In late 2019, Clayton McErlane at Baron Hasselhoff’s kindly invited me to make a chocolate bar with him, from scratch. Despite my years in the chocolate industry and a reasonably comprehensive knowledge of the bean to bar process, I had never actually made my own chocolate. How could I turn down this opportunity to work with my number one chocolate friend and learn the tricks of the trade?
Over the course of a few months, Clayton took me through the whole chocolate making process, including sorting and roasting the beans, cracking and winnowing the cacao, grinding and conching, tempering the chocolate and moulding the bars. It was a revelatory experience that filled me with even more respect for the professionals. I loved learning all the little touches that Clayton has learnt over the years; there are so many subtle techniques that seem insignificant by themselves, but across the whole process they add up to create something beautiful. Things like adding the ingredients to the grinder in gentle increments (rather than all at once), the perfect polishing technique for the moulds, little tricks with tempering and moulding so that you get the perfect looking bar with no marks, bubbles or bloom, and how to wrap the bars in a neat and efficient fashion.
At every step of the way we paid extremely close attention to temperature. Not just for the obvious things like roasting the beans or tempering the chocolate, but also little touches like warming up the grinder before we started adding ingredients, warming up the cocoa butter and cacao nibs before grinding them, warming up the moulds before adding the chocolate, and even being conscious of whether or not we wanted the air conditioning on. It’s an exact science that can take years to master, and involves a mixture of sensitive intuition and painstaking attention to detail. I developed a much deeper appreciation for the talent of the makers we work with.
As for the bar itself, I wanted to create something that's filled with fond personal memories. One of my favourite desserts as a child was my mum’s rhubarb crumble with custard - I loved mixing the crumble together with the fruit and custard, then eating ridiculously large spoonfuls. This bar aims to replicate that experience in the form of chocolate.
I came up with the idea of making an oat milk bar with added rhubarb powder, vanilla and nutmeg. I knew I wanted to use a cacao with bright fruity notes, and thankfully Brian Campbell at Miann was able to supply us with incredible Anamalai beans from Tamil Nadu, India. The tricky thing was that we were only making one micro batch of chocolate, so there wasn’t really an opportunity to test the recipe. We had to just go for it, using a combination of my intuition (read: total guess work) and Clayton’s experience of making similar bars in the past.
I’m really happy with the result, and I’m sure you guys are going to love it. If I was to make the bar again I would use slightly more rhubarb powder and a little less nutmeg, but I reckon it’s incredibly delicious as it is. We only have 50 bars available so this is an extremely limited release - be sure to grab yours before it’s too late!
Please note: $3 from every bar will be donated to the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.
Here are a few more photos of the process...
How lucky are you to be able to make your very own chocolate bar. I would love to do this – how exciting!
I hope you kept the No. 1 bar for yourself!!
August 13, 2020