By SUSAN GUYNN
The Frederick News-Post
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Forget long lines at the polls, hanging chads, and red states and blue states. There is a sweet alternative to this year’s election process — chocolate truffles.
Chocolate is a bipartisan favorite. It’s something Democrats, Republicans, Independents and those of any other political persuasion can agree on.
So Chef Randy Olmstead, of The Perfect Truffle in Frederick, has started a campaign to see which party or presidential candidate will get the chocoholic’s vote. Customers can choose the Democratic truffle, decorated with donkeys, or the Republican truffle, decorated with elephants.
Other than that, “they are identical in every way, shape and form,” Olmstead said. Standing behind a display case filled with his signature truffles, including displays of the election truffles, Olmstead noted that the Democrat truffles are on the left, Republican truffles to the right, “with a narrow aisle between them.”
“They come from the same batches,” Olmstead said. As the truffles are made, transfer sheets with the two party designs are placed on the trays of warm truffles. The transfers are made from white cocoa butter, which Olmstead said is a component of the chocolate itself.
“Cocoa butter is the fat part of the chocolate,” he said. The warm chocolate melts the fat and it becomes part of the chocolate again.
This is the second presidential election Olmstead has offered the truffles. Four years ago, “patrons of Frederick actually predicted who the president would be,” he said. He kept daily tallies of how many of each was sold, with a final tally of 376 Democrat truffles and 368 Republican.
“It was close. We were pretty spot on, a little tighter than the national but within a few percentage points,” Olmstead said. “We had a lot of lively debates” among customers. Olmstead, however, remained neutral in those debates, and in those taking place now during this year’s truffle campaign.
“Typically, we’re always talking chocolate here. I remain nonpartisan,” he said.
Each election truffle purchased counts as a vote. As of Tuesday, the vote was 33 Democrats and 24 Republican. He recalled one person purchased a Republican truffle, but when hearing the Democrat truffle was outselling it, he purchased a few more Republican truffles. They cost $1.75 each.
Olmstead has had requests for orders from individuals in other states, too. “Once the weather cools, we’ll start shipping to individuals in North Carolina,” who learned of his election truffles campaign, he said.
Keeping true to his middle-of-the-road position, the chocolates are made with 58 percent dark chocolate. And the chocolates he uses to make the truffles are like a United Nations of chocolate — imported from France, Belgium and Switzerland. The Swiss have perfected the art of making milk chocolate, Olmstead said. Belgium chocolate has an earthier, more robust chocolate flavor, and French chocolate is more aromatic.
Olmstead uses dark chocolate to make the truffles outer shell. “The centers can be a combination of white, dark and milk chocolate,” he said. All of the chocolate is made on-site.
A pastry chef by training, Olmstead said he is a chocolatier specialist by choice. Seven years ago, after completing his pastry arts training, he decided to give up puff pastry and tarts for chocolate, he said. He opened The Perfect Truffle five years ago.
“I was fascinated with the chemistry of (chocolate) in school … why it worked, why it didn’t,” he said.
“The science of chocolate is complicated,” taking the product from solid to liquid and back to solid again requires exact temperatures and timing. Artisanal chocolates, such as those made at The Perfect Truffle, are an up-and-coming art form, he said. “It’s starting to take off and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Last year, he made “undecided” truffles, decorated with red, white and blue flags. “We sold 54 of those,” Olmstead said. He opted not to offer those this election year.
Olmstead also makes Presidential Mints, based on the chocolate designed by former White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier. Olmstead, who received his formal pastry arts training at L’Academie de Cuisine, studied under Mesnier.
Mesnier’s chocolates were served at White House state dinners and other functions. He asked Olmstead to make the chocolates for him, with a few minor changes in the design. “I make them for him and he allows us to sell them in the shop. We are the only ones who make them,” Olmstead said. The chocolate Presidential Mints sell for $2 each and are about the size of another famous mint candy, York Peppermint Patties.
Olmstead said he decided to make the election truffles as a way to “sweeten up” the negativity of the presidential election campaigns.
Each Tuesday, through Election Day, Olmstead will post updates on the election truffles campaign on The Perfect Truffle Facebook page.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)