Start: February 12, Antigua
Finish: February 12, Antigua
Pounds of chocolates consumed: 2
Cost: $20 per person
Chocolate, it is so easy to devour. Jessica and I set out to find out how much work goes into making a simple bar of chocolate. What better way to kick off a Sunday afternoon than a tour of the Chocolate Museum followed by a hands-on class on making chocolate from scratch.
It is hard to believe that one cacao tree can only produce seven bars of chocolate each year. Or that one hectare of land with 530 trees will take two years to produce one crop of cacao.
Once the cacao fruit is ready for harvest, the seeds are removed from the fruit. The seeds covered in a slimy coating are then fermented for two weeks in wooden crates. The fermented cacao seeds are then dried to remove most of the moisture. This is where we come in...
Once the seeds are dry, they need to be roasted. Commercial roasting can take up to three hours, but thankfully our smaller pile of beans took about five minutes to crack, an indication that they were ready to husk.
Husking is a slow process. The husks are paper thin and if left in, they will affects the smoothness and flavor of your final chocolate. Above in the bowl on the right are the husked cacao beans and on the left are the husks.
You can use the husks to make a very refreshing tea. Simply soak the cacao husks in warm water, steep for a minute and enjoy. It doesn't have caffeine or much flavor, but we pretended to enjoy in nonetheless.
Now for the hard work. With mortal and pestle you grind the cacao beans until they are a fine paste, the finer the paste the smoother the chocolate.
Once we have all the seeds ground into a fine paste, it is time to take a break with some refreshing chocolate drinks. First up a traditional Mayan drink.
The mixture is poured back and forth from container to container for approximately 30 minutes to create a frothy and very spicy hot chocolate drink. Only priests and members of the royal family were allowed to have a sip. With the addition of the sacrificial blood, the Mayans believed the drink created a path of communication with the old Mayan gods.
The second drink we made was good old fashioned French Hot Chocolate.
Heat the milk until it is just about to boil. Add the freshly ground cacao, sugar and cinnamon to taste.
Stir the mixture until all the chocolate is dissolved. Try not to make any foam. Once everything is dissolved strain the hot chocolate to remove all the excess cinnamon and cacao bits.
To make a good old fashioned bar of chocolate, ground chocolate is first heated (tempered) and molded, then flavored to your preference. For this task we were given a beautiful bowl of what we believed to be discount Nestle chocolate. 75% dark for those interested. Also we had the choice of several different molds, and a wide variety of spices and flavors.
The trick for flavoring chocolate is to add the spices after pouring the chocolate in the molds. This way the chocolate will take the shape of the mold, leaving you with yummy looking chocolate bars. When making chocolate with sea salts, don't mix! Just sprinkle a little on top.
Once you are done molding your chocolate, it is time to let the chocolate set. The chocolate goes into a fridge and left to harden for 1 hour.
The end product of a 3 hour long class? Lots o' chocolate. To be consumed a block a way with an equally delicious bottle of Malbec from Argentina.
Up next, Blue goes in to see the doctors at Toyota of Guatemala, and we build a roof and a compost bin.