Author Archives: Carp

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Whether you hate Valentine’s Day, love it, or are as confused as I was about it a year ago, here’s to all of us agreeing that this is pretty clearly a heart.

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A Look Beyond the Heart-Shaped Box: How a Bonbon is Made

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There’s a common saying out there concerning the manufacturing of sausages. It implies that once someone learns about the intestines, guts and other general all-around yuckies that go into something as wonderful as a sausage, that our newly graduated sausage scholar friend will lose his or her appetite for the very sausage he or she just studied.

As it turns out, that saying really doesn’t apply when it comes to chocolates.

I’d never taken a ton of time to consider how the truffles, bonbons and other filled chocolates are made, but given how much Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood I watched as a kid, I kind of generally assumed the process was a lot like how people make crayons or macaroni: mostly using big machines, with some oversight by men wearing hats and distribution by means of Mr. McFeely.

That in mind, when my friend and noted chocolatier Chef Amanda Tommey Terbush told me that she was getting ready to make some bonbons to sell during Valentine’s Day weekend at her Southern France Patisserie*, I was intrigued, as her kitchen featured neither big machines nor Mr. McFeelies. [Ed. note: I can’t say one way or another about hats.] Immediate further investigation revealed my preconceptions were woefully inaccurate and that I actually had no idea how one creates a bonbon; for the benefit of my vast readership, Amanda was kind enough to invite me to observe her make a batch.

*[Ed. note: Southern France Patisserie is a hybrid French and American Southern bakery on Irving Park and Southport just north of Wrigley Field. It’s a perfect place to eat pastries, drink coffee and complain about Mizzou football, and has become one of my favorite spots in the whole city. If you find yourself free on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning, mosey on over and give literally anything a try; there’s a more than 50 percent chance you’ll giggle at how good it is.]

Constructing a Bonbon

When I arrived, Amanda was already hard at work, having already completed batches of milk chocolate/Tahitian vanilla bean ganache and white chocolate/strawberry champagne ganache bonbons [Ed. note: Scroll to the bottom for tasting notes]; I was going to watch her make a dark chocolate variety, which would be filled with a blood orange salted caramel ganache, because of course it would.

The first step of creating one of these confections is to create the outer shell of the bonbon. Amanda had already taken care of this at the time, with racks upon racks of dark chocolate shells already cooled and ready to be filled.

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Racks on racks on racks.

Now, just about anybody would see that rack and get excited, but Amanda made sure to note to look more closely to ensure that everything was going according to plan. Perhaps the most important thing to look for at this point is the shine and coloring of the chocolate shells. If it’s shiny and uniform throughout, it means that the chocolate was tempered at the right temperature; this chocolate will taste wonderful and “crisp” when it breaks. However, if it was tempered improperly, the chocolate will demonstrate “blooming”: streaks of lighter brown interspersed with the darker chocolate.

Have you ever had a candy bar that totally melted and you tried to save by putting it in the freezer, and when you pulled it out and opened it, it mostly looked the same save some lightish stuff on the outside? That’s bloom.

Bloom is evidence that the chocolate was tempered at the wrong temperature; the fat from the cocoa butter does not emulsify with all of the chocolate and separates. This will lead to imperfections in the mouthfeel and cleavage of the chocolate, a major bummer for all involved. No “crisp”, no glory.

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Chocolate tempering in a tempering machine, called, what else, a Choc-o-vision. [Ed. note: This chocolate would later be used on truffles, but demonstrational purposes, yo!]

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I’m going to just having to keep getting mad at people who can’t figure this Reese’s shape thing out, aren’t I?

Remember that time when people got grumpy about the Reese’s Trees not looking enough like trees? And Reese’s responded with aplomb?

Welp. Shocker of the year: They’re grumpy again. About the hearts.

Reese’s has, again, responded well enough, but I’m really at this point just preparing myself for the inevitable scorn that will likely be headed Reese’s Eggs’ way in 6 weeks or so.

***

In other candy bar news, a London woman wants a lifetime supply of Kit Kats after she bit into a defective one that had no wafers inside.

While we here at BOaP admire her boldness and generally support lifetime supplies of candy bars for whatever reason, we cannot endorse this venture. Because it is stupid.

(Thanks to Georgia Bar for the tip!)

 

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LIVE EVENT: Commentary on candy bar commercials

 

Because it’s what the world has been asking for, stop in here to hear my thoughts on any of the candy bar commercials that air during The Big Game.

UPDATE 5:50PM:

Snickers’ “Marilyn”:  So we all know the punchline here, and this falls a little short of last years’ Danny Trejo-Steve Buscemi spot. More than anything, this spot just made me jealous of Willem Defoe’s legs.

UPDATE 6:35PM:

Skittles’ “The Portrait”: Naw, man.

Update 8:15PM:

Butterfinger, “Be Bold”: Yawn. I wish I had more, but, I just don’t.

Friends and friends and candy bars

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Happy new year, everybody! An entire month and change late!

Apologies for the hiatus; life’s been a bit of a whirlwind lately: I left a job, went on a Christmas vacation to the California coast and a New Year’s vacation to the California mountains, found a Lady Bar, worked at a fashion convention and lost a 1-on-1 basketball game for $100.

As I’ve navigated the highs and lows of the past few months, one of the great constants has been the support of my friends, who, in addition to being overall swell people, have also supplied me with more than my fair share of candy bars to sample.

A very genuine thank you to all of those who sent bars my way, including:

The friend who goes to visit a candy factory and knows you like silly hats

Many thanks to Jacki Bar, who not only sent along some delicious treats from her tour of the Hammond Candies factory in Colorado, but also sent this sweet-ass hat, which I immediately put on, because attention:

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Great hat. Why don’t you see more of these nowadays?

Of course, she also sent some sweets:

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Hammonds Whoopie Pie bar was, well, not exactly a whoopie pie facsimile, but, instead a dark chocolate bar with vanilla creme. It was definitely a tasty chocolate bar, but given the whoopie pie billing, I can’t say it completely lived up to my expectation (me and the whoopies go way back).

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Gimme more of dat creme, yo.

More than anything, the bitterness of the dark chocolate overpowered the gentle vanilla in the creme, and anyone who’s had a whoopie pie knows that the creme is paramount. If Hammonds had adjusted the ratio ever so slightly, this would have been a knockout. Continue reading

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Mangoes and Dark Chocolate: Oh Hey Der, New Friend

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I’ll be honest: I find mangoes mysterious and unpredictable.

I suppose a great deal of that comes from the fact that I just never really ran into them when I was growing up — a picky eater, apples were a tough sell, so mangoes were probably far out of the question. Also, Wisconsin.

As a grownup, I’ve had them a couple of times, but I’ve never really known about whether I’m eating them right. Am I supposed to use a knife? I can’t tell when they’re ripe? They have a pleasant enough taste, sometimes? Not so pleasant, though, that they have warranted further investigation.

And thus, here we are, describing fruit on a candy bar blog like a character played by James Spader on a network drama.

As a result, when Holtsford Bar — one of our regulars at Timmy’s, who, when not loving sugar cookies, rooting for the Panthers or believing in Knobby, has been one of BOaP’s stronger supporters — brought in a Ghirardelli Mango Sunset bar, I was as dubious as I was puzzled what to expect. I knew he wouldn’t be bringing, like, poison, but … mango and chocolate? Counselor Shore, you’re a loose cannon!

As is often the case, though, I’m a dope. The candy bar was damn good.

Sometimes, when you eat flavored chocolate, you can tell that it’s just chocolate and they threw some artificial flavoring in there; you’re hanging out with a friend but he/she also brought his/her shitty friend along. The experience is enough like hanging out with just your friend, but it’s less fun because you can’t stop noticing that shitty friend. Sometimes, the shitty friend is so shitty that it ruins hanging out with your friend altogether.

The Mango Sunset [Ed. note: I want to have a comment about the name, but I just can’t muster anything up.] is nothing like that, though. It’s more like hanging out with a friend who brought his/her new friend along and the new friend is delightful to the point that you’re really happy they came but you’re at the point where you don’t really have the capacity to make any more friends so you just appreciate and enjoy the new friend’s company and extend an open invitation to hang out that you don’t ever really plan on following up on.

Which is to say: The dark chocolate and the mango work together harmoniously and are a genuinely fun combination. The mango flavor is strong, but not fake-tasting, and has a fantastic complement in the bitterness of the dark chocolate. Whether chewed or allowed to melt on the tongue, the tropical-ness of the mango dances across the palate and elicits an almost whimsical response.

It’s not a candy bar I’d want to eat all the time — you definitely have to be in the mood for a Mango Sunset. But you know that your friend’s friend is almost definitely not going to hit you up for a happy hour, so you just kind of appreciate that it’s there and look forward to the next time you run into it.

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BREAKING NEWS: Pretentious candy bar bros get their pretentious comeuppance

I don’t like to say that I hate people, because, at its heart, the word “hate” is awful in just about any context. I do, however, have a Fk That Dude list.

The Mast Brothers? Fk those dudes. On the list.

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Merry Christmas, everybody

  

May your pudding be figgy and your canes be unbroken. 

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Nope.

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“Why would anybody eat a toothpaste-flavored peep?”

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May the Force be with you

 There is no candy bar more associated with movie theaters. 

Used to hate them because raisins. But this moment is perfect.

Enjoy the weekend, nerds. 

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Lumps of Coal

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When I was a wee lad, my grandma used to babysit me a lot. She was a sweet lady who loved Arnold Schwarzenegger and had a right hand that didn’t open up all the way on account of an industrial accident at a factory where she worked.

When I got tired of watching Predator and started beating up on my sisters, she would Stop That Right Now, Young Man Or Else You’re Going To Get THE CLAW.

She would beckon at me with her semi-clenched hand, her fingers extended and her long, sharpened fingernails pointed directly at my heart.

And I would stop, sit back down and get right back to watching Predator.

Grandma (Grambo to those who knew her – she loved Stallone too) passed a couple of years ago. As my family gathered to mourn and pore over pictures, possessions and memories, my cousins and I all came to realize that nobody ever actually got The Claw [Ed. note: It turns out, to some’s chagrin.] – the object of our abject fear was merely a ruse to get us to stop being such little shits.

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Miss you, Gram.

A similar ruse?

“If you don’t behave, all Santa is going to bring you is a lump of coal.”

Ignoring the fact that these days coal is a precious resource that might have a higher value than a great many other gifts, for a child, this is a scary-ass proposition. And, for the most part, it works.

Now, I know I’m not breaking new ground here, but we all recognize that nobody has ever – outside of the Kingsford briquette that your wisenheimer dad decided was a funny joke one year – gotten coal in their stocking in lieu of Christmas presents, right? The fortitude a parent would need to deal with the repercussions on Christmas morning alone would make it a futile decision, not to mention the therapy they’d need to pay for years later.

We continue to propagate the threat, though. And finally, someone’s taking advantage!

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If you squint real hard … they still don’t look like coal.

Butterfinger decided to market their holiday varietal as lumps of coal (pictured at top), and I couldn’t be happier. For one, it means the kids whose wisenheimer dads were going to put charcoal in their stocking now have a shot at a delicious alternative, but, really, it’s a creative way to package the best-possible form of Butterfinger. The chocolate-to-Butterfinger-stuffins ratio is higher than a typical Butterfinger, which offers a gentler tasting experience, both in the ways of initial taste as well as a more reasonable amount of candy that gets stuck in your teeth.

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