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Couple of general recommendations for pre-Christmas shopping


Confectionary products and other sweets

Probably no Christmas Eve’s table can not get along a bowl of Christmas sweets. However, there is not time enough to bake nine or twelve sorts of sweets in today’s hurried times. And that is the turn of finished products from bakeries and confectionary shops which offer a broad supply of such products. Various sorts of fine and durable bakery products, certain confectionary products and sweets, collections of cookies as well as products made of Linzer, whipped, cocoa, nut, almond and coconut pastry or meringue sweets and gingerbreads often with fillings, chocolate products, etc., are offered as Christmas sweets.
What to pay attention to
Although these products do not pose a high risk as regards health unwholesomeness, it is good to apply certain rules when purchasing such products.
Use by date or best before date
Consumers should always verify whether the chosen sweets are expired or the use by date (or best before date) will expire even before Christmas. Certain sorts of cookies are produced during the whole year or in advance before Christmas and that is why cautiousness is useful. In particular customers who will buy these products just before Christmas or during Christmas. Exactly in that time, expired products are offered by some sellers with discount. After expiration of the date indicated on the labelling, only foodstuffs labelled with best before date could be sold (“best before date by”). They have to be unwholesome, offered separately from the other assortments with clear information that these foodstuffs are expired. The Act on Foodstuffs then forbids sale of foodstuffs with expired use by date (wording “use by date”).
Conditions for storing and placing on the market
If such conditions are indicated by the producer, they have to be kept during the whole distribution, not only during the sale itself. It is recommended that the prescribed conditions are kept also by consumers at home. Christmas sweets are often purchased in advance and some quality modifications as regards taste and smell (slightly rancid) could occur due to wrong storing at home, for example at higher temperatures.
The Act on Foodstuffs orders all food business operators who place foodstuffs on the market that they have to discard goods of inappropriate quality, damaged, deformed or contaminated. It should not happen that broken-to-pieces, crumbled or even burnt sweets would be offered for sale.
Composition of products
Pursuant to legislation, a list of all used ingredients and also additives, e.g. colourings shall be indicated on the labelling.
Most frequent mistakes in labelling
Foodstuffs that can be ranked among Christmas sweets are usually of more durable character and they pose lower risk, as regards microbiology – of course, if they are not confectionary products where the situation is different. The most frequent deficiencies detected by the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority during inspections in relation to such fine or durable products are their incorrect labelling, namely missing or incorrect information on the labelling.
Chocolate and chocolate sweets
High temperatures (temperatures over 25 °C could be, with regard to the typical features of chocolate, regarded as high), humid environment or transmission from cold to warm environment are not very beneficial to chocolate, the surface could become wet and chocolate could get consequently spoiled.
Assessment of quality and possible deficiencies
The taste and smell of chocolate should be agreeable, aromatic after raw materials that were used. The chocolate should melt in the mouth. Chocolate of higher quality melt well which is determined by the content of cocoa butter. The fracture should be firm, the surface should be shiny not spotted or with various films. Chocolate should not be broken, melt or deformed in other way which may be an evidence of inappropriate storing temperatures.
Defects of chocolate
Deficiencies incurred in production, during transport or storing may be a cause of defects of chocolate.
  • “Greying” Chocolate is not shiny anymore, it is covered with a fine white film. It could be so-called flowers of sugar, when crystals of sugar or fat flower passed towards to surface of the chocolate. This occurrence itself is not a defect, however, the answer is not unequivocal. It also depends on whether the product is damaged also different way (taste, aroma, appearance changes) which could show to possible violation of health unwholesomeness.
  • Neither chocolate is protected against mould, in case of storing in e.g. humid environment.
  • Rancidity cocoa butter is a non-perishable fat, however, other used raw materials may cause getting rancid (nuts, peanuts, milk, etc.).
  • Pests caterpillar of e.g. Ephestia elutella or Plodia interpunctella (moths) eat and damage the chocolate. These uninvited guests harm many further foodstuffs as well and they can get into chocolate during production or in the shop or during long-term storing at home.

Everybody knows them, but do we really know what are the most known fillings of chocolate bonbons made of?
  • Nougat – Mass made from kernels (peanuts, hazelnuts or almonds) and complemented with further ingredients, in particular chocolate mass. It is made as a coherent layer covering a sheet. After chilling, it is cut into typical cubes. There are light or dark nougats dependent on the ingredients or the degree of roasting the nuts.
  • Brittle – Cut nuts added into a melted caramelised sugar are basic constituents of brittle. Brittle gains various features according to the production method and added ingredients (condensed milk, starch syrup, etc.). It could be soft, hard or so-called foliated.
  • Marzipan – Although confectioners distinguish several sorts of marzipan masses, a mixture of almonds and saccharose are basic ingredients for typical marzipan. There are also variations, such as perzipan mass which are made of apricot kernels deprived of bitter substance or mixtures of both.
  • Truffle – Now we do not mean the delicious mushroom, but sweet confectionary products. Mixture of chocolate or cocoa mass with softening ingredients (butter or milk fat) complemented with alcohol, sugar, etc., are basic ingredients for truffle. The consistency may vary, it depends on the recipe and the use.
  • Fondant – Fondant mass may half-solid up to solid consistency and fine crystalic structure. It is prepared by boiling saccharose solution and starch syrup. Also further raw materials are added into fondant, such as milled kernels, milk ingredients or fruit ingredients, jellying substances and chocolate masses.

Other delicacies
  • Marzipan
    Marzipan is traditional food product with a long and rich history not only in our country but also in other countries, in Germany, in particular. At the beginning, marzipan was available rather to richer people only, however, hand in hand with development of industrial production, it became popular among all. There are various recipes and procedures for production of marzipan. Peeled sweet almonds and sugar are the basic raw materials.
  • Gingerbreads
    Gingerbread is a foodstuff which has been popular for centuries. In our countries it was made already in the times of Charles IV and it has thus a long tradition. At the beginning it was a rare and luxury product and only later it became available to all classes.

Gingerbread is a bakery product ranked among durable bakery goods. Pursuant to implementory Decree of the Ministry of Agriculture No. 333/97 Coll., as amended (hereinafter implementory Decree only) “gingerbread is a baked product made of chemically leavened dough with spices and neutralised invert sugar solution or invert sugar or honey”.