Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Chocolate)
A Shokan connoisseur delves into the mystique of dark chocolate.
Photo by Fruition Chocolate
A small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate workshop located in the Catskill Mountains, Fruition Chocolate is well known for crafting devilishly good confections by focusing on organic cocoa beans with fair-trade ingredients. The brains behind the operation is Bryan Graham, a pastry chef-turned-chocolate maker who has been enchanting locals with these treats since starting the business in 2011 — the perfect candidate to shed some light on one of the candy-seeking-season’s more distinctive offerings: dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate — meaning, chocolate made without milk — has a more pronounced taste than other varieties. At Fruition, the reasons for this robust flavor are revealed when you consider the recipe: cocoa beans and sugar. “We make dark chocolate ranging from 68 percent to 100 percent dark, which only has one ingredient, cocoa,” tells Graham. Sometimes, vanilla or additional cocoa butter is added to create a more flavor-enhanced, fluid product. That way, there’s potential to have two dark chocolates of the same percentage offering widely different tastes.
The origin of the beans further plays into the intricacies of their flavor. According to Graham, Fruition sources mainly from Central and South America, traveling to cocoa-producing regions 20 degrees north and south of the equator to scope out quality farms. After ripe cocoa pods are cut off the trees, beans are extracted and fermented in bins covered by burlap or banana leaves for three to eight days. The beans are then dried, roasted to accentuate their characteristics, and sorted for quality control. Then it is time to refine, temper, and mold into the confections we Valleyites know and love.
Though Fruition produces everything from an exotic, 74 percent Wild Bolivian dark to an intriguing, 61 percent dark infused with regional bourbon, the number-one seller is still their 100 percent dark, something Graham attributes to its low carb intake. Recent studies have shown that dark chocolate has added health benefits, but Graham stays strong to his belief that, “if there are health benefits that’s great, but you should eat chocolate because you love it.”