Sunday, April 18, 2021

Crunchies - Freeze-Dried Strawberries in Milk Chocolate - Apr. 18, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Freeze-Dried Strawberries in Milk Chocolate
Weight: 2 oz. (57 g.) / 5 oz. (142 g.) in total package
Calories: 300 calories in 2 servings
Cost: $3.49 for 1 package
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA 

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and RSTU Theme Week, featuring items with origins and/or flavor inclusions that start with the letters R, S, T and/or U.

It was impossible this week not to include both raspberries and strawberries. Both these berries have a long history of being combined in sublime ways with chocolate.

Today's Freeze-Dried Strawberries in Milk Chocolate were from Crunchies Natural Food Company, LLC (Calabasas, CA). The company offers a variety of freeze-dried fruit and vegetable snacks.

Freeze-dried* fruit pieces and powders have become popular* flavor inclusions for chocolates. They offer bursts of concentrated, authentic fruit flavor and a unique texture. 

The resulting pieces/powders are bright and flavorful, but they need to be sealed off from air and moisture to retain their light, airy, crunchy texture. Today's strawberry Crunchies achieved this level of protection in two ways: by being 1.) covered in chocolate, and 2.) stored in a (re-sealable) air-tight pouch. Both measures helped preserve the berry freshness. 

These thickly-coated/glazed milk chocolate pieces gave off the aroma of a sweet, strawberry milkshake. The milk chocolate + the concentrated sweetness of the strawberries were on the sweet side, but were tasty nonetheless. The strawberry pieces on the inside retained their tart-sweet berry flavor and naturally bright, rosy red color.

Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk chocolate liquor, soy lecithin, vanilla), freeze-dried strawberries, natural flavor, arabic gum, sugar, confectioners glaze. 

Allergen-related information: Contains milk, soy. Made on equipment that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and eggs.

*The Incas (who knew their way around cacao) practiced an early form of freeze-drying at higher altitudes. Food reserves were frozen by cold, dry climate. And at high elevations these frozen items would also have dried out.

Modern freeze drying of foods began over a century ago. Later in the 1900s, pictures of astronauts eating freeze-dried ice cream appeared; and light-weight, freeze-dried food entrees in silver pouches became more widely available for outdoor enthusiasts. For backpackers and climbers with 50+-pound (22.67-kilogram) packs on their backs, this was welcome news. (I still remember (happily) buying those pouches freeze-dried food and ice cream from army surplus/outdoor stores.)

Fast forward to today's high-end examples of freeze-dried culinary items (exotic, sublimated vegetable bits in five-star restaurants; or, closer to home, craft chocolate maker Dick Taylor's first limited edition raspberry bar), and I'm grateful for this medium and to the creative chefs, taste-makers and chocolate makers who have used this technology to bring us great food.

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