I'm on a journey to explore the world of American craft chocolate

Butter You Up

 

There’s a reason we’re used to eating chocolate with added cocoa butter: It’s delicious. Call it European style, call it cheating, call it whatever you want: I call it some of my favorite chocolate out there.

For many years bean-to-bar makers wanted to distinguish themselves from the old guard by eschewing cocoa butter (and vanilla) to focus on “pure” ingredients: cacao and sugar. Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate says this attitude is all ego, and I tend to agree with him. If you’re making chocolate that way because that’s what you like to eat (like Dandelion), then more power to you.

But if it’s to showcase your talents and to be “pure,” then I’m not sure I buy it. What does “pure” in this context even mean? I think it’s related to our desire to get away from industrialization and capitalism to an idealized simpler time, when ingredients were whole and we were (supposedly) happier. Scott Craig of DFWFood.org said recently,

“If a well-capitalized company using state-of-the-art equipment makes better chocolate than a Oaxacan grandmother grinding it out on a metate, put it in my bag, please.”
— Scott Craig, DallasFood.org

I think he’d say the same about adding cocoa butter.

Of course, cocoa butter is also the main ingredient in the much-reviled white chocolate (and lots of skincare and beauty products, ha). Some makers like Askinosie and Fruition are starting to make white chocolate bars, but honestly, I still don't like them that much. Have you tried one you liked? And are you into added cocoa butter in your chocolate, or are you a purist?

Email me at megan@chocolatenoise.com or write me on Facebook or Twitter and tell me what you think and I'll include your comments in the next Chocolate Today.

Reactions

Ah-ha! I agree with the sentiment re: adding cocoa butter, vanilla, but just yesterday I was trying some chocolate that had that waxy taste to it. I had the same experience the day prior. Both times I was disappointed and just wanted something more, shall I call it, pure? So, I ate as a satisfying “chaser” some Peru Lamas chocolate I made a couple of months ago. No judge would score my chocolate higher for obvious reasons. My chocolate is just not “there” yet and I am still struggling with “to add or not to add” cocoa butter, and also with “to buy or not to buy” professional tempering equipment. To up my game, both are probably necessities.

Back to the butter: some makers seem to add a lot more cocoa butter than others. The problem is: there is no way to know! I understand the addition is important to viscosity and thus molding, and mouth feel, but here’s my final sentiment: the less butter the better AND please tell us what % is added to the cocoa mass (-:
— Heather Hughes, email
While I’m sure there are some out there, I’ve never spoken to a chocolate maker who (like myself) makes 2-ingredient chocolate who said it was to showcase their talents. All that I’ve ever spoken to have expressed similar thoughts to my own, which are that I make 2-ingredient chocolate because that’s what I generally most enjoy eating and because I feel that, for me, I can best highlight the flavors of the cacao this way.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that I don’t love chocolate with added cocoa butter.

On a side note, I’d suggest that some of the dry mouthfeel of some 2-ingredient chocolate could be coming from improper processing for that particular cacao. I think that several bars made from Camino Verde cacao (which is notoriously low-fat) show that you can make excellent 2-ingredient chocolate with a low-fat cacao. The ones that come to mind are Rogue Chocolatier’s, Ritual Chocolate’s, and Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate’s.
— Ben Rasmussen, Potomac Chocolate, Facebook
The fat content of the beans themselves fluctuates depending on climate and of course distance from the equator. But harvest fluctuations can be pretty dramatic. Our philosophy is pretty simple - if the beans have enough fat, we can do the bar as a 2-ingredient bar. If not, we’ll add butter. There are too many makers sticking with two ingredients with beans that don’t have enough fat, resulting in an extremely dry mouthfeel.
— David Menkes, LetterPress Chocolate, Facebook