Sunday, January 8, 2012
Make Your Own Chocolate Kit - Review
Last week, while we were experimenting with our left over Christmas candies, the older girls mentioned they would like to try making chocolate themselves. It wasn't exactly in my plans, as the goal of our chocolate experiments was to use up some of our candy supply, not add to it, but when I saw Glee Gum's Make Your Own Chocolate Kit, and read that it not only comes with all the supplies you need to make 8 oz. of dark chocolate, but also with a couple of cocoa beans to sample, I just couldn't resist.
After watching, The Magic School Bus in the Rain Forest, as well as several from bean to bar type chocolate making documentaries, I was about as curious as the children were to see, smell and taste a real cocoa bean.
I ordered the kit from Amazon, and it arrived just in time for a Friday surprise. I slipped in an audio version of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and placed the kit on the table, just after breakfast.
The girls were delighted. We unpacked the supplies:
* instructions and a brief history of chocolate
* cocoa powder
* cocoa butter
* confectioners sugar
* chocolate seed crystals (a chopped up candy bar)
* two stick on thermometers
* a number of paper candy liners
* and two and a half cocoa beans.
We made short work of removing the shells from the cocoa beans, releasing a wonderful, deep, chocolaty aroma from the nibs. The taste was about what I had expected, somewhere between an espresso bean and baker's chocolate - enough to drive all but the serious chocolate makers from the kitchen.
The older girls (ages 10 and 12) proceeded from there, pretty much on their own, examining...
...and melting the cocoa butter in the microwave (the bowl got extremely hot)...
...stirring in the cocoa powder and sugar, then returning the chocolate mixture to the microwave for a few more seconds...
...before stirring in a touch of vanilla extract (an optional ingredient not in the kit), and waiting for the temperature of the chocolate to drop to exactly 94 degrees Fahrenheit, before stirring in the seed crystals for proper tempering.
The instructions provided a very good, child friendly explanation of the science behind tempering chocolate. That, really added a nice layer of deeper understanding to the chocolate waterfall passage from the book.
And, Dahl's imagination, along with a little encouragement from the kit instructions, sparked some real creativity in the girls, as they added nuts, marshmallows and peanut butter to their chocolates.
Overall, I was very impressed with the kit, and it's not too often I can say that about "science" kits for children. This one though, provided a history and geography lesson, a good bit of math, and just enough science to make it interesting but not overwhelming.
It didn't hurt either, that the chocolates turned out very good. I wasn't expecting too much. A few of the customer reviews on Amazon mentioned the chocolate turning out inferior, or grainy. Perhaps we hit just the right kind of day, weather-wise, or maybe the girls followed the instructions more closely than the reviewers, but their chocolates were very good - gold ticket good, even. I think even Willie Wonka would have been pleased.
It's great to be a homeschooler.
Linked with Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom (a peanut plant update is coming up next).