As most people following my blog know by now, Jeffrey is in the middle of a homeschooling unit all about chocolate. We’ve been working it into his math, science, writing, reading, and social studies, and trust me, it’s a sweet topic! When we first started gearing up to do this study, it was important for us to schedule a few field trips to really reinforce what we’ve been learning. One of those great field trips was a chance to head to Chip’s Chocolate Factory and watch the demonstration.
When we first emailed Chip’s about setting up an appointment, the owner, Mike, was very accommodating. He helped us plan our visit, and gave us an idea of what to expect. We decided that to get a nice-sized group, we would open the field trip up to other homeschooled students in our area. We found 12 other students that were interested in attending our sweet day!
Some people may be aware of Chip’s if they live in the Kansas City area. After all, it’s the home of Kansas City Fudge, and has been a part of crown center’s second level since 1983.
If you aren’t from the area, or don’t spend a lot of time up at Crown Center, you may also know Chip’s Chocolate Factory from an episode of Food Network’s “Kid in a Candy Store.”
I couldn’t find a clip from the episode, but I did find this great Crown Center video from youtube, all about Chip’s!
Chip’s is committed to making all of their fudge by hand, and it isn’t introduced to machine processing at all, start-to-finish. On the tour, we started out learning some facts about chocolate. For Jeffrey, a lot of it reinforced what he had learned over the first half of his unit, but some of it was new information to us, like the cost of certain items using chocolate!
During the demonstration, our host, Cliff, showed us examples of a cacao pod, as well as the seeds, nibs, chocolate liquor (which has no alcohol- it’s just puuuuuure chocolate), cocoa butter (used not only in chocolate, but also in suntan lotion and hand cream!), cocoa cake (which is not actually a cake, but really just the word for chocolate that has had all of the cocoa butter pressed out, so it becomes a thick cake- kind of like a large hockey puck, and gets dropped so it turns to powder), and semi-sweet chocolate.
While he was introducing these parts to us, molten chocolate was cooling on marble slabs. Why marble? Because it’s naturally cool, which helps cool the chocolate during fudge production!
Before our presentation started, they poured the chocolate onto the marble table out of a big copper kettle.
Finally, after the presentation, it was time to see if the chocolate cooled enough. Cliff pulled a small hand paddle through the fudge and checked the doneness by seeing how long it took for those holes to close in.
And, it’s finally ready! So he cut the bars off of the chocolate…
Time to paddle! Cliff was a great paddler, tossing the chocolate high into the air. Using this method whips all sorts of air into the chocolate, to make it creamy and fluffy, the perfect fudge!
The chocolate soared higher and higher, and he nearly missed the lights hanging from the ceiling. He quipped “Sometimes the chocolate hits the light. That’s how we make light chocolate…” It quickly preceded another joke, “We have fat free fudge here… you buy the fudge, and you get the fat FREE!” The humor was very engaging, and the kids were really interested in the fudge process.
Cliff tossed the chocolate even higher, doing fun tricks like catching it in his mouth. When it neared the ceiling, he said, “Look! Our quality is through the roof!”
He added “Don’t try this at home. Try this at your neighbor’s home. All the fun, none of the mess.”
A lot of people have been to the St. Louis Arch, but not many have seen the Kansas City Chocolate Arch. “They did a taste test between the two… ours won.”
As the fudge began to come together after more tossing, it was time for Cliff to show us all some things we could make at home, that would be far less messy than throwing fudge!
One easy recipe involved taking melted chocolate, and making chocolate “puddles” on a sheet of waxed paper, then sprinkling on some brightly colored sprinkles, or some M&Ms minis!
He also made several delicious recipes using graham crackers (Take a graham cracker, put a little melted chocolate on, then put a marshmallow on it, drizzle it with melted chocolate, and crumble up some more graham cracker on top), and something called “S’moreos.” This was a similar recipe requiring you to take an Oreo, twist it apart (I know, that could be painful for my readers who happen to be dunkers instead of twisters), and laying the half with the cream on the waxed paper (cream up). Drizzle that with chocolate, add half of a large marshmallow, drizzle it with more chocolate, and crumble the other half of the Oreo on top! Yum!
See those marshmallows in the center, with the chocolate and sprinkles? Those also include a very special ingredient, for brave souls only. I’ll be posting the recipe later this week, but here’s a hint as to what’s beneath that yummy chocolate…
Yes. Those are REAL food-grade crickets. Salt and Vinegar flavor. (The candy store in the lower level of Crown Center also sells Bacon and Cheese flavor, as well as Sour Cream and Onion. You know, if you like your crickets like you like your potato chips). One soul was brave enough to try the chocolate cricket goodness…
The other kids stuck to less crunchy bug-related samples, by snacking on the other recipes he showed. With the extra melted chocolate, he drizzled it over the audiences tongues- no spoons required! Yum.
We also all got to sample plenty of fudge, at different stages of the fudge process… and I NEVER pass up free fudge!
Zach didn’t pass it up, either!
After that, nuts were added to the fudge, and it was almost ready to be put into a loaf! Cliff comes from a long line of “loafers.” Did you know when the fudge hits your shoe, it’s what’s called “Sole food?” Yeah, me neither… these jokes just keep getting better and better! Haha.
The trip to Chips was incredible. I think it really reinforced the principles that we had been learning about in the past month, and it also really helped show us some of the things we had seen photos or videos of, in an actual, physical item (like the pod). Our guide was nice, and incredibly funny, helping drive home the educational points in a fun way.
If you’re in Kansas City, I strongly encourage you to stop by Chip’s Chocolate Factory for a group tour (contact them in advance on their website at http://www.chipschocolatefactory.com) or visit them to buy some fudge! You can also find them on Facebook by looking for Chip’s Chocolate Factory, or on Twitter, @ChipsChcltFctry.
After our tour at Chip’s, we decided to head to Fritz’s for lunch.
If you’ve never been to Fritz’s, it’s a really unique restaurant that delivers food by train!
After Fritz’s, we enjoyed looking around. If you haven’t heard, Crown Center is expecting some new arrivals this spring… the Sea Life Aquarium and a LegoLand! For LegoLand, they have a statue of Legos in Crown Center’s main entrance, and Jeffrey decided to take a guess of how many Legos might be in the statue. The winner gets a family pack of tickets!
Then, the boys had some impromptu learning time, by throwing their Fritz’s hats over the air vents in the front entry of Crown Center. I really enjoyed watching them play and learn themselves. They experimented with placing the hats closer to the vents, and then just tossing them higher into the air stream. They also experimented with putting the hats upside down, right side up, or flattened out, to see if it would cause different flight patterns.
Zach mostly just sat there during the experiments…
We finished the day off with some smoothies, but Zach opted for some chocolate custard!
Special thanks to Chip’s Chocolate Factory for letting us bring our group for a visit! Don’t forget to check out their Facebook, Twitter, and Website!