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Dip it in chocolate

From Bleu cheese to bugs, everything's better on National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day
"Stress wouldn't be so hard to take if it were chocolate-covered."
As if we ever needed an excuse to celebrate chocolate.

And by "celebrate," we obviously mean "devour large quantities of."
Yet there it is, smugly staring us in the face, another invented reason for breaking out the chocolate jar or veering into the chocolate store. Saturday, according to the National Confectioners Association, is National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day.

It stands alongside cacao-centric dates such as Jan. 3, National Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day, and March 24, National Chocolate-Covered Raisin Day. And let's not forget April 21, National Chocolate-Covered Cashews Day.
That delicious mouthful that is National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day presumably allows us to cover all our bases by including everything else that's been dunked in liquid sin. That includes old standards such as peanut butter cups and strawberries as well as more unusual fare.

There's the savory: chocolate-covered potato chips, popcorn and pretzels.
The sweet: chocolate-covered jelly beans, gummy bears and Oreos.
And the intriguing: Chocolate-covered pickles are not unheard of.
Mexico has a dish of chicken served with a spicy combination of chocolate and chiles known as mole sauce. Ukrainians are reportedly dousing a favored snack, pork fat, in chocolate.

If you're craving something crunchier, perhaps with an exoskeleton, there's always chocolate-covered insects. Patrons of the Adventure Science Center got to sample some during a one-day event in July that accompanied the center's "Bugged!!" exhibit.

"It's a lot easier to go down when it's covered in chocolate," said Virginia Crowe, director of marketing. "It's kind of crunchy and sweet. If you didn't know what it was, you really would just think you were having a Crackle Bar."
Visitors had their pick of sour cream and onion-flavored, as well as barbeque, but it was the center's store of chocolate-covered crickets and ants that ran out the quickest.

"Some people liked it," Crowe said. "Some people decided to politely spit it out."
Churning out chocolate
Every day is National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day for Stephanie Reid.
Reid, 57, of Hermitage churns out everything from chocolate-covered cow pies (made of, thankfully, caramel and pecans) to double-dipped strawberries and white chocolate-covered marshmallows for her home business, Artistic Sweets.

She takes special requests, and the most unusual treat she ever got asked to make was chocolate-covered Turkish delight, a cubed candy made from fruit juice and gelatin.
She does have limits, though.

"I've gotten other things that I won't even try, like chocolate-covered divinity," a creamy fudge made from whipped egg whites, she said. "You need a super-exact thermometer."

Distinguished New York chocolatier Jacques Torres draws on staff suggestions and customer requests to decide what he'll dip in chocolate. Whatever his choice, it has to taste good when paired with chocolate and it has to look good. Some of his end results include novel sweets like chocolate-covered malt balls, fortune cookies, graham crackers and even corn flakes.
"I can't recall anything that we tried and didn't like when it was finished," he said by e-mail.

Which leads us to believe that perhaps everything really does taste better covered in chocolate.
Expect to find chocolate-covered goodies from Julie Hinton in Franklin by sometime in the spring. Hinton, 41, runs a gourmet chocolate business, Xoconochco (shoh-koh-NOCH-koh), out of her home but will be opening a storefront at 434 Main Street in downtown Franklin in January.
She's been experimenting with all sorts of surprises to slip inside a coat of chocolate.

"The thing I liked about chocolate is there's obviously an artistic element to making these, but there's a lot of science, too," she said.
Key factors in chocolate-dipping include considering the shelf life of both the chocolate and the item as well as gauging the effect the chocolate will have on the selection, Hinton said. Miscalculations can ruin the inside texture or spoil the outside finish.

You can put a hazelnut in a truffle, but the hazelnut will inevitably get soggy, so Hinton makes a caramelized coating to protect the hazelnut.
As for own experience with unusual chocolate combinations, Hinton recalls once sampling a savory dessert plate at acclaimed Chicago restaurant Charlie Trotter's that combined chocolate with, of all things, blue cheese.

"It's unexpected," she said. "They're equally rich, so they complement each other even though they're odd. It's one of those things where you either like it, or you don't."

Chocolate? With blue cheese? Steel your stomach, and let the celebrating begin.

Source: Nashville Tennessee - News

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