A crowd pleaser all year round but with its warming flavour profile, chocolate really comes into its own in the colder months - nothing quite beats being tucked up with a hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire!
Many cultures around the world have a rich history with the cocoa bean, and it has been used for religious rituals, medicine and even as a currency.
In Mexico, chocolate has found itself at the heart of ancient traditions and legends - according to Aztec legend the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl stole chocolate from the gods to share with humanity.
Now, at Rassa we’re all about getting hands on when it comes to learning new skills, so you can follow our seven steps below to have a go at creating your own chocolate at home from bean to bar!
Note: you can get hold of fresh cocoa pods online on sites like Etsy or if you’re in the UK you can try Rare Exotics and My Exotic Fruit.
Cut the cocoa pod in half and pull out the seeds which will have a slimy, white flesh around them. At Rassa, we put a real focus on intimately understanding the ingredients you’re working with so if you’re feeling curious, have a taste of the seeds raw - the flavour will be similar to a more bitter lychee.
Put the seeds in a bowl, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or cling film/plastic wrap and leave them at room temperature for 7 days. During this time the seeds will begin to ferment and develop those distinctive flavours we associate with chocolate.
After 7 days, you’ll notice the seeds will have turned a slightly brownish colour and there will be a strong alcohol smell which develops as a result of the fermentation process. Spread the seeds out onto an oven baking tray and roast them in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half at 150 degrees celsius (approx 300°F). They’ll be done once they become dry and brittle with a dark brown (chocolate) colour.
Peel away the shell to reveal the bean (repeat across all of the seeds). Then once peeled, crumble them to create cocoa nibs.
Now to make the chocolate (as we know it). Into a blender, add your cocoa nibs and a sprinkle of sugar. Blend past the point of a powder until you eventually get to a fine chocolate paste (this may take a bit of time but don’t worry it’ll get there!).
Pour into a chocolate mould and put it in the freezer for around 30 minutes to allow it to set. Then all that’s left to do is enjoy!
Switching up the method:
This is a basic method which gives you a chocolate bar with a bit of crunch from the sugar granules but if you want a silkier version, you can also add a generous teaspoon of cocoa butter or coconut oil to the sugar and cocoa nibs mix before blending.
You can also have some fun experimenting flavour, trying adding different spices to your mix such as, cinnamon, nutmeg or clove or have a play with different essences like vanilla, rose or orange zest.
For texture, once you have your fine chocolate paste just before going into the mould you can add small chunks of pistachio, hazelnut, desiccated coconut or candied fruits.
What to do with your chocolate?
Of course you can enjoy the chocolate as it is in its delicious bar form, but it’ll also be tasty melted into a luxurious hot chocolate with spices and maybe even a splash of baileys. If you decide to stop at the stage where the cocoa bean is in the form of nibs, there are also plenty of ways you can get creative:
You can make a cocoa bitters for flavouring cocktails. Vodka is a good base spirit for its neutral flavour or you can go for a bourbon to complement the warm flavour profile of cocoa. You can steep a mix of cacao nibs, cardamom, vanilla bean and a cinnamon stick in your spirit for a few weeks (replacing the aromatics with a fresh batch after the first week, taking care not to waste your infused spirit). After two weeks, filter out the aromatics and bottle your bitters ready for creating delicious cocktails!
Cocoa nibs add texture and a bitter kick which is perfect for garnishing cakes, adding to granola, topping smoothies or for adding crunch to biscuits and brownies.
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