. Most ice cream recipes are made with cocoa powder, as the cocoa butter in chocolate adds fat that is hard when frozen, making the ice cream too firm. So we had to revise the entire formulation to work with the chocolate, since we definitely wanted to feature our own chocolate in our ice cream.
Jael Rattigan Co-founder/CEO of French Broad Chocolate Photo Credit Nicole McConville
VC: As you worked on the newly opened French Broad Chocolate Cookies and Creamery location and ice cream recipes what is the difference between creating, say, a brownie using single-origin chocolate when compared to using the chocolate in an ice cream recipe?
Jael Rattigan/French Broad Chocolate: We select flavor profiles of the chocolate we use very intentionally for each recipe we make. Sometimes we/ll use a tart, fruity chocolate to punch up, say, a raspberry bonbon, but then we’ll feature a more earthy and cocoa-forward chocolate to use in a brownie or hot sipping chocolate. Our ice cream uses our 80% Costa Rican chocolate, and the experience is intensely chocolaty. A fruity chocolate in this application would not give our guests the same experience, it would taste a bit sour. It’s so fun to play with recipes and experience how much a product can change by simply changing out what chocolate we use!
VC: How does baking with single-origin chocolate, such as Map Chocolate, differ from baking with chocolate that isn’t single-origin? (Caroline Schiff had been experimenting with using Map Chocolate in recipes at the time of this interview).
Caroline Schiff/ParadigmSchiff: Single origin craft chocolate is way less refined and I mean that in a good way! While most mass produced chocolate is aiming for a consistent product, craft chocolate is striving to preserve the texture, flavor and nuances of those beans. Sometimes you’ll get some interesting textures and flavor profiles that can vary batch to batch and as a chef that’s exciting. almost like wine. Each year will have it’s own character. Recipes can be built around those changing characters.
VC: What have been the pleasures and the difficulties with recipe creation when using single-origin craft chocolate? How does different origins in the same recipe change the outcome?
Caroline Schiff/ParadigmSchiff: Inconsistency will be the biggest issues, but it’s not a bad thing. You just need to have some flexibility as a chef. Melting consistency, sweetness, acidity and fat content can all be wild cards, but any recipe can be adjusted. Taste the chocolate first and get a sense of what you’re working with. If it’s going into a chocolate chip cookie recipe and the acidity is crazy high, balance it with some extra salt. Rarely is the outcome bad, you just have to not be afraid to be flexible when working with chocolate that is going to assert itself.
Sam Maruta of Marou Chocolate will have info/answers in the upcoming blog post Baking with Craft Chocolate Part 2. Until then enjoy the following Maison Marou Brownies recipe.
Maison Marou Brownies Recipe:
Recipe courtesy of Maison Marou’s chef Stephanie Abriot.
50g Marou Single Origin Chocolate, melted
30g Marou Single Origin Chocolate, chopped
30g roasted cashew nuts, chopped (or another favorite nut)
40g PM (Provisions Marou) Nibs
30g PM (Provisions Marou) Cacao Powder
120g caster sugar
100g of unsalted butter, soft
1 large whole egg
- In a large bowl whisk together soft butter and sugar.
- Sit in the egg.
- Mix in the 50g of melted chocolate.
- Add the cacao powder, flour and salt, and mix contents until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine the chopped chocolate chunks, cashew nuts and nibs.
- Divide the quantity in half (reserving one half for topping).
- Pour half of the chunks, nuts and nibs into the mixture and stir until well combined.
- Pour the mix onto a greased cake pan.
- Top the brownie with the other half of the chunks and nibs.
- Bake in the oven at 160 degrees C for about 30 minutes.
Thank you so much to everyone who contributed answers to this blog, thank you Marou for sharing their brownie recipe and thank you so much to everyone who had an interest in reading this blog post!
Next time we will continue the topic of baking in regards to product development, creative inspiration, where the contributors would like to see craft chocolate baking go in the future and more! Stay tuned! Feel free to comment on this post of your thoughts on baking with craft/specialty chocolate and ways you have or plan to incorporate it into your baking.
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French Broad Chocolate:
Pump Street Chocolate:
Bella Sophia Chocolates: