I wandered into a chocolate shop the other day, just to have a look around. I really didn’t plan on buying or eating anything.
What’s that phrase about the best-laid plans?
One VISA swipe later, I sat down with a cup of coffee and two square-ish nubs of chocolate: one that was raspberry flavoured, and one that purported to contain bacon.
The problem is, I’ve become kind of cantankerous and picky when it comes to chocolate. I can’t just eat it. I have to dissect it. So, I couldn’t ignore the fact that square chocolates should be, well, square. They should also be even and flat, and not sort of sideways and woozy-looking. And you know, as pretty as that cocoa butter design was on top, it was too bad that the corners of the chocolate were all cracked. And when I turned the chocolates over, it was really too bad that the bottom was cracked along every edge.
This told me a few things.
1. Quality control wasn’t there. I know there are some places that think that mistakes make things look handmade and rustic, but it actually just makes things look messy. If you’re going to do the handmade thing, then really give ‘er and make them look cozy and handmade. But trying to sell me a sad-looking piece of chocolate just makes me sad.
2. Someone mistreated these chocolates. Trade secret: most chocolate shops work weeks in advance, and then refrigerate or freeze the confections until they’re needed. The trick is to acclimatize the chocolates very slowly as they cool, and even more slowly as they warm up. This is because the inside of a confection is made of ganache. A mixture of chocolate and cream, ganache expands and contracts at a different rate than plain chocolate.
If you’re patient and let the confections cool down and warm up slowly, then they’ll look fine. However, if you’re impatient, then the ganache inside will expand faster than the chocolate outside, resulting in sad, cracked edges.
And really, if you’re impatient, you shouldn’t be working with chocolate. What’s the point?
In this case, not only did the chocolatier fail to make sure that every chocolate was perfect, but whoever handled them afterwards couldn’t be bothered to treat them properly. It’s like putting a tacky copy of a Picasso in one of those do-it-yourself cheapie IKEA picture frames.
(Oh, and the bacon chocolate? Not nearly as delicious as I thought it would be. Neither the chocolate nor the bacon tasted very good, and the two flavours together just seemed like an afterthought. Double boo.)