Friday, September 07, 2007

Chocolate Tasting at Edelweiss Chocolates

The event started with owner, Madlen Zahir, giving us a short talk about Edelweiss' history and about chocolate itself. For those of you who didn't know, Edelweiss has been a Beverly Hills landmark for over 60 years.

First, some history. The original owner, seen in a black and white picture on the shop wall, came up with the idea of chocolate covered marshmallows in the first place, which currently are Edelweiss' top sellers. In fact, she actually would make the marshmallow herself after hours, just to ensure the secrecy of the recipe.

After her retirement, the business was sold to a Swiss chocolatier, whose chocolate recipes comprises the majority of chocolates sold in the shop today. For 5 years, Shirley Jones took over but for the past few years, Edelweiss has been in the hands of the Zahir family.

Madlen also gave us a brief talk about how chocolate is made, which I elaborated on in the next few paragraphs to give additional information. First, the cacao beans have to be roasted so that their shells become brittle. Then they go through a machine that will remove the shells and remove the seeds which are now called cacao nibs. Now the cacao nibs have to be ground into a paste called "chocolate liquor."

Some "chocolate liquor" is pressed to remove cocoa butter, which is used to make white chocolate. Further processing turns it into cocoa powder, but it's the unpressed "chocolate liquor" that is used to make chocolate. To make chocolate, the manufacturer blends unpressed chocolate with condensed milk, sugar and extra cocoa butter.

This raw mixture becomes a coarse, brown dough called "crumb." The "crumb" needs now needs to be refined to make the chocolate silkier so it's pressed through giant steel rollers to do the job. You now have a creamier batter of chocolate; yet, it still needs to undergo still another process before it's ready to use. Finally, the chocolate can be tempered (heated) to give it a glossy sheen and smoothness and than used to hand dip various items in or poured into different kinds of chocolate molds.

After Madlen's introduction, we went into the chocolate factory and as she talked more about their chocolate making process and showed us the various "tools of the trade" so to speak, we started our tasting of 8 different chocolates which were:

- Dark Chocolate Caramallow (with an inside layer of marshmallow and caramel) - loved the thick layer of caramel and the sponginess of the marshmallow.

- Milk Chocolate Toffeemallow (with an inside layer of marshmallow mixed with toffee pieces) - a little too sweet for my taste, but I appreciated the toffee pieces.

- Geraldine (ground apricot with caramel) - My favorite of the bunch and with a great story. Apparently, this chocolate had caramel added to the ground apricot by mistake and it was such a delicious accident that they named this new chocolate after that employee who made that error, Geraldine. I really liked the combined flavors of tart and sweet.

- Dark Honeycomb Sponge Chocolate (burnt sugar and honey) - I liked the flavor, but burnt sugar makes for a harder candy interior so be prepared to take a hardier bite.

- Milk Chocolate Coconut Snocap (with moist coconut) - That coconut was definitely moist and better than any Almond Joy or Mounds out there.

- Alpine Snow White Chocolate Truffle (rolled in cocoa powder) - What was nice was that the white chocolate wasn't overly sweet.

- Dark Chocolate Turtle (caramel & pecans) - Apparently a fav of Katherine Hepburn and even mentioned in her autobiography. I really liked the sweet-slight saltiness of this chocolate

- Milk Chocolate Maple Pecan Cream - A favorite of Frank Sinatra and members of the Sinatra family to this day will send out boxes of these chocolates to family & friends. This was my least favorite just because it was just too sweet and sugary for my palate.

...but we weren't done yet....Madlen's husband, Steve surprised as with a 9th chocolate which was dark chocolate with a brandy liquer inside along
with a cherry that has been soaking in brandy for 3 months. I normally don't like these types of chocolates, because I find them overally sweet, but this particular chocolate I wouldn't mind having a second piece of.

Some of the equipment we saw were over 50 years and almost as old as the shop itself. Madlen also showed us some of the various molds used to make their molded chocolates. One last bit of Hollywood history I'll mention before ending is that Lucille Ball, a faithful Edelweiss Chocolates customer actually used the chocolate conveyor belt that's part of the Edelweiss' factory as the inspiration for an "I Love Lucy" episode and I'm sure you know which one.

Overall, it was both a learning and tasty experience!

To see pics, go to:

Edelweiss Chocolates
444 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 275-6003

Edelweiss Chocolates on Urbanspoon


Gurpreet said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years.



Abby said...

What a great story. Thanks for sharing!