Conche & refiner
Gerard is one of the few British chocolatiers who produce chocolate from ground beans, conching and refining in his atelier.
He sources fine ground beans from South America, Asia and the Caribbean, where possible directly from the local farming cooperatives.
To transform ground beans into chocolate, he formulates recipes, conches and refines in Kent. He adds cane sugar, and whole dried milk (for milk chocolate) to the gritty cocoa paste. This mix is conched: agitated for several hours or days under heat to evaporate some of the less desirable volative aromas in the cocoa beans. Conching is the most important flavour development process from beans and one that requires a careful balance tailored to each batch of beans. Too little conching makes an overly astringent chocolate. Too much conching makes the chocolate flat in taste. Gerard to plays with conching times and temperatures to achieve that delicate balance and get the best out of each batch of beans.
After conching, the chocolate is refined. Additional cocoa butter and a small amount of soya lecithin is introduced to increase the fluidity of the chocolate and allow it to be pumped at high speed through a ball mill, a cylinder filled with small stainless steel beads. This action progressively reduces the beans particle size from about 300 microns to less than 20 microns, a size that the human tongue can not detect. Refining ensures a silky melt in the mouth chocolate experience.
Gerard was the first British chocolatier to discover this new and counterintuitive way of making chocolate from ground beans. Traditional machines refine then conche whilst Gerard conches first when the particle size is still large which makes the conching more efficient and then refines. Artisan du chocolat is not bound by tradition but led by an innovative and forward looking artisan who embraces challenges.
After mastering the art of making milk chocolate by adding dried milk powder to cocoa beans, Gerard pondered on what would happen if other dried powdered ingredients were added. The Fusions, Caffe and T bars were born by intimately mixing cocoa beans with spices, coffee or tea. The latest experiments include an almond milk chocolate bar (with almond milk replacing cow's milk) and a buffalo milk chocolate bar in development.