Chocolate Anyone?

by Mary Beth Schwartz

A plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies while watching a chick flick. A cup of hot cocoa topped with whipped cream after sledding. A decadent chocolate cake for your birthday. Racing to the pantry yet to see what you might have on hand? There’s something about chocolate that can take the blahs out of dreary winter days and make them much more pleasurable, at least temporarily.

Lehigh Valley residents are lucky to have homemade quality chocolatiers within driving distance. The Shoppes of Premise Maid, located in Breinigsville, include the Bakery, Ice Creamery, and Chocolate Shoppe. In business for 30 years, the company has a new online store for easy shopping from home(

Chocolate starts, of course, with the ingredients. According to The Hershey Company, milk chocolate is a combination of chocolate liquor (at least 10 percent), cocoa butter, sugar, and milk or cream (at least 12 percent). Sweet chocolate is made of chocolate liquor (at least 15 percent), cocoa butter, and sugar. Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate consists of chocolate liquor (at least 35 percent), cocoa butter, and sugar. (Sweet and semisweet chocolate are often called dark chocolate.) Chocolate liquor is produced by grinding cocoa beans smooth into a liquid. This chocolate can be sold as baking chocolate or unsweetened chocolate. White chocolate is made like milk chocolate—without the non-fat cocoa solids. Last but not least there is cocoa. Hershey’s cocoa is made by removing part of the cocoa butter from the cocoa beans and grinding the remaining material minus the shell.

Preliminary short-term studies indicate that the consumption of products containing cocoa may provide cardiovascular benefits.

When selecting chocolate, it is important to know the cacao content. This is the amount of cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and chocolate liquor in the product. Chocolate with higher cacao content is not as sweet and has intense chocolate flavor. Cacao content also is essential when pairing wine with chocolate. Wine and chocolate go together well not only for the taste but for their antioxidant power as well. (Antioxidants reduce the level of free radical molecules in the human body.) Preliminary short-term studies presented by The Hershey Company indicate that the consumption of products containing cocoa may provide cardiovascular benefits—lower cholesterol, decreased platelet activity, reduced blood pressure, and improved artery function. Of course, moderation is key here—chocolate is still a high–fat, high-calorie food snack..

Josh Early Candies, with locations in Allentown and Bethlehem, as well as the Internet (, has been offering tempting sweets since the early 1930s. Josh Early Candies is famous for its Pick Your Own assortment, especially on Valentine’s Day. Three hundred pieces of candy go into the largest seven-pound heart, while the smallest holds four ounces. According to Barry Dobil Sr., vanilla and chocolate butter creams and cherry cordials are favorites. Salted nuts, chocolate covered nuts, and milk chocolate peanut butter cups are popular for men; women prefer chocolate covered strawberries. (The made-to-order berries come in milk or dark chocolate with chocolate drizzle.) New to the company, Dobil says, is the Ultra line—products with 72 percent cocoa solids, as well as the Naturals line featuring organic milk and dark chocolates, along with organic inclusions—nuts, fruits, pretzels, etc.

Dobil, Sr., says, “My father-in-law Josh used to say that candy making is an art and a science,” and offers his tips on making chocolate-covered confections below. “Readers should feel free to be artistic; here is some of the science:”

Making chocolate covered confections

• Carefully grind approximately 10% of the chocolate you intend to use by chopping or drawing it across a food grater. The resulting “seed” should look like ground coffee or thin shavings. Reserve “seed” at room temperature.
• In a double boiler, melt remaining chocolate to 105°-115°. Stir continuously until smooth.
• Cool milk chocolate to 91°-93°. If using dark chocolate, cool to 92°-94°.
• Add approximately 5% “seed” to the melted chocolate. Stir until milk chocolate reaches a working temperature of 86°-88° or 88°- 90° for dark chocolate.
• If “seed” melts too quickly and chocolate is above the suggested dipping temperatures, dust the melted chocolate with additional seed using less than in the initial procedure. Stir until “seed” is dissolved.
• Dip centers in tempered chocolate. Deposit on parchment or waxed paper lined cookie sheets. If possible, place in a 65° area until chocolate is set.

Dobil, Sr., also offers these tips:

•Keep your knuckles away from the food grater!
•Use good quality chocolate in bar or chunk form. Before melting, chocolate should show consistent shine and snap when broken into pieces. This indicates stable cocoa butter crystals and that the chocolate is in good “temper”.
•Keep chocolate away from foreign odors.
•Do not allow chocolate to come in contact with water or water vapor. In order to make the process workable, you will probably need at least 3lbs. of chocolate.
•If all else fails, melt the chocolate to 110° and you have chocolate fondue.


Resources for e-zine:
Josh Early Candies
4640 Tilghman Street
Allentown, PA
3620 Nazareth Pike
Bethlehem, PA

The Shoppes of Premise Maid
10860 Hamilton Boulevard
Breinigsville, PA

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