How to Make Chocolate with Enthusiasm — and No Recipe

“But how do you know how to make chocolate?”

#2 gave me the look that all parents understand. The look that says that perhaps Father Time has caught up with me. It was now up to him and the rest of his generation to carry the torch forward as, clearly, I was no longer up to the task.

“My class took a tour Daddy. Believe me. I know how.”

Gooey white stuff already ingested at this point

Gooey white stuff already ingested at this point

This conversation took place at our kitchen counter, where two cacao pods sat waiting to be transformed into a culinary delight—or a hot mess. I’d grudgingly agreed to buy them after being lured into the small grocery store by #2, who told me that they would be free because the store had given up trying to sell them. They were not, as it turns out, free.

About five years earlier I’d actually taken a tour of a chocolatier’s shop and came away with the basics of how chocolate is made. I dimly remembered something about how the seeds needed fermentation and how some sort of “Dutching process” ruined the flavor of most of the chocolate we consumed. The only Dutch process #2 is familiar with was a foul maneuver called a “Dutch Oven” so I felt that, in addition to my 39 extra years, I had the intellectual high ground on the chocolate-making front.

#2 persisted and my bride excused herself from the process. #1 son came by long enough to declare that he’d happily have a cup of hot cocoa should we actually produce anything worth drinking, and then went off to read a book.


Armed with hubris and a knife, I cut the pods open and we stared at the seeds inside, which were encased in a sweet, sticky white goo. #2 had declared that pan roasting could replace the lengthy fermentation process so we transferred the seeds to the pan.

My bride swung through the kitchen and expressed both general and specific disapproval. “Yuck! Get those out of your mouth!”

#2 sucked even harder on the wad of white goo and seeds that he’d shoved in his mouth. “Issth ok. We’re goingth to cook dem anyway.”

My bride stared at me in horror, but I couldn’t say much as I too was sucking on a wad of seeds. I shamefully took some out of my mouth and dropped them into the pan. My bride shook her head and once again swore off any involvement with this effort.

Does it replace months of fermentation and a basic idea of how to make chocolate? Maybe....

Does it replace months of fermentation and a basic idea of how to make chocolate? Maybe….

We pan-roasted the seeds and whatever white goo residue we hadn’t already ingested until they seemed to be done. I pushed #2 as to how we’d know when the toasting process was complete. He carefully gave himself plausible deniability for the end result by stating, “I don’t know. They were already toasted when we took the tour.”

Several minutes later, after peeling the now-burned layer of skin from the beans, we poured what was left into a food grinder that none of us recall owning. It had appeared in the household goods we shipped down from the U.S. in one of our boxes, wrapped up in one of our bath mats. A quick bit of research on the internet found that this particular grinder is very popular in India, where it is used to make various kinds of flour. It seemed reasonable to try it out on cacao seeds but, as none of us knew the origins of the machine, I washed it and all of its components several times before putting it to use.

At the end of 90 minutes of prep we were left with a paste that resembled a dried-out batch of refried beans, if refried beans were purple. We pushed on with our hot chocolate efforts and I tried to get some of the paste to dissolve in milk. The paste resisted, so the food processor (which we do remember purchasing) was pulled out and the paste was bludgeoned into compliance.

Eat it, or drink it, if you dare

Eat it, or drink it, if you dare

Eventually we all sat around with a cup of hot chocolate. The cacao paste had turned in to clumps, some of which floated on top like purple icebergs while the rest lurked hidden below, waiting to surprise those expecting liquid. #1 captured the verdict perfectly when he declared, “Not bad…if you put in a lot of sugar.”

A good way to kill $8, three hours and half a bag of sugar

A good way to kill $8, three hours and half a bag of sugar