Hi chocolate fellows! Today I would like to explore more the background of one of the Italian artisan I recently tasted, and, to be honest, I am really thankful to Marco Gruppioni for considering my input on his products based on a strong-self identity.
Marco told me:
Everything was born as a reflection of my second business activity; in fact, since 2013 I have an ice cream parlor called "Il Teatro del Gelato", located in Sant'Agostino in the province of Ferrara where I also opened my chocolate factory. Since I have deep knowledge about the food and wine sectors as a researcher of small producers specialty to offer to my customers, I decided immediately to set up the daily production of my ice cream using only natural ingredients. After two years, I realized that the only thing I was missing in my overall vision was "chocolate". Therefore, together with my former collaborator at the time, I started my research about the bean-to-bar distinctive production method. And that's how I bought the first stone-ground machine from India and the first sack of Santander cocoa beans from Colombia through a distributor in the Netherlands. This decision had a knock-on effect on my production system: the first blocks of chocolate used to make ice cream were followed by the first bars sold over the counter, packaged in a paper bag sewn with cotton thread by my mother. I came up with the idea to become a small-batch chocolate artisan thanks to all the bars of other handcrafted makers that I tasted with my CocoaRunners subscription program. I just would like to mention a few of them such as Akesson, Pump Street Bakery, Omnom, Dick Taylor, Raaka, Dandelion, Fruition, Manoa, etc... The uniqueness of each one was so glaring sending different style messages characterized by clean, original, and in many cases natural selection. Hence the choice of creating my own factory, and purchasing larger stone machines. The name Rukét was chosen for two reasons: to enhance the importance of the terrior/origin in chocolate; and in Ferrara`s dialect, "ruket" means the "spool" of cotton around which yarn is wound. Meanwhile, to identify even more our territoriality (Ferrara, Italy), I selected a peculiar mold made in Belgium that reproduces the "bugnato" of the "Palazzo dei Diamanti" which is a symbol of the Italian Renaissance. In my opinion, this also means chocolate. Why? Because the craft chocolate movement is the "new" Renaissance among the major players who put on the market low-quality products. Essentially sugars, fats, and flavoring with an absolute absence of theobromine missing the exceptional nature of high-quality cacao beans. The difference with many of my foreign colleagues is that I instantly understood that for me chocolate must be made just with two ingredients and without cocoa butter. The reason is simple, the addition of cocoa butter limits the peculiarities of the cacao bean itself to come to light, precisely due to the impossibility of using cocoa butter of the same origin of the cocoa beans. Of course, avoiding this element complicates the making process quite a bit; in fact, the long rest for at least two months of the chocolate blocks produced before making the bars become inevitable. Since 2018 I have been totally alone, and I deliberately avoid replacing my ex-partner with someone else, except for the occasional collaboration of my nephew Mattia.
The current purchase of beans takes place from two distributors, Silva Cacao and Crafting Market, and from 2 producers, Xoco Gourmet and Biji Kakao. The choice of beans passes through continuous research and the tasting of samples I receive. The first tablet I have ever made was the Haiti Pisa 75% but I must admit I find absolutely great Kokoa Kamili cacao beans from Tanzania... to me those beans have something "mystical". In Italy, the culture of chocolate is very restricted, but the same goes for coffee which sounds pretty strange considering our passion for "espresso". Talking of "Bean-to-Bar" for many does not mean anything; for others, it is just becoming a "new" trend... But I don`t let people's behavior and way to think to demoralize me. Indeed, I continue to highlight the specialty of my profession-vocation where "nothing is added" and this begins to be perceived, especially by those who eat carefully.
1. Can you express your "chocolate-style" and the processing method adopted?
My style in making chocolate is to do it in the most natural way possible regarding the use of the ingredients and the processing phase. The aim is to achieve authenticity by highlighting the peculiarities of each origin, in particular the pros and limits of each vintage. If a different scent and aroma are evident, I don't try to standardize it but to keep it!
2. What are the stages of the bean-to-bar process that you consider fundamental?
In my opinion, the most critical step of craft chocolate production is roasting, without any doubt! After a great fermentation, a particular and careful roasting must follow. In my case, it is differentiated from origin to origin, with low and prolonged temperatures, and almost entirely a double roasting.
3. Can you describe the difference in making chocolate with or without cocoa butter in terms of processing and equipment required?
The difference in making chocolate by adding or remove from the equation cocoa butter is that most of the time, it is a factor not-related to the cacao beans origin, consequently, its presence modifies the organic aroma and taste of precious cocoa beans.
Not adding butter means chocolates that are less creamy, less round, less appreciated, but certainly sincere! If you do not add butter, you have to pay more attention to the cleanliness of the grain and run the stone machines at low revolutions for much longer.
4. How many bars do you produce in a day? Or rather, how long does it take to produce a small batch of chocolate bars? How many cocoa beans do you use for each small batch produced?
Ruket annual production can reach 10.000 tablets. However, you should consider that from a 60 kg bag of cacao beans you can remove at least 33% after roasting and screening. What remains is about 40 kg of mass, which allows you to obtain 55 kg of 72% chocolate meaning in practice about 850 bars.
6. What does inspire you for your inclusions?
The inspirations of the inclusions are dictated by pure chance or by the specific request. Surely the result was the fruit of many but many tests...
7. Can you share more details on your packaging/mold design?
The packaging of the tablets, the so-called box, was studied by a graphic studio in Milan, with the purpose to "remake" the first packages that together with my mother we made in the back of the ice cream parlor. The current and upcoming packaging emerges from the collaboration with a paper converting company, named Patinata, which is located a few kilometers from our location.
8. Do you produce artisanal single-origin chocolate ice cream in your ice-cream shop?
The chocolate ice cream I produce is always single-origin and dairy-free. Instead, I decided to add rice "milk" as an alternative to cow milk. The use of an important quantity of chocolate determines a very pronounced creaminess and a strong intensity, but when you taste it you will tell me ...
9. What are your suppliers of delicate and particular raw materials such as Sangiovese wine pomace and green chartreuse powder and how did you conceive these two bars?
The supplier of the Sangiovese pomace is a winery in Castellina in Chianti: they dry the pomace that is afterward stone-ground by a mill to obtain a flour consistency. I incorporate it a few hours prior to the end of the making process and, even the smallest amount, is able to open a strong emphasis on the wine character. The Chartreuse discourse is very different and difficult to replicate; in fact, in order to add a large quantity of this drink which has 55 ° C, I created a vegetable fat obtained from the union of Sunflower Oil, green Chartreuse, and flax fiber. The fiber captures the aqueous part of the liqueur and binds it to the oil. At this point, the fat obtained is very slowly added to the chocolate during grinding and turned for a few minutes, just the time it mixes evenly, avoiding dispersing all the botanical aromas of the 130 herbs, spices, and roots that compose it.
Thank you so much Marco Grupponi. I can`t wait to visit your laboratory back in Italy!!!