Category Archives: Valentine’s Week

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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A Passage From A Novel Without Any Context: Valentine’s Week Edition

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“… I know, right? Let me guess, your favorite Alt-J song is ‘Left Hand Free’, too, isn’t it?”

Sarah laughed as she passed Dental Hygeine/Toothbrushes. Kelly was such a prick and she loved it.

“Let’s go see if there’s any cheap Valentine’s Day candy left.”

“Oooo good idea.”

The two girls strolled beyond Greeting Cards and took a right at Seasonal. They found shelves mostly bare, with a section of consolidated red-and-pink toward the front of the store. It was marked with blue sheets of paper displaying 50% OFF VALENTINE’S ITEMS in toner consistent with that of the 5-cents-a-copy machine close to Photo. Three plastic-wrapped bulk packages of Easter baskets waited patiently next to it.

Blue was a curious choice, Sarah thought as she approached the sale.

The girls scanned the picked-over racks. A man coming from Batteries noticed the sale and smiled. He walked toward the girls, stopping his cart alongside them. His two, non-descript black velcro shoes stood in direct contrast of the four Chuck Taylors they were adjacent to.

“Looks like we had the same idea! Save on the good stuff!” The man smiled at them.

“Yup. The good stuff,” Kelly deadpanned. “Gotta save on it.”

With a slight groan, the man bent over to reach the bottom shelf, loosened a $15 $7.50 Russell Stover Peanuts-themed box of chocolates from its packaging, straightened back up and continued on toward Pain Relief.

IMG_3618Also a big thank you to Angela Bar for the Raffaello treats that proved just the appropriate sooth to Giannis not doing particularly well in the dunk contest. For those wondering on how they taste, they’re reminiscent of a Ferrero Rocher, just if you swapped all the chocolate with things that are white.

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Valentine’s Week: Some Words on Valentine’s Day

IMG_3616I have nothing to say about Valentine’s Day.

I have everything to say about Valentine’s Day.

….

I remember when Valentine’s Day stopped being something to look forward to.

The year before, my teacher gave my class the Social Studies period to decorate a shoebox, and then that Friday, the Friday before Valentine’s Day, everyone brought in folded up pieces of cardstock Tweety Birds and Power Rangers and big hearts on the front. For everyone. Sometimes people included candy, too. That was always great.

That year, though, the shoeboxes never happened. There was little candy and fewer Tweety Birds. The only people excited were the ones wondering whether the Monica CD they bought their girlfriends would get them something more than a held hand.

At the time, I was perfectly content playing with my Pokemon cards.

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Valentine’s Week: Mike & Ike Passion Mix

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Tasting Notes

– These are easily the most passionate Mike & Ikes I’ve ever had.

Google Search That Brought Traffic to BOaP Of the Day

“valentine ditties”

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Valentine’s Week: When a Twix Heart Isn’t a Heart and Is Only Barely a Twix

IMG_3612Seasonal varieties of candy bars are nothing new: Take the same shit you were planning to throw in there anyway, pour it into a differently shaped mold, package it with a fun color … voila! Profits. (?)

Seems pretty simple, but the different shapes of these candy bars has a penchant to upset the tested, fine-tuned and perfected balance of a tried-and-true candy bar. Sometimes it works for the better (e.g. the universally beloved Reese’s Egg and/or Tree), and sometimes it’s a Twix Heart. Continue reading

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Valentine’s Week: Strawberry Hearts R Gud, Cookie Dough Hearts R Bad

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The strawberry creme had a nice, light flavor and texture that complemented the milk chocolate in which it was encased. The “cookie dough”, unrefrigerated because of course it was, tasted like carpet flavored like cookie dough.

Friends, I think that the age old saying applies here: If you’re going to eat cookie dough covered in chocolate, you should probably make it yourself.

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Valentine’s Week: Alternate Readings of Sweethearts Messages

IMG_3598[Ed. note: All week, I’ll be eating seasonal Valentine’s Day candy. Because Valentine’s candy is very much a Thing, but doesn’t always satisfy the traditional definition of a candy bar, this week I’m operating under this temporary definition: If it’s a sweet that can be attached to a valentine — either the kind you’d pass out and collect in decorated shoeboxes in 4th grade or the kind of a more mature and romantic nature — it’s a candy bar.]

We all know that Sweethearts don’t taste particularly good (they are, of course, related to Necco Wafers).

We know that they have messages on them. We also know that these messages are pretty dumb. (“Be mine” still perplexes me: It’s simultaneously passive and aggressive, but it’s not passive-aggressive. What the hell is that all about.)

With this knowledge, I figured it’d be fun to make some poems out of them.

I was wrong.

Most of the messages are just adjectives or commands, which are next to impossible to string together coherently into a sentence; my saccharine refrigerator poetry had no hope of crystallization.

But there’s still plenty of fun to be had with Sweethearts. Just look at them differently.

IMG_3604“First kiss” = Shittiest commemorative plaque ever Continue reading

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Valentine’s Week: One Shape Fits All

IMG_3597[Ed. note: All week, I’ll be eating seasonal Valentine’s Day candy. Because Valentine’s candy is very much a Thing, but doesn’t always satisfy the traditional definition of a candy bar, this week I’m operating under this temporary definition: If it’s a sweet that can be attached to a valentine — either the kind you’d pass out and collect in decorated shoeboxes in 4th grade or the kind of a more mature and romantic nature — it’s a candy bar.]

Valentine’s Day candy is fun because you always know what to expect.

And that is candy in the shape of a heart.

(Sometimes the candy isn’t shaped like a heart, but instead shaped the same way as it always is, only placed in a heart-shaped package. Which is technically the same thing, but is definitely not the same thing.) Continue reading

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