The train ride was quite long, but we got in a lot of good napping and reading. At the last leg, we met a kind Swiss couple who filled us in on a bit of the language, customs, and affordable sights to see. They were well-traveled and remarked politely on a lack of American interest/awareness about the wider world. This has been a common theme in conversations with a variety of people from a variety of countries. It has been very interesting to hear their perspective and share our observations and thoughts.
Once we arrived, we checked into our hostel. Our travel buddies were already in Switzerland and mentioned how expensive it is. They were not wrong. We couldn't find CS hosts (sad face), so we wound up booking a hostel. Below, you'll find a picture of the view from our window. My camera failed to pick up one of the mountains, but you get the idea. I am loving the hostel experience. We taught and played Roll through the Ages with a couple of freshly graduated Manitobans. We then had a lengthy conversation with a woman from Sydney and another from Nova Scotia. I love the culture where it is just acceptable to walk up and ask if you can join someone's game or sit down and gracefully weave yourself into a conversation.
I'd head about touring a Swiss chocolate factory on this morning's walk to the train station, but when I researched it online it would have been 2.5 hours to get there and it is actually operated by Nestle. We have limited time here, so I looked into other options. A local hotel offered the chance to watch the process and perhaps try your hand at it. Yes!
First, the chef showed us some cocoa beans and talked through a video that explained the process of harvesting and roasting them. I didn't realize it, but the pod containing cocoa beans is split open and harvested by hand. The initial fermentation process is also done by hand. Chocolate is very valuable! He then explain the ingredients in the three types of chocolate. Cocoa powder + a little cocoa butter + sugar + vanilla = dark chocolate. Obviously the best, by the way. Cocoa powder + cocoa butter + sugar + milk powder = milk chocolate. I was surprised to learn that milk chocolate generally does not contain vanilla. Another point in the dark column. Cocoa butter + sugar + milk powder + vanilla = white chocolate. Confirming my suspicions, white chocolate is not real chocolate because it must contain both cocoa powder and cocoa butter. To me, it's also the least tasty of all the chocolates.
|Examples of chocolate types, cocoa processing, and ingredients|
We got to try a sample of each and also a piece of 100% cocoa dark chocolate. The chef said it wasn't very tasty for eating, but good to know about. I don't know if it was leftover sugar in my mouth, but I thought it tasted just fine! Next, he showed us a machine invented by Lindt that revolutionized the production of chocolate, allowing for the very smooth consistency in fine chocolates. It spends 72 hours being processed in a liquid form! Finally, it was time to learn how molded chocolates, in this case little mountains, were made. First, he dusted the containers with a special powder to look like snow. Next, he filled the mold with chocolate.
He would strike it several times with an implement to ensure all the bubbles were out and clean the top. Finally, he poured the chocolate back into the melting bin, leaving just a shell. He put this in the refrigerator and turned to repeating the process with a big mold (a shoe in this case, but think your hollow chocolate Easter bunny), only with more tapping and partial filling. Once this was emptied, leaving just the coating, it went in the fridge and the first mold came back out.
He piped a caramel filling into each one, then poured chocolate over the top once more. He tapped a bit, scraped the top and sides, and put in back into the refrigerator. The shoe came back out, got a second coating, and went back in. He pulled an already finished tray of caramels out and we got to sample them while he showed us taking the mold off the shoe and the completed product.
After that, we got to sample more chocolate, filled with all kinds of goodies. He closed by answering questions while he dipped milk chocolate coated hazelnut/almond paste lollipops into either dark or milk chocolate then allowed us to add our own toppings - pistachios, coconuts, the Swiss version of M&Ms, dark chocolate balls, and/or white chocolate balls. Om nom. The staff was extremely sweet and accommodating - it's typically a minimum of 10 for the chocolate tour, but we got a "private" show(the first one they'd ever done!).
After spending the aforementioned time gaming, talking, and blogging, it is time to head to bed. I'm positive a hammock has been added to my list of things to eventually purchase for our home. I hope you're finding your own little slice of heaven.
Have a sweet day,