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.
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?