Tag Archives: Dark Chocolate

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!]

Continue reading

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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.

***

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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Your mom sends me candy bars

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[Ed. note: Sorry about the hiatus, loyal readers. Calendar year-end is like tax season in the fundraising game; I’ve been getting decimated. I hope to up the posting regularity now that things have slowed at least a little bit.]

I’ve spoken at length about how awesome moms are.

Really though, that sentiment doesn’t extend only to nuclear mothers. Grandmas, aunts, sisters, dads, coaches, neighbors … there are any number of people who take time to care about you and offer a guiding, stabilizing presence. And sometimes bake you cookies.

I’ve been fortunate to have no fewer than 7 women who have been mothers to me in one way or another. Jacki Bar, otherwise known as “Mrs. Max” [Ed. note: But not actually Mrs. Max, just his mom], is one of them. In the past decade, she’s come to my regattas, attended my college graduation [Ed. note: granted, Max was there too] and made time to see me whenever she’s been in town.

This summer, she went on some worldly travels and picked up a few bars for me to try. Once the weather cooled down to provide for risk-free shipping [Ed. note: Those moms … always thinkin’], she sent them my way to give a try. Big thanks to Jacki, and a big thanks to all the moms out there.

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Nutella B-Ready (Italy)

Once I got past how to enunciate the name of the bar — Be Ready? … Bready? … Be Ready. — there wasn’t much difficult about eating this bar. The outside of the bar was entirely wafer, reminiscent of a compartmentalized, more brittle ladyfinger (the compartments, assumedly, are for breaking off pieces). Each bite was light but not so much so that it was unsatisfying: The Nutella filling brought a needed gravity to the wafer exterior, which had a texture something like the lovechild of a one-night stand between the phyllo in baklava and the inside of a Kit Kat. Thumbs up.

Another bonus: A relatively healthy bar! Only 399 kilojoules!

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Cote d’Or (France)

Some straight-up delicious-ass chocolate with hazelnuts. The chocolate was dark, but not so much that it couldn’t be described as milk chocolate, and the tasty hazelnuts gave a welcome crunch. This wouldn’t be my first choice in the French candy aisle, but I would not be mad if it were the only choice. [Ed. note: Which would call into question why the hell that was how that store decided to stock that candy aisle.]

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Nougat Stick (France) (There’s probably actually a name for it but I don’t speak French and this was tough for me)

This was a revelation: In the States, it’s very rare you see a nougat not a) encased in chocolate or b) with a jelly center in the bulk candy aisle. This was a whole stick! With indiscriminate nuts (which, upon later inspection, were pistachios and almonds)!

The Nougat Stick was very light, much lighter than most US nougats aside from Three Musketeers, but was slightly chewier than you would expect. It almost had the consistency of a packing peanut, but I mean that as a compliment? I’m as bewildered by that sentence as you probably are, but let me just say, I liked this a lot.

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Charles Chocolates Toffee Coffee Bar (California)

I’m a fool for a good toffee bar.

I’m also a fool for a good coffee.

Mix the two together with some dark (but not too dark) chocolate? Dang. This was a good-ass candy bar.

Because of the bitterness of the coffee and dark chocolate, however, it’s not a bar to be eaten in one sitting, more like a break a piece here and there sort of thing. You know, just in case you were thinking otherwise.

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A Taste of Eataly

IMG_4601Over the course of Labor Day weekend, I was fortunate enough to have old friend Brian Bar and new friend Sonia Bar pay me a visit from their current home of Indianapolis. Before we grabbed dinner, caught up and reminisced of college hijinks, Brian and Sonia perused the vast aisles and departments of Eataly, an Italian ubermarket (or would it be supremomarket?) that peddles all sorts of wonderful treats.

Big fans of BOaP, they were kind enough to pass along some fancy-ass Italian candy bars for me to check out.

The first, pictured above, translates roughly to Baratti & Milano White Chocolate with Champagne and Black Currants. I translated that by reading the back of the package after opening the bar, failing to notice the picture on the front and puzzled as to why this candy was not brown-colored.

Oh hey der white chocolate.

Oh hey der white chocolate.

Once I forgave myself for making generalizations about candy bar packages, I broke off a piece and dove in. The white chocolate itself was wonderfully creamy and complemented the strong but pleasant berry/grapey flavor of the black currants. It’s hard to nail down how big of an effect the champagne had; I can’t say I explicitly tasted it in there, but at the same time, I had very little to compare it to, so it might have made a big difference when compared against a bar featuring only white chocolate and black currants.

At the end of the day, it was a very wealthy man’s purple-flavored chocolate bar, and I mean that wholly as the complement that it is and not how it reads.

IMG_4606The second bar they brought was a Rossella dark chocolate and blood orange bar.

I have never understood the fascination that candy companies have with orange and chocolate. The combination to me seems to go together like peanut butter and mint: Sure, they are both tasty things, and if you tell me they are good together I will go about having an adventurous palate and say that I can taste the complexity while really I’m not getting this at all.

But this was blood orange, dammit, and that ups the stakes. I’d give it a shot with an open mind.

And you know what? It was pretty good!

IMG_4609The extra bitterness of the dark chocolate served to squelch a little of the sweetness of the orange zest, and I think the addition of blood really helped the overall flavor combinations. As a nice extra bonus, the bar had a bit of a granular texture from residual sugar crystals, which provided a crunch that really brought things around. While it definitely wasn’t a bar I could eat in one sitting, it was a fun thing to explore.

Much appreciation to Sonia and Brian for their generosity, and apologies to Brian for telling Sonia about that time he dressed up as Princess Zelda for the midnight release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

947326_10101455422907780_672808151_nThis is my favorite picture of my mom.

She’s holding court in a clearing somewhere in the wilderness, her young audience propped up on camping chairs, stumps and laps eating out of the palm of her hand. The pointy hoodie, ripped jeans and white sneakers she wore would seem a dated reference of 1991 on anybody else — the kind of thing that the “normcore” movement attempts to pillory these days, or at least I think — but Mom has never looked more beautiful.

Because it’s storytime, dammit, and who gives a shit what you’re wearing. Continue reading

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I can’t Belize I couldn’t think of a better headline

IMG_3848When I wasn’t getting my head shaved, riding around in a ridiculous Camaro and being a robot during the Las Vegas/Los Angeles jaunt I recently took, I was visiting one of my best friends, Sara Bar.

She had recently returned from a wedding in Belize (of two very nice people who were unfortunate casualties of the Great Bike Adventure Debacle of 2015), and when not taking Max Bar and I to Ross Dress For Less because one of us split our pants, she showered me with chocolate bars she had procured out there.

It was a pretty tasty adventure getting through them all; I opened the last one this morning. While they all had fun little eccentricities, they pretty consistently featured the bitter notes of the cacao bean at the front of each bite, to fade away into varying degrees of sweetness as it melted in my mouth. I don’t know if that’s a trait inherent to Belizian chocolate or a byproduct of its organicness and/or freshness, but it was apparent.

My thoughts:

Cocoa Nib Crunch (pictured)
– So, I might be revealing my lack of formal candy bar education, but what the fk is a cocoa nib?
– Like, is it a part of the plant? I’m assuming?
– If they’re what I’m assuming they are out of context, the nibs served as fine, bitter crunchies interspersed within the milk chocolate, adding texture and an almost soft-serve-twist-cone commingling of flavors.

IMG_3902GOSS White with Vanilla Bean
– Never have I ever had white chocolate that tasted like it was actually chocolate. Usually it is creamy and waxy and probably just yogurt.
– Until I ate this bad boy.
– It was very much still white chocolate, but with a more natural, gently bitter flavor. Top marks. Continue reading

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It’s Bunny Season: Lesser-Known Siblings

IMG_3859The Cadbury Creme Egg and the Peep are iconographic Easter candies. They are front and center around this time of year and easy to find. They are the Peyton Mannings of their respective candy families.

But both have Coopers among their brood. (Don’t even get me started on that villain Eli.)

It’s important to remember that the Cadbury Mini Egg and the chocolate-covered mega-Peep, while oft-overlooked, are still probably better at football than most candies.

Tasting Notes

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– The mini-eggs are very reminiscent of an egg-like M&M, only with CDM chocolate inside and a matte finish instead of a glossy.
– They’re less melty than an M&M but smoother in composition.
– They taste nothing like a Cadbury Creme Egg.

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– Straight up, this is better than a Peep.
– Does that make the regular Peep the Eli of the family? This one is definitely Peyton. Or Archie. Perhaps Party Peep is Eli.
– Can’t wait to call him Party Peep. Forever.

***

Awkward Candy Moments

“That is $17 of Easter candy. Great variation, too. You are about to have a good afternoon, aren’t you?”

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A Passage From a Novel Without Any Context: 3.14.15 Edition

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“Thank you so much. Again, I’m so sorry.”

The cashier squinted her eyes like she was smiling but her mouth never actually moved. She hated me.

They all did.

“C’mon, Toby! Come with mommy!”

His little fingers grasped my largest two and we made toward the automatic door.

“Mother of the year, right there.”

What. “Mother of the year right there”?

You have got to be. fcking. kidding me.

I turned and glared at that little bitch.

“You’ve got some nerve. You know that?”

“Excuse me, what?” Continue reading

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