Upraised letters on a brick facade signal your arrival at Scharffen Berger's factory.
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The new tempering machine crystalizes cocoa butter into a solid, giving chocolate bars uniform snap when you bite them.
The molding machine is where chocolate is piped into bar-shaped cavities in plastic molds. The molds pass through a refrigerated compartment called the tunnel, where chocolate solidifies after 20 minutes.
After our factory tour, our guide turned us loose in the company store, but not before we were allowed to taste two more Scharffen Berger specialties. On the left: 99% cacao nibs. On the right: 62% semisweet chunks spiked with crushed Peet’s Sumatran coffee beans. [FYI: Peet’s Coffee & Tea is an inexplicably famous Berkeley institution that’s spreading.]
The case held items that could only be found at the factory store, including hand-crafted chocolates filled with crushed mint leaf, sea salt caramel, and star anise. There were also pates de fruits in flavors like fig, pear, and bilberry, which is blueberry’s cousin.
The case’s other half held chocolates filled with Yunnan tea, spiced praline, and fresh lemon, among other flavors.
Being a fig-fiend, I had to buy a box of California black mission figs dipped in 70% bittersweet chocolate, along with two chocolate bars.
Who can resist house-made brownies and chocolate chip cookies made with Scharffen Berger chocolate? If you can, I don’t want to know you. Their walnut-studded brownie was very rich, but very tasty. The cookie was thin and crispy, with massive dark chocolate chunks.
I bought three chocolates and three pates de fruits. The chocolates: Yunnan tea, fresh lemon, and mint leaf. The pates: fig, pear, and bilberry. The chocolates were distinctive and interesting. The pates convinced me Scharffen Berger has a wider range than just chocolate.