Tag Archives: white 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!]

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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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Trick Season, Treat Season: On Halloween, sisters and candy corn

IMG_5203It is remarkable to me that a food as milquetoast as candy corn is polarizing as the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Candy corn is garbage trash food! Candy corn is delicious and hating on candy corn is the new candy corn! Why is it that people hate candy corn? Let me explain!

No fewer than five different people asked me this week on my thoughts on candy corn, all with the same kind of “this is not really what this question is about” guise as when a Tinder date asks about the last book you read. My two thoughts:

  1. Candy corn is something that I will put into my mouth, chew and eat and that is as much as I really have to say about candy corn. [Ed. note: Though I will note that Indian Native American Indigenous chocolate candy corn is worse and mellowcreme pumpkins are superior.]
  2. If not for candy corn, I would not know what an actual corn kernel looked like, so I will always be grateful for the lesson.

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Trick Season, Treat Season: Breaking off some new pieces

IMG_5202Kit Kat has a penchant for weird flavor combinations. Typically, that’s been reserved for more international fare, but I ran into some Halloween-style combos.

The first of which, pictured above, featured an orange-tinged, white chocolate outer casing with a chocolate filling in between the wafers. Which is another way of saying that it featured an orange-tinged, white chocolate outer casing with it doesn’t matter in between the wafers, because the white chocolateyness of it all overpowered the candy bar.

If you’re a white chocolate fan, man, this bar is for you. Otherwise, give this one to the trick or treaters. They will be excited about the orange and won’t remember it was you.

IMG_5194Now this triple chocolate Kit Kat, on the other hand, tastes … pretty much like a Kit Kat. Highly recommended!

The only demerits this one gets is for simple counting: They swapped out regular-flavored wafers for chocolate wafers and somehow got to three entire chocolates.

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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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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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