A Chocolate Visit
Over the summer, I got a chance to visit Hershey, PA, and tour The Hershey Company’s offices and research and development center—yes, the place where they come up with all the new chocolate and candy.
In NYC, it seems that every chocolate maker markets itself as artisan, local, and/or handmade—as do many purveyors of oils, cocktail mixers, pastries, and vegetables. That sometimes makes us wonder about companies that have been around longer and operate on bigger scales. But should we be? That’s one reason I was excited to visit Hershey: to see how food can be made in a larger format. If you follow me on instagram, you’ll notice I’ve been visiting a lot of producers over the past several months, getting a glimpse into the details of our massive food system, and this trip suited my meandering curiosity.
To be clear, this post—as well as three more posts and recipes to follow over the course of the next several months—is sponsored by the company. But as a generally nosy person, I was thrilled to see inside an international food company with such a rich American history.
In no particular order, here are some of the things I found most interesting from my visit to Hershey:
The military. Hershey has supplied a lot of chocolate to the military since 1937, starting with the ration D bar. I was so interested to hear about this connection, since I did a lot of research on soldiers’ food for this piece – and discovered that everyone needs a treat, not least those who are fighting abroad.
Fresh milk. Know that signature taste in a bar of HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate? The Hershey Milk chocolate method is a proprietary process that creates the signature taste of HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate. The chocolatiers developed a process to control the aging of the milk, sourced locally from the surrounding dairies, allowing for the development of the unique, bright, tangy Hershey’s Milk flavor with a little complexity.
Chocolate and fat. Speaking of pairings, there’s a whole lot more to the chocolate-milkfat-sugar ratio than taste. I’ve long been a no-holds-barred chocolate lover, which means I love white, milk, and dark chocolate, but I always felt a little undiscriminating around people who would only bite into 94.5% chocolate and rebuke the rest. Turns out, different beans work best with different proportions of milk and sugar. We tasted chocolates from various chocolate-producing regions to observe how a mixture with 32% cacao could be just as sophisticated as one with 72%–it just depends on the nature of the cacao.
Snacks. One of the fastest-growing segments of Hershey’s business is the snack department. I was fascinated to learn that the BROOKSIDE brand, which is pretty new, is one of the top brands at the company. Have you tried BROOKSIDE Chocolate?
Caramel is delicious. We met a food scientist whose job it was to make batches and batches of caramel until the stuff had all the necessary qualities: the right sweetness, the right texture, the right shelf life. You have to be so detail-oriented to achieve that kind of consistency–it makes regular old recipe testing look easy!
Chocolate & toasted nuts forever. We got to pour tempered SCHARFFEN BERGER Chocolate into six chocolate bar molds. The whole bunch of toppings–from berries to sprinkles–was beautiful and tempting, but all I wanted with my chocolate? Toasted nuts. I chose pistachios, almonds, and sea salt for my BGSK bars (finished photo at top).
I’ll be back soon with more on Hershey’s history and a classic chocolate recipe for you to make this winter.
This post is sponsored by The Hershey Company. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep Big Girls, Small Kitchen delicious!