Chocolatiers convene at the Candy House
February 20, 2012
Terry Hicklin, co-owner of the Candy House Gourmet Chocolates, oversees his candy operation as an employee marks each piece of chocolate by hand with his distinctive identifying mark.

The Candy House Gourmet Chocolates was given the honor of hosting the Retail Confectioners International (RCI) 2012 Boot Camp at its factory in Joplin. Terry Hicklin, co-owner of the Candy House and current president of RCI, welcomed 25 students and five instructors from more than 16 states to the four-day educational event that ends on February 23, 2012.

The course is designed for newcomers and veterans alike to improve their techniques for making candy with chocolate as the main ingredient. Participants are studying tempering, chocolate compounds, depositing and enrobing techniques. Also revealed will be secrets to making meltaways, bark, truffles and ganache with emphasis on proper manufacturing practices, sanitation and traceability systems. Hicklin was very complimentary of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce for allowing the use of their facilities for the lecture part of the Boot Camp.

The first session, one of four that ends with a quiz, course evaluations and presentation of certificates, concentrated on the different methods for doing the same thing: tempering or melting chocolate to bring the luster and shine back and insure stability.

Randy Hofberger of R&D Candy Consultants of Burlington, Wisconsin shows how chocolate "sets up." When chocolate crystallizes, it becomes lighter. Hofberger, a former employee of Nestle's, shares his expertise with participants at the RCI 2012 Boot Camp.

"Fat bloom" is the name given to chocolate left in an overheated car, Hicklin said. He explained that this was an example of chocolate not "in temper."

The tempering process begins after the chocolate is melted and then maintained at a temperature of 87-degrees F until ready for use. Methods for melting the chocolate include a microwave method or the use of a Hilliard machine, each suited for a different final application of the chocolate such as for making fillable chocolate shells or solid chocolate candy. Participants gathered around several learning stations where each process was being demonstrated.

Jim Bourne, president of Hilliard's Chocolate System of West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, pauses from his demonstration to answer a question posed by a RCI Boot Camp student.

When asked what makes his chocolate so popular, Hicklin attributed its success to the quality of the product extracted from the cocoa bean that he purchases.

"We use pure cocoa butter," Hicklin said. "No additives."

Explaining how all cocoa beans originate in Africa that are processed for the chocolate industry, Hicklin defended domestic production. "To say Belgian or Swiss chocolate is better is just a marketing tool," he said.

Chocolate comes in 10-pound bars, 200 per pallet, weighing 2,000 pounds. What is added to it after it is tempered gives it its distinctive look and taste.

History of the business

Hicklin along with his wife Pat purchased the Richardson's Candy House in Redings Mill in 1999, admitting that he didn't know a thing about candy, but he did know sales and marketing thanks to a Springfield-based family-run business. And not coincidentally it was a RCI-sponsored school that gave Hicklin the "heads-up" for learning the trade.

His entrepreneurial spirit led to the opening of the 8,400 square foot factory in Joplin and previously a shop in Carthage that has since closed when he expanded operations in Springfield. His company has received several awards, including a Blue Ribbon Award for business excellence from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the first to be awarded to a company in the state of Missouri.

"The education we received in the early part of our business by attending RCI's educational courses was invaluable to our company," Hicklin said. "We are excited to pay it forward to today's confectioners by opening our facility for Chocolate Boot Camp. It is an honor for us that these people came to Joplin to be part of it."

Anyone entering The Candy House Gourmet Chocolates factory and shop at 510 Kentucky Avenue, Joplin, is greeted by a rich aroma of chocolate. The store showcases many different varieties of chocolate, including meltaways and truffles and those containing jellies, creams and nuts. Also offered is chocolate candy that is sugar-free. A special birthday party truffle features a signature fudge love center and is dipped in white chocolate drizzled in pink and topped with sprinkles and a jelly bean. Special for Easter will be the sale of 30 different items, including many varieties of Jelly Bellies. Hours are Mondays through Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays, 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

More about Retail Confectioners International

Retail Confectioners International is a not-for-profit trade association founded in 1917 that currently has 605 members. Based in Springfield, Missouri, RCI has represented the interests of confectionery manufacturing retailers and promoted public interest in their products for more than 90 years.

For more information contact Denise Alvarez, marketing manager at (417) 883-2775 or (800) 545-5381 or go here.

Photos by Vince Rosati

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