Vegan Chocolate anyone?
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So for my bday this year, I went to Whelpdale Chocolates to see what they were about. Apparently, its a one man operation. He is originally from England, in his 20s, and has been vegan since he was in his early teens. He operated out of Bloomington before this, and now rents space from Cellar Door Chocolates. He has his degree in music, just like me, but decided to pursue the vegan lifestyle.
Our interview started by me getting lost in the Butchertown Market. This building was originally built in 1880 and housed a leather tanning business. It was also to become a soap factory, paint company, seed company, and finally the marketplace that we know now. It's an expansive building and has many, many shops in it. In the way back is the area that Cellar Door Chocolates produces there products. My favorite thing they make (because it's one of the only vegan things that I know of that they make) is the sea salt almond bark. Made of dark chocolate and sea salted almonds, yumm. A lot of dark chocolate is too bitter, but this actually comes across milder, and I'm surprised that no milk is involved.
(Ok here is some updated knowledge: so the chocolate Cellar Door uses is not guaranteed to be free of milk, and some cross-contamination does occur as the equipment is shared. Also the sugar they use is not necessarily free of bone-char in the refining process.....so to guarantee vegan only and no cross-contamination at all-get Gary's products!)
So eventually Gary found me and I followed him to his workspace. It's a smaller space than I thought, probably 12'x 12'. It's pretty impressive what he can get out of this small space though.
So he basically starts with raw cocoa beans from different countries, and roasts them over a period of hours.
Then after roasting he uses a grinder to crack the shells
and then a winnower to separate the shells from the cocoa.
The cocoa is then ground into even smaller bits using heavy rollers. These rollers basically roll over and over the bits in order to produce the 'melted' chocolate form that we know. There is no heat applied, just the heat from the friction of the rollers and the cocoa.
There is also no liquid that is added, in order to produce this melted chocolate form. That was amazing to me. (If you haven't seen a cocoa bean before, imagine a coffee bean that you get at the store, but a lot bigger. It has been roasted, turning that dark brown/black color. Then imagine taking that bean, crushing it up, and applying heavy rollers over and over to it. Then that produces a liquidy substance! Crazy right? But that's basically how chocolate is made.
Then the chocolate is poured into a pan to solidify. At that point Gary makes the decision of what kind of chocolate he is going to make.
He adds the solidified chocolate into his cooker and adds actual heat to the chocolate for the first time. He also adds powered organic soy milk and sugar to the chocolate based on what he is making. The longer the chocolate is in here, the finer it becomes as the molecular structure changes.
After this step the chocolate can be poured into moulds for chocolate bars, or some of his specialty boxes. I was there just before Vday, so I was able to sample the white chocolate he was to use in his white chocolate raspberry chocolates. Yumm, yumm! So if you are at Flora's Kitchenette, a local festival, or see his chocolate bars and boxes elsewhere, do yourself a favor and pick some up!