We’re excited to share with you our new collaboration between Megan Giller and Chocolate Noise. The bean-to-bar chocolate industry has grown rapidly in the last ten years. This lack of clarity creates confusion among consumers.
We created a collection of chocolate infographics. We created a series of chocolate infographics to simplify the understanding of where chocolate comes from and the skills required to make and use it to create bars and bonbons that we all love. While we might not be able to capture the finer details of post-harvesting and factory processes, the picture will hopefully help people remember it.
I was asked to speak at my son’s preschool to tell them about chocolate. The chocolate factory was the answer that came back to me from the three and 4-year-olds when I asked them where chocolate is made. I am sure that many adults would also have given the same answer. We grew up with chocolate that multinational companies produced. Telling the story of where chocolate comes from was not part of their marketing strategies.
It’s no surprise that many of us don’t know that chocolate comes from trees and is grown by farmers. It’s not incorrect to say that the “chocolate plant” is a key part of the story. The story doesn’t begin at the chocolate factory.
The first infographic is entitled “How Chocolate is Born,” and it tells the tale of chocolate BEFORE the chocolate maker gets their hands on it. The cacao pods are still growing on the tree and not “chocolate.” The cacao pods have been cracked, and the beans harvested. Megan from Cocoa Noise says that our friend, the cacao bean, gets his chocolate-wasted-off fermented cacao pulp martinis and then tans until he is all dried up.
The third infographic of the series, “Anatomy of a Fine Chocolate Bar,” shows the ingredients of a fine chocolate bar dancing behind our cocoa bean, who has become our mascot in this chocolate journey. The flavor of cocoa beans can vary depending on the region in which they were grown. Just like wine, this is influenced by the place. Fine-flavor cocoa beans have a superior quality. They produce chocolate that tastes better than the “bulk beans,” which are used in mass-produced chocolate candies.
It’s not a long list of ingredients, but it is a simple one. It’s also important to note what’s not there. No ingredients you don’t know or additives you don’t want. The simpler the ingredients and the less complex the label, the better.
Not all fine chocolate contains cocoa butter or vanilla. These bars are still considered fine chocolate. Many chocolate makers do add vanilla and cocoa butter. We wanted to show these ingredients as they are commonly used. There are also fine white chocolate and fine milk chocolate. Visit the Fine Chocolate Industry Association for a more detailed discussion on the definition of fine chocolate.
The fourth infographic of the series is entitled “The Making of a Bonbon.” We know that with Valentine’s Day just a few days away, many of you are going to be purchasing and eating chocolate bonbons as well as other chocolate confections. This image shows the talent and processes that go into creating something we pop in our mouths and eat in one bite.
What is a Bonbon?
What is a bonbon? This French term was used to distinguish filled chocolates and other confections like lollipops or caramels that are not covered in chocolate. In 2002, we developed our curriculum for the Professional Chocolatier Program. We decided to switch to “bonbons” when we wanted to distinguish between filled chocolates and “chocolate.” This has been very helpful in defining the differences between different chocolate products.
The “filling” in a bonbon can be created from a variety of different recipes. Filled chocolate can be made from many other recipes. You can fill your bonbon with a truffle, which is a chocolate and cream emulsion known as ganache. But you could also make it by emulsifying the chocolate with caramel, fruit puree, olive oil, or just plain water. If the chocolate is filled, then it could be called a truffle by the chocolatier (but to us, it’s a bonbon, too). Fillings include creams, fruit purées, nut pastes, and praline, as well as caramels and creams. Each tiny bonbon is a combination of flavors and textures brought to life by the imagination of the chocolatier!
Making a Bonbon
Back to our infographic, “The Making of a Bonbon.” This image is only ONE way to decorate a chocolate bonbon. It’s only the beginning where the skill, art, and individuality of a chocolatier come into play. The recipe is developed before the bonbons are made. This includes choosing the chocolate that will be used for the outer shell and what filling will go well with it. The stuffing and chocolate must have a good balance of flavors and textures.
After the creation of the bonbon, the next step is to make sure that every single piece is perfect. The chocolatier can also showcase their style by decorating the bonbons. Some chocolatiers do not decorate their bonbons, especially if they use a beautiful and intricate mold or a square that is perfectly enrobed. Some chocolatiers choose to decorate their bonbons with edible flowers or gold leaf. The possibilities are endless. It’s no secret that we eat first with our eyes, so the visual appeal of a chocolate bar is often what catches our eye before we take a bite. Chocolate makers can differentiate themselves by using different decorating techniques. For example, they could make their salted caramel look unique.
Our infographic on bonbons shows that there are several steps involved in creating the perfect bonbon. It’s not the final step to decorating the outside of some chocolate molds; it is actually the first step! Many chocolatiers spray-colored cocoa butter in their molds using a special gun. Some chocolatiers use more than one color to create an attractive layered effect.
After the chocolate shell has hardened, the filling is added but not quite to the top, leaving room for the capping. The filling is then added, but not to the top of the shell. There can be multiple layers, such as caramel and ganache. Each layer increases the difficulty of creating a perfect piece. Then, the chocolate cap is applied (which is really the bottom part of the bonbon), and any excess chocolate is scraped away. Again, the chocolatier is concerned that the bottom does not appear too thick or thin.