Friday, December 18, 2015

In Defense of Chocolate

Anyone in the chocolate industry should be excited about the recent bean-to-bar conversation. If you are uncertain of what conversation I speak of it’s the one about the brothers Mast. They had been promoting themselves as a bean-to-bar producers. However, it should be noted that they don’t always label which chocolate bars are specifically produced using B2B methods. Publicly the bros. promised that they were in 2007 and are today a bean-to-bar chocolate maker. Only after a storm of evidence mounted did they backslide and admit to a blendology approach.

I first met the brothers while in their Brooklyn store shooting a chocolate show for Discovery Channel. I found them to be curious and determined about chocolate making. While they were a little aloof, I chalked it up to the fact that they were busy figuring out how to make chocolate at their bourgeoning business. This is not an easy process. 

Prized California winemakers import grapes from all over the world in various processed forms from frozen pulp to fortified juice. For some, the pretty trees at the front of the vineyard are prop mostly. Winemakers are not vilified for this but instead even the prestigious ones are celebrated for their creative and scientific ability to blend grape flavors to produce a superior finished product.

That the Mast's were blending couverture into their final products while attempting to tweak their B2B production methods does not make them confectionery rapscallions. Disingenuous, yes. They merely ramped up with a little help from some finished chocolate friends. This should have allowed them an ability to focus on blending and flavor. When I heard their claims about not leaning on a commercial chocolate crutch I was amazed and gave them much credit. However, now it seems they did source from Valrhona and not directly from origin. It's not surprising that Valrhona opened a chocolate school in Brooklyn. The Mast's lack of transparency is a big bummer but be careful when you yank at the beards. Many chocolate makers have them. 

Secrecy has long been an ingredient in chocolate making. M&M’s were originally made using Hershey’s chocolate. Sure, on the tour Willy Wonka was making “bean-to-bar” chocolate with both beans and workers from Amazonia but if you really read between the lines you can just imagine the Cadbury tanker trucks behind the Wonka factory pumping Ivory Coast chocolate directly into his river. Truffle empires have been built on pre-made chocolate shells. Adulteration this is not. Artistic liberty it is.

While the Mast product may have indeed changed through the years, Mast Brothers Chocolate is not “bad” tasting. That is not a technical term we use when evaluating chocolate. We discuss flavor profiles like sweet and bitter. We develop references for instance: sweet like cooked fruit and bitter like black tea. We talk about dairy notes like lactic acids and powders that can be sour or sweet. We can talk about how fast or slow flavors are released often revealing information about fat in the chocolate. We analyze textures which inform us about production techniques and ingredients. We never refer to chocolate as “bad” as that is considered a personal preference and not a sensory evaluation term.

When using sensory evaluation methods we agree there is no golden tongue meaning that one person should not get to say what is when it comes to flavor or taste. We determine taste profiles as a group so that we can produce chocolate that is in keeping with the quality that is outlined in our brand guidelines. This is because consistency and quality matter to consumers. On the topic of Mast Brothers Chocolate we can debate consistency, quality, and manufacturing methods all day long but it seemed their consumers had spoken. Upon learning of their deception, they will speak again.

Why should my chocolate brethren and sisters be elated about this public conversation on flavor and production methods? I believe that transparency is always a good thing and this uproar has many chocolate enthusiasts curious about terminology, where a chocolate bar comes from, and what really happens inside a chocolate factory. An educated consumer is a committed one. This recent chocolate news has made headlines and as a result consumers will be even more savvy about chocolate making. Knowledge about ingredients, origin, and manufacturing is purchasing power. I think that it will benefit the entire industry from artisanal to industrial. My prediction for 2016? Consumers will ask for more chocolate with more transparency and, yes Rick, more love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Eater rolls with NECCO

Eater ran this great piece on Necco or New England Confectionery Compnay.

Check out the great interior factory photos.

Here's an excerpt or click on the photo and read the whole article.
The Necco Wafer, the company's first product, and its longest lasting, most famous, most widely available, is also still its best-selling. Necco produces about four billion wafers each year.
Holding a package of Necco Wafers today, it's not hard to imagine how the candy was used as a delivery vehicle for medicine. The paper wrapping, nearly as unchanged as the candy itself in 153 years, is thin and labeled with a three-color ink Necco logo. Unwrap the cylindrical package and a dusty deck of colorful discs emerge, each stamped with the Necco name. The wafers are sweet, but not cloyingly so. They taste a lot like hardened fondant, a dry mixture of powdered sugar, cornstarch, glucose, and water. If you've never had a Necco Wafer, they're hard to love on first taste. But much of America has fond memories of them; the chocolate flavor is especially popular.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chew On This!

Fox News features food topics in their Chew On This segment and they wanted to discuss Candy Corn, of course. 

It’s striped, it’s multicolored, it’s conical, and nothing says Halloween quite like Candy Corn. 

That is why it’s capitalized.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 23, 2015

If you've ever ruminated on a wrapper than read this!

Halloween is always a time of year when people want to talk about candy. 

This year especially so. I felt I needed to clarify some topics that seemed somewhat sugar coated so I wrote this article for the Washington Post.

Or, skip the article and watch the video!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Black Licorice

It's true, I fell in love first with All Sorts and then my affinity grew. Read more about my love of licorice; BLACK licorice in this Forbes Magazine article on-line.

Also discover more about licorice at Miette, a beautiful candy store in San Francisco.


Friday, October 2, 2015

SUNAE joins the collection

I am very happy that I found NOASHI, an artist who does sand painting (called SUNAE in Japan). Watch this amazing video on how to make SUNAE here. Candy Girl and Life of Paper Plane have found a special home in New York.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Paris Delights

I am still eating my way through my a stash of Nougat, Fleur De Sel Caramels and Calissons. 

While I stayed only in Paris on this trip, my Vendome neighborhood provided much in the way of chocolate shops and access to a treasury of treats. 

As always, I was awed by Le Grande Epicurie at Bon Marche and felt very at home with their Brooklyn theme running throughout the store. I missed a pop-up tattoo shop with Saved Tattoo artist, Scott Campbell, but was able to buy myself an appropriate little set of fake tattoos as shown on the right here. Once applied I felt frenchier, tougher & sweeter than ever.

Back in the first arrondissement, I found Colette as inspirational as ever and loved her little candy shop p.o.p. section of snacks items.  Jeremyville @ Colette was really fun. Here's me with his well, blow up doll.
I went home with bags filled with presents and confectionery research from Colette including a full line of Le Chocolat des Francais featuring amazing wrappers designed by fabulous artists and illustrators like Serge Bloch, Marie Assenat, and Edith Carron. Vive le chocolat!  Vive le illustration. Vive la France!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Giving cacao beans cachet

This Newsweek article written by Jessica Firger looks at FCIA, heirloom cacao and consumer perception of artisan chocolate bars. Here's a sneak preview. Read it on-line!

Beth Kimmerle, author of Chocolate: The Sweet History, says the HCP initiative shows that “flavor has currency again.” In recent years, companies such as Dandelion and Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers have proved there is a place in the market for a gourmet bar. Kimmerle says consumers would purchase even higher-end chocolate if businesses were willing to take the risk.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Holistic Sensory Methods at PMCA Production Conference

I was  thrilled to work with Myrna Fossum at the 69th Annual PMCA Production Conference. Myrna was invited to speak on the topic of Sensory Evaluation and I co-authored our paper titled, Using Holistic Sensory Methods.

Look for the paper in the May issue of Manufacturing Confectioner Magazine. I have included a preview page here.

If you'd like a copy of the presentation, please email me. You can find our videos of consumers tasting chocolate as well as a trained sensory panel by following the links to YouTube. We used these to demonstrate the type and quality of information you can gather from each type of group.

Just as we had finished our presentation and paper when this GREAT article about sensory marketing came out in Harvard Business Review. 

Thanks to everyone who supported the project! Beth Kimmerle

Friday, April 3, 2015

Just in time for Easter...Peeps reprised

In this Feb. 13, 2013 photo, new Peeps are proudly displayed
at the Just Born factory in Bethlehem, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

A few years back, I took a tour of the Peeps factory in Bethlehem, Pa. 

Happy Easter!

Peep this Ben Wiseman illustration. It just showed up in a NYT article by Frank Bruni.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chocolate themed Fèves for your King Cake!

These little fèves (or beans) are collectible porcelain charms or figurines, usually in the shape of French icons. The amazing fèves shown above are beloved French CHOCOLATE items like truffles, hot cocoa, and of course the revered cacao pod. 

During the Epiphany families share King Cake or "galette des rois" that are laced with a single fève surprise. The person who finds the much sought after fève in their slice of cake is considered the king for the day and gets to wear the paper crown which is usually shaped around or sometime attached below the cake. In France some bakeries even offer customized fèves depicting common cultural themes from movie stars to cartoon characters. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Silicone Sweets for your iPhone!

I am in LOVE with these treat encrusted iPhone cases from CHOCOO Hong Kong. Check out the amazing array. Chocoo Pinky Kitty and Chocoo Choco Creamy Blueberries and Green Apple are totally stunning!

Who needs to use an iPhone when you can gaze at the sweet treat inspired "creamy silicone" covers? They are $60, handmade, and one-of-a-kind.