After our chocolate has matured, we are ready to temper, mould and wrap the finished bars. In our final instalment of #BehindTheBar we discuss:
What tempering chocolate is.
Why the crystal structure of chocolate is so important.
How we temper, mould and wrap our bars at Bullion.
Tempering and Moulding
You might be asking yourself, what is a tempered bar of chocolate? Well it’s the chocolate you all know and love from your shop shelf, glossy in appearance with a crisp snap. To achieve this, we need to take the chocolate through the process that alters the crystal structures within the bar known as tempering.
Tempering chocolate is certainly an art. In fact, there’s online courses and schools dedicated to it. Here in the UK, it’s a familiar sight to see a chocolatier working some magic on a marble slab with molten chocolate. Using chocolate to produce an array of filled chocolates and bars.
We’re sometimes asked, “what is the difference between Bullion and a chocolatier?” A chocolatier will purchase chocolate and use it as an ingredient by adding flavours to make unique bars or they will use the chocolate to make truffles. Whereas, here at Bullion, we make chocolate from the bean, rather than purchasing the chocolate from elsewhere. We use our process to champion the cacao’s unique flavours and we’re proud to be one of the few UK bean-to-bar chocolate makers!
When we temper chocolate, we are trying to achieve the beta-crystal formation. Without getting too technological, this formation is simply making sure all the crystals in the chocolate are uniform! When all the crystals are uniform, the chocolate has a glossy shine and a clean snap. However, achieving this is not an easy process. Dark chocolate tends to temper at 32 degrees, but depending on the origin, the temperature can vary. Our chocolate makers certainly have a lot of patience and an in-depth understanding about the process to achieve consistent silky, smooth chocolate. When tempering chocolate, it is reassuring to know that if the temper does go wrong, it is possible to re-melt the chocolate and start again.
There are many ways to temper chocolate; When Max first started, he tempered chocolate two kilos at a time in a microwave. Tempering from home is certainly possible and if you do give it a go – let us know how you got on by tweeting us @OfficialBullion!
When we were opening our chocolate factory, we sourced a continuous tempering machine called a ‘Selmi’. This Italian machine makes it easier for us to get consistent chocolate every time. Not only are we able to set the temperature and have the machine temper for us, the Selmi has the ability to disperse the right amount of chocolate for us to fill our moulds (which means each bar is consistent!) Our moulds were chosen by Max in the early stages of the business. He was drawn to our mould as each chocolate piece reminded him of a gold ingot which was very fitting for Bullion.
Once the chocolate is in the mould, it’s placed over a vibrating plate which is part of the Selmi machine. This plate vibrates air bubbles out of the chocolate. Prior to having the Selmi, Max had to slam the chocolate on a table to remove any air bubbles! A process which was not enjoyed by his neighbours…
It’s not all plain sailing though! At Bullion’s first factory, Max was having trouble getting a good finish on the bars in the weeks leading up to summer. The main aim of tempering is to get a glossy, elegant looking piece of chocolate. However, he couldn't quite understand what was going on as he’d been able to deliver top notch bars over winter. After 3 weeks of frustration, Max discovered that the issues were caused by the humidity from the river adjacent to the factory as things started to heat up for summer!
Chocolate can be very temperamental, and often you feel like you're fighting a losing battle. Any slight change can completely throw the chocolate off. Luckily, Max was able to source a fridge that removes moisture from the air and in doing so, he was able to deliver that crisp snap we all know and love. Perseverance is key, but the chocolate community as a whole are very knowledge giving. So, sign up to a forum, share your issue and there’s no doubt someone else has gone through something similar and be able to give you a few pointers.
Each single Bullion bar is carefully hand-wrapped at our Sheffield chocolate factory. They are foiled, then wrapped in antique gold wrapping paper and finished with our branded stickers.
Funnily enough, the gold textured paper which our bars are wrapped in, is actually Christmas wrapping paper which originates from Denmark! Each bar has a sticker which shows the use by date, the bar’s origin and the batch number, as we craft our chocolate in small batches, depending on the harvest, the chocolate can have slightly different flavour notes!
Our Fine Milk bar is unique and stands out from our signature dark chocolate selection. As you may have seen, our Fine Milk bar is enclosed in an envelope style packaging, designed by one of our employees, Dan! Taking inspiration from the signature gold bars but giving it a new individual look.
This is the final stage of the bean-to-bar chocolate making process. Our bars are then sold in our café bar, located in Cutlery Works, as well as various places nationwide. Not only that, bars, bakes and beverages are available on our online shop ready to be enjoyed. So why not treat yourself and indulge in the smooth, glossy chocolate in the Three Bar Bundle. Or perhaps enjoy the delicious Ecuadorian chocolate that is used in our hot chocolate or deliciously dense brownies?
We’re curious to know:
- Are you more inclined to purchasing Bullion as each bar is hand wrapped?
- Do you prefer the envelope packaging of the Fine Milk bar?
- Have you enjoyed the #BehindTheBar series?
Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us, @OfficialBullion.