Fredericksburg – Fredericksburg is always a fun stop on The Texas Bucket List, thanks to plentiful peaches, beautiful scenery, and of course Texas wine. If you’re looking for something tasty to team up with a Tempranillo, over at Quintessential Chocolates they’ve gone above and beyond with these bon bons.
“I had the opportunity to do something that I had wanted to do all along and that was to make European-style confections,” said owner Lecia Duke. Duke is fittingly enough of Swiss descent but was born and raised in Baytown. Lecia used to come to Fredericksburg with her Mom as a child but life took her around the country.
In the 1980’s she started Quintessential Chocolates and what makes her sweets so unique is it’s bite. Her chocolates are filled with all sorts of spirits, from Texas bourbon, single malt scotch to peach schnapps, each of these candies packs a surprising punch. “It balances well. People have said, ‘I don’t know if Scotch and chocolate work.’, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, they work.’,” joked Lecia.
Lecia started the business in Tennessee but couldn’t move back home to Texas till the 90’s when her product became legal in the Lone Star State. “We are still illegal in over half the country. You can buy cannabis in Washington, DC, but you cannot buy my product” said Lecia. Well, isn’t that crazy? “It does because we use real alcohol, but you cannot get inebriated on this product,” explained Lecia. “To equal the amount of alcohol in our pretend glass of wine, you have to have 3,183 pieces. You’re just not going to get any fun out of this, you’re going to go into a sugar coma, or your body is going to shut down from having to deal with all the food that it takes in the form of sugar and chocolate. And it’s just an indulgence. The federal regulation is one half a percent alcohol per piece by weight. Otherwise, it is classified as adulterated, so we fall into the adulterated category because we’re 2.6% alcohol per piece,” stated Lecia. “You have enough oxygen in the roof of your mouth to burn off the amount of alcohol that’s in that piece, so you can tell distinctively the difference between all of these bourbons and whiskeys,” explained Lecia.
Enjoying a piece of fine chocolate filled with your favorite libation is quite an experience. “To watch guys roll their eyes in the back of the head and drop to their knees. I’m like, ‘Babe, are you okay? Come on up there.’,” joked Lecia.
But the process in making these chocolates with saucy souls is seriously scientific and has been perfected over 200 years in Switzerland. “We built a barrel vault out of sugar crystals, just a few sugar-crystals thick. So it captures the volatiles and it gives us a structure on which to lay the chocolate, a thin coating of chocolate,” explained Lecia.
Lecia then explains just how this fascinating piece of candy comes to be. “We cast the liquid into corn starch and what happens is we form a sugar shell literally on the surface of the liquid. That’s what I’m saying. We take a wooden tray, a hot starch and we make an imprint like you would for a sand casting and then we drop the liquid in. For every molecule of water, there’s three of sugar and one of the suspended alcohol, we drop it all into the corn starch. Cornstarch only pulls the water out, when it does, the sugar crystals lock together and form a crystal and shell that’s paper thin on the surface of the liquid,” explained Lecia. “It’s called a Zuker Krust. Z-U-C-K-E-R K-R-U-S-T. That’s German for sugar shell and that’s what forms on the surface of the liquid. Then we’re able to pick it up and load it on the chocolate line,” said Lecia.
That is one incredible science project. Someone must have been really bored in the chocolate factory one day! “Well, this was actually perfected over 200 years ago in Switzerland. While we were hacking our way through the wilderness, they were doing this,” joked Lecia.
Now when it comes to experiencing one of these chocolates brimming with booze, you have to be careful of spillage.“If you bite and shoot the shot, you’re good. If you put the whole thing in, warm it up, allow it to crush on its own, you don’t know when that’s going to happen and then we can tell because your eyes pop open or you can put the whole thing in and chomp. We don’t care as long as you contain the liquid. Keep your lips closed. We’ll be fine,” joked Lecia.
Dessert with a drink, all in one bite. “We are the only ones in the country making it. And we make it right here in Texas and I’m Texan and I’m proud of it. I’d rather be this than anything in the world. I mean, it’s been one hellacious ride between the laws and the business interruptions, and the challenges thrown at me, but granny always said, ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’,” expressed Lecia.