If after tasting many different brands of milk chocolate, you still haven’t found one that satisfies all of your preferences, you might be interested in making it yourself. By experimenting with making chocolate using only commonly available kitchen implements, you can not only take a stab at being an amateur chocolatier, but you will also gain a better understanding of how the creation and processing of chocolate affect the flavor.
- Buy the beans. Search online for reputable vendors. There are several different kinds of beans, and they’re not all created equal. Research the flavor, texture, and price associated with each one and place your order. They should arrive fermented but unroasted.
- Distribute the beans over a cookie sheet in a single layer. Keep the oven at a constant 300 degrees. Remove samples of the beans at ten minutes, 20 minutes, and 30 minutes. The flavor should develop from raw and uncooked with a weak chocolate flavor to a good chocolate flavor, with no hints of over-roasting–that’s when you want to remove the beans. There is no set formula as to how long this will take, especially since the roasting time varies widely depending on the type of bean used and the oven conditions.
- Hull the beans. There are several different ways to accomplish this:
The quickest way to hull a lot of beans is to place them on a board and lightly run over them with a rolling pin. The problem is that the nibs are shattered into such small pieces that separating them from the hulls can be difficult.
You can also try simply breaking a bean in half with your fingers and gently rolling the halves between your forefingers and thumbs. This expels the nibs with very little breakage and keeps the hulls together in mostly large pieces that are easy to winnow out. Still, there is a lot of cacao lost no matter how you may try to blow the hulls away.
Alternatively, there is a very tedious but clean way to separate the beans from the hulls. (This is only good for very small batches of beans and even then only by someone who has a lot of patience.) Scratch away a small section of the hull using a small serrated paring knife, then use your fingernail to peel away the rest of the hull in much the same way as peeling the shell off a hard-boiled egg. The pieces of the hull can be discarded and the cacao bean is left (usually) intact.
- Grind the beans into chocolate liquor. Use a juicer rather than a food processor. What often results is a liquor that is grainy but still has a very pure and strong cocoa flavor.
- Mix the milk chocolate. Grind granulated sugar into a fine powder (the powdered sugar in stores has cornstarch in it which will make chocolate gritty.) Convert the powdered milk into a finer powder. Measure out the liquor, melted the cocoa butter, lecithin, powdered milk, and powdered sugar according to the percentage of cacao you want the chocolate to be. Mix the ingredients.
- Finish with conching. Use a mixer set at its lowest speed and fitted with one beater. Pour the chocolate into a tall glass and illuminate it with a 25-watt spotlight to maintain its temperature. (If the mixer tends to overheat, alternate two hours on with half-hour off cycles to let it cool.) When cooling and at night, cover the chocolate with insulating layers of aluminized bubble wrap to keep it warm. After approximately 48 hours of actual coaching time, temper the chocolate using the marble-board-and-spatula technique and pour it into a foil mold to cool. There’s your homemade milk chocolate bar!
- Taste your creation. Keep in mind that it might be the grittiest, nastiest chocolate you’ve ever had. This is homemade chocolate, after all. But, try to understand what you could do to improve the flavor, and keep that in mind for next time. Or, leave chocolate-making to the pros, and enjoy a deeper appreciation of what chocolate is and where it comes from before it becomes a bar.
- Like walnuts, cocoa beans have thin paper membranes between some of their internal segments and even a little on the surface of the bean. Without some type of air-flow winnowing these bits of the membrane, though much finer than the hull, may nonetheless cause some grittiness in the final chocolate.
- Before placing beans on a cookie sheet to roast them, take a look at the bottom of the sheet. If it’s bright, clean, and shiny everything’s okay. But, if it’s dark, be warned that the dark coloration, whether from burnt-on soot or made that way by the manufacturer, it will collect heat much faster than a shiny sheet and could cause the beans to burn.
- Working with chocolate involves dealing with hot materials and fire. No one should do so without the supervision of a responsible adult experienced with all the processes and equipment involved.