Making the Bar: Honduras Wampusirpi 100%, Part 2 - New Directions

09 Jan.,2023


Granola Bar Processing Line

In Part 1 I told the story of how a chance purchase and a good friend set me on a quest to make my first 100% bar. Much of the work that goes into a new product is rather dry--there are barcodes, and pdfs, and spreadsheets--but before all of that, the infinitely more human forces of travel, chance, and friendship lifted this project off the ground. If you've not yet read that side of the story, start with Part 1. Below in Part 2, I'll give you a look at how I went about developing a challenging bar like this.

When I got back to Madison after the long weekend in New York City, I sketched out my goals for the new 100% bar: it should deliver the stimulating experience my friend Andrew and I had enjoyed, with the gentlest flavors possible given the extreme percentage, and without washing away the single-origin cacao's unique character. This kind of bar demanded cacao with inherent mildness, sweetness, and low acidity. Only a few suitable origins came to mind, and fortunately, I had a supply of one of them on-hand: Honduras Wampusirpi.

Pristine cacao from Wampusirpi in Honduras.

Wampusirpi cacao is something I'd become very familiar with in the course of developing my 70% sea salt bar. It's wonderful cacao, both to taste to to work with. (I could go on about it for a long time, and just might in another post.) From previous test batches, I knew that a lighter roast best expressed this cacao's character, to my taste at least. Further, a heavy roast would run the risk of creating more bitterness, which would be undesirable given the goal of making a mild 100%. So, that was one decision down: it would be a lighter roast.

The only problem with lighter roasts is that they can leave behind "off flavors," which need to be handled later on in the process. When I say "off flavors," I mean it: we're talking about flavors like vinegar and dirt and rotting wood. The complex process used to remove flavors like this after roasting is called conching. For this bar, given the light roast, and that there would be no sweetener for off flavors to hide behind, I'd need to be careful to use a long conching cycle. Translated to my equipment, that meant letting my stone grinding machines run for a very long time.

There was one last element to consider: added cocoa butter. This ingredient was on my mind for several reasons. For one thing, I'd seen it mentioned as one of several techniques makers use to create milder 100% bars in a recent article by The Chocolate Journalist. I'd also noted it as an ingredient on the Pump Street Bakery bar that had helped inspire my own 100%.

A little background, if you're not familiar with cocoa butter: it's the fat portion of the cacao bean. In fact, cacao beans are about 50% fat--it's all that fat that makes them turn into a liquid when you grind them. But it's the other part of the bean--the nonfat part--that holds most of the flavor. So, if you add more cocoa fat, you can mellow out the finished chocolate's flavor. Sometimes adding extra cocoa fat creates a smoother, more even melting sensation as well.

Cocoa butter, the fat portion of cocoa beans.

How to decide how much cocoa butter to add? As with any of these variables, it's part science and part art. The science part is making test batches that play with the variable you're trying to set. But once the batches are done, it comes down to putting the chocolate in your mouth and forming opinions. That's more of an art.

After running test batches and tasting the results, what I found with this cacao--and every origin is going to be different--was that it worked best at 100% with no added cocoa butter. The added cocoa butter gave the chocolate a waxy mouthfeel, and besides, the cacao ended up being mild enough on its own even at 100%.

Putting it all together, I had the recipe: a light roast, a long conche, and pure Wampusirpi cacao with no added cocoa butter.

Continue to Part 3 for the story of turning this recipe into a finished, packaged product.