Once upon a time, I got a wild recipe for chili from my local meat vendor. This recipe called for, among the usual ingredients, coffee, beer, and cocoa powder. The coffee I bought at a coffee shop in exactly the quantity recommended, the beer was simply a bottle of beer. The cocoa powder, however, could not be bought in precisely the intended quantity. Instead, I had to buy a huge can. For reasons I do not recall, I ended up with two huge cans of cocoa powder. I held onto this cocoa powder for a year, never finding myself either able to use it, nor with a way to get rid of it that would not upset my personal more surrounding the wasting of food. Then, one day, Alice wondered aloud what it took to make dark chocolate from scratch. I looked it up, and so begins my delicious story.
Basic chocolate has three ingredients – cocoa powder, a shortening, usually the fat from the cocoa bean, known as cocoa butter, and a sweetener. This is dark chocolate. Milk chocolate includes “milk solids,” so named because they are derived from milk. White chocolate does not include the cocoa powder. I have no interest in making milk chocolate or white chocolate. I also did not want to buy cocoa butter just to use up my cocoa powder.
As it happens, another food that tends to sit around unused for a long time in my house is butter. Now that is a tasty shortening! I know that too much animal fat increases my risk of heart attack, and in my case increases my mother’s risk of heart attack as well. Chocolate is a sometimes snack.
I place the butter in a pan and melt it at low heat. Next I add the cocoa powder.
For sweetening I use honey.
I stir the concoction together and put it in the refrigerator.
I made two versions, one with orange oil and one without. I thought the one with just chocolate needed more cocoa powder. I melted it again in the pan and added more. I also put it in the freezer so that it could solidify before separating. Dark chocolate made with butter tastes a bit like an exceptionally dense brownie.
I also tried making my own spin on chocolate milk. Unsweetened Soy milk, honey, baking cocoa, and orange oil all came together to make a delicious, if too sweet, drink. It took no more than a few delightful sips to start feeling sick. At Alice’s suggestion, I added more soy milk, which helped. It tasted like the “chocolate orange” that you can get at some fancy candy stores. Long one of my favorite treats.
Back to the chocolate itself. By now, it had hardened in the refrigerator. I cut it up. Despite my efforts, I was not able to keep the white film from appearing on top of the pure dark chocolate. After melting and refreezing with more cocoa powder once, I noticed it had been frozen at a tilt, and had to melt it again in the microwave to refreeze once more. Each time, it retained that white film on top. I decided to refer to it as “butter frosting.” This was not the end of my challenges. When I brought my new chocolate to an event, it had to sit at room temperature for a long time. This led to moisture appearing on top of the chocolate, making it look as if it were sweating, and even worse, the pure dark chocolate became so soft that it was impossible to pick up off of the plate. One very nice participant at the event used her fingers as a little shovel to scrape up my miserable pure dark chocolate and eat it. The orange dark chocolate fared better. It was a little messy on the fingers, but generally behaved like a solid as chocolate is expected to.
What was the difference? Well, the Internet had the answer to this, too! Chances are very good that the orange chocolate was well “tempered,” that is, that it never reached above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The dark chocolate on the other hand was not so lucky as I repeatedly melted and refroze it. I distinctly remember seeing it bubble a few times when I was melting it.
Happy ending, though! Both chocolates made it back into the freezer, and they have perfect consistency when eaten straight from there.