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”
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”
Diego’s Artisan Chocolate is a craft chocolate maker located in Guatemala. The chocolate is very fudge-like in texture and comes rolled in colorful tissue paper. (My favorite is the one with whole coffee beans). At Diego’s Chocolate everything is done by hand from roasting the beans in very tiny batches, hand peeling the beans and even coloring the labels by hand.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Nicolas Silverman, who represents and distributes Diego’s Chocolate in the USA, at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle this past November, 2018.
Victoria Cooksey: How long has the Diego family been making chocolate?
Nicolas Silverman: Diego and his family have been making chocolate for almost 30 years. While the recipe and packaging went through some changes in the early years, it has been more or less the same for decades. In the past year, we opened our own retail store in San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala, where customers can come learn about chocolate making, buy our products, and even try making chocolate themselves. We are very excited about being able to welcome visitors – please come and see us!
Just a glance at Bella Sophia Chocolates Instagram page is enough to give a sense of what an amazing artist Steph Shafer is! Steph manages to offer great flavor, visual appeal and creativity to all her creations and embodies the qualities of an empowered woman as well! (Read on to find out Steph’s definition of an empowered woman).
Bella Sophia Chocolates was founded by both Steph and JD Shafer and was named after their daughter Bella Sophia. From making their own vanilla extract to using cacao from small family farms from the Dominican Republic, Peru and Ecuador when available, Bella Sophia focuses on quality ingredients to create their small-batch award winning luxury chocolates.
Steph Shafer of Bella Sophia Chocolates
Victoria Cooksey: How did you get started making chocolates/bonbons?
Steph Shafer: Making chocolates actually was by accident, it was not planned. I’m an artist and one evening I wanted to paint, however, my large canvas was too heavy for me to carry into the house, I had a piece of chocolate on the counter, so I decided to paint it for fun. I took a picture of the painted chocolate and posted it on Instagram and the next morning I had several people asking me where they could buy that chocolate. It was from there that I learned all about chocolate, where it comes from and how it’s made. I have always been in love with fine chocolate! I love everything about it, the texture, the taste, the smell, I love how it melts in your mouth, it’s so smooth and luxurious. I wanted this type of chocolate for my business, so I researched and created what I think is the best chocolate.
Hans Westerink is a craft chocolate maker located in South Bend, Indiana. I have been lucky enough to have been able purchase his bean-to-bar chocolate in November at the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA. In my opinion, Violet Sky Chocolate features one of the loveliest chocolate bar packaging which is so colorful and often shiny which really makes it stand out, and Hans often uses unique inclusions in his bars as well. Read on to find out more about Hans!