Anyone like chocolate?
Chocolate. What does that word mean to you? It's something so everyday, so easy to buy and yet still evocative, precious and special. As for us, we really like the stuff - I'm a fan of your regular cadbury's bar whilst Gesa prefers the higher echelons of the conoisseaur brands - and has pretty much single handedly supported 'Hotel Chocolat' over the past few years.
On St Lucia, we visited a plantation, Morne Coubaril, which was great fun, and one of the things they showed us there was the Cacoa trees, the source of chocolate beans. They explained how the beans are processed before being exported for use in making chocolate.
A science experiment was taking shape in my mind.....
I asked if we could have a couple of cacoa pods, and, no problem, we were able to leave with two pods in our bag. We could make our own, exclusive, St Lucia chocolate.
So in the next science lesson, we write down what we can remember of the chocolate making process. In short, we:
1 - Open the pods and take out the beans
2 - Wash the beans and place in a bowl
3 - Cover and leave to ferment for 3 days
4 - Dry in the sun for 5 days
5 - Roast the beans for about half an hour
6 - Take off the thin shells
7 - Grind the roasted beans to a fine paste
At this point we have to depart from the proper process. We should continue grinding and press with a 25 tonne press to seperate the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids. Then you mix extra cocoa butter to help the cocolate to stay solid at room temperature. We don't have a 25 tonne press handy.
So we go on to the next steps:
8 - Mix over a low heat with condensed milk, brown sugar and vanilla essence
9 - Place in a mould and cool.
Because we didn't have the cocoa butter to mix in, the chocolate is still soft in the fridge, and we haven't ground the beans into a really fine paste so there are still nutty, bitter pieces of cocoa bean but, after nearly two weeks, we have made about 100 grammes of finest, handmade St Lucia chocolate! We all, apart from a doubtful Max, think it tastes really good even if we have to eat it with a spoon. And most of all, we all have a much better understanding of what it takes to get that bar of chocolate to your local shop!