"Conching" is a fancy word (let's just say it's French, shall we?) for the process of grinding cocoa beans into chocolate liquor. The imported beans used to make the finest Belgian chocolate are conched for 80 hours—up to twice as long as cheaper, lazier chocolate. Slower conching gives chocolate a noticeably smoother, richer flavor. Sure, it takes longer. That's okay, because you eat it faster.
2. What is my chocolate's cocoa butter and chocolate liquor content?
This one's easy: More cocoa butter and chocolate liquor = more better chocolate. This is where your chocolate gets its texture and taste—the epicenter of deep, silky chocolatiness. Cut corners here, and your chocolate as well as your taste buds will be sorry.
3. Has my toffee been blessed with better butter?
Butter is classified according to its butter fat score. Higher quality butter has more butter fat. Whatever your feelings about fat (trust us, more fat is good in this case), you have to accept that eating toffee made with higher-quality butter leads directly to greater general happiness and increased peace on Earth. Simple mathematics, my friends.
4. What kind of sugar sweetens my chocolate?
All sweeteners are not created equal. Beet sugars and corn syrups might be less expensive, but they come at a terrible cost to the chocolatier's eternal soul. The best chocolate is made with only pure cane sugar, which yields a smoother, more rounded flavor.
5. How well do you treat your nuts?
Toffee has so few ingredients that weaseling out on any one spells ruin. Nuts are no exception. They should arrive at the kitchen whole, in tiny amounts that were roasted fresh that very day. Such nuts only are worthy of being laid to rest inside our rich, crumbly toffee.
6. How quickly did you make my chocolates and toffees?
For some chocolate makers, this is a trick question. That because they think they're in some kind of race, so they trot out a bunch of charts and graphs proving their productivity. Unfortunately, there's no way to rush good chocolate. It has to be stirred at lower temperatures, for longer periods of time and in smaller batches, making it possible to work more air into the mix. Sure, it's a lot slower and a little less impressive balance-sheet-wise, but it's the only way to achieve proper tempering. Speaking of which…
7. Has my chocolate been properly tempered?
Tempering is the process of cooling and "curing" the chocolate so that it achieves perfect texture and meltability. As it happens, tempering is best carried out in lower-humidity environments, not unlike the arid, high-mountain climate of Salt Lake City. It's also what sets the master chocolatiers apart from the hacks. Equal parts art and science, proper tempering is the final make-it-or-break-it step in the process of making the best chocolate. If you should happen upon chocolate exhibiting a "bad" temper, send it immediately to its room. ("Room" meaning "garbage.")