Artisanal Hand-Crafted Fine Chocolate

Bake the Season Bright!

When I’m not creating Plum Brook Chocolates in December (which is most of the time), I love holiday baking.  Since December is by far our busiest time, I stick to recipes I’ve adapted through the years that I know are not too time consuming and fool-proof with a delicious cut-above-the-rest result.  Here are two of my favorites!

PECAN BOURBON CHOCOLATE PIE

I recently took this pie to a girlfriends holiday lunch and it received rave reviews all around.  Whether you are planning to celebrate at home or travel to be with friends or family, pecan pie is a holiday staple.  The addition of bourbon and chocolate elevates a basic recipe.

 

INGREDIENTS

1 9″ unbaked pie crust
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
2/3 cup best quality dark chocolate chips
1 cup light corn syrup (non gmo preferred)
1/2 cup each light and brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1⁄4 cup melted butter
2 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp bourbon
2 tsp pure vanilla
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1⁄4 cup melted butter
Whip cream and chocolate shavings (or cocoa powder)

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Fit piecrust into 9″ pie plate; crimp edges.  Sprinkle pecans and chocolate chips evenly over piecrust.
2. Whisk together corn syrup and sugars in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil until sugars are dissolved, about 5 min.  Stir occasionally.  Remove from heat a cool slightly.
3. Whisk together eggs, butter, flour, bourbon, vanilla and salt in heatproof bowl.  Slowly drizzle in hot corn syrup, whisking constantly until fully incorporated.  Pour mixture in piecrust.
4. Bake until edges are set and pie puffs up about 45 min. Use a crust protector or foil to cover pie crust edges while baking.  Let pie cool 2 hours.
5. Serve with a dollop of whip cream and chocolate shavings (or cocoa powder) if desired.

 

BOURBON WHISKEY TRUFFLES

This is not actually baking but I had to include this at-home super easy chocolate truffle recipe.  It’s a fabulous dessert offering on its own or as part of a cookie tray.  Bourbon and chocolate make a perfect combination. The results are spectacular!

Be sure to use the very best quality chocolate you can find. The best chocolate for making truffles is block chocolate or chocolate bars.  Do NOT use chocolate chips (they will not melt properly for truffle making).  Guittard is my recommendation. Ghirardelli also makes baking bars. Look in the baking aisle for chocolate with 60% or higher cacao content.

INGREDIENTS

6 oz. whipping cream
14 oz. 61 – 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped*
1 oz. butter, very soft
2 oz. bourbon whiskey
1 cup  cocoa, chop pecans or cocoa nibs for rolling

DIRECTIONS

Bring whipping cream just to boil.

Pour slowly over the chocolate and mix rapidly to create an elastic and shiny mixture. Cool slightly.  Add butter and mix it again with the spatula. Add bourbon and mix to incorporate. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface (to avoid condensation) and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Tip: Pour into a flat, plastic lined shallow baking pan, so the mixture sets evenly and quickly.  Check often.

Dust hands with cocoa powder, scoop the truffle mixture with a tablespoon and shape truffles before rolling in cocoa powder or nuts.

Cover tightly and store truffles at room temperature for 3-4 days or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  Serve at room temperature. Yield: 24-30 truffles.

Happy Holidays to All!

 

The End of Shipping Orders

or…“The Only Thing Constant Is Change”

Our little business has grown and changed since 2013.  Back then we produced a lot more chocolate, sold them in markets and at various fairs and toyed with the idea of opening our own shop (wasn’t happening).

When the pandemic came, both our mail-order and contact-free pickup business grew and created a lot of new customers.   Eventually the volume of shipping orders we received exceeded our production capacity.  And so we made the bittersweet decision to no longer accept ship orders.  We sincerely apologize for any disappointment this may cause.  There are many choices out there and I enthusiastically recommend “Make Mine Fine” to search for fine chocolate options.  https://www.makeminefine.com

We happily continue to make chocolates to fill our growing local orders, offering contact-free pickup and local delivery.  We can occasionally be found at our beloved indoor Litchfield Farm Fresh Market during the winter.

It has been and still is our joy to make chocolates for our customers, friends and family.  Thank you all for your business and support through the years!

Woodbury Talks Interviews Me – Plum Brook Chocolate!

 To Listen Click Here

Epiphany: a sudden revelation or realization of a truth of great significance, usually triggered, sparked, or inspired by something ordinary or commonplace.  An epiphany is a personal paradigm shift, which changes the way one sees everything. (thesausus.com)

“So, it was an epiphany of sorts”.

Vanita was responding to my tale of leaving the corporate world and diving head first into the world of fine chocolate.  Since her interview I’ve given that word considerable thought and yes, epiphany just about sums it up.

I’d never been asked to be a podcast guest before and so, when approached to take part in the Woodbury Talks series about “interesting” residents of our town, I didn’t know what to expect.  I tend to shy away from talking about myself and I knew that would be the hard part. But having spent almost 10 years immersed in the world of fine chocolate I felt up for the task.  Still, entering the small library conference room and taking a seat across from Vanita, who placed a black, vintage microphone between us, I admit a few butterflies flew.  (Like “OMG what have I gotten myself into?” kind-of-thing).

My tendency when interviewed is go stiff and stick with the facts but Vanita has that certain something about her that’s both professional and easy going.  Plus, she always makes you feel important, special.  I found myself totally at ease.  I loved the way she brought in the mysticism of how chocolate captured me, using words like epiphany and unifier.  The whole experience inspired me to step away and view my business through this lens.  

Among the things we discussed were:

  • My chocolate journey that began as a 10 year old in our family kitchen 
  • Fine chocolate versus mass market chocolate
  • Fair-trade and why its important
  • The science of chocolate making

Thank you Vanita Bhalla for hosting and to the staff at the Woodbury Public Library for producing Woodbury Talks.  The series highlights the amazing number of artists, musicians, historians, writers and foodies who call this small town their home.

 

National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day? Yes!

Thursday, August 4 is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day.  Do we really need a special holiday to honor the chocolate chip cookie?  Yes!  This beloved cookie DOES deserve its own special day. There’s no denying that it is a tantalizing and adored treat.  Over 40% of all Americans name the chocolate chip cookie as their favorite, earning it the status of the “American cookie”.  

The chocolate chip cookie attributes it creation to an act of serendipity.  The first known version was made in 1938 in Whitman, Massachusetts at an inn called the Toll House, where chef Ruth Graves Wakefield threw chocolate bar chunks into her cookie dough.  The rest is history.

A warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie from the oven transports me back to happy childhood memories.  Like many, I grew up on the Nestle Toll House cookie recipe.  During the pandemic lock-down I decided to up my chocolate chip cookie game and (many cookies later) I FINALLY found this one.  It is my all-time favorite, go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe courtesy of The Inquiring Chef.  You can’t eat just one.

 Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies 

I use and recommend Guittard dark chocolate chips and always adhere to the recipe advise to refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes before scooping onto a sheet pan to bake.  This never fails to result in a scrumptious cookie that is chewy in the middle and crispy around the edges.  The PERFECT chocolate chip cookie!

No matter how you like your chocolate chip cookie there is a way to celebrate this special day.  Make a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  How about grabbing a friend for a bakery crawl?  You may even find bakeries celebrating the day by giving free samples.  If your favorite chocolate chip cookie is found in the grocery store, go for it!

Did you know:

  • Chips Ahoy debuted in grocery stores in 1968, making it the first commercial chocolate chip cookie.
  • Ben & Jerry’s were the first to introduce Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream in 1984.  It was an instant hit.
  • The chocolate chip cookie was named the official state cookie of Massachusetts in 1997.

However you decide to celebrate, do it with a friend or two and don’t forget the cold milk!

 

Note: Toll Gate photo courtesy of Wikipedia.  Cookie photos courtesy of the NYT Cooking.

Pilgrimage to Theo’s Chocolate, Seattle

It was a perfectly cloudy and drizzly Seattle day when I, along with husband Peter and brother-in-law John, made a visit to the Theo Chocolate Factory.  I had been eagerly anticipating this day since planning our visit to Seattle -now it was here!

Theo

 

Joe Whinney, Theo’s founder, is a rock star in the world of fine, fair-trade chocolate.  His vision to be the first fair-trade certified, organic chocolate maker in North America came to fruition in 2006 when the Theo factory opened in the Fremont neighborhood and had its first run of chocolate bars.  Theo’s is as much about promoting social responsibility as it is about making great chocolate.

 

 

Theo10

 

If it weren’t for a small sidewalk sign pointing the way you could easily pass by the chocolate factory housed in the historic 1905 red brick building (formerly a trolly car station and later Red Hook Brewery).  Walking in we were greeted by a super-friendly staff and the delectable smell of chocolate.  After donning hairnets our group was in the capable hands of Janet, our charming tour guide determined to combine interesting educational information along with lots of delicious samples.

We learned that Theo gets its name from the Cacao tree – Theobroma Cacao, Food of the Gods.  Janet easily engaged us in a discussion about the origin of cacao, the trees, their pods and the harvesting, fermentation and drying processes that take place at the cacao farm.  (For an up close and personal look at a cacao farm and it’s harvesting process click on my post, “The Hacienda Jean Marie”  here).

factory

 

Onto the factory floor where we watched the roasters, grinders and other chocolate machines – some of them vintage – working hard in each area. I felt like I was in the magical world of Willie Wonka!  We watched as the beans went on a fascinating  journey to become a chocolate bar. My favorite area was the large, well-equipped professional kitchen where truffles, toffee and various bon bons were being finished…what envy I had!   It was here that we indulged in some delectable chocolate treats.

The tour ended at the retail chocolate shop which was filled with seemingly endless tempting choices and I left with a bag full.  I loved the Curry Coconut Bar and found their 85% Chili Bar complex and satisfying.  My favorite dipped confection was Big Daddy, layers of gram cracker, marshmallow and burnt caramel in dark chocolate.  To die for!

TheoShop

I left inspired and in awe of “mind-bending” chocolate that is not just satisfying and delicious but totally transparent and socially responsible from farm to consumer.  One can change the world through chocolate and they are. Do not miss Theo’s tour if you ever visit Seattle!

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theochocolate.com

 

 

A New Year!

Happy New Year!  I hope this finds all of you safe and well.  I am happy to report that we are well, continue to take strict precautions per CDC recommendations and are open and taking orders.  We feel blessed for our health, for the support of our customers, family and friends and for Plum Brook Chocolate.  Thank you!

My commitment to you is to continue to create and pack delicious chocolates in a safe, super clean, sanitized environment and to provide exceptional service. Online ordering is available and we will continue to offer contact free pickup in Woodbury.

The chocolate supply chain continues to experience interruptions. If I need to substitute, my goal is to keep the overall flavor of your favorites.  Some of this has been a blessing in disguise as I’ve discovered some wonderful alternatives! Like Grand Cru Valrhona from Madagascar is an AMAZING chocolate with tart raspberry undertones that I am using to craft some of my solids.

Whatever chocolate I chose you can be sure it is fair trade certified, organic and/or traceable back to the farm in which it was grown.  I work only with companies that make the well being of cacao farmers a top priority – along with growing, harvesting and roasting the best chocolate!

I hope you’ll enjoy our offerings as much as we enjoy making them for you.  We move forward together wishing you all a little Peace, Love and Chocolate.

Pam Dorgan

Chief Chocolatier and Owner, Plum Brook Chocolate

 

Moving Forward

Updated March 3, 2020

As the pandemic continues to challenge us all, the liveliness of Plum Brook Chocolate depends on the safety of ourselves and our wonderful customers. I am happy to report that we are well, continue to take strict precautions and are open and taking orders.  The overwhelming support of our customers, family and friends has been so appreciated.  Thank you!

Our commitment to you is to continue to create and pack delicious chocolates in a safe, super clean, sanitized environment and to provide exceptional service. Online ordering is available and we will continue to offer contact free pickup in Woodbury.

The chocolate that I use for most of my creations (Guittard) has been experiencing supply chain interruptions with my supplier. Where possible I am substituting wonderful Valrhona chocolate, also traceable back to where it was grown.  In some cases such as my white chocolate truffle creations I have no available substitute for the spring season as of yet.  This is why favorites such as Sugar Shed Maple and Ginger Rum are not available at this time.  Hopefully this will change!

We move forward together wishing you all a little Peace, Love and Chocolate.

Pam Dorgan, Chocolatier

Chocolate-Making in the Time of COVID-19

 

HeartsPBC

 

These are unsettling times. I hope you all  are taking good care of you and yours, getting outside, and checking on your neighbors and friends.  I wanted to let you know how our small team is handling things here in the time of COVID-19.  We are open, taking stringent precautions and are here for you.

Because we are in food manufacturing (we are certified food handlers) we have always followed impeccable hygiene and sanitation practices. At our certified kitchen we will be making chocolate, packing it up and delivering it with our usual utmost care, and following current CDC recommendations.

For delivery or pick up click here.  Or give Pam a call at 203.491.6041.

As always please don’t hesitate to reach out to Pam personally at pam@plumbrookchocolate.com or by phone 203.491.6041.

April 21 – UPDATE   I am hoping you and yours are healthy and hanging in there.  For us with the Litchfield Farmer’s Market closed for now (stay tuned here), events cancelled, orders put on hold as celebrations are postponed, production came to a grinding halt.

But then something changed!  The Easter season got very busy.  It became another Christmas-time business and we found ourselves happily running extra production, working longer hours, packing boxes and setting up a porch-side pick up.

So after taking a break we are back open.  We’ve put together a few chocolate “packages” to make staying home a little easier.  Treat yourself and your loved ones to let them know you’re thinking of them.  To order click here.

From the bottom of my heart I am wishing you all the best.  My continued thanks for your support and patience in this uncertain time.   XO, Pam

Elegant Mendiants – Inspired by Monks!

Origin of the Mendiant

Mendiant is French for a beggar of alms, and refers to the four orders of mendicant monks. The chocolates known as mendiants are thin rounds of crisp perfectly tempered chocolate. The word derives from the Latin root mendicans, which means “begging,” in reference to those beggars of alms — monks or friars in religious orders who adopted a lifestyle of poverty for the purpose of preaching and ministry.

MendiantsTraditional Mendiants

Historically, mendiants were offered at Christmas time and have four traditional toppings representing the white, gray, brown, and purple robes of the Dominican, Franciscan, Carmelite, and Augustinian friars.

Modern Day Mendiants

Modern-day mendiants are offered year round and sprinkled with any number of tasty and beautiful ingredients, and in countless combinations.

Recently perusing past lessons from my Ecole Chocolat training I came across the chapter on mendiants and decided to give them a try. They are fun and easy to make!

MendiantThumbnailHazelnut Espresso Dark

Here’s my take on our Hazelnut Espresso Dark Bark.  I made these for an art gallery opening recently and they were a big hit!  Give them a try.  The possibilities are endless but keep the toppings to no more than 3 or they get a bit messy looking.  Perfect for parties and gift-giving!

 

Single-Origin Chocolate – What Does it Mean and Does it Matter?

Cacao Tree – Hacienda Jeanmarie in Aguada Puerto Rico

CacaoTree2

Single-origin chocolate is chocolate that’s made from one variety of cacao harvested in one region, small family-owned farm or even a specific country.  Cacao is a plant whose beans take on the characteristics of the region where it’s grown. This is called terroir.  Like grapes grown for wine, cacao from specific regions can be fruity, earthy, floral or berry to name a few.  Tasting single-origin chocolate is a fun, sensory-driven experience.

When cacao from different regions or countries is blended, the effect of terroir is lost. That doesn’t mean that blended chocolates are not as good. In fact, blends are used by some of the world’s finest chocolate makers and chocolatiers. Some cocoa beans that are ordinary on their own can be great in blends. (Beware that the big mass market producers will use blends to improve the flavor of inferior cheaper beans).  

While I love the distinct flavor of single-origin chocolate, I use Guittard Chocolate blends for most of my creations because their chocolate is of the highest quality, some of the best in flavor, always fair-trade and transparent (able to trace the crop directly back to the source. This term can relate to either blends or single-origin).  Their beans come from small farms with long family traditions and they work closely with cacao growers to develop desired chocolate flavors in the beans.

Single-Origin Peruvian Truffles with Peruvian Cacao Nibs

Peru Truffle

Inspired by my trips to Cusco, Peru and the Hacienda Jeanmarie in Aguada, Puerto Rico, I’m using single-origin chocolate for two new truffle creations this season. And our solid Plum Brook Dragonflies will now be crafted from single-origin chocolate from different countries.  They are like a passport to the world of chocolate!

At Plum Brook Chocolate our mission is to create fine quality, handmade artisan chocolate while enriching the local community and the communities of cacao farmers far away.