May 2, 2008

Cold Candy?

Buy a chocolate bar at the corner store, and it's going to be room temperature. It can quickly become soft and gooey, enabling the sweetness to come through.

Punch the buttons on a vending machine, though, and it might just be refrigerated. Sometimes you can find cold candy in a friend's icebox. The sugar is muted, enabling other flavors to shine.

Each temperature has its advantages. But my completely unscientific survey, also known as personal experience, has found room temperature candy much more common. So let's spend a few words on the phenomenon of cold candy.

Most noticeable is the increased hardness of cold candy. Like any matter, chocolate is more pliable when warm. Put it on ice and it becomes brittle. Instead of conforming to your teeth when you bite, it splinters along several lines of cleavage.

Consequently, cold candy doesn't blanket your mouth in flavor. If you can get over missing the initial sweet shock, more understated flavors take center stage, however. A brief sweetness gives way to the richness of the chocolate. It's almost like moving your chocolate bar a few pegs down the darkness scale. Milk chocolate tastes more like dark chocolate, while dark chocolate ... well, it tastes even more like itself.

The flavor change isn't just limited to cocoa products. If you're eating a peanut butter cup, nuttier flavors take precedence over Reese's normal glucose blast. Milky Ways showcase a thicker caramel that completely alters the texture of the bar. Twix Bars have a more satisfying crunch, provided they aren't over-chilled.

Coldness is probably best applied to simple candies, since it enhances the complexity of flavors. Add too much complexity, and your mid-afternoon snack starts resembling an oral jigsaw puzzle. Consequently, stick to Hershey bars or peanut butter cups. But make sure to avoid the Crunch bar. Even though it seems like a simple candy that would be enhanced by coldness, it's fools gold. Whatever chocolate Nestle uses shatters at the first bite, leaving you licking at unsatisfying tiny slivers.

Cold candy can either be a spork above or below its room-temperature counterpart. When used responsibly, it's a rewarding journey.

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