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Almond Butter Crunch: How It's Made

Posted on February 20, 2013 11:18 AM by Caitlin

Finished Lake Champlain Chocolates Almond Butter Crunch Mixing Toffee

Lake Champlain Chocolates began by creating truffles by hand out of the back of a restaurant. Now, thirty years later, we still craft many of our confections by hand. One of these chocolate candies is our Almond Butter Crunch, an English-style crunchy toffee filled with almond pieces, and covered in milk chocolate. Here is how it is made:

Pouring Almond Butter Crunch mixture

1. The toffee is cooked up in our large copper kettles. Using a blend of sugar, butter and evaporated milk, our cooks create a delicious gooey and sticky mixture. They add roasted almond pieces to this mix for the final touch.

Spreading warm toffee

2. This mixture is poured out onto our cooling table, where it is spread by hand into an even layer and left to cool.

Cutting Toffee in the Chocolate Factory

3. Lines are indented into the mixture to create pieces. Once the mixture has cooled and begun to set, it is indented into squares using a rolling cutter.

4. The toffee is left to harden: this takes several hours. When completely cool, the mixture becomes a crunchy toffee. If it is left out too long, it will begin to get sticky, so there is a specific window during which we need to work with it.

Chocolate Factory Workers Snap Toffee

5. Our factory team snap the toffee into pieces along the indented lines.

6. The morsels are sent through our "enrober": The enrober is possibly the coolest machine we have in our factory. Also known as a "chocolate waterfall," the three-inch-high curtain of liquid chocolate will coat anything that goes through it in a layer of chocolate. (You can see it coating our Sea Salt Caramels here.)

sprinkling almonds on toffee7. We top the chocolate-covered toffee with almonds that we have crushed ourselves: each piece of Almond Butter Crunch is sprinkled with almonds which are then patted down into the chocolate with a spatula.

Lake Champlain Chocolates Almond Butter CrunchSo now you know our secret. If you're ever near our Burlington factory, stop by for a visit, take a factory tour, and see our confections being made in person! In the meantime, feel free to buy our Almond Butter Crunch through our website.

What is a Truffle?

Posted on October 2, 2012 1:09 PM by Caitlin
Chocolate Truffles

There are many different things that we can do with chocolate to create different chocolate candies. Sometimes, we add homemade caramel to the middle, as in our honey caramels, our caramel five star bar, and of course, in the ever popular sea salt caramels. Sometimes, we cover nuts with chocolate. Other times it’s orange peels. But what our company started with thirty years ago, and what we built our name on is a chocolate confectioner’s tradition: the chocolate truffle.

What is a chocolate truffle?

A chocolate truffle is a chocolate candy in which the filling is made out of ganache. Ganache is a mixture of chocolate and cream, whipped together to create a smooth delicious center. In our ganache, we whip together Belgian chocolate with local butter from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery and local cream from Monument Farms. The ganache filling can be coated with any number of items. Traditionally, it was rolled in cocoa powder, but the ganache can also be rolled in nuts, coconut, or anything else you might fancy. We coat ours in a layer of hard chocolate, and hand-decorate the tops.

Why is it called a truffle?

Truffles from the Ground (the Fungus)

You may have heard of a tasty little fungus, rooted out by pigs or dogs, that is so exquisite it can sell for $400 to $600 a pound. Well that truffle bears a striking resemblance to the original, hand-rolled truffles created in Europe in the early 19th century. In fact, those confectioners named their chocolate creation after the fungus, which helped it gain an elite status, to be appreciated by nobles and the higher classes (just like the other truffle).

The History of the Truffle:

There are two competing stories here: the first is a great tale of a mistake that turned into a creation. In 1920, an apprentice for the great French Chef Auguste Escoffier was attempting to pour hot cream into a sugared egg mixture, but somehow mixed up his bowls and ended up pouring it into his broken chocolate instead. Not wanting to waste the ingredients, he waited for the result to cool a little, then rolled the chocolate and cream in cocoa powder. And so the truffle was born.

Peter's Gala Chocolate

The other story goes back to when Milk Chocolate was first invented. In the Swiss Alps, Daniel Peter devoted many years to the incorporation of milk into chocolate, which was a very difficult task, since cocoa contains so much fat that it does not mix well with milk. After years of research, he was finally able to do so in 1887, and his “Gala Peter” chocolate sold across Europe, and eventually the world. It was the foundation for the Societe Generale Suisse de Chocolat, which eventually merged into Nestle-Petr-Cailler-Kohler in 1929, and is now known as Nestle. Many tried to copy his invention, and in the process, they probably poured cream over chocolate, with the result being a ganache (which, by the way, has a much shorter shelf life and a very different taste and feel from milk chocolate!) This in turn led to the truffle, which became its own delicacy. (You can read more about the history of milk chocolate here.)

Where does the chocolate truffle end and other chocolate candy begin?

This question is up for a bit of debate. Generally speaking, any sort of chocolate confection with a ganache filling would be considered a truffle, which means that our revel chocolates are also truffles, even though they are squares. American truffles have a tradition of being shaped like a half egg (as ours are) while European truffles tend to be smaller and round (like our organic truffles.) However, chocolates with cream fillings are not truffles, since they have no ganache. Therefore, our Chocolates of Vermont or the chocolate creams you can get in our selection boxes cannot be considered truffles. That doesn’t mean they’re any less delicious, however!

The joy of chocolate is that it is terribly delicious just on its own, and can be combined with so many other flavors, either by pairing or by creating new treats that it is an inexhaustible resource!

What is White Chocolate?

Posted on August 31, 2012 4:41 PM by Caitlin

"Is white chocolate really chocolate?"

white chocolate ghost

We hear this question a lot on our factory tours, and, to be honest, it depends on who is giving the tour to what answer is given. Before we get into why that is the case, we need to explain a little more about how chocolate is made:

There are two ingredients in a traditional European chocolate recipe that come directly from the cocoa bean and that, along with sugar and other ingredients, are combined to create chocolate. One is cocoa butter, and the other is cocoa liquor.

You have probably already heard of cocoa butter, since it is also used in the cosmetic industry. You may be familiar with it from skin creams or soaps. Cocoa butter is rich and creamy and adds a delicious texture to chocolate. Generally speaking, around twenty percent of our chocolate is cocoa butter.

The second ingredient that comes from the cocoa bean is cocoa liquor (and don’t worry, it’s not at all alcoholic.) This is the dark, “chocolaty” ingredient in chocolate. In fact, if you have ever cooked with unsweetened cocoa, that’s basically the same thing as cocoa liquor, but in a powdered form (and often alkalized). The amount of cocoa liquor in chocolate varies depending on the type of chocolate you are making. Darker chocolates have more liquor, and milk chocolates have less.

This brings us back to white chocolate, which does not have any cocoa liquor in it at all. When tasting white chocolate, you’ll notice that along with a lack of brown coloring, it is also missing that dark flavor that you often associate with chocolate products. This is because it does not contain any liquor. It does, however, still contain cocoa butter, which comes from the cocoa bean.

Because it contains ingredients from the cocoa bean, I have always argued that it is a form of chocolate, but because it does not contain any cocoa liquor, detractors say that it is not in fact chocolate. What we’ve found is that people who like white chocolate tend to call it chocolate, and people who don’t tend to say it isn’t.

In the US, the bottom line for white chocolate is laid out by the US Food and Drug Administration. According to their regulations, white chocolate must contain at least 20% cocoa butter. Ours does. In fact, our white chocolate contains only 5 ingredients: cocoa butter, sugar, milk, vanilla, and a soy emulsifier.

If you’ve ever seen a “white flavored” bar, or product, or found things that look like white chocolate but are called “vanilla flavored,” it’s because they’re substituting the expensive cocoa butter for a cheaper vegetable fat, and can therefore not legally call it white chocolate, since it contains nothing from the original bean. In that case I would agree with my detractors: it is not chocolate.

But ours is delicious, so if you have a white chocolate sweet tooth, be sure to check out our white chocolate Halloween ghost, our white chocolate chips, and our white chocolate cherry and raisin almond bark.

And finally, be sure to tell us what you think of white chocolate in the comments!

It’s hard writing a blog, having to come up with a new subject almost every day, having to write with the same enthusiasm to a faceless, nameless audience. It’s a tough job and today we are giving Leann the day off. So without further ado… I give you a guest blog posting by me, Jason.

Today, I am here to teach you how to spot Fake Chocolate or to use my term “Faucolate” (faux+ chocolate). As we all know, the country is in tough economic times and the ever increasing price of cocoa has put some strain on many large chocolatiers. As a result, some companies have turned to some “shady” techniques in order to reduce their costs.

Some companies (which will remain nameless) have begun switching their recipes from using cocoa butter to using vegetable oils. Faucolate! Now for a product to be considered chocolate, according to the FDA it must contain both cocoa mass and cocoa butter. How do these companies get away with this switch then? It’s all in the name.

Would a chocolate by any other name taste as sweet? Probably, but it wouldn’t technically be considered chocolate. Companies have started to use such terminology as “Made with chocolate” “chocolate candy”, or “chocolatey” on their labels to replace “milk chocolate.” All of these words mean that you are getting a chocolate like substance but this ain’t no chocolate and a true chocolate connoisseur is going to taste the difference.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that at Lake Champlain Chocolates you will never have to worry about this faucolate pandemic. We use 100% pure chocolate - you won’t find preservatives, you won’t find artificial flavors, you won't find any “stuff” in our recipes, just real, unadulterated chocolate. So bite into a Five Star Bar, or enjoy the subtle flavor of our truffles because at Lake Champlain Chocolates, it's all chocolate.

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