It is probably fair to say that most people underestimate the effort and precision required to make real chocolate without using chemical additives. The chocolate has to be melted to about 45 degrees C and then cooled down while the melted chocolate is constantly subjected to movement, until it reaches a specific temperature in the low 30s C, depending on the kind of chocolate. At that temperature, the chocolate is tempered and will stay in temper as long as the specifc temperature and movement is maintained. And while the chocolate is tempered, it can be moulded or poured to produce the shiny look and the distinctive snap when you break it. In actual fact, it is much more complicated than this, because after a while the chocolate can go out of temper anyway, even if the temperature and movement is maintained. And factors such as the room temperature and humidity also contributes to the success or lack thereof in chocolate making.
So if you were to make you own chocolate, you can melt it in a bowl and then use a granite slab to cool it down while moving it around constantly with two scrapers. This technique is often used by chocolatiers to show off, but in practice very few chocolatiers make chocolate like that on an industrial scale today – you would need very strong arms to maintain that technique. We do have a granite slab at Ilze’s Chocolat, but it tends to be used for very small batches. For the larger batches, we have been using a batch tempering machine manufactured in Holland by Henk Koenen, whose first machine is today on display in the chocolate machine in Brugge. In the picture above, it is the machine in the background.
However, this machine has always had its weaknesses, the most important of which is that chocolate goes out of temper after about an hour and a half. And when you have a large batch of chocolates to prepare, you need much more than an hour and a half’s worth of supply, so it becomes very time consuming to have to stop the process, re-heat everything up to 45 degrees C and again restart the cooling. On top of that, because we only had the one machine, you had to have it dedicated to one kind of chocolate, or had to empty the machine, clean it and refill, everytime you wanted to switch from dark to milk chocolate, for example – all of which would take an hour or more to do.
So this summer, we took the plunge to invest in a new continuous tempering machine, one in which the chocolate does not go out of temper, unless you want it to do so. But of course, this is a much more advanced and much more expensive machine, which we bought in Antwerp, Belgium (in the foreground in the picture above). We also needed a bigger work-in-progress fridge and a warm cupboard and because we needed all this equipment, we needed a new modular building.
The modular building was professionally prepared for us by Gembuild, who constructs modular buildings for a range of different purposes.
This means that at Ilze’s Chocolat we now have a room dedicated to macaroons and a new room dedicated to chocolate-making. The picture below shows the new chocolate factory, complete with all the new equipment installed.