Posts Tagged With: Milton Hershey

National Chocolate Caramel Day

Last year we celebrated too many chocolate holidays to count, and various caramel-themed ones (apples, popcorn, custard, etc.) as well. But never the two together! I guess you could say last March 19 we were too chicken, since it was National Poultry Day. We’re taking care of unfinished business this year by celebrating National Chocolate Caramel Day!

Hard to believe one year ago we were 78 days into our year-long challenge already. On a personal note, we haven’t been as proactive this year as I’d hoped, but there has been a LOT going on in our personal lives. Including downsizing from a townhouse to an apartment. We moved last weekend, and boy are we tired and sore! All the more reason to treat ourselves to chocolate caramel, eh?

This particular flavor combination is one of the most popular, as evidenced by the countless number of sweet treats boasting both chocolate and caramel. It’s one of those classic combinations, like spaghetti and meatballs. Or wine and cheese. Or Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. (What?! Tell me you didn’t laugh out loud during Dumb & Dumber)! We can thank none other than Milton Hershey for combining the two. Hershey began his illustrious career in a caramel company. In the late 1800s, looking for a way to improve plain ol’ caramel candy, he got his hands on some German built chocolate manufacturing machines. His very first product? A chocolate covered caramel! Eventually Milt focused his attention solely on chocolate, but if not for his inventiveness, we might never have Snickers, Milky Way, or Twix. And the world would be a sadder place.

To celebrate, I stopped by 7-Eleven (oh, thank heaven) and grabbed a Rolo. These chocolate covered caramels are one of my favorites!

Now that things are finally settling down (knock on wood), we hope to focus more attention on this blog. We’ve got some big ideas, and will start incorporating those more. Stick around…it’ll be worth it, I promise!

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Categories: Candy | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

95/365: National Caramel Day*

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll love today’s food holiday. April 5 is National Caramel Day!

It’s also National Raisin & Spice Bar Day. Caramel appealed to us more. So, caramel it is.

I was surprised to learn that caramel is nothing more than sugar that has been heated slowly to 340F. As the sugar heats, the molecules break down and transform into a sticky brown liquid. This process is known as caramelization, and results in the familiar, decadent treat we love atop an ice cream sundae or wrapped around an apple. I have caramelized onions many times, but never made the connection. This food challenge is teaching us a lot! I ought to try out for Jeopardy next year and pray for a “food & drink” category.

That's melted sugar. Who knew??

That’s melted sugar. Who knew??

Caramel is an American discovery. In the 17th century, our forefathers (and foremothers) were making hard candies out of caramelized sugar and water. By 1850, they had discovered that adding milk and other fats to the mixture resulted in a soft, chewy, and sticky concoction. In Pennsylvania, Milton Hershey founded the Lancaster Caramel Company, with the intention of manufacturing caramel candy covered in chocolate. He became so enamored with chocolate that he ended up selling the caramel business and using the profit to start a chocolate company instead. Foolish move, Hershey! Did you really believe your name could become synonymous with chocolate?

Err…right. Guess it was a good investment after all.

An inventive way to celebrate National Caramel Day!

An inventive way to celebrate National Caramel Day!

Nevertheless, caramel also became popular worldwide, so hopefully the guy who bought the caramel company profited, too. I’m all about sharing the wealth!

We are embarking upon another trip to the Emerald City this afternoon. (Seattle, not Oz). And leaving early, to boot. We don’t have a lot of time to mess with some fancy caramel preparation – kind of hard to cook when you’re in the car driving for three hours – so we celebrated by ordering caramel-flavored coffee drinks. I stopped by Dutch Bros. for a Caramelizer, a blend of triple-bean espresso, mocha, and caramel. I’m not a big fan of overly sweet coffee, but this was pretty good.

Have a great weekend! We’ll be up in Seattle until Sunday, but fortunately, our weekend food challenges are pretty simple and shouldn’t give us any trouble. Tomorrow’s, in fact, will provide a strange sense of deja vu.

Categories: Candy | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10/365: National Bittersweet Chocolate Day

It’s National Bittersweet Chocolate Day, and upon learning this, my first question was: what in the heck is bittersweet chocolate? The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. And also on the internet. Chocolate is broken down into different categories based on the amount of fat it contains. Chocolate starts out as “chocolate liquor,” which is simply pure chocolate in liquid form. Sugar and a fat, such as cocoa butter, are added to this substance. To be classified as bittersweet, chocolate must contain a minimum of 35% chocolate liquor. The rest is cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla, and an emulsifier.

My second question was: what in the heck is an emulsifier? But then I figured the science was getting too intense, and I should just appreciate the chocolate for what it is. Which is, delicious! Who doesn’t like chocolate?!

Chocolate dates back to ancient times. The Mayans, when they weren’t assembling calendars meant to freak out otherwise highly advanced 21st-century people who falsely interpreted them as “the end of the world is coming!” warnings, were busy growing cacao trees in their backyards. They used the seeds to concoct a frothy and bitter beverage, an early precursor to Yoohoo. The Aztecs took over Mesoamerica, started adding spices like chile peppers and achiote to chocolate, and made sacrificial chocolate offerings to Xochiquetzal (pronounced Beverly), the goddess of fertility. Ever since, women have been craving the stuff during a certain time of the month. Coincidence? You be the judge. Europeans got their first taste of chocolate in the 16th century, and by 1839 had invented the modern-day chocolate bar. It only took them 200 years to figure out how to solidify it! Milk was added in 1875 by a Swiss candlemaker and his neighbor, Henri Nestle. Rodolphe Lindt figured out how to easily blend liquid chocolate, paving the way for Milton Hershey to mass produce affordable chocolate bars. 132 years later, Tay Zonday went viral with “Chocolate Rain.” 

Yeah, that's Ghirardelli. We roll with the best around here!

Yeah, that’s Ghirardelli. We roll with the best around here!

I’ve always been partial to milk chocolate, which contains only 10% chocolate liquor. Tara’s a dark chocolate fan, and it doesn’t get much darker than bittersweet chocolate, which is most often used in baking – its bitterness cuts down on the sweetness inherent in sugary desserts. Tara has a recipe for brownies with a chocolate ganache (check it out here), so she took a couple of bittersweet chocolate bars, melted them down with some half-and-half and butter, and poured them over the brownies. “The chocolate is melted,” I said, once it had blended in with the ganache mixture. “That’s kind of bittersweet.”

Cracking food jokes is part of the fun. And the brownies were delicious with coffee.

Oh, and our coworkers are loving this project, because they’re ending up with all the leftovers! Well, the sweet leftovers. The beans, not so much.

By the way, we’ll be revisiting bittersweet chocolate towards the end of our challenge. November 7 is bittersweet chocolate with almonds day. Hard to believe there were two separate bittersweet chocolate lobbyist groups (check out another interesting article on how food holidays are created here) while nobody campaigned for white chocolate. What a crime.

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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