Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker: Burnt Fork Bend Chocolate
Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker Location: Stevensville, Montana
Website: Burnt Fork Bend Chocolate
Date Established: September 2011
Ingredients Used: 3 - Cocoa Beans, Cane Sugar, Cocoa Butter
Allergy Information: Contains no soy, nuts, wheat in any of our products
Inspired by her love for chocolate and a preference for keeping things simple and pure, Jennifer Wicks began experimenting with the art of chocolate making in her home seven years ago. What started as a hobby to satisfy her own chocolate cravings as well as those of her family and friends slowly turned into a business in 2011.
Years ago, Jennifer noticed that a lot of the chocolate available on the market had unpronounceable ingredients. She wondered why that was so when real, delicious chocolate is made from the simplest of ingredients. Curiosity and a desire to control the ingredients in the chocolate she was consuming led Jennifer to research how chocolate was made. There was very little information available on the Internet and even less available elsewhere. Determined to learn and figure it out, she bought a Champion Juicer, Santha Spectra 10 and a bag of cocoa beans, and started experimenting with making small batch, artisanal chocolate. Seven years, 314 batches and close to 3,000 pounds of chocolate later, Jennifer enjoys every aspect of fulfilling her goal of making the best tasting, highest quality chocolate.
Inquisitive and curious about how cacao is grown, fermented and dried, Jennifer took a trip to El Quetzal de Mindo in Mindo, Ecuador, in June 2014. Her gracious hosts, Joe Meza and Barbara Wilson, provided her an opportunity to visit local cacao plantations as well as to experience, first-hand, the process of fermenting and then drying cacao. As a result, Jennifer got a greater appreciation and understanding of how important it is to source quality cocoa beans. Quality encompasses so much more than just the cocoa beans themselves. It also includes the growing conditions, the cacao farmers, the care and attention given during the processing, storage of the beans, and the details of exporting and importing cocoa beans. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. As a result of this memorable trip, Jennifer now pays more attention to all the details of making artisanal small-batch chocolate.
The hardest part of chocolate making for Jennifer is hand tempering the chocolate. To her, there are so many details to pay attention to – chocolate temperature, room temperature, humidity, cocoa butter content, method used – the list seems endless. Thank goodness for tempering machines, which Jennifer uses. It is still important to understand how to temper chocolate by hand. Machines fail and she believes that if you don’t understand what is going on, you’ll most likely never figure out how to fix problems when they arise. While she struggles with hand tempering, Jennifer continues to work on developing that skill.