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Your chance to be Willy Wonka - turn beans into chocolate at U of G

The three-day course looks into the science and technology behind making chocolate straight from the unroasted beans to a moulded chocolate

The University of Guelph is piloting a three-day course open to the public that teaches the science, technology and production of chocolate. 

The $1,000 course will run from Sept. 25 to Sept. 27 where participants will learn the science behind making a dark chocolate bar in a process called 'bean to bar.' 

Senior technical associate Fernanda Peyronel who has been working with cocoa beans for 10 years in the Food Science building at the University of Guelph says it's not like a culinary course, but rather a course that delves into the science and art behind making chocolate through various steps. 

Peyronel ventures to study chocolate have taken her far and wide from the Food Science building in the university to the Amazon Forest in Peru where she personally studied cocoa plants. 

“I am trying to make them understand why those steps are necessary and what are the changes that the cocoa bean experiences in each of those steps,” says Peyronel  

“That will predetermine the outcome of your steps. Everyone wants to have this wonderful chocolate bar. The texture is where you do the melting and the tempering, anybody can do that. But if you didn't start with the good cocoa bean, it's going to be hard.”

Peyronel says the department of Food Science has been wanting a chocolate course for quite some time now and as the right time came along, she was asked to design and deliver it. 

The university has already three successful courses of meat, ice cream and cheese offered for many years where many companies send their workers for training.

She says she expects the course to appeal to chocolate industry workers. 

“If someone is new and doesn't understand the science behind every step, this is a course that is going to benefit them,” says Peyronel.

“If you are an owner of a company and you don’t have time to train people, you can also send them here so in three days they can learn all the basics.”

The three-day course will focus on aroma, flavours, recipes and texture.

It will also discuss ethical sources of the cocoa bean that includes the practice of making chocolate where no child labour is used. 

The Cocoa beans that will be used for this course were donated by Juan Gonsalez, owner of the Mexican Arabia Bean Company and includes the three primary varieties of cocoa beans which are Forastero, Criollo, and Trinitario.

With the bean to bar manufacturing process, the idea is that you don't add any other ingredients but sugar and this label is seen as a reflection of its quality. 

Several companies label their chocolate bars as bean to bar indicating that their chocolate is made from scratch in house and not just bought and melted from another chocolate company

With the bean to bar process, participants will begin the process with a bean from the country of origin, toast it, remove the shell and work with the nibs- inner part of a cocoa seed- to be able to manufacture chocolate.

“The bean to bar movement in North America is focusing more on beans that come from Central America and South America whereas The Europeans have gotten their beans from Africa,” says Peyronel.  

Peyronel says the typical high-quality chocolate uses emulsifiers- a layer between the fat and the sugar that allows the chocolate to flow easily- that allow the chocolate to melt in your mouth. It also uses colour modifiers to darken the colour of the chocolate by changing the PH level. 

“But that’s what we are used to having. You think about chocolate and high-quality chocolate,.it’s dark, it's snappy, when you bite on it, it has to break easily, it's shiny, it doesn't have anything white on top,” says Peyronel. 

She says that is the standard that Europe has developed over the years. 

“One of the appeals of bean to bar is not only to focus on texture- what the Europeans have been doing- but also to focus on your experience in the mouth due to the flavours and the aromas you are going to experience when you eat this chocolate,” says Peyronel.  

She says following the entire process is extremely interesting. 

“Sometimes we forget that in food science. We just jump to the flour or the fat but there are so many steps behind it and it's important not to forget that and to keep working and this course is perfect to show that,” says Peyronel.