I managed to lay my hands on a few kilos of fermented cocoa beans. So my mission was to make my own chocolate from scratch. As I am allergic to milk it was going to be dark chocolate, which is supposedly healthier anyway. Making chocolate turned out to be really simple but it is not for people in a hurry. Chose a quiet day and enjoy the almost meditative art of chocolate making!
The first step is roasting the cocoa beans. To do this I spread them out in a single layer in a heavy iron roasting pan.
I preheated the oven to 230*C and roasted the cocoa beans for 5 min. Then I reduced the temperature to 120*C and roasted them for another 10min. By then a really nice chocolaty smell was filling the kitchen.
In the next step the cocoa beans have to be crushed to remove the dry skins, which cover the cocoa beans. I used a hazelnut cracker from Turkey for this, but it could probably also be done with a pestle and mortar or with a quick whizz in a blender or grinder.
To remove the dry skins I placed the coconuts back in the roasting pan, but any shallow dish or basket would do. I went outside, as the whinnowing blows the cocoa skins all over the place, and used an old hairdrier (on cold) to blow off all the dry skins. This should be done carefully to ensure all skins are removed but the cocoa nibs remain in the dish.
I ended up with nice shiny cocoa nibs. I measured out 100g. That is a good quantity to handle with household equipment.
To make a 70% chocolate I had to add a total of 43g of sugar. So I added caster sugar to the vanilla sugar until it reached 43g.
The crucial piece of equipment in chocolate making is a powerful grinder. I used my spice mill and it did a good job. Before I started grinding the cocoa beans I first ground the sugar-vanilla mix to a fine powder.
I mixed the powdered sugar with the cocoa nibs.
Then I spooned small amounts of the sugar-cocoa mix back into the mill. It takes a bit of experimenting to find out just exactly which amount your grinder can handle comfortably.
At first the cocoa beans grind into a coarse powder. My mill has a pulse function, so that I can grind for a few seconds repeatedly without overheating the grinder.
Suddenly the cocoa mass starts to liquify. Use a small rubber scraper to remove the mass from the sides and to move it back into the center of the grinder.
I kept grinding to a certain point of smoothness, when you could still see tiny bits and pieces in the chocolate. Then I removed it from the grinder and ground the remaining cocoa beans in several batches.
When all the cocoa beans were ground I put all the batches together back into the grinder. At this point the grinder works better when it is rather full.
I kept grinding for another few minutes until the chocolate was really liquid and smooth. At this stage though, the tongue can still feel tiny cocoa particles.
To achieve the last bit of smoothness, the liquid chocolate is then transferred into a hot water bath. The top dish, which is holding the chocolate should not touch the hot water in the dish underneath. The water whould be hot but not boiling. The temperature should be maintained throughout the next 30 minutes.
Using a pestle I kept grinding the liquid chocolate in the hot water bath for 30 minutes until it was so smooth that the tongue could no longer detect coarse pieces.
The liquid chocolate was now already irresistably delicious, but one last refining step was needed to perfect the texture of the chocolate.
I poured the chocolate onto a marble platter and worked it backwards and forwards, scraping it over the platter with a large flat cake knife until it started to set.
Before the chocolate was getting too thick I spread it into a praline mold and left it to set in the fridge for about 2 hours.
And voila! Beautiful, delicious chocolate dinos. Pure and simple!
Anja Weber is the chairperson of Mama Chakula Foundation, a members' organisation dedicated to rural transformation through education & exchange; honouring old principals while embracing new technologies. She came to East Africa in 1997, when she set up the food processing units at Irente Farm. She has since worked as manager for different companies in East Africa.