Chocolate Liqueur via Sous-Vide or Not

Happy Valentine's Day!  At the back of Lisa Q. Fetterman's Sous-Vide at Home book, I noticed she was making her own bitters and liqueurs and it occurred to me that my cacao nibs would make a lovely home-crafted Creme de Cacao. Some research pulled up a number of articles on the subject: Supercall has a good recipe, for which you don't need a sous-vide appliance.  Then there's Making cacao nib infused liquor, and a great lesson on video for using sous vide to infuse cocktails.

 The beauty of sous-vide here is that the infusing time is only hours rather than weeks, and that the flavors don't have a chance to get musty or vinegary, which can happen especially when using herbs or fruit.  Making your own liqueur also gives you control over such things as sugar content, type and amounts of flavoring ingredients. The recipe I ended up with was culled from several sources:

Chocolate Liqueur/ Crème de Cacao Recipe

1 2/3 cup Vodka
1 cup cacao nibs
1 coffee bean
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups simple syrup (I used turbinado and coconut sugars)

Start by filling a heavy stock pot with water and clipping on the sous-vide appliance to the side of the pot. Set the temperature to 135ºF /57ºC though some sources say 140ºF/60ºC ) As the water heats, get a bottle prepared (an old wine bottle with a new cork?) I found a fancy one I'd never used. Funnel one and two-thirds cups of vodka into the bottle, toss in one coffee bean, then slowly pour in 1 cup of cacao nibs, using a funnel. Firmly cork the bottle and, when the water is ready, set the bottle down into the pot and set a timer for 2 hours and 15 minutes. When the time is up, split a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the bottle, drop in the vanilla bean, shake to combine, and set the timer for 20 more minutes.

Once the infusion is complete, strain the liqueur through a fine sieve to remove the cacao nibs, but reserve the vanilla bean. For more complete chocolate flavor, boil the strained cacao in simple syrup for a few more minutes. This is the classic alcohol+water extraction. Some of the flavor essences are soluble in water and some in alcohol apparently. I then combined the syrup with the infusion.

The last step is straining the liqueur through a coffee filter, (this takes awhile - was going drip by drip, so I switched it out for double cheesecloth) then poured it into a clean bottle and you can add in the reserved vanilla bean (if desired). If you do not run it through a filter, it will still taste good, but the cacao butter will congeal as soon as your liqueur is mixed with another spirit.  Allow it to rest for three days before using. In this time, the flavors of the syrup and the alcohol can meld together, resulting in a much softer flavor.  I read that if you were taste it immediately after combining, you would find a harsh ethanol note on the back-end.

Not at all harsh on the back-end, this Brandy Alexander was very fine.  I used a Chilean Pisco Brandy, equal parts with my Creme de Cacao and Cream.  Grated Scharffenberger dark and nutmeg on top.

Linking this post with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, just in time to make your Valentine's Day special treat!!  My next experiment is Fetterman's (from the Sous-Vide book) Pandan-Infused Cream of Coconut.  Oh boy.   I plan on using that for coconut rice or perhaps in a Pandana Colada?


Beth F said...

Whoa! How cool is that?! I had no idea that you could use sous-vide for liqueurs. Now *I* wanna try!

Judee Algazi said...

I do not own the appliance but the recipe sound wonderful. thanks for sharing

jama said...

I've never thought to make my own liqueur. Thanks for the interesting post. What a nice Valentine's Day treat. :)

Claudia said...

Judee, you don't need sous-vide to make liqueurs, it just takes longer. I linked a recipe above.

Mae Travels said...

Amazing use for a gadget that hasn't appealed to me before!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Carole said...

I'm trying to imagine what chocolate liqueur tastes like.... Cheers

Tina said...

That would make a good match for the book at Cook the Books, I love love love chocolate! Bet this was a treat.

Deb in Hawaii said...

So cool! I love making fruit and herb infused alcohol but I love that you used your cacao nibs and made chocolate liqueur. Even though you can make it without, you make me want to get a sous-vide. ;-)

Simona Carini said...

Very nice, Claudia. I am curious: where you able to reuse the cacao nibs (after drying them)?

Claudia said...

Yes Simona, I did use some of them in making Brutti-boni cookies, and the rest will probably go in brownies with some nuts. They would be excellent in a nut brittle as well.