Archive for the ‘White Chocolate’ Category

by TammyJo Eckhart

Are you sure what you’re eating is chocolate?

I run a blog called “The Chocolate Cult[1]”, and we’ve tested products from 201 different brands and companies in our five-year history.  We have a fairly broad definition of chocolate and chocolate-related products — if it contains at least one ingredient that comes from the cacao tree or the cocoa bean, we consider it to be “chocolate.”  However, when it comes to foods, candies, and drinks, we also prefer more pure or simple ingredients; the shorter the ingredient list, the better, in our experience. Most of the samples we are sent to feature are chocolate — white, milk, or various degrees of dark — but some are not.

Why does that matter?

It matters if you care about what you put into your body and where you spend your money.  While you may want to believe that companies in the USA are forced to be honest, the fact is that unless someone files a complaint, the amount of oversight in the food industry is relatively low (you can thank your Congress for that, since they oversee spending).  Time and again we see food and drink recalls on our newscasts; the Chocolate Cult has a weekly update on these matters.  From these constant recalls, it is clear to see that the US government is not strictly enforcing the regulations that exist.

Now, let’s be fair.  The simple fact is that businesses in the USA must, legally and practically, be focused on making profit.  However, in the name of profit some business owners will lie or mislead, subtly decreasing the percentage of chocolate and cocoa in their products, adding in potentially harmful or at least unnecessary ingredients, and even cutting costs through lax hygiene standards at their kitchens and factories at the expense of your safety.  But in the end it isn’t the companies’ job to protect your health; that’s your job.

Step One in protecting yourself and getting the best value for your money is to know what is and is not chocolate.

Many countries have food regulations – not all, but many.  While it is the job of the food producers and sellers to know what these regulations are, it is your job as the consumer to know as well. How can you trust what a label says if you don’t know what it should or should not say?

The Food and Drug Administration is the USA’s federal agency that oversees food and drug regulations, and this is where you need to turn first to learn about chocolate and cocoa regulations for products sold in America.[2]  If you consume chocolate or cocoa from other countries you’ll need to check their regulations; they are not the same.  Not only are there federal or nationwide food regulations, but individual states also have food regulations that you may need to be aware of.  Finally, differences in chocolate are a reflection of local or regional tastes and traditions, which is why Swiss chocolate seems creamy, German chocolate seems buttery, and Mesoamerican chocolate seems spicy.

According to FDA regulations milk chocolate and white chocolate are limited by how much chocolate liquor (in the case of milk chocolate[3]) and how much cocoa butter (in the case of white chocolate[4]) they contain, as well as what added ingredients are allowed.  The FDA does not have a definition for dark chocolate, though they do list regulations for several other chocolate and cocoa variations. Please do check out the regulations to be aware of what you should be looking for if you want to enjoy or use chocolate.

Product labels generally express the amount of an ingredient as a percentage based on weight, so you will see products labeled “45% chocolate liquor” or “70% cacao.” By law the label must list the ingredients in order of greatest to least in the product.  Simply by checking the ingredient list you can get a good idea of whether a product meets FDA standards, but not all companies reveal everything on their labels, even if they are legally required to do so.

Perhaps in later months I’ll talk about the legal definitions of other types of chocolate. But for now, let’s look at one type of chocolate that repeatedly fails to meet FDA standards and that tends to be the most misleading of those we are sent to feature on The Chocolate Cult: white chocolate. By FDA regulations, at least 20% by weight of white chocolate’s fat content must come from cocoa butter.  It may also have “nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners,” a long list of dairy ingredients, “emulsifying agents,” antioxidants, whey or whey products, and several spices and flavorings that do not imitate ”the flavor of chocolate, milk, or butter.”  The legal code gives percentage information for all of these allowed ingredients, but just knowing which ones are allowed at all can help you determine if a product is white chocolate or not.

The most common problem with “white chocolate” that we find is the addition of palm oil.  Aside from ecological questions or health concerns, this is simply not one of the allowed ingredients.  In fact, any fat or oil that is neither cocoa butter nor one of the listed dairy products is illegal if the manufacturer sells the product as “white chocolate.”  Frankly it is also unnecessary, given that there is no upper limit on the amount of cocoa butter the maker could add if it really needed a more buttery flavor in its white chocolate.

Remember, your body and your wallet are directly affected when you buy “chocolate” or “cocoa” products.  In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, and to get the best quality for your money and not just the greatest quantity, you need to know the facts.

 

Check out TammyJo Eckhart at thechocolatecult.blogspot.com

InspiredTheChocolateCult

 

Check out TammyJo Eckhart at thechocolatecult.blogspot.com

 

[1] http://thechocolatecult.blogspot.com/

[2] http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=163

[3] http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=163.130

[4] http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=163.124

 

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A few months ago, I heard about a famous pastry chef who opened up a unique storefront just minutes from my home. Turns out it’s like a mini Willy Wonka Factory.

Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva, IL, is filled with Chef Alain Roby’s life-sized chocolate and sugar creations, including a replica of his own custom kitchen made out of 1,500 pounds of Barry Callebaut chocolate.

Chef Alain Roby sculpting sugar into edible art.

Last week, I sat down with the French pastry chef and found out how he went from studying culinary art in Paris to becoming one of the world’s best sugar and chocolate artists. (He also earned two Guinness World Records, had a 20-year career as corporate pastry chef for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, and appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and several Food Network shows in between. Overachiever!)

Frosty the Sugar-man.

While I was  sipping inhaling Chef Roby’s signature hot cocoa, he showed me the top of his “World’s Tallest Chocolate Sculpture,” which is on display in the shop and in the Guinness World Book of Records.

Right as he was explaining how he constructed the chocolate skyscraper, he got an e-mail asking if he’d be interested in a third Guinness World Record: making the world’s tallest chocolate cactus. Not sure if he’s going to do it, but he was thinking out loud about how he’d construct it. If he winds up in the 2012 Guinness World Book of Records with an enormous edible cactus, you heard it here first.

Also on display in the shop/museum are life-sized chocolate sculptures, including a Chicago Blackhawks hockey player, a dinosaur, and an astronaut. (Funny story on the astronaut: Chef Roby originally created it for Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. Every two weeks, he says he’d get a call from the Planetarium asking him to come out and replace one of the chocolate fingers, which, I presume, was broken/eaten by one of the field-trip kids.)

The all-chocolate kitchen.

The painting in the kitchen was done by Chef Roby's artistic wife, Esther, who used white chocolate as her medium.

If you’re in the Chicago area and have an interest in culinary arts, chocolate, and heavenly hot cocoa, Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen is well worth the trip … and 100% kid-friendly.

If you go, there’s a good chance you’ll see Chef Roby making chocolates or sculpting sugar figurines in the middle of his shop.

Admission to the edible museum is free. The storefront offers a sit-down cafe with Chef Roby’s hot cocoa, chocolates, and pastries, as well as freshly brewed Starbucks coffee. Private tastings, birthday parties, and demonstrations are available upon request.

Visitors can also learn about the Saving Tiny Hearts Society, which is something near and dear to Chef Roby and his wife Esther’s hearts as their own son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. A portion of the profits from Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen are donated to the organization.

Chef Roby's gorgeous truffles.

GO Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen, 507 S. Third St., Geneva, IL,
 (630) 232-2395, ChefAlainRoby.com. Hours: Fridays from 12 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Mondays from 2 to 7 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Steve Eisen Photography


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The Marich Confectionery Company is the kind of candy company you want to buy from, work for, or—in my case—write about.

It’s a family-owned manufacturing business that was started in 1983 by the late Dutch candy maker Marinus van Dam. He was 57 at the time of launch. His two sons, Brad and Troy, now run the California-based company, but that was not by design (more in a minute).

Marinus’ candy career started in his early teens in Rotterdam, Netherlands, shortly after his father died in a German work camp during WWII. To support his family, he got a job at the DeHeer chocolate factory (now owned by The Baronie Group) scraping chocolate and other confections off the floor.

Over time, Marinus proved himself and was chosen to attend a candy technology school. Brad says his dad was a sponge and learned how to make every type of candy under the sun, including Marich Confectionery Company’s hallmark panned candies (candy with a coating or candy shell).

“My dad knew candy from a creative standpoint and by its molecular structure,” says Brad. “People in the industry would frequently call on him to troubleshoot process, technique, and formula issues.”

Marinus took his honed skills to the United States and went to work for a series of candy manufacturers, including Anthony-Thomas Chocolates, Herman Goelitz Candy Co. (now the Jelly Belly Candy Company), and Harmony Foods before opening his own operation in the early 1980s.

Family Matters
To keep his young confectionery company afloat, Marinus asked his son Brad, who, at the time, was 20, living on his own, and pursuing an engineering degree, if he would please come home and help with the business.

“My dad said, ‘I can’t afford to pay you, but you can live at home,’” says Brad who chuckles when he tells what it was like to move back to the nest. “My dad is old-school Dutch, so working for him was like going to the college of hard knocks.”

Brad and his younger brother Troy both rose to the occasion and started out making boxes, mopping floors, cleaning the bathroom, and other necessary evils. “For the first two years, we didn’t get paid,” says Brad.

When one of the candy makers left Marich for health reasons, Brad stepped up again. “I made more scrap than candy and got an earful.”

Flash-Forward to 2011
Brad and Troy are both master candy makers and are doing exactly what their dad was skillfully able to do with chocolate and sugar: read and respond to it.

“Chocolate and sugar have a mind of their own,” says Brad with a big laugh. He also mentions how the panning process brings its own unique set of challenges to the art of candy making.

“For what seems to be a simple process, you’d be amazed at the number of things that can go wrong. I equate it to bowling. You’ll get good at it, but you’re never going to bowl a 300 game every time,” he explains. “You can do everything the same way you did it the last time, and it won’t work. They key is staying ahead of the process so you have time to read and react to the product.”

Heart and Soul
Just like their father, Brad and Troy use Guittard Chocolate for their chocolate products and are very proud of that 27-year relationship.

As I’m talking to Brad about this longstanding partnership, he tells me a great story about Guittard’s now-retired sales director, Hank Spini.

“No matter where in the world Hank was on October 24, he would find my dad to have lunch with him. It was my dad’s birthday,” he explains. “This went on for decades. They were good friends.”

Hank eventually became Brad’s mentor and taught him how to buy cocoa and work with customers. Hank’s son Mark Spini followed in his own father’s footsteps and is a cornerstone at Guittard today.

How cool is that?

The Goods
The Marich Confectionery Company’s chocolate and non-chocolate products (almost too pretty to eat) are available at Candy.com and Marich.com as well as specialty retailers. Here is a tiny teaser to get you to check out the entire collection, which includes all-natural, organic, and sugar-free options. (Click on each image below for detailed product information.)

Best Seller! Pastel Chocolate Cherries

Valentine Jordan Almonds

Holland Mints

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There has been quite a bit of talk on Twitter and the food blogs this week over the classic combination of peppermint and chocolate.

Slashfood came out with a slide show of The Best Peppermint Treats. (Spoiler alert: Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Squares, Dove Peppermint Bark Promises, and Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses made the cut.)

Cybele May of CandyBlog.net just gave Russell Stover’s Peppermint Bark Snowman a favorable review.

Today on MarthaStewart.com, editor Amy Conway, posts a super-simple Candy Cane Ice Cream Sandwich made with crushed candy canes and chocolate wafers.

This all makes me wonder …

What’s your favorite Peppermint-Chocolate Treat?

Is it …

- Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Squares

- Dove Peppermint Promises

- Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses

- York Peppermint Patties

- Andes Mints (did you know Andes Mints are now available as baking chips? I just spied them at Target!)

- Junior Mints (must see heart-shaped Junior Mints!)

- Williams-Sonoma’s Peppermint Bark

- Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s

… or something else?

Name your peppermint-chocolate poison after this post or on Facebook. Mine? Dove’s Peppermint Bark Promises. One bite, tons of choco-pepperminty bark.

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