Looking for a little advice on how to better work with the chocolate as I go through the process of learning. I purchased a Cocoa Town melanger and have made about 10 - 2 lb. batches in the last month. I am using the balls of paste we made in the Dominican Republic last summer.
I break up the balls using a meat grinder and soften the pieces on a double boiler before I put in in the melanger. I have been adding about 2 cups of pure cane sugar and am testing 2 1/2 cups on my current batch. The conch time has ranged from 4 - 8 hours and one 20 hours conch. Clay warned me about over conching and the gleam appears after about 4 hours.
When I take it about I generally let it harden at room temperature and store in the refrigerator until I temper it. When I visited Mast Brothers they told me they age their chocolate for a month and I read in Maricel Presilla about chocolate being aged for more than three months. AT WHAT POINT DO YOU AGE IT? After the conch and what are the ideal temperatures to store it?
When I took samples of the 7 hr conch to the chocolate show in NYC, it is obvious it is missing something, especially at the end. Are the flavor notes primarily determined at the bean selection, fermentation and roasting processes? How much influence do I have with the conch machine? Or am I mostly working on texture and appearance at this point.
I also lose probably 10 -15% (a guess) transferring it between the machine to a bowl and then during tempering to the molds.
I take it to school (I am a teacher) and share it with the students and get a lot of good feedback. I talk about making chocolate with kids at every opportunity. And they love it.
I also made my first batch of ganche and made some truffle balls rolled in a variety of nuts and roasted quinoa works well. Tried a little batch with reduced orange juice. Not the same as those I purchase around NYC but it is a start.
I age it once it has been totally finished and moulded into bars. Most dramatic changes in the chocolate taste occur in a period of three weeks after that, from then it seems reasonably stable (I mould pretty much straight after I finish grinding it). This is just my experience from making and eating a serious amount of chocolate in the last 4-5 years. As for conching, you just have to use your taste, I don't ever conch overly long, I like a bright chocolate. Over conching is a sin, it flattens and mutes the chocolate. Only with a very acidic chocolate like madagascar would I conch in the true sense. It takes about 12 h for a 1 kg batch to grind down to sufficient particle size in my Spectra 10, usually I wouldn't do anything more to the chocolate after that. But with a madagascar I would take the lid off and 'conch' (grind further) for about another 6 h, this also depends on ambient temperature also.
The best way to learn is just to make heaps of chocolate and try different things all the time, try lots of different origins too. Importantly taste it all the time at all stages and keep notes.
Thank you Tom. We did an initial gritty grind in the DR and it has aged for 4 months now. I didn't know if I should age it after I conch it, before the temper and mold. The paste I am using is pretty rugged. I did buy 100 pounds of fermented beans from a farmers cooperative and a women's cooperative roasted the beans over wood and then hand cracked and winnnowed the beans before it was put through a hand grinder. The 12 hour conch seems to work. Thank you again.