What are your store hours?
What is real chocolate made of and why is it such a big deal?
Real chocolate is made from Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Fresh Whole Milk, Chocolate Liquor, Soy Lecithin (an emulsifier) and Vanillin. It's a big deal because those are the ingredients that must be in chocolate by FDA regulations in order to be called chocolate. Imitation chocolate, on the other hand, substitutes cheaper ingredients for those that make chocolate the real thing. Here are the usual substitutions:
- Chocolate liquor is replaced with cocoa
- Fresh whole milk is replaced with whey solids
- Cocoa butter is replaced with palm kernel oil
The lesser quality chocolates may also be loaded with preservatives. It tends to taste waxy and diluted. Sometimes paraffin is actually added. Am I making anyone hungry?
How come 2 different brands of chocolate may list identical ingredients, but taste completely different?
The main reason is that there are many different types of cocoa beans, just as there are many different types of coffee beans. It is the cocoa bean that gives each type of chocolate it's distinctive flavor. Most chocolates are made with different blends of beans. Another factor is the proportion of the ingredients. One chocolate may contain more cocoa butter than another and thus be creamier. One more reason for a difference in taste and texture is how long the chocolate was conched (mixed in a special conching machine) at the factory before being molded into bars to send to candy making factories. Conching helps to develop the flavor and smooths out the rough edges of the sugar particles.
How are white chocolate and dark chocolate different from milk chocolate?
Dark chocolate (also called semi-sweet) has less cocoa butter than milk chocolate and it also has milk fat (but no more than 12%) instead of fresh whole milk. Semi-sweet chocolate has at least 15% chocolate liquor. It has a more intense chocolate flavor than milk chocolate. White chocolate has no chocolate liquor in it whatsoever. Real white chocolate (as opposed to the fake stuff made with palm kernel oil) is made with just 4 ingredients: sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk and vanillin. It tastes somewhat chocolatey because of the large amount of cocoa butter that it contains.
What is the difference between hand made chocolates and machine made chocolates?
Machine made chocolates have oils and fats added to the chocolate to thin it out so that the machinery doesn't clog up with hardened chocolate. We do not adulterate the chocolate in any way.
How much chocolate do you produce in one day?Depending on how many dippers we have working that day, anywhere from 40 to 100 pounds, produced one puddle at a time.
What is your best seller?
It would have to be the Chocolate Covered Potato Chips and the Assorted Chocolates. The Chocolate Covered Potato Chips are so popular that we have 1 person, Brad, (also known as Chippy), who does nothing but cover potato chips.
What causes chocolate to bloom?
Blooming (white streaks or spots in chocolate) is caused by temperature extremes. If the chocolate is poured at the wrong temperature it will bloom. If the chocolate is poured at the correct temperature, but is later exposed to heat, then allowed to cool, it will also bloom.
Do you ever sell the 10 pound blocks of chocolate?
Yes, you would be surprised at how many we sell. Some people buy them just to eat. Others buy them to make candy at home. I'm sure they don't nibble as they work.
How do you make molded chocolates?
We melt the chocolate slowly and gently over a double boiler. We then mix the chocolate so that the temperature is even through out the kettle. We then place some warm (not hot) chocolate on a dipping table and spread it out into a puddle. This process is called tempering. We spread it out on the dipping table and mix it in order to expose it to the cool air of the factory. The chocolate must be nice and cold when we use it. It feels kind of like chocolate pudding when it is ready to use. This tempering process prevents blooming. The technical explanation is that we are reforming the crystal patterns that the chocolate was in before we melted it. This method allows the sugar crystals to knit back together tightly in their original formation. Properly tempered chocolate should have a nice shine and a nice, crisp snap to it when broken. It should not bend or crumble.
What happens if the chocolate gets too hot when it is melting?
When it dries, the finished product will resemble dried mud - not very appetizing. The reason for that is that the sugar crystals burned and there is no way too revive them. The chocolate would have a hard texture and it would not be creamy. You wouldn't be able to give it away.
How is the candy wrapped?
The wrapping process is very low tech. For foiled candies, we place the chocolate in the foil and press it around the piece. We then burnish it by hand to bring out the details in each piece. The chocolates that are wrapped on cellophane are placed in the appropriately sized cello bag and sealed shut with a little iron.
Do you eat your mistakes?
Only if nobody's looking!
Has anyone ever tried to get locked in the store overnight?
We know all of the hiding places, so far no one has been successful.
Do you make Sugar Free Candy?
Yes, we do make sugar free chocolate and it is sweetened with Maltitol, which is a carbohydrate. We can make any of the molded items or nut clusters in sugar free. Unfortunately, we can not make any of the hard candies or assorted chocolates in the sugar free. The sugar free costs about 25% more than the regular chocolate.
What is the best part of your job?
In a nutshell, candy makes people happy. So if a customer arrives in a less than jovial mood, once they hit the sample box, they're usually pretty happy. Christmas is the best because people come into the factory to watch us make candy canes and ribbon candy and we can tell that it's one of the highlights of their holiday season. For many people, the trip to Hercules Candies is part of their holiday tradition, just like trimming their tree.
Do you give tours?
We give formal group tours for groups of 10 - 20 people by appointment only. These book up fast, so try to call about 3 months in advance to schedule one. We do not give formal tours during our very busy candy making times of the year because we must concentrate on the candy making. The tours are for groups of at least 5 years old and up. The pre-k set doesn't really understand what we are talking about.
We allow informal tours pretty much any time someone is making candy. Informal basically means we just take you into the factory and let you watch us make candy and ask questions. If you want to watch us make candy, call (315-463-4339) the day you are coming to be sure someone will be making candy at that time.
What is the difference between a formal tour and an informal tour?
With a formal tour, you actually get a tour guide who will give a talk and also show you a video tape of how Ribbon Candy, Candy Canes and Peanut Brittle are made. The formal tour takes about 40 minutes and you must have at least 10 people, but no more than 20. The informal tours are available anytime someone is making candy.