The Cacao Bean’s Journey To Chocolate

Thomas Haas, fourth-gen pastry chef, joined the Four Seasons Vancouver in 1995, then joined Daniel Boulud’s Daniel in New York. Now proprietor of his own shops, he works from custom-blended Grands Crus chocolate from Max Felchlin of Switzerland and Valrhona of France to create 20,000 bespoke chocolates a week. Here’s how.

Cacao beans are harvested, depodded, fermented, dried, and cleaned by hand, then shipped (Valrhona’s 64% Manjari starts life in Madagascar) to France, where they’re roasted and crushed. The nibs are ground into cocoa butter, blended with other ingredients, and conched (rolled and mixed).

The chocolate arrives either in three-kilo blocks or discs called fèves. Haas starts with the centres, boiling cream and honey at 36º-38º, adding butter and flavourings, then pouring over the fèves in a vacuum blender (also used in cosmetics for facial creams). After the ganache cools and crystallizes, it’s cut into batches.

Fillings are enrobed in more chocolate, tempered overnight at 45º-50º, cooled to 24º-26º, then drizzled in double curtains at 32.2º. Hair dryers blow off chaff. After the chocolates cool on glassine paper for 12 hours, they’re decorated by hand. VM

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