For The Love Of Fat: Three Things You Should Know About Cocoa Butter
In cooking, we say, "Fat is flavor."
Call us obsessed… But we love learning about chocolate.
We just think of ourselves as curious and opportunistic. And with The Latest Batch chocolate maker Jay as part of our team, we have lots of opportunities to satisfy our curiosity.
Jay has been a therapeutic chef - cooking and using food as medicine - for more than a decade. His depth of knowledge is staggering. (Learn more about Jay and see pictures of him with his favorite fruit, here.)
We recently asked Jay about cocoa butter. And as with every chocolate-related topic we've ever thrown at him, he had plenty to say.
Here, we'll share three of the top things you should know about cocoa butter. If you stick around to the end, we'll share one of Jay's cocoa butter theories, too.
1. How We Make Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter (also called cacao butter) is the natural fat inside cacao beans. Extracting the butter is relatively easy, if you have the right equipment...
First, we roast the cacao beans right alongside the beans we use in The Latest Batch chocolate.
Second, we winnow the beans to remove the fibrous husks, leaving us with nibs.
Third, we run the nibs through a butter press. The pressure squeezes nearly all the fat out of the nibs. (What's left is a flaky "cocoa mass," not far off from cocoa powder.)
The result is a lovely, liquid cocoa butter. Here's a picture Jay took after making some fresh cocoa butter (our cocoa nibs and cocoa beans are on the left and right, respectively)...
2. Why We Add Cocoa Butter To Our Chocolate
Have you ever tried a chocolate that felt dry and coarse in your mouth? Maybe it was super acidic... or astringent, like a tannin-heavy wine. Chances are, it could have used more cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter melts just below body temperature. And when you have the right amount, the chocolate melts in your mouth as it heats up. Yum!
If you add too much cocoa butter, though, it dulls the flavors of the cocoa beans and the chocolate becomes waxy.
Different cocoa beans contain different amounts of cocoa butter. Sometimes the chocolate maker doesn't need to add any extra. Other times, a little extra goes a long way.
Think of cocoa mass as a bunch of tiny grains of sand. Imagine the texture... It's grainy. Now, imagine that each grain has a thin coat of cocoa butter around it. All of a sudden, it's soft and smooth… like butter.
That's what needs to happen. If you want a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, each little particulate of cocoa mass and sugar needs to be coated with cocoa butter.
At The Latest Batch, we use an unrefined (and organic) cane sugar. When compared with refined, crystalline sugar (sucrose), it has more solid particles. It has more nutrients, like fiber and minerals. But it also requires extra cocoa butter to coat these particles.
Part of Jay's job is to make sure each batch of chocolate has just the right amount of cocoa butter.
3. Fat is Flavor
Not all craft chocolate makers add cocoa butter. Some "purists" feel that using anything other cocoa beans and sugar alters the essence of the chocolate.
Fat carries flavor, after all. And a lot of chocolate makers buy cocoa butter that was extracted from random cocoa beans. So the cocoa butter's flavor can distort the natural flavors in the cacao that was so carefully prepared and selected.
We understand this viewpoint. A lot of other chocolate makers do, too. We want to stay true to the bean and the origin.
To avoid this issue, some makers use deodorized cocoa butter. This cocoa butter is processed in a way that removes its flavor properties. For the purists, this isn't good enough.
At The Latest Batch, we make our own cocoa butter with the same beans we use to make our chocolate. They come from the same region, the same harvest, the same fermentation, and the same roast. So instead of distorting our chocolate's flavor, we're concentrating and enhancing it.
We're dedicated to both the flavor and the tasting experience. So this is the best option, for us.
(We should note, some of the best chocolate in the world - by any measure - is made by folks who don't add cocoa butter. Each maker goes his or her own way. That's why trying different chocolates is fun!)
4. Bonus - Jay's Cocoa Butter Theory
Cacao beans typically contain 45%-55% cocoa butter content. And Jay suspects that better growing conditions lead to the higher percentages...
For example, Costa Rica's Caribbean coast has a 10-month long rainy season. It's hot and wet all year long… which cacao trees love. Along Costa Rica's Pacific coast, the rainy season lasts from mid-April to mid-December… about eight months. And most of that time, the rain isn't as intense as it is on the Caribbean.
You guessed it... Cacao beans from Costa Rica's Caribbean coast tend to have more cocoa butter in them than cacao from Costa Rica's Pacific coast.
It makes sense, right? A relatively happier, healthier, and well-fed cacao tree should produce seeds (aka cocoa beans) with more fat.
We like the idea, anyway.
In sum, you now know more than your friends about cocoa butter!
As we say in Costa Rica, pura vida,
The Latest Batch Team