For Christmas, because I am insane and he loves me, Tom gave me a home conching machine.
Conching is the penultimate step in chocolate making. Chocolate liquor (the product of grinding cocoa beans that have been roasted and cracked and hulled) is combined with sugar, usually some additional cocoa butter, and sometimes vanilla, milk solids, lecithin, and any other flavorings you want to add, and processed in what is essentially a big, industrialized mortar and pestle for hours or (in the case of the higher-end chocolatiers) days to give the fantastically smooth product that we know and love. This step has always prevented me from making my own chocolate, because there were no home conching machines available before now. But now there are. So here, you can see the steps involved in making a four pound batch of chocolate, starting from raw cocoa beans (plus extra cocoa butter, superfine sugar, vanilla beans, and soy lecithin) and ending in bittersweet chocolate, ready to eat, to chop up into chocolate chunks for use in cookies, to mix with cream for ganache, or for whatever you would want to use bittersweet chocolate for.