This week we’ve been completely fascinated with candy. Since our first association with chocolate is often candy bars – which contain chocolate as a key ingredient – let’s follow this train of thought into the tunnel under the mountain.
I don’t really know how that metaphor works out, but it sounds fun.
Woo, it’s dark in here!
Chocolate was first enjoyed as a drink. Mash up some cocoa beans, add water and some other exciting ingredients (sugar, spices, corn) and yum, it’s dessert for kings and queens.
But now we usually eat chocolate in a bar. Did you ever wonder how that came to be? No? Well, I’ll tell you anyway. There’s this book I picked up at the library a few weeks ago called Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum (included on our Pinterest board of Chocolate Books).
The English, as usual, set a different course. In 1674, two different pubs – The Coffee Mill and the Tobacco Roll – offered chocolate to eat. Cacao was not just for cocoa. The prototype candy bars they made were course and, by all accounts, not that tasty. But here was a quiet milestone that changed the world.
Chocolate bars have come a long way since 1674. Not only do they taste much better, but they tend to contain a lot of other things besides chocolate. Whether you’re enjoying The Vermonty from Middlebury Chocolates (with coffee and maple syrup) or a Peppermint Pattie – oftentimes you’re enjoying more than chocolate.
On Monday, we made a chocolate drink based on the flavor and texture of a Peppermint Pattie. So what’s in an actual Peppermint Pattie? According to Hershey, we can make our own with this list of ingredients:
SUGAR; CORN SYRUP; SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE ( CHOCOLATE; SUGAR; COCOA; MILK FAT; COCOA BUTTER; SOY LECITHIN; PGPR, EMULSIFIER; VANILLIN, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR) ; INVERT SUGAR; EGG WHITES; OIL OF PEPPERMINT; MI LK
PGPR we recognize (it’s an additive that thins out the chocolate – along with the cocoa butter and soy lecithin… and yes, its existence is rife with conjecture about the health ramifications), but invert sugar? What’s that?
I looked it up in the encyclopedia. And when I say encyclopedia, I mean Britannica.com (remember when an encyclopedia required an entire shelf on the bottom of your bookcase?).
Invert sugar, a mixture of glucose (dextrose) and fructose produced from sugar (sucrose) by application of heat and an acid “sugar doctor,” such as cream of tartar or citric acid, affects the sweetness, solubility, and amount of crystallization in candymaking.
Tada! That super-sweet, minty flavor comes from a test tube. Get the sensation.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this fact-finding fun with The Chocolate Tourist. Don’t forget to read your labels and expand your chocolate horizons! We’d be happy to offer some recommendations…
Next week we’ll explore the contributions of Belgian chocolatiers… and I’ve got a super easy mocha recipe that’ll rock your socks. Have a great weekend!