Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break Adventures: Purdy's Factory Tour

When I was small, a highlight of Easter was when Mom would tuck Purdy's Peanut butter eggs into our baskets.  Rather than loads of cheap chocolate, my Mom knew how to build a basket well-smaller amounts of amazing chocolate to be savoured and enjoyed.

I'm a long time Purdy's chocolate fan.  When we'd be in the city on vacation, the trip always included a stop at Purdy's for a chocolate dipped ice cream bar or some other confection.  Purdy's heart shaped chocolates were favours at my wedding, and I used a Easter bunny (on a motorcycle, no less!) to tell Hubs that I was pregnant.  When Kevin was old enough, I'd plot ways to get to a Purdy's before Easter to fill his basket with some of the same confections I enjoyed as a child.

When we finally moved closer to Vancouver and I realized that I could go on a factory tour, I was ecstatic!  I had missed it because of my birthday, but I'd go next year, right?  Wrong.  The factory tours suddenly were no longer.

So when Purdy's offered to show Kevin and I their factory over Spring Break, can I even slightly convey how completely and utterly stoked we were?

On came the funky hairnets and white lab coats, and before we knew it there we were, in the bowels of chocolate heaven.

It's Charles!
Mom, can we take Charles home?
We learned so much about Purdy's, and chocolate making in general, just in the factory tour. Firstly, all their milk and butter comes from a local farm and they source out other local ingredients when possible. Kevin was especially impressed that the cream fillings have actual fruit in them, not just artificial flavourings.

Making Caramel, Purdy's chocolate, chocolate factory,Vancouver
Straining the caramel
Also, did you know that the names of the products at Purdy's have meaning? The Todd bar was named after Todd, who not only invented the bar but who makes the caramel! We had some good discussions about the dangers of the job when Kevin told them how I burned myself making caramel last year. It's dangerous work, and these things are HOT.

Making Peanut Brittle!First bite!

Purdy's also makes things in fairly small batches so that they can keep the quality very, very high.  We happened to arrive just when they had finished making some peanut brittle.  Of course, we couldn't resist having a taste!  I thought those tables were so interesting-hot water runs through them when the brittle is  just poured so they can spread it out, but then cold water is to cool it down.

Kevin had some questions, of course.  He had jokingly wondered if there were Oompa Loompas ("they would be purple!") and a chocolate fountain.  No Oompa Loompas, just a very dedicated, highly trained staff-and no chocolate fountain, but there IS chocolate piped from holding tanks to the machines.

"OH, so if a pipe bursts you could just open your mouth and drink the chocolate," Kevin sighed. Gary, who is Purdy's head chocolatier and was our tour guide, laughed.

"That has happened before, and it's not that much fun."

Okay, so no chubby kids getting stuck in the pipes like on Willy Wonka, or trained squirrels that would've decided if we were good or bad eggs.  Likely a good thing.

bunnies!Assembly Line

With Easter coming, the factory was busy at work, turning out chocolate bunnies and filled baskets!  A worker sprays the inside of these moulds with chocolate (from what looks like a paint gun, really cool!), then they are attached magnetically to a machine that spins them.   Gary also stopped to show us the Caramilk secret.

Yes. We now know what gets the caramel INSIDE the chocolate, but it's a secret, so I can't tell you.  Shhhh.

hot off the assembly line
Haystacks, fresh off the assembly line. OH MY. These are my new favourite treat.

What was next after the factory tour? Stick around, because we then made our way to the kitchen, where Gary and Kevin cooked up the MOST wonderful chocolate confection I've had in ages.  We learned all about how to temper chocolate, the difference between ganache and gianduja, and some quick tips about making chocolate treats at home.  Those secrets I CAN share, and will in posts to come!

Disclosure: I was not paid to blog about this experience, nor did Purdy's cover our travel costs.  They did spoil us rotten and give us a bunch of chocolate treats to enjoy!  We paid our own expenses to travel on the ferry, etc.  

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