Frequently Asked Questions About Chocolate and Some Unexpected Answers
Dean's Sweets Maple Truffle

Frequently Asked Questions About Chocolate and Some Unexpected Answers

Frequently asked questions can be, um, frequent and repetitive, even if they are about chocolate. If you’ve worked in retail of any kind, you know how that is. However, it is possible to enjoy a real conversation with real people and even with frequently asked questions, sometimes the answers can be unexpected, which is where the fun is. 

Here are ten frequently asked questions we get at Dean’s Sweets:

1. What is a truffle, anyway? And what is a buttercream?

A chocolate truffle is a small, round confection made from a rich mixture of chocolate ganache, which is a blend of chocolate and cream. The ganache is often rolled into a ball and then coated with something like cocoa powder, or, as in the case of Dean’s Sweets truffles, dipped in even more chocolate. 

Dean's Sweets vanilla buttercream
Dean’s Sweets vanilla buttercream

A buttercream is a combination of butter and sugar, similar to a frosting you might put on a cake.

2. Are your chocolates peanut and tree-nut free? 

Yes! Everything we make is free of peanuts and tree nuts. We started Dean’s Sweets as a nut-free chocolatier and almost two decades later, that’s still how we operate. Our facilities and all our machinery have never seen a nut in their lives. We take this all very seriously. When we’re asked about being nut-free, it’s always hard to leave out the joke that our co-owners, Kristin and Dean, are somewhat nutty. And sometimes, depending on the audience, we might throw that in there too. If you’d like to know more, here’s a previous blog post about our no-nut chocolate.

3. Are your chocolates gluten free?

Yes! As of the summer of 2023, all of our chocolates are gluten free. We are happy to say that everyone can feel safe eating our chocolates, from people with celiac disease to those choosing to avoid glutens for any reason.

4. How long will my chocolates be fresh?

There are two answers to this question depending on which chocolates we’re talking about:

  • Truffles, caramels, and buttercreams: These chocolates are best within 8-10 weeks of purchase. If you buy them in late October, they are great for Christmas, but I wouldn’t want you to give them as a gift at Valentine’s Day.   
  • All other chocolate, for example, bars, squares, seasonal “molded” chocolate: Properly stored, these chocolates can last for several months to a few years. Dark chocolate generally has a longer shelf life compared to milk or white chocolate due to its lower moisture content. 
Dean's Sweets Graham Cracker Crunch Chocolate Squares

5. How should I store my chocolate? Does it need to be refrigerated?

Room temperature is perfectly fine for chocolate. There’s no need to refrigerate. It’s best to store the chocolate in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and strong odors. And while you may be tempted to freeze chocolate, the results are not good. Chocolate that’s been frozen and thawed can “bloom,” which is a polite way to say that they turn foggy and gray and maybe even soggy. 

6. What’s in the maple truffle? What’s in the Maine moonshine truffle? 

Sometimes, when we hear this question, What’s in the maple truffle?, we want to say “um, juniper berries!” or “organic wood chips,” but we don’t. We realize the question might be: is it dark chocolate or milk chocolate inside? Or what else might be in the truffle besides maple? All fair questions! So here’s what’s in the maple truffle:

  • White chocolate (yes, surprising, right?)
  • Cream
  • A little bit of Meyer’s rum (also surprising!)
  • Organic Maine maple syrup (not that surprising). That’s it! So yummy!
Dean's Sweets maple truffle
Dean’s Sweets maple truffle

For the Maine moonshine truffle, I wonder if people are worried about how much alcohol (moonshine) is in the truffle, i.e., is it liquid? Will they get drunk? Or, if not that, are they giving us too much credit for being poetic, as in, “we sprinkle our chocolates with fairy dust and moonshine.” The answer I always give is: 

Maine moonshine has a 56% semi-sweet chocolate ganache inside with a 70% dark chocolate outside (coverture). We use a locally distilled moonshine from Maine Craft Distilling. It’s not an overwhelming alcohol flavor (not liquid, it’s chocolate). It’s a very nice mild addition that gives the truffle an extra smoothness and rich quality to it. 

7. What are your darkest chocolates?

Most of our truffles have a 56% semi-sweet ganache, dipped in 70% dark chocolate. A few truffles, however, will have a slightly darker taste due to the flavors we add to it. Those are: coffee, cayenne, and stout. These combinations bring out the good kind of bitterness that you would find in beer, chocolate, and coffee. Ginger also enhances the darkness of the chocolate, which you will find in the (surprise) ginger truffle, the wasabi ginger sake, and the dark & stormy. 

Dean's Sweets Midnight 80 Chocolate Squares

We also recently added an 80% chocolate square, called Midnight 80. It’s our only chocolate from El Salvador (everything else we make is made with Callebaut, a Belgian chocolate). We looked everywhere to find the best 80% chocolate possible, and this one is smooth and luscious. Midnight 80 is also soy-free, which is unusual, so there is no soy lecithin in this chocolate.

8. Am I a bad person for liking milk chocolate better?

We know the answer to this one, right? Yes, of course, you’re a bad person for preferring milk chocolate. And so am I! No, wait, you’re not a bad person at all and neither am I. That’s better. Sure, there are some health values in some kinds of dark chocolate, but really, who’s eating chocolate for its health? Chocolate is made to be enjoyed, whether that’s dark, milk, white, or purple. Period. The end. 

9. What’s your favorite?

Everyone at Dean’s Sweets gets asked this a lot. Our best-selling chocolate is our Maine sea salt caramel in both dark and milk chocolate. That’s been true for many years. And we all love that. But beyond the caramel, here are some staff truffle picks:

  • Jazmin: Chai is Jazmin’s favorite. And she’s not alone. Many other team members would echo her sentiments. The raspberry truffle comes in a close second. 
  • Karen: The classic, vanilla buttercream, dipped in dark chocolate, hits home for Karen. Depending on her mood, though, she might add the Tequila lime truffle to her mix.
  • Lucy: It’s London fog for Lucy. It’s our only layered truffle, with an Earl Grey ganache with a layer of vanilla buttercream. Lucy has great taste!
  • Matt: #1 Lemon apricot chevre; followed closely by #2 London fog, and on the heels of #3 Tequila lime.
  • Maureen: Espresso buttercream in dark chocolate. Maureen starts her chocolate shift very early some days and this can also be a mid-morning pick-me up. 
  • Sara: Chai is at the top of the list for Sara. If forced to choose another favorite, she may opt for the cherry chipotle which has a pretty good spicy kick to it.
  • Jamie: Needham/coconut. It’s a chocolate ganache with coconut mixed in. “It’s perfect,” she says.
  • Kristin: Lemon apricot chevre gets another vote from Kristin. It’s tangy and citrusy and contrasts nicely with the dark chocolate. Some days though, it’s the double dark, just to mix things up.
  • Dean: Coffee or ginger; dark & stormy, too. He eats everything chocolate all the time, for real. 
Dean's Sweets London Fog Truffle
Dean’s Sweets London fog truffle with a layer of Earl Grey tea ganache and vanilla buttercream

10. Can I work at Dean’s Sweets?

This question is frequently asked because the customer has visions of eating chocolate all day and helping as a taste-tester. The answer is an immediate, yes, please come work for us! And then if things get serious, I ask a few questions in return: Can you tie a ribbon? How’s your handwriting? Do you enjoy knitting or other crafty sorts of things? Do you like to cook?

If you ever want a job at Dean’s Sweets, I can unpack those questions a little bit more, but partly we ask about knitting and crafting because there are people who really enjoy repetitive kinds of activities. It’s soothing. Chocolate making (and retail) is a little bit like that. It’s frequently doing and saying a lot of the same things over and over. But to the crafty chocolatier and the clever retailer, it’s all about making real connections with people while doing something we love. Answering frequently asked questions, when done with honesty and humor, adds to the fun!

What are your questions about chocolate? Let us know!