Archive for January, 2007

A Lazy Saturday with the Emperors of Chocolate

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

I haven’t had enough time in the past couple of weeks to play around with my own creations, but thanks to the 24-hour a day goodness of Amazon, I have been able to buy books about confections. And now, I’m beginning to read them.

I want to write about The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey & Mars by Joel Glenn Brenner before I finish it for a simple reason: I’m afraid that when I do finish it, I could end up with a post too long and too enamored to qualify as anything other than downright regurgitation or starry-eyed fascination. I have too much of the latter already.

Here’s what’s so great about the book: Brenner has an eye for the interesting and the pertinent. The book is about the history of the Hershey and Mars companies, and Brenner immerses you in the world that they have operated in. Secrecy, steely determination, eccentric personalities, family influences, wars, chemistry, business practices, confections, chocolate, farms. This isn’t one of those cloying “chocolate… yum!”-style writings. It’s analytical journalism that keeps things in perspective — and for that reason, fascinating. For instance, Brenner asserts that Mars pursued empire while Hershey pursued utopia. Consider that the next time you reach for a Snickers or a Kiss… and on long winter evenings.

This book also explores many issues that I’ve been wondering about in my own experiences with candy bars… about how they are so ubiquitous and yet there is such a paucity of information about them… and how there is a silliness to their names that belies just how seriously big business they are (she says that Mars is bigger than Nabisco, McDonald’s, and Kellogg)… and how there are so many candy bars that they are composed of very similar elements (peanuts, caramel, nougat)… and of course, just how are they made? It seems this last question can only be answered by a few people in the world… and they are way too secretive to actually answer it.

I opened the book for the first time while I was on the phone with Chad, and I couldn’t stop reading out fiendishly cool bits of information. I can’t resist doing that now either…

  • To make a chocolate with a higher melting point that could be sent out to US troops during the Gulf War, Hershey made a special chocolate stabilized with egg whites.
  • In America, adults consume more candy than children.
  • Straight from production, Milky Ways have the consistency of taffy. It takes two weeks for the proper texture to develop.
  • None of the 1,200 chemicals in chocolate is dominant. This makes it a difficult flavor to reproduce synthetically.
  • Millions of M & M’s are rejected everyday, for misplaced M’s or unsatisfactory shininess.
  • Writing memos is against corporate policy at Mars. Bureaucracy of any kind is avoided. There are no personal secretaries or private offices.
  • Although Hershey had failed candy businesses earlier in life (usually b/c of his wily father’s interference), he was a millionaire from his Lancaster Caramel Co before he started Hershey’s chocolate. In fact, he started building the chocolate factory and the surrounding town before he had developed a reliable way to make milk chocolate (the milk kept burning; skim milk worked best for his purposes)
  • My personal favorite name of a bygone candy bar: Smile-a-While.

I could go on, but I’m going to keep reading (you can, too — I just found this excerpt)… and then start packing. I’m moving to Los Angeles in the next week, and the mountains of cookbooks and baking implements around me will need to fit into boxes somehow.

S’Mores Candy Bars

Friday, January 12th, 2007
*You can now purchase my candy bars and marshmallows at http://www.bonbonbar.com/
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S’Mores Candy Bar: Marshmallow, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Graham Cracker.

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Mocha S’Mores Candy Bar: Marshmallow, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Espresso Shortbread

EDIT: Clicker here. This bar has been revamped, and is now much better.

I’ve been playing around with these bars for some time, and I still want to tweak them a little more — mostly for texture. Ideally, I want them to be like just-toasted s’mores, with a melty soft marshmallow, somewhat firm but yielding chocolate, and a crisp cookie. Crispness has been achieved, especially with the help of the couverture, but I want the marshmallow to be a little softer and the ganache to be a little firmer. They’re fine and tasty as is — the flavor combination of S’Mores is one of my favorite — but as always, I want it all.

Here’s how they have developed so far…

My first thought for a S’Mores Candy Bar involved a marshmallow layer, a graham cracker layer, and a ganache infused with Lapsang Souchong Tea. I thought that the smoky flavor imparted by the tea would be a clever way to simulate a campfire smokiness. I infused the cream for 5 minutes for the ganache, and it turned out with a somewhat off-putting smokiness. It wasn’t vegetal from over-steeping, but vaguely sick-making nonetheless, so I didn’t even want to try for a weaker infusion.

I decided to try making it with its traditional flavors unchanged, but after a failed attempt at a Coffee & Tea Candy Bar, I decided to try changing out the graham cracker for an espresso shortbread. The Coffee & Tea Candy Bar was a riff on my Coffee & Tea Emotion that I liked so much. It had an English Breakfast Ganache and Espresso Shortbread enrobed in Dark Chocolate. I even thought about gluing caramelized Marcona almonds on top for the full effect. But the English Bfst tea flavor didn’t really emerge through the strong coffee flavor. It was fine as a coffee bar, but not great enough to want to make again. I may be able to get the flavors to balance if I worked at it, but I think that the combination worked better in the Emotion, where their individual characteristics had space to be themselves and mix with other flavors at will; candy bars are just more compact.

As a Twix enthusiast, I’ve been thinking a lot about the cookies in the candy bars that I want to make. First of all, I don’t want the cookies to go bad, since they generally have a short shelf life, especially compared to ganaches and confections. This could be helped by coating the cookie thinly in chocolate (perhaps w/ added cocoa butter) before putting it in the bar, to protect it from moisture and air (the cookie in the Twix bar has this thin layer).

Or, as I do here, I could make the candy bars “on a raft”-style. This way, the ganache and marshmallow components could be made in advance, and the cookies baked fresh and attached as needed, using melted chocolate as glue. They should then be eaten as soon as possible, like most pastries. I used a little untempered chocolate this time as glue, but next time I want to use more tempered chocolate for a stronger bond.

Spoilage issues aside, the cookie also needs to be crisp. If it’s too crumbly, it mixes poorly with the ganache in your mouth, and makes the ganache feel broken.

So, I’m in pursuit of that holy grail of candy bar cookie recipes — the Twix cookie recipe. Or something like it, because based on the ingredients written on the Twix package, the cookie is probably made of sugar, enriched wheat flour, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and/or palm oil, salt, and baking soda; possibly skim milk and/or dextrose, too. I want to use butter in my cookies, not oil or shortening, and since I only want a minimum 2 week shelf like, I think I can get it to work. I’ve tried the animal cracker recipe in Nancy Silverton’s Desserts book and various shortbread recipes, but I’m still working on it.

Anyway, back to the S’Mores Bars… To assemble them, I put a rectangular tart frame that I bought at Zabar’s onto a silpat on my counter, sprayed it with Canola spray so that the plastic wrap that I lined with would stick to it, and then sprayed the inside of the plastic wrap lightly, too.

Then I made my Marshmallow based on a recipe I found online. If I make half the recipe, it spreads nicely into the bottom half of the mold, using a small oiled tapered off-set spatula (good for getting into corners). I used this kind of recipe b/c it doesn’t contain egg whites, so it’s more stable and less prone to spoilage issues; it’s just water, sugar, gelatin, corn syrup, salt, and vanilla. I also used 2/3 the amount of vanilla b/c the vanilla flavor doesn’t need to be strong for this… and it’s less expensive that way. This recipe also seems to have less corn syrup than other recipes of its kind, which I also like; it bothers me to use corn syrup at all, in anything. When I first looked at the ingredients of Karo Corn Syrup, I was shocked to find High-Fructose Corn Syrup listed. I know I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was… and bummed. I’m trying to use it as little as possible, and am looking for alternatives.

Next time, I’ll try using less gelatin to get it even softer. Other alternatives would be to increase the water mixed with the gelatin or the corn syrup, I would think.

As a side note, I’ve found that if you switch out 1/3 of the water and the vanilla for passion fruit puree, you get some mighty tasty Passion Fruit Marshmallows… perfect for holiday gifts. I’m just sayin’… 🙂

As a more relevant side note, the Hershey’s S’Mores bar, the Milky Way bar, and the Snickers bar actually contain egg whites, according to the ingredient lists, but I’m happy w/ my version.

For the Dark Chocolate Ganache, I adapted the recipe for Varietal Chocolate Ganache in Michael Recchiuti & Fran Gage’s Chocolate Obsession. The first time I made it, I liked the thick but supple texture and proper proportion of butter (that is, not overwhelming, but an equal part of the team), but it seemed a little too sweet. So, this time, I used: 10.5 oz Cocao Barry Mi-Amere (58%), 4 oz cream, 2 oz invert sugar (nulomoline; purchased at a cake supply store in SF), and 4 Tbs butter (Cremerie Classique brand, purchased at Berkeley Bowl); I melted the chocolate and brought the cream and invert sugar to 115F before emulsifying w/ an immersion blender. This amount makes just a tad more than what fits in the frame. I used less invert sugar and butter (so that it wouldn’t overwhelm in the absence of the full amount of sugar) than in the original recipe, and it’s a little too soft.

Next time, I’ll try increasing the amount of chocolate, maybe by an ounce or so, or use just a little less invert sugar than originally.

I’m still experimenting with various sweeteners to use in confections, and as of now, I like invert sugar a lot, which is sucrose separated into glucose and fructose. I use nulomoline, which has a rather unfortunately ominous name, but it tastes the most like granulated sugar and seems to be pretty natural. Have you ever tasted corn syrup or glucose plain? To me, the former tasted like sweet chemicals and the latter like sweetly muted wax. But they each have molecular attributes best suited for various things, so it’s not like they can just be substituted for each other.

Because I work somewhat long hours, I made the marshmallow on Monday night, the ganache Tuesday night, and then on Wednesday, I unmolded the slab, coated the ganache w/ an offset spat, flipped the slab over, cut it up with a chef’s knife, and enrobed them with the ganache on the bottom b/c it’s heavier than the marshmallow; it tries to flip itself if the marshmallow is on the bottom. And I think that time frame is actually good for the marshmallow and ganache, because they each need time to set; gelatin takes a couple days to fully strengthen at room temp.

I made the doughs Monday night, and baked off the graham cracker Monday night (b/c I was using some of them to make something else) and baked off the espresso shortbread Wednesday night.

The Graham Cracker was based on this recipe, which I’ve made before. This is a good, flavorful take on graham crackers, with a desirable crispiness for candy bars. It’s a tad butter-y, though, so this time I used 1 tbs less butter. But since I used Cremerie Classique, which has 82% butterfat, I probably should have used maybe another tbs less. In a cake recipe, taking out a little butter doesn’t seem to influence the volume much, but here, where the butter contributes more to the body, I wound up with less dough, which was fine for my purposes this time, but if I’m going to cut the butter out more, I should adjust the recipe so that I can get more dough out of it.

The Espresso Shortbread was from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course. It was a little too crumbly and too strong on the espresso for me; I used Illy ground espresso. So, next time, I may try mixing the butter and sugar even less, and using maybe half the amount of espresso.

Couverture: Cocao Barry Mi-Amere 58%. Coating could have been a little thinner. Maybe if raised a degree more, to 91F. Milk chocolate would fork for this, too. I put a diagonal pattern on a couple of them w/ my dipper, and it looked nice. I’d like it if the pattern matched the S’More motif, though, so I want to think more about possible designs in the chocolate. Also, I made these fun-size, because dipping a full size candy bar seems like a pretty futile pursuit. A mechanical enrober is really needed for that.