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Left: tasting samples of Tocoti’s chocolates. Middle: evaporated cane juice is used to make the chocolate. Right: the chocolate must be tempered before it is finished. PHOTOS BY MARK CHAMBERLIN

and then transfers them to a winnower, where the papery shells fall away from the beans, exposing the nibs. Grinding is the next step, which reduces the cacao nibs to the thick paste known as chocolate liquor. (Spoiler alert: there’s no actual alcohol in it.) The paste gets combined with organic evaporated cane juice and cocoa butter and then conched, a process that agitates the chocolate liquor until Dale determines that he’s achieved what he’s looking for in terms of flavor and texture. At this point the chocolate undergoes tempering, which heats the chocolate to a specific temperature that will ensure a pleasing gloss and snap to the finished product. There’s actually not too much available in terms of equipment for micro-batch chocolate makers, who typically don’t have the space or financial resources of a mega-batch behemoth like Nestlé or Hershey’s.

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So Dale, who spent many years as a technician in the semiconductor industry but wanted his own business, put his mechanical skills to work. He tweaked existing designs of machinery to suit Tōcōti’s purposes, and five pieces of Tōcōti’s equipment he built outright. “If I need something, I just make it,” Dale says.

“I’m excited to wake up in the morning and make chocolate. It’s a real reward.”

After a couple of years spent honing

eliciting a public response that Ellen remembers as “overwhelming.” Tōcōti’s chocolate is processed as minimally as possible, shunning the use of additives and incorporating organic and locally sourced ingredients, like the Joe Bean coffee in Tōcōti’s Espresso-Love bar, whenever feasible. It’s the relatively subtle Venezuelan chocolate that Dale uses for Tōcōti’s truffles, which allows the flavors of fillings like Valencia peanut butter and fresh mint to be the stars.

the craft of chocolate making, Dale and Ellen officially began their company in the fall of 2010, settling on the name Tōcōti — pronounced “TOE-koe-tee”; the name comes from three Aztec drum syllables — in the opening months of 2011. An online store and word of mouth allowed Tōcōti to start out slowly, creating wedding favors and offering its wares at a few select retail outlets. Tōcōti made its high-profile debut September 2012 at Foodlink’s Festival of Food,

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Dish 2013  
Dish 2013  

City Newspaper's annual guide to food and drink in the Rochester area