Batch 9: The Challenge Begins!

Batch 9 has been unloaded from the melangeur, and deposited into a parchment paper wrapped Pyrex pan. The parchment was closed, then the whole pan wrapped in two layers of foil. The extra wrapping is to avoid a defect that Gary Guittard pointed out after tasting my last batch: the chocolate is picking up other tastes from the plastic molds and bags I was using previously. Cocoa butter has the amazing ability to absorb and hold aromas. This is one of the properties that makes it so valuable. So, I’ve built a little space capsule to hold the chocolate.

This brings us to the final, and most difficult step in the process: aging the chocolate. There’s actually nothing to be done here, but the hard part is not eating the chocolate while it’s sitting there, defenseless. Many people are surprised when they hear that chocolate is aged, and it’s not usually part of the classic chocolate manufacturing explainations. It turns out that many high-end commercial and artisan chocolate makers do a significant aging stage (on the order of weeks or months) with the finished chocolate. The chocolate is so dry that it won’t support microbial life, so there’s no fermentation or other microbiological process going on that drives this process. There are two things motivating the aging process. First, there is evidence that it improves the textural and melting qualities of the cocoa butter. The other is that it allows flavor compounds from the cocoa solids in the chocolate to mix with the sugar particles, resulting in a more even flavor distribution.

To experiment with this, I’ve saved off four small squares of the batch to taste tomorrow, then will compare notes from that tasting with the chocolate after it’s had some time to meditate. The very last step before the chocolate is done will be to temper it. More on that in a few days!

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One Response to Batch 9: The Challenge Begins!

  1. Alan McClure says:

    Terence,

    I forgot to mention to you, after hearing about Guittard’s comment through Adam, that there is an article on Blackwell Synergy that might interest you:
    http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2007.00014.x?prevSearch=allfield%3A%28plastic+scalping%29+and+%28allfield%3A%28polypropylene%29%29
    If that link doesn’t work, just search for:
    “Scalping of Flavors in Packaged Foods” by M.G. Sajilata, et al.
    The whole article is there for free.

    It goes into some general issues surrounding plastic packaging and how it can react with the foods being packaged within it. This is called scalping, and is just the thing you are describing. The authors don’t deal with chocolate, but this will give you an idea of the problems involved with packaging choice. Also, from personal experience I can advise you to steer clear of ziploc brand bags or the generic versions that are also made out of LDPE (low density polyethylene). They impart a very strong aroma to the chocolate. I have read that this may be due to “slip agents” and anti-oxidants that can be added to this material.

    A little on slip agents:
    http://www.plastemart.com/upload/Literature/New_slip_agents.asp

    I never could find out if the strong ziplock aroma, which is clear through a casual whiff of the bags, was due to one of these slip agents, or perhaps added anti-oxidants, and whether there were some LDPE bags made without these products, so I simply stopped using them. Instead, I went in the direction of PP (polypropylene) bags created specifically for the storage of candy items. They have no detectable odor that I can notice, and I haven’t noticed any aroma absorption into chocolate stored within them. However, the material could still “scalp” volatiles from the chocolate, leading to an overall decline in aroma, but I haven’t noticed this happening even after months of aging. Perhaps the effect is not strong enough with larger amounts of chocolate, or perhaps many of the volatiles in chocolate are not readily absorbed by PP. I don’t have a clear answer. Anyway, I suppose aluminum should work just fine as long as you seal it well. If you do look for PP bags though, they are often called “Cello” bags as they approximate the look of cellophane, but are much less expensive.

    Best,

    Alan

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