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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.

How To Tie Ribbon Like a Pro

Posted on November 28, 2012 8:32 AM by Caitlin

The holiday season is fast approaching, and that means it's not only time to buy gifts (and if you're looking, we have a great selection of holiday chocolate,) but it also means you have to wrap all of those gifts.

In our chocolate shops, we know a thing or two about how to create a beautifully packaged box, and we thought we would share some of these tips with you. Watch the video below to see how we do it, and if you want to see our beautiful wrapping in person, visit one of our stores!

How To Host a Chocolate Tasting

Posted on November 20, 2012 12:44 PM by Caitlin

Like it or not, the holiday season is fast approaching. To many, this means the joy of being surrounded by friends and family, be it for a Thanksgiving feast or for a carol-singing session around the Christmas tree. One thing is for certain, though: the season is full of opportunities to entertain. Hot cocoa and cookies is still a great traditional way to placate the grandkids (and we do have some delicious hot cocoa, if you’re so inclined,) but if you’re looking to become the host that everyone is talking about this season, read on.

For the true foodies out there, chocolate is more than just a delicious confection. Sure, it comes with health benefits, but it also comes packed with a variety of different tones and flavors that can be parsed and paired with everything from beer and wine to cheese. To impress your guests, host a chocolate tasting or pairing party. Here’s what to do:

First, you’ll want to make sure to learn how to taste chocolate. As tempting as it is just to eat it, to truly gain an understanding of all of the varieties of flavor in each different chocolate, you will want to make sure you involve all of your senses in the process. Here’s what we suggest you look for when tasting chocolate. And if you want to know how we do it, read our notes on our Sensory Panel.

To host a chocolate tasting party in the purest form, try looking at our single source bars. The beans in these bars come from just one location, so the flavors vary tremendously. You always want to start with the lightest chocolate first, so:

  1. 54% Dark ChocolateStart with our 54% Dark Chocolate. This isn’t a single source – it’s a combination of beans from Ghana, Sao Thome (an island off of the west coast of Africa,) and Tanzania – but it’s a great place to get your chocolate bearings, since this is the dark chocolate we use most frequently to make our truffles and other treats. Try and think about all of the flavors involved. What do you taste under the “chocolate” flavor?

  2. Sao Thome 70% Dark ChocolateMove on to our Sao Thome. This should taste quite different from the 54%, and not just because it is a little more bitter due to the higher cocoa percentage. Can you discern some earthy flavors? Maybe a slight hint of vanilla? Some people even taste a bit of olive.

  3. Peru 70% Dark ChocolateNext try our Peru. This is the same cacao percentage as the Sao Thome, but the beans come from the other side of the world. Can you taste the difference? It is much creamier, and has much fruitier tones than the Sao Thome. Can you taste a slightly unripe banana? There are also some nice floral tones in there. One thing to note about our Peru, is that, unlike most of our chocolate, which is made with about 20% cocoa butter, our Peru has 40% cocoa butter, making it deliciously smooth and creamy.

  4. Tanzania 75% Dark ChocolateNow taste our Tanzania. This is a 75%, so it’s a little higher in cocoa than the last two you tried, but again, for something so close in cocoa content, it tastes surprisingly different. How does this compare to the Peru and Sao Thome? What types of flavors can you pick out? Perhaps a ripe banana? We use this one to make our delicious fudge sauce (available only in our retail stores) because the fruity tones blend deliciously with ice cream.

  5. African Blend 80% Dark ChocolateAs a penultimate step, move on to the African blend. At 80%, this is the highest cocoa content chocolate we produce. It is made from the same blend as the 54% (Ghana, Sao Thome and Tanzania). How does this compare to the others? What can you taste?

  6. And finally, we have worked our way through higher and higher cocoa percentages so now go back and try one more bite of the 54%. Has the taste changed from what you originally perceived? Are you surprised?


Of course, doing an entire tasting like this means two things: first, that, by the end, unless you take very small bites of each (which I suggest you do!) you’ll most likely have had enough chocolate to last you the rest of the evening. Second, you will also realize quite quickly that it is important to have water on hand, if only to cleanse the palate a little.

If you’re looking to do a pairing, though, alcohol is also a great way to refresh your palate. The natural acidity, particularly in beer, will help rid your mouth of some of the fat residue left from the chocolate. To find beer and wine that pair nicely with chocolate, use the flavors you discerned in the chocolates to find drinks with similar or complementary tones. Here’s what we came up with when we hosted a party.

We also have a history of pairing our chocolates with beer. Look through what we’ve done in the past here.

Finally, why not progress a little further, and involve another Vermont specialty: cheese? You can find some of our pairing suggestions for chocolate and cheese here.

Have you thought of a good chocolate pairing, or discovered an interesting flavor in one of our chocolates? Post your ideas for a chocolate pairing on our Facebook Page

The weather here in Vermont is getting cool (it even snowed a little last week!), and while I still sometimes crave our delicious home-made ice cream, it is most definitely hot chocolate season. To get the DL on the best hot chocolate in town, I consulted our Pine Street Store’s Café Master: Logan Bouchard.

Logan Bouchard

LCC: We offer a lot of different types of hot chocolate in our cafés. Why is that?

LB: We offer a wide variety of chocolate types and confections in our store, so why shouldn’t we do the same with our hot chocolate? We want to make sure that everyone gets the flavors they like the best, so we give our customers the opportunity to choose from a variety of hot chocolate that suits every individual’s tastes. If you’re a milk chocolate fan, you’ll be happy with our regular hot chocolate. If you love dark chocolate, one of our dark, European-style hot chocolates could make your day.

LCC: What is the difference between our “dark” and our “regular” hot chocolates?

LB: Our regular chocolates use our hot chocolate mixes. They are recipes we came up with that we also sell in our store. The difference between how we make them for you in the café and how you would make them at home has a lot to do with our espresso machine’s steaming wand, our home-made marshmallows, and our lovingly whipped cream.

Our dark hot chocolates are created in a more European style. They are much more rich, with a deeper chocolaty taste. To make them, we literally melt down actual chocolate into our milk.

Hot Chocolate With Marshmallows

LCC: Which is the most popular hot chocolate drink among the people you serve?

LB: Our regular hot chocolates are very popular, although there is a dedicated Aztec Hot Chocolate following in our café. The other day, though, I made more Tanzania hot chocolate than any other. It was crazy. I really enjoy making the darker hot chocolates for people, because it allows people to experience a European-style dark hot chocolate right here in the heart of Vermont. It’s something special that sets us apart from other hot chocolate makers out there.

LCC: On the hot chocolate we sell, the instructions say mix with milk, and you do the same in your café here. Why use milk instead of water?

LB: Coming from Vermont, the land of more cows than people, I care deeply about the quality of good milk. When companies tell you to add water to their hot chocolate mixes, it’s because there is already dehydrated milk mixed into the cocoa powder. In our café, we add local Vermont cow’s milk to our hot chocolate, and this adds to the creaminess of the overall mixture. It adds a taste of place, and the hot chocolate becomes a creamy, rich experience instead of just a drink.

Think of it this way: when you drink a cup of hot chocolate, you want something warm and comforting, and there is nothing quite as comforting as a cup of warm milk. Hot water just doesn’t do the same thing.

LCC: Tell me a little about the science of hot chocolate. Why does chocolate and milk work so well together? What do you do to make it even tastier?

LB: In our café, we use the espresso machine’s steaming wand to make our hot chocolate. The constant motion combined with the heat helps to break down some of the lactose in the milk into simpler sugars. When making an espresso drink (like a cappuccino or a latte,) this creates a sweetness that counteracts with the intense flavor of the espresso. When making hot chocolate, this creates a nicer, foamy texture for your drink, and allows the chocolate and the milk to really become unified.

LCC: That sounds delicious, but most people don’t have an espresso machine at home. Is there anything they could do to recreate this?

LB: Sure! If you have a whisk, just heat the milk in a pan on the stovetop while stirring it with your whisk. This will also help to break down that lactose and you may even get a little foam! If you want to heat your milk in the microwave, try heating it in 20 second increments, whisking in between each time in the microwave. What you don’t want to do is heat the milk and then whisk it. The heating and motion have to be concurrent or it won’t create the same effect.

Lake Champlain Hot Chocolate

LCC: What about the Dark Hot Chocolates? What if somebody wants to make a Tanzania hot chocolate at home?

LB: You can do that! We use pistoles to make ours, so to make a hot chocolate like we do, add 4 rounded tablespoons of your favorite type of chocolate, preferable in pistole form (for instance, our Sao Thome Chips) to 8 ounces of milk. We add a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to our dark hot chocolates as well. If you want to experiment further, you can cut up any type of chocolate and melt that into your milk.

LCC: You’re always experimenting with new drinks in the café. What do you suggest folks at home do to try their hand at that sort of creativity?

LB: The key is to start with simple alterations to classics. For instance, try adding cinnamon or cayenne pepper to a traditional hot chocolate (it’s how our Aztec chocolate came about!) Experiment with different spices and infusions (like a mint extract, for example.) You can also mix up the types of milk you use. I’ll tell you one thing: an old world hot chocolate made with coconut milk is out of this world.

LCC: What do you top it all off with to add that final café touch?

LB: in the café, we have two options whenever you order a chocolate drink. You can either get a home-made marshmallow (we actually have the recipe here) or you can top it off with whipped cream. I myself am partial to the whipped cream. It’s made with Monument Farm cream, so it has a higher fat content than most store-bought cream, and it’s whipped with love. We also add a healthy dose of Madagascar vanilla essence to it.

LCC: What is your personal favorite?

LB: I’m particularly partial to the Old World, topped with our home-made whipped cream. It’s the perfect combination of sweetness, richness, and comfort.

Stop in sometime and say hi to Logan, or let us know how your own hot chocolate experiments went at home!