Step inside the Wexford kitchen where Bean and Goose chocolate is lovingly made by hand
Natalie and Karen Keane of Bean and Goose atelier in Enniscorthy reveal the precise science behind their silky slabs of chocolate.
Chocolate has its own dialogue. Whether it’s the lexicon of tempering, blooming and couverture, or the delicate “crack” of a chocolate bar curling away from its mould on a cold winter’s morning, it’s a language Bean and Goose chocolatiers and sisters Natalie and Karen Keane understand.
As they methodically work around their industrial steel kitchen in Enniscorthy, it becomes apparent that this is not a Dahl-ian vision of a chocolate factory, though it’s just as fascinating as the beloved children’s book suggests.
It is in this room – lit by late autumn sunshine streaming through large period windows – that every nibble of Bean and Goose’s sustainably sourced, single-origin chocolate is tempered, poured, moulded, decorated, packaged and posted. Against the soft, crinkling sounds of foil being wrapped around finished bars, Natalie and Karen explain how chocolate- making is a precise science.
When Bean and Goose began in 2014, the duo hand-tempered all their chocolate – the aptly named temperamental process that gives the chocolate its sleek, glossy finish, satisfying snap and intensity of flavour.
“First, you heat the chocolate to about 46 degrees,” says Karen, as she pours about two-thirds of thick Madagascan dark chocolate from a bowl onto a cold marble slab. “Then, you need to drop it, evenly and quickly to about 26 or 27 degrees.”
She begins working the dark chocolate rhythmically around the slab to cool it. A flat-ended trowel in each hand, she watches carefully for minute signs that the chocolate has thickened and chilled enough.
The chocolate is then scraped back into the bowl with the remaining warm chocolate and stirred for a smooth, silky consistency and a temperature of about 31 degrees. Karen expertly ladles the perfect amount into each bar mould as Natalie explains that if any of the three temperatures are off – in the bowl, on the slab and then back in the bowl – you have to start again.
Otherwise, the chocolate won’t temper and might instead “bloom”, causing a patina of white marks across the bar and a crumbly texture that masks the chocolate’s depth of flavour.
Karen taps the mould to bring air bubbles to the top. At the next station, crystallised orange rind, dried cranberries and roasted hazelnuts and almonds sit waiting to dress the chocolate in their signature Winter’s Bark. Natalie deftly sprinkles each one before they’re popped into the fridge to cool and “crack” away from their moulds.
Thankfully, Natalie and Karen are no longer hand-tempering every bar, having invested in two tempering machines following a run of busy Christmases.
Despite this injection of new technology, Bean and Goose began as, and remains, a simple objective among sisters – to create something together that celebrates their childhood summers in Wexford.
Each bar is embossed with the topography of Karen’s farm where their bar was born, and they use local ingredients wherever they can, including Wexford honey and lavender grown on the farm. Even the name is a play on the bean goose, a frequent visitor to Ireland’s south-east shores during the winter months.
Having resisted my inner child to dip a finger in the plethora of melted chocolate that surrounded me, my resilience is rewarded with a slab of Madagascan chocolate to take home. Although whether that resolve (and the chocolate) survives until the festive season is another story.
Photography: Al Higgins
Assisted by: Liadh Connolly
This feature was originally published in the November/December 2019 issue of Image Interiors & Living.