You may recall that I retired last year as a semi-pro chocolatier, after 30 years in the biz, on the grounds that things had gotten a wee bit excessive and a woman with Type 2 diabetes really shouldn’t be making chocolates anyway.
Apparently I forgot who I was dealing with.
(You’d think that, after 49 years of living with myself, I’d have learned, but apparently not. Sheesh.)
It all started so innocently. I was trying to find a low-sugar chocolate that I actually liked, using the obvious method of ordering one of every possible type of 80+% cacao-solids chocolate from Chocosphere and then sampling little bits of each bar. (Fortunately, my esteemed spouse, while significantly fussier than before meeting me, is still willing to eat most of my rejects.) I found one I liked – which promptly went out of stock, with no projected resupply date. It was also annoyingly expensive.
(A momentary rant: People who brag at you about the cacao-solids percentage of their preferred chocolate bar generally haven’t the slightest clue what that means. In a dark chocolate, the cacao-solids percentage tells you how much sugar is in the bar. That is ALL it tells you. Dark chocolate is made of cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and a tiny bit of lecithin, usually soy lecithin, that helps the emulsion stay together. Cocoa butter and cocoa powder are both considered cocoa solids. Lecithin is typically well under 1% of the bar. Therefore, bragging “My favorite chocolate is 66% cocoa solids” is exactly the same as bragging “My favorite chocolate is 34% sugar.” Exactly.
Percentage of cocoa solids tells you nothing about the actual measures of quality – the flavor of the chocolate, the amount of cocoa butter relative to cocoa powder, the intensity of flavor of the cocoa powder, the variety of cacao tree and the region in which it was grown, the darkness to which the cacao beans are roasted, or any of a slew of things that are way more important than the amount of sugar in the bar. So please. Stop it with the cacao percentages. Talk about something that matters.)
My favorite brand, Valrhona, did sell a low-sugar (85%) chocolate bar, but it was their Abinao flavor, which I find unpleasantly astringent and overly tart. Annoyingly, they had my favorite flavor, Alpaco, in a 66% cacao solids and an unsweetened chocolate form, but did they have it in 83%?? Noooo….if I wanted something like that, I was just going to have to make my own.
Well, okay. If that’s how you want to be about it…I can recognize a gauntlet when it’s tossed in my face. I had given away all my chocolatiering equipment when I “retired,” but fortunately, I still had a few tricks up my chocolatier sleeve, and one of them is a Cacao Barry product called Mycryo. Mycryo is a powdered, highly-crystallized cocoa butter that is designed to seed melted chocolate with the stable beta crystals that result in beautiful, glossy tempered chocolate. Without a tempering machine. (That’s how we semi-pros do it: We know how to cheat!)
So I ordered 1 kilo of unsweetened and 1 kilo of 66% Alpaco from Chocosphere. Ah, who am I kidding? I ordered three kilos of each. What on earth can you do with only two kilos of chocolate?? That’s less than five pounds! Ridiculously small quantities. Sheesh.
Then I ran a small test batch, sort of a proof of concept, to see if my idea would work. I melted one kilo of unsweetened, and about a quarter-kilo of 66%, to 110 F or so, then dumped in 500g of the (unmelted, still-tempered) 66%, stirred around until it reached 94F, then dumped in 20g of the Mycro as in the directions, added a trifle more of the 66%, and waited until it reached working temperature, about 91F. Now I had this lovely bowl:
I had bought a few polycarbonate chocolate bar molds, but they were patently not up to handling 2 kg worth of chocolate. After filling all four of these, I still had about 3/4 of the chocolate left:
So I started pouring pools of melted chocolate into a sheet pan and mixing in chopped-up tasty bits: dried figs, dried sour cherries, peanuts, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts. I even added some peanut butter to a batch to make peanut gianduja. (Like Reese’s peanut butter cups, only much, much better!)
Here’s one of the puddles of chocolate (cherry-hazelnut, I think):
Now I have about 6 pounds of fairly low-sugar (85% cocoa-solids) chocolate in eight or nine different mixes with macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, peanut butter, figs, and dried sour cherries. It’s a good thing I’m not a chocolate junkie – I’m perfectly capable of eating just 2-3 pieces a day, which is well within the bounds of a reasonable diet, even for someone with Type 2 diabetes. So I’ve got plenty of variety to nibble on, and fortunately, I also have a spouse who does not have Type 2 diabetes and will happily vacuum up the rest long before it goes stale, giving me an excellent excuse for making more.
…and they (and their cats) lived happily ever after. 🙂