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!