Few months ago, Taichi from Sakemaru (a sake subscription service – check them out) asked whether I could make chocolate with sake kasu. I immediately said YES because this is one of my dream ingredients. I can smell it all day.
Sake kasu, also known as sake lees, are the leftover rice from brewing sake. It has recently gained popularity as an ingredient due to its abundance of nutrients and incredible flavor. Some hardcore sake fans simply bake them with salt to make a chewy side dish. If you manage to get your hands on some, definitely try this out. It’s delicious!
The sake kasu we got were produced in the process of brewing Daiginjo, which is the highest grade of sake brewed by Asahara Shuzo Brewery, a family brewery located in Saitama Prefecture. To make them into chocolate, we dehydrated the sake kasu for a few hours over low heat to remove moisture and alcohol. The result is a chewy “jerky” that has all the flavors of sake without the alcohol so it’s suitable for people on alcohol-free diet. This kasu “jerky” is then combined with our house-made white chocolate and some sea salt flakes to round off the flavor.
Talking about white chocolate, this bar would be the first and probably only batch of white chocolate we will make with natural undeodorised cacao butter sourced from Peru. We managed to get our hands on a few kg of these special cacao butter and it's all going into this batch. This is easily one of my favorite bar now. Only 250 bars were made so do grab them fast before they run out!
First blog update in three months! Time really flies when you don’t notice it. Today I want to write about the chocolate bonbons we have been creating in our little workshop. These are bite-sized pieces of chocolate confectionary that come in a wide range of forms, appearances and flavors. We love them for a few reasons.
Firstly, they are tedious to make and that gives us something interesting to distract ourselves from our daily ritual of chocolate making. There are many subtle yet critical factors that contribute to the taste, texture and appearance of a bonbon and even the slightest error means we have to throw out the batch and start over. It is not for the faint-hearted but the satisfaction is great!
Chocolate bonbons also allow us to introduce flavor combinations that wouldn’t be possible in a chocolate bar. Usually these are ingredients that can’t be dried sufficiently without losing the flavors that made them great. We are also able to introduce different textures—soft, crunchy, chewy, flowy—within the same bonbon. A journey within a single bite!
We will try to introduce new flavours every month or two. Here are the bonbons we introduced in the last two months.
May- Mother’s Day Collection
June – Fathers’ Day Collection
It is with great pleasure to announce that we’ve finally changed our name to Fossa Chocolate. I have been looking forward to using this name because it’s a name that really resonates with what I envision the company to be—working with and presenting wild flavors (Fossa, the animal’s scientific name is C. ferox which means wild). That’s pretty similar to our old name, Wild Nibs except that I didn’t want to confuse people that we work exclusively with wild cacao.
During our one-year lull time, we visited cacao plantations, conducted countless experiments with various cacao and recipes, and slowly built and refined our chocolate making equipment to dial in the flavor profiles we wanted. Our current system has its limitations but the final piece of equipment (at least for this year) will be arriving this weekend so I’m really psyched to start making some even better chocolate with it.
We will be making generally three types of chocolates.
The single origin dark chocolate range will be our core product, showcasing the unique unadulterated flavors of the cacao we have sourced. Each of these cacaos will be selected for their wide spectrum of flavors. We try not to have cacaos with similar flavor profile in our portfolio at any one point in time so that we can manage our limited warehousing space better and keep our production schedule in check.
The inclusion range will see some interesting toppings that we feel complement the various single origin chocolates. For example, one of the ex-tenants of our shared factory space brings in some really amazing sun-dried mulberries. We have plans to use that with one of our fruitier chocolate.
Finally, to make things more interesting (for us as much as for you), we will also have a special limited edition range that pushes boundaries. So far we have a salted egg yolk cereal with caramelized white chocolate and an Uji Matcha chocolate available. More flavors are in the work. We will be releasing them in the coming months so please revisit our website or sign up to our mailing list!
These three types of chocolate should be enough to cover all grounds for now. If you haven’t already tried our current range, go ahead and order them on our webstore. Delivery to any location in Singapore is S$10. If you’d like to have them shipped overseas, just send us an email and we’ll fetch you a shipping quote from trusty DHL.
It has been two months since the last blog post. We hit some major roadblocks. You would have noticed that we have a new name: Wild Nibs.
This will be our name for a year until March 2017 when we can officially start retailing chocolate and be free to do whatever we want with chocolate (lots of!). I personally think that this is a pretty apt name because it embodies what the company is all about—wild flavours brought forth from cacao nibs!
The next batch of chocolate will be available in March 2017. Until then, we will be working on a bunch of stuff:
-Dialing in the rheological properties of our chocolate
-Sourcing flavour grade cacao beans
-Dialing in the right flavour profile for these new cacao
-Procuring new equipment
-Make awesome baked chocolate goodies
That's quite enough to keep us busy for a while. I will keep everyone updated on our progress.
The first box of cookies just found its way into the office of a really generous customer. Her colleagues must be really lucky because I heard she is sharing! These hearty cookies make great fuels to start the day. Those extra cacao nibs are full of stimulating theobromine and antioxidants after all.
In my last post, I promised to go deeper into these amazing cookies so here it is. While brainstorming for vehicles to bring forth the unique flavours of our small batch chocolates, I recall chancing upon on Instagram a certain bakery that sold mouth watering cookies. Yup, that's right. Cookies lovers would immediately know who I'm referring to—the famous Levain Bakery from New York City that attracts snaking queue everyday with its inch-thick soft baked cookies.
A quick search on Google brought up Broma Bakery's Copycat Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies in the top search result. Those cookies look really delicious, so I had to give Sarah's recipe a try. I first tried making them following the recipe to the letter, except I switched out Ghirardelli's chocolate with some Sambirano 70% which I happened to have in the factory. The result was pretty good! Sambirano gave the cookies a fruity twang that was very refreshing, almost like a raspberry jam cookie. However, the texture left a bit more to be desired.
I ended up spending two full days in the factory doing trials, approaching it by tweaking one factor at a time with careful note taking. My homebrewing background helped because it trained me to run experiments to understand how each factors affect the beer. Some of the experiments I ran for the cookies included the bake time, temperature, dough size, amount of chocolate (which is a lot), sugar and butter.
- Bake time: Longer bake time at low temperature will ensure the cookies are cooked, while ensuring the chocolate doesn't get burnt. I turn the heat up in the final few minutes in order to give the outer layer a nice crisp.
- Dough size: I experimented with 35g, 40g, 45g, 50g, 60g, 70g, 80g and 90g. Generally, bigger the better as the dough gives the chocolate sufficient protection from heat during the bake.
- Sugar type: The darker sugar affects texture and colour. Generally, darker sugar makes darker cookies, and higher proportion of dark sugar makes stickier cookies.
- Butter: Get the best butter you can find that doesn't break the bank. Ensure it is stored well and never use rancid butter.
Ultimately, the takeaway is to understand the equipment and use the highest quality ingredients available. In my case, I also happen to have chocolate which I'm proud of, and the flavours really showed in the final product.
You'll find that in the cookies, I added a whole lot of chocolate—much more than what you'll find in typical cookies. I figured that the whole point of the cookies is the chocolate, so why skimp on the chocolate?
For some added crunch and even more intense chocolate flavour, I roasted up a bunch of cacao beans, winnowed and sprinkled the nibs on the cookie. That added another layer of complexity to the cookie. Nothing beats the robust aroma from a freshly roasted batch of cacao nibs. Each time you bite into a cacao nib, the flavour simply explodes in the mouth. It's a lovely experience. Cacao nibs is a topic I'll save for another post.
For now, have a go at making your own cookies! Here's a recipe you can try.
Adapted from Broma Bakery's Recipe.
- 430g all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
- 190g light or dark brown sugar (adjust for colour)
- 110g granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, cold, lightly beaten in a separate bowl
- 350g dark chocolate chunks
- 24 roasted and shelled cacao beans (more if you like)
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, powder, and salt.
- In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add in the sugars and beat until the sugar integrates with the butter. Mix in the eggs and continue mixing. Gradually add in the flour mixture, beating until a little flour remains. Don't overbeat as gluten will form. Fold in the chocolate chunks with a rubber spatula.
- Divide the dough into 90g pieces. Shape the dough into desired shapes and sprinkle roasted cacao nibs over, pressing in to prevent them from dropping. Place on the baking sheet and refrigerate for overnight. It is important to allow the enzymes time to break down the starch in order to encourage caramelization during baking.
- Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake cookies for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown. You may take a few tries to get this right. Every oven is different.
Fermentation—the word that gets me ever so excited as a home brewer. When I first found out that fermentation is an integral part of the chocolate making process, I was stroked. There are so much commonalities between chocolate making and beer brewing! The geek in me is really exploding.
In beer brewing, we worship the yeast Gods because fermentation is the key to flavour development. Different yeast strains, recipes and temperature profiles can have profound impact on the final product. There are many ways to approach fermentation and a lot depends on experience and personal preference. It is both Science and Art—just like chocolate making.
Fermentation in chocolate making is done at the cacao source, usually at the farm or collection center where freshly extracted pulp and seeds are gathered and fermented using various techniques. A while back, Pearl (www.courierchocolate.com), a chocolate maker from Dandelion Chocolate, wrote about her visit to Camino Verde estate in Balao, Ecuador. There, the estate owner, Vincente Norero, carries out very interesting cacao fermentation through purposeful temperature control, a calculated mixture of different Nacional pods grown on the farm, as well as a unique microbial cocktail inoculum to coax out specific flavours from the cacao beans. Vincente is so successful at this that his cacao has consistently placed in the "Best 50 Cocoa of Excellence Programme" by the International Cocoa Awards.
Naturally, I had to get hold of some of these fabulous cacao beans. Samples of two different types of cacao arrived a few weeks later, looking plump and nice. These beans are slightly more moist than usual due to the rainy season in Balao. However, as long as they are properly packed, it shouldn't be an issue.
Test batches with type A reveal strong floral notes and subtle nuttiness, hallmark of Nacional beans with Criollo influences. The Nacional hybrid, EET103, plays a predominant role in the floral flavors and accounts for 80% of the genetics used to create type A. Approximately 15% of the mixture accounts for red Trinitario pods and 5% are the highly acidic Venezolano pods. These cacao are kept at a lower temperature and fermented longer than other varieties.
Type B consists of 10% more Venezolano pods which contain significantly more natural acidity. It is also fermented at a higher temp for a shorter period of time. I would say that type B is a better chocolate for eating on its own due to the mild acidity and fruitiness. However, the chocolate was too viscous to work with due to the lower fat content. Tempering and moulding quickly became a nightmare.
In order to get the best of both worlds, I did a blend of both beans roasted with different temperature curves. The result is a floral and slightly fruity chocolate that is low in bitterness even at 75% cacao. The bitterness only reveals itself at the end of the melt, making this chocolate a perfect match with tea.
Balao 75% will be available soon in our new 35g tablet format. Keep a look out for it!
So much crazy things have happened so fast in past few weeks, I can hardly contain my excitement as I’m typing this. First up, I want to wish everyone Gong Xi Fa Cai and happy Valentine’s Day! Chocolates make perfect gifts during Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day and everyone seems to agree because the first three batches of chocolate totally ran out. Thanks everyone for treating your loved ones to great chocolate!
If you’ve followed our Instagram and Facebook posts, you’ll also know that I’ve just roasted up the last of our stash of Tumbes cacao. Once these last few pouches run out, they would be gone…until we bring more of these cacao in that is. However, looking at the upcoming planned lineup, it doesn’t look like our warehouse would have sufficient space for more cacao.
Oh, did I just mention warehouse? Yes, that’s right. we are finally moving into a proper production facility in the Food Zone, complete with a mini warehouse! No more ghetto chocolate making in the home kitchen. Sighs of relief from my family who have been enduring loud noise from the machines. We’re now just finishing up with some paperwork with the landlord and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). New machines, new moulds and more cacao would also be brought in as soon as the paper work and renovation is done.
Setting up a food manufacturing business in Singapore is not the easiest in the world, as I’ve found out in recent months. There are basically two options.
The first option is to be a food manufacturer operating out from a production facility in the government designated Food Zone. This model allows the products to be sold through retail partners and exported internationally. Now, food zones are limited in supply, and the completed facility and process flow needs to be certified and approved by AVA. Very troublesome for the manufacturer, but as a consumer, I do feel safer knowing that my food is produced in a properly outfitted facility with stringent checks by the authorities. Food should be wholesome—that’s very important. The issue with this model is that Food Zones are typically located at the most far flung corners of the island. Our facility is in the furthest Western side of the country, just one street away from the ocean. Hardly the most convenient place for curious visitors to swing by for a factory visit—something we intend to host in the future.
The second option would be to operate a production-retail shop at a more convenient location. However, chocolates produced in this facility can’t be sold through any other retail locations and can’t be exported internationally. Rental cost of retail shops at prime locations is currently over the roof, and I don't think we're going to be making enough to cover cost.
So there, all things considered, we are going with the first option. As soon as the pieces are all assembled, we’ll be going full force ahead. You can expect to see our chocolates up on more retail fronts in the near future. If you’re a retailer who would like to carry our (really awesome) chocolate, give us a holla!
Friends who knows me personally would know that I used to be an avid homebrewer. Alas, with chocolate making in full swing these days, there simply isn't time for beer brewing anymore! Thoughts of using cacao nibs in a beer kept surfacing whenever I roast up a batch of aromatic cacao. If cacao nibs can be used to brew tea to great results, why not steep it in a beer during secondary fermentation? I can already imagine the complex flavours it can impart to a roasty porter or even a mildly fruity English brown ale.
Well, lucky for me, a great friend of mine happens to be looking for ingredients to give his (already super delicious) Russian Imperial Stout a boost. John from Brewlander is one of the best homebrewers in Singapore, having won multiple awards in our local homebrewing competition. Last year, his RIS got a whole snaking queue really excited. This year, he is looking for a special ingredient to up the game even further. So here we are! Cacao nibs.
We tried a few infusions with the beer sample he brought over. The Tumbes cacao has a very nice roasted almond and biscuity aroma when given a medium roast. In a lighter roast, we found bright cherry notes. Blend them together, and you get the best of both worlds. That's exactly what we did. Finishing with a touch of fruity Sambirano Valley cacao, the RIS sample ended up with a nice fruity-tart character along with a subtle nutty and chocolaty note in the finish. All these showed up in just a few minutes steep! We are really excited to see how the flavours will show up in the actual steep and develop in a few months' time. Only time will tell. Good RIS, like chocolate, is made of good quality ingredients, techniques and TIME.
John wrote a post on this collaboration in his blog. Geeky homebrewers out there, this is worth a read if you are considering adding cacao nibs to your beer.