by Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
Valentine’s Day dates back to the Roman era, but it was not until Richard Cadbury in 19th Century Britain discovered a way to make tasty and affordable chocolate bars that chocolate became available to the masses. Previously, chocolate was very expensive and only the elite class could afford it. Cadbury developed beautiful boxes for his chocolates, and they sold like hotcakes. He is credited with inventing the heart shaped boxes which changed Valentine’s Day forever.
We are fortunate to have Pease’s at BUNN Gourmet in our community. Last week, I sat down with Desiree Logsdon, BUNN senior vice president of corporate citizenship, and learned that a new chocolate category was developed in 2017 called Ruby chocolate. It is considered the fourth type (dark, milk, white and now Ruby). The Barry Callebaut people describe Ruby chocolate as a “totally new taste experience: not bitter, mild or sweet, but a tension between berry-fruitiness and luscious smoothness.” The chocolate does not have any added berry flavoring or red coloring and has a “fresh berry fruitiness and color is naturally present.”
The beans come exclusively from Ecuador, Brazil and the Ivory Coast. The Ruby chocolate arrives in large containers in the form of “callets” (think the size and shape of chocolate chips.) They melt the callets down to begin the tempering process to produce cakes and bars. With the assistance of Sabrina Martindale, executive pastry chef, and former owner of Sugar Jar downtown (l always loved her cookies) and Chocolatier Ashley McShane, I had the opportunity to observe bars come off the conveyor belt as they added dried strawberries and macadamia nuts.
Sabrina and Ashely and the entire store staff are busy getting ready for St. Valentine’s Day and creating new specialties. I tried a piece of Ruby chocolate mousse cake: perfect for two with a glass of wine or cup of coffee. Ashley informed me that her chocolate-covered strawberries are the most popular treat for St. Valentine ’s Day and recommends ordering early.
Desiree was first introduced to the Ruby chocolate a few years ago while attending the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Chicago. Desi also shared with me a 1919 Illinois State Register article announcing that the Bunn Family was building a candy plant at 10th and Adams, and this year BUNN is celebrating 100 years of candy making.
Of course, the store also carries all types of chocolates including the more traditional dark, milk and white. Chocolate’s darkness is determined by the proportion of cocoa solids made from cocoa beans, mixed with cocoa butter and sugar.
Milk chocolate, the most popular type in America, typically contains about 10 percent cocoa liquor – the paste made from ground, roasted, shelled and fermented cocoa beans that contain both nonfat cocoa solids and cocoa butter as compared with a minimum of 35 percent found in dark chocolate. Look for the “percent cacao” figure on the label. Cacao is the raw form of chocolate. White chocolate, however, contains only cocoa butter (no cocoa solids) combined with sugar and other ingredients. For many people, it’s not really considered a chocolate at all.
A standard bar of dark chocolate with 70 percent to 85 percent cacao contains about 600 calories and 24 grams of sugar, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrient database. Milk chocolate contains roughly the same number of calories but twice the sugar.
The amount of cocoa solids in dark chocolate is important because it can be an indicator of the amount of dietary flavonoids, which are antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables and certain drinks. Research suggests consuming more dietary flavonoids is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease.
I checked with Ms. Charlyn Fargo Ware, M.S., R.D., adjunct culinary arts instructor at Lincoln Land Community College. Charlyn advised that “the possible health benefits of chocolate stem from the antioxidant flavonoids. Chocolate comes from the cacao plant, and cacao is extraordinarily rich in flavanols, a type of flavonoid phytochemical.” But a word of caution from Charlyn: “The health benefits of chocolate may disappear if you are adding the calories above and beyond your regular intake. This could mean you’re adding pounds along with the flavonoids.” Researchers from the University of California at Davis said it best in a scientific review on cocoa and chocolate flavonoids published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. They concluded that “people may benefit from including a variety of flavonoid-rich foods as part of a healthful diet — and dark chocolate, in moderate amounts, can be part of this plan.” Charlyn suggests choosing dark chocolate in small bites.
Carol and I enjoy lunching at Pease’s at BUNN Gourmet at the Gables. The very talented Chef Richard Long is in the kitchen creating new hearty soups and menu specialties. Lots of temptations are available including gifts, famous Pease’s popcorn and nuts and even BUNN meat – perfect for that special St. Valentines meal. It is difficult to leave the store without selecting a handmade delight from the pastry case for later.
Thanks to Desi (my Illinois State Fair pie judging partner), Sabrina, Ashley and especially to the Bunn Family for their opening and continuing commitment to this special Springfield treat.
“All you need is love! But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry, along with non-credit classes through the Culinary Institute. For more information visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.