Read these 15 Chocolate Candy Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Chocolate tips and hundreds of other topics.
Take advantage of discounted chocolates after Valentine's Day. As long as you don't eat them all yourself, the delicious chocolate hearts candy will still be good for a few months. Store the chocolate in air tight containers at room temperature. Freezing the chocolate will cause the chocolate to loose its flavor and profile.
Understanding the meaning of the Chanukah custom of giving chocolate coins to children enriches the tradition. Although the earliest sources of the Chanukah gelt custom are unknown, there are several reasons why coins and Chanukah go together.
Chanukah gelt in part symbolizes the gift of learning. Linguistically, the word Chanukah is related to the Hebrew word hinnukh, meaning “education.” In the 18th century, rabbis would visit villages during Chanukah to promote study of the Torah. After a while, grateful villagers began to offer the rabbis gifts of coins in addition to food, whisky and honey. More recently, parents have chosen to give teachers bonuses around the time of Chanukah and also reward children at this time for their diligent studies.
Another value represented by Chanukah gelt is Jewish freedom. The descendants of the Maccabees minted coins embossed with temple images to celebrate their autonomy. In the 20th century, the Maccabees' struggle to reclaim the temple gained greater significance as a desire for a Jewish state grew. Parents would give coins to their children during Chanukah while retelling this important story.
Chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil are a reminder of a rich and significant Jewish culture.
If kept in a cool dark place and wrapped well, dark chocolate will stay good for one year before the taste is compromised. Candy containing milk chocolate, however, will begin to show its age after about six months. To tell if chocolate is getting old, look for white spots. These spots are called “bloom” and appear when the cocoa butter separates and rises to the surface of the chocolate.
The road from cocoa bean to chocolate bar is a long and complicated one. Cocoa beans are found inside pods that grow on the cocoa trees of South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. After the beans have been harvested and dried, they are sent to a factory where they are meticulously cleaned and then roasted at over 250 degrees Fahrenheit. After the beans cool, their shells are removed and disposed of by another machine called a "cracker and fanner." With their shells now gone, the beans are crushed by large grinding stones until they are completely liquefied. The liquid, called chocolate liquor, can then be poured into molds and allowed to solidify. It is then sent to be made into either cocoa powder or chocolate candy.
Cocoa powder is created by pressing cocoa butter from the chocolate liquor with a large hydraulic press. The resulting dense cake is then crushed into powder and sifted. It is now ready to be packaged and sold.
Chocolate for eating is made by adding cocoa butter to chocolate liquor. This creamy mixture is combined with a variety of different ingredients depending on which type of chocolate is being made. At this point, the mixture is ground into a smooth paste by heavy rollers until it is smooth. After a process called “conching” in which the mixture is kneaded for up to several days, the chocolate is almost ready. It is tempered by periodic cooling and reheating until it is finally ready to be molded into popular shapes such as chocolate hearts, chocolate coins, and chocolate bars. The chocolate is cooled until firm, wrapped by machines, and packed for distribution.
When making chocolate candy at home, be sure to keep moisture out during the tempering stage since it can cause crystallization. Always use dry utensils and never cover cooling chocolate as that can cause condensation.
If crystallization does occur, mixing in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil for every 8 ounces of chocolate may save your truffles, but there's no guarantee.
To make delicious summer treats in a snap, cut your favorite chocolate bars or chocolate candy into bite sized pieces. Place chocolate in plastic or tupperware and store in the freezer. The small size means fewer calories, and since they are frozen you'll be able to enjoy them longer.
If your chocolate is showing signs of bloom—whitish spots that occur when it has been stored improperly or for too long—salvage it by melting and stirring gently. The bloom only minimally affects the taste of the chocolate so, while you're better off eating your fresher stash of chocolate candy, the melted chocolate will still work well in your chocolate recipes.
The next time you go to buy a box of chocolate hearts for your sweetie, check the label. If it says “chocolate candy,” you are buying a product that contains vegetable fats in addition to, or in place of, cocoa butter. Chocolates that contain only cocoa butter as their fat are the only ones that can truly and legally be labeled as “chocolate.”
The best chocolate for making truffles and chocolate candy shapes is called “couverture chocolate.” A high fat content makes this high quality chocolate easier to melt and although it's expensive, the extra price is well worth it in terms of flavor and ease of use.
Another option for homemade chocolate candy is “compound chocolate.” This chocolate contains hard vegetable fat as well as cocoa butter so it's a bit cheaper. Be sure to sample before purchase if you can, as poor quality compound chocolate can taste waxy.
If you want to make homemade truffles or other chocolate candy but don't have a double boiler, suspend a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. The pot should not touch the water, and the water should not be boiling. Stir the chocolate often until it is almost completely melted, then remove the bowl and continue stirring until it is smooth.
If you make your own chocolate candy or truffles at home, you know that it's crucial to be accurate about the temperature of your chocolate at all times. To get an accurate reading use a digital thermometer. A regular candy thermometer is less accurate at the low temperatures that chocolate candy making requires. Also, be sure that you hold your thermometer so that it doesn't touch the sides or bottom of the container your chocolate is in, as this will affect the temperature reading.
Many chocolate companies now offer a line of kosher chocolates and kosher candy. These chocolates contain kosher certified ingredients and comply with kosher standards as set forth in Jewish Law. When buying kosher chocolates, you may want to ask if the candies are also kosher for Passover, as this designation requires more stringent guidelines that are more difficult for large companies to follow.
When you don't have the time or desire to temper your own chocolate for coating your truffles, use melted chocolate chips. As a last resort you can use a product called “chocolate confections” which contain no chocolate liquor and so isn't technically chocolate at all. Chocolate confections can be found in craft stores and are also sometimes called “imitation chocolate.”
For a real treat, take your kids to visit a chocolate factory. Many offer tours--no golden ticket required.
Because chocolate candy making requires precise temperature and humidity controls as well as a strictly sterilized environment, just about every procedure in a chocolate factory is performed by enormous, specialized machines. If you visit a chocolate factory, you may also see the chocolate laboratory where technicians work hard to monitor every phase of chocolate preparation. Miniaturized versions of the equipment used in the larger factory help the technicians research the best way to make chocolate.
From your visit, you may get the impression that chocolate candy making is a strictly scientific procedure, but don't be fooled. Each chocolate factory has its own secret variations in recipes and methods. Chocolate candy making, even in a large factory, is still as much of an art as it is a science.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|