Cocoa beans come from the theobroma cacao plant, and are used to make cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The process begins with fermenting drying and roasting cocoa beans, stripping them of their hulls, revealing cocoa nibs.
The cocoa nibs are ground into a paste (called cocoa liquor), which is then pressed to release the fat. This fat, is the cocoa butter, separated from the solids, which are then made into cocoa powder. Cocoa butter is a very interesting yellow fat, when its refined/ deodorised, it doesn’t taste or smell of much, a bit like soap.
But it doesn’t take too much experimenting with it to discover just how unique it is.
Cocoa butter has a low melting point (25°C). Cocoa butter is made up of different fats, all melt between 25-36°C.
The average melting temperature of those fats is 30°C.
Which means cocoa butter melts easily in the mouth 36°C even on the skin, which is why it’s so popular in the cosmetic industry.
But what really separates cocoa butter from other fats is the speed it melts. Cocoa butter has a “sharp” melting point, when it gets much above 30°C it turns liquid quickly. Cocoa butter has 21 different fats in it, just three of those fats make up nearly half of it, and they all melt at around the same temperature: between 30 and 32°C Centigrade depending on whether the cocoa butter is tempered or not. This means that when cocoa butter hits the warm environment of your mouth it almost instantly transforms into a liquid. However, because there are fats in the mix that melt at higher temperature (up to 46°C) that liquid isn’t especially thin.
High viscosity is a good thing for someone who likes to eat, if the cocoa butter is mixed with any flavour-giving compounds (chocolate solids), those compounds hang around on the tongue and on the surfaces of the mouth for a while longer tasting nice stuff.
Cocoa butter is expensive, because of competition between the confectionery and cosmetics industries.
Another down side is that cocoa butter is very rigid when it’s cool, and that’s not always a good thing. Indeed, cocoa butter gets hard when it gets below 12, which means it’s not so good in ice cream, so ice cream makers often use cocoa butter equivalent (CBE) for chocolate that goes into frozen desserts.
Can we cook with it?
YES, I often shallow fry stakes and fish in it, we can use it in mousses to replace the gelatine.
I am experimenting with cocoa butter pastry short crust and puff; I will keep you informed. Cocoa butter can be a good addition in sweet and savoury recipes and can add creaminess to beverages and desserts. Use it as a substitute for butter in vegan or dairy-free recipes. Because of its high smoke point, cocoa butter is ideal when cooking at high temperatures as it won't burn easily; it's also not necessary to use as much as other fats. Because it is solid, cocoa butter needs to be melted before use.
Because cocoa butter melts easily, it should be stored away from light and heat in a cool, dry spot. It can also be kept in the refrigerator. Cocoa butter should last several years if stored properly.