Away From the Bench

The world outside of the lab

I Prefer My Candy Pre-Digested

You may not put much thought into the science behind the food you eat.  Does it matter how the Hungry Man freezes my mac and cheese so it’s creamy when I take it out of the microwave?  Not really, to most consumers.  I think the movement towards more local and natural foods is the best way to go, but I find the science behind how certain foods are modernized to fit today’s society intriguing.

Almost everyone enjoys some chocolate every now and then.  In my opinion, there is no competition for caramel-filled chocolates; however, the chocolates with the most interesting filling may be cherry cordials.  How do they get the runny syrup around a cherry and into the chocolate shell?  Although ‘cordials’ used to be medicinal elixirs thought to improve circulation or aid digestion, Americans thought it was best to remove the alcohol and cover that in chocolate, as they seem to do for most things.  There is a technique that can be used to mold the chocolate shell, fill it with syrup, and then cap it with more chocolate, but that isn’t the easiest process.

The secret behind this candy is that the syrupy center starts as a solid.  The filling is basically boiled sugar water, which can be poured around the maraschino cherry in a mold and cooled into a ball or cooled first to form fondant and then wrapped around the cherry like a ball.  How does this solid ball transform into the chin-dripping liquid?  Science and time.

Copyright dpstevenson2

Invertase, a digestive enzyme produced in your saliva and small intestine, is added to the fondant.  Don’t worry, the invertase that candy companies use is purified from yeast, not from spit.  (That just reminds me of the time Dogfish Head had its employees chew corn to partially digest it into fermentable sugars to brew authentic chicha beer.)  The invertase enzyme breaks up sucrose (table sugar) into glucose and fructose which causes the hardened fondant to become a syrup.  So after manufacturing, the candies need a few weeks to ‘mature’ in their chocolate shell and let the invertase eat the sugar to create the gooey center.  Who knew chocolate-covered cherries needed age on them like a fine wine?

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5 thoughts on “I Prefer My Candy Pre-Digested

  1. CCC’s–still my favorite candies in all the world!

  2. That’s really interesting! Good post, Al!

  3. Does the synthetic digestive interact with our regular digestive process?

    • Invertase is a substance the FDA considers GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) as long as concentrations are below a certain threshold and used responsibly. Invertase is more common than you might think, and is also used in some baked goods to increase shelf-life and keep them moist. The amounts of invertase in candies and baked goods will probably not have any effect on digestion, but Beano tablets use invertase to assist the digestive process (although the main ingredient in Beano is another enzyme, alpha-galactosidase, which breaks down more complex, branching sugars that can cause gas).

  4. Facinating article – because of the manufacturing method and the method to make them liquify after they are made!

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