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How to make chocolate at home using cocoa nibs

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Organic raw cocoa nibs

People often ask me when they come to my chocolate workshops, whether we will be making chocolate from scratch. This depends on the course, but we usually start with the chocolate making from chocolate coverture. There is still a lot of involved when you get to that stage – careful melting, chocolate tempering, flavouring and moulding.

So in most cases, we don’t start with making chocolate from the real beginning, but if you fancied making chocolate at home, here is how to do it! This recipe is suitable for vegetarians and vegan diets and it's also gluten free and dairy free (if you don't use powdered milk to make milk chocolate, or use coconut milk powder instead). 

You have two options, you can start with cocoa beans, but these are not always readily available to buy. So, the next best thing is to start with cocoa nibs, which you can buy in any health shop or online.

Cocoa nibs are chipped and broken down cocoa beans, that have been shelled and the top hard layer carefully removed. You can use cocoa nibs as they are and add them to your porridge or sprinkle them on top of any chocolate pudding or mouse.

Once you choose your cocoa nibs, check if they have been already roasted or not. If they are pre-roasted, skip the next step and follow the main recipe.

If your cocoa nibs are not roasted, pre-heat your oven to about 150C (300F) low heat oven temperature. Place your cocoa nibs on a large baking tin and bake for about 10 minutes. Check them and take them out once they start to smell like chocolate. Leave to cool before the next step.

Equipment you need to make chocolate from cocoa nibs at home

Coffee grinder (or food processor)
Food Blender
Thermometer (sugar thermometer or digital thermometer)

Marble or Granit chopping board 

Chocolate Making scrapers for chocolate temprering

Chocolate Moulds for solid chocolates (small chocolate bars or chocolate shapes)


Ingredients

Sugar (Cane sugar, coconut sugar)
Cocoa nibs
Cocoa butter
Vanilla Bean


Dark Chocolate Recipe

120 g cocoa nibs
60 g sugar
15g cocoa butter
½ vanilla bean seeds
Tiny pinch of salt
Toppings or flavourings of your choice – choose one or more combinations, that you feel would work well together (Dried Fruit, Nuts, Pepper, Cinnamon,

The process of making your own chocolate from cocoa nibs

First of all, grind all the cocoa nibs in a coffee grinder. If you have the ability to change settings on your coffee grinder, choose the fine setting. The finer the cocoa nibs are, the smoother the chocolate will be. Depending on your coffee grinder, make sure that you add your cocoa nibs gradually so that you don’t damage your coffee grinder. If you have any coarse bits, add them back to the grinder and grind them again.

Once you have all your cocoa nibs ground, do the same with the sugar. Add beans of one vanilla pod and grind it with the sugar.

Add the sugar, cocoa nibs and the vanilla beans to the food blender and blend on high speed for a few minutes.

Gradually add melted cocoa butter to the dry mixture and continue blending. Depending on your blender model, stop for a bit, when you see that the blender is getting too warm. You don’t want to burn your blender’s motor out.

The whole blending process might take about 8-10 minutes.

Once you are happy with your chocolate mixture, tip it out onto a cold marble (or similar surface) and temper your chocolate with a chocolate scraper by moving it around roughly in a figure of 8. This is to help to prevent your chocolate to bloom and also to make sure that your chocolate has a good structure and doesn’t melt too easily in your hands. You can find more about chocolate tempering here.

Once your chocolate is thicker, transfer it to a bowl and gently heat to about 32 C. Now you are ready to pour your chocolate into the moulds. At this stage, you can also add any flavouring you like or add toppings to your chocolate (nuts, dry fruit, sprinkles or anything else that’s not water-based or doesn’t contain water.

Once the chocolate starts to set on the sides of the chocolate mould, place the moulds somewhere cold – the fridge is usually the best place – and leave it there to set for about 20 minutes. Take out from the fridge and gently unmould. If your chocolate is tempered well, you will have no problems unmoulding your chocolate.
Leave to come to room temperature and wrap to store for later or serve straight away.

Practical tips on how to make your chocolate sucessfully


There are lots of questions, I’ve been asked when I run my chocolate making courses. Often we talk about making chocolate from cocoa nibs at home, so here are few answers and tips you might need to make chocolate at home successfully.

Why is my chocolate gritty when I make it at home?

The quality of your chocolate depends on how finely you grind your sugar, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and salt. This depends on how fine your coffee blender can grind everything and what type of coffee grinder you have. It's best to buy coffee grinder with different settings (like this one) so that you can adjust how fine you'd like your cocoa nibs to be.
If you think that your finished chocolate is not as smooth as you like, it’s a good idea to put the cocoa nibs through the coffee grinder twice and make sure that you sieve the ground cocoa nibs afterwards. This way, you are going to get rid of the biggest pieces and you can either save them for later or put them through the grinder again.

If you are going to make chocolate at home from cocoa nibs regularly, it might be worth investing in something more robust or even purchase a professional chocolate grinder. These are fairly expensive, so unless you are planning to make your chocolate making into more than just an occasional hobby, it’s probably not worth it.

What can I use instead of cane sugar?


Making chocolate at home is a great opportunity to make a healthier version of chocolate by using other sugar alternatives. You can use any type of sugar that’s ‘dry’ and just grind it down as you would with the cane sugar. I particularly like coconut sugar, brown sugar or molasses sugar.

If you use any ‘liquid’ types of sugar, such as honey, you will have problems with your chocolate tempering and setting, as you can’t really introduce ‘water’ based ingredients into the chocolate without changing the structure.

What can I use instead of cocoa butter?


I don’t have a cocoa butter at home, can I use something else instead? Yes, you certainly can! I often use coconut butter or oil instead of cocoa butter. The only thing to be mindful here is that cocoa oil (which is widely available in most health shops and supermarkets) melts at quite a low temperature, which makes the final product sensitive to heat. Cocoa butter is much firmer and melts at a higher temperature, which is why you should be using the real cocoa butter if you can. Coconut butter is much better than oil (it’s a thicker and little bit firmer).

What grinder is best to use?


Use the best coffee grinder you have, making sure that the blades are sharp and the coffee grinder has a decent motor. Don’t use the coffee grinder for more than 5 min or so at the time to allow the engine to cool down. Always switch it off if you feel that the engine/motor is overheating. Coffee beans are a little bit softer than cocoa nibs, so you don’t want to damage your kitchen equipment.


What blender should I use to make my chocolate?

You can safely use any blender you have at home, with some precautions. Similarly like with the coffee grinder, make sure that you switch off your blender if you feel that’s overheating and leave it to stand to cool down a bit before continuing.

How can I make my chocolate even darker?

The flavour of your chocolate depends on the amount of sugar. My example produces around 60% cocoa solids chocolate. If you like your chocolate to be 80% or 90% just decrease the amount of sugar and add a little bit less cocoa butter.

How do you melt cocoa nibs?

The thing is you can’t just melt cocoa nibs in a microwave or on a double boiler; you need to grind them finely first before they naturally turn into a cocoa paste. Adding cocoa butter helps to make them smooth and in commercial chocolate production, they also use soy lecithin or similar ingredient to act as an emulsifier. The emulsifier makes the chocolate smooth and nicely running.

My homemade chocolate tastes quite bitter and very different than shop-bought one. Where did I go wrong?

Chocolate made using not commercial equipment and ingredients will always result in slightly different taste than your supermarket chocolate. But, if all you want is to reproduce chocolate you buy from a supermarket at home, my suggestion is, just go and buy the chocolate you like to save yourself the time and effort of making it at home.

But if you are after a different type of chocolate, less processed, with less sugar, soya lecithin and all the other unhealthy ingredients most mass-produced chocolates normally include, you are in the right place!
To make sure that you chocolate doesn’t end up bitter, gently roast the cocoa nibs at the beginning and make sure they are not over-roasted. You can also start with cocoa nibs that are not roasted and keep the flavour much more subtle. Some cocoa nibs, like these, already come roasted, which means that you don't need to roast them yourself (and you are less likely to burn them when you do).


The next thing you can do is to try different types of sugar which add a slightly different flavour to your chocolate.
If you prefer milk chocolate, you can add even more sugar and also add powdered milk to make your homemade chocolate creamier.

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