Artisanal Hand-Crafted Fine Chocolate

Moving Forward

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 now 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.

For more specific updates on where to find Plum Brook Chocolate click here.  We will keep “Where to Find Us” updated as things change.

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

 

UPDATE NOV 17 

We are now approaching our busiest time of the year and this holiday season will be different for sure.

The liveliness of Plum Brook Chocolate depends on the safety and health of ourselves and our customers. With this in mind, in addition to on-line orders, we are offering contact-free pickup in Woodbury as well as complimentary delivery (orders $20 or over) in Woodbury. 

Cacao is grown on a narrow band no more than 20 degrees from the equator (80% on family farms of less than 10 acres) and made into chocolate in various locations. It is a long supply chain that has been affected all along the way by COVID-19. This is why you may see “unavailable” next to some of our products.

We encourage you to place your orders in advance online or by calling 203-491-6041.  We ship USPS priority mail and there have been some delays.  Order early!

Your support during this time is very much appreciated. We are going to work as hard as we can to keep up during this busy season and fullfill all of your orders.  There will surely be times when orders get backed up or I can’t pick up the phone right away, so we just ask for your patience and understanding. Together we will make this another delicious Holiday Season… full of Peace, Love, & Chocolate.

Pam Dorgan, Chocolatier

Plum Brook Chocolate

Chocolate-Making in the Time of COVID-19

 

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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

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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.

 

At The Amazing Maras Salt Ponds, Peru

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Since this post 3 years ago, I visited the Maras Salt Ponds just a few weeks ago.  Words cannot describe the magnificence of the Sacred Valley we traveled from Cusco to Machu Picchu. It was the trip of a lifetime!

I am excited about the next chocolate season and using Maras Salt in one or more of my creations. The  chocolate I had in Peru was out-of-this-world so I’d like to do a combination of Peruvian Chocolate and Maras Salt. Yum!  It is an earthy, robust, salty salt.  Plum Brook Chocolate won the 2016 CT Specialty Food Awards in the Chocolate Category for our salted caramels with Maras Salt!  Who knows what next season will bring?

Maras

Here I am at the Maras Salt Ponds, Peru

Original Post: This week we made a fresh batch of salted caramel topped with Inca salt brought to me by my brother-in-law John and his wife Helen who recently returned from a trip to Peru. Maras is a town along the slopes of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and known for its salt evaporation ponds. People here still collect salt from the ponds just as they did thousands of years ago.

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Peruvian women collecting salt from Maras salt pond. (photo courtesy of JC Dorgan)

Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. This highly salty water emerges at a spring from the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds. Maras is near the city of Cusco that was once the capital of the Inca Empire. Set at an altitude of 11,150 feet, it’s the gateway to the Inca Trail that ends at the mountain citadel of Machu Picchu.

Peru and cacao share an age-old intimate relationship. It has been said that the cacao shrub originated in the foothills of the Andes where it was domesticated then introduced by the Maya in Central America and Mexico.  Today Peruvian cacao is recognized for its superb flavor and exports are on the rise.

So it seemed very fitting that we give this ancient salt a try!  Flor de Sal is a very robust and salty salt, more so than the milder French Fleur de Sel we usually use to top our caramels.

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Plum Brook Chocolate Salted Caramels topped with Maras “Flor de Sal”. 

We love the taste of Maras salt on our caramels!

UPDATE!  Our salted caramels with Maras salt received the blue ribbon – first place – in Connecticut from the CT Specialty Foods Awards 2016!

Bourbon Whiskey Truffles

Tis the season of entertaining, merry-making and cookie baking.  Why not add interest to your cookie platter with the addition of delicious homemade truffles?  You will delight your guests and have fun making them.

Bourbon and Chocolate are one of those matches made in heaven.  A natural pairing.  I can’t keep my bourbon truffles in stock!  It is such a great combination I thought you all would like to give the flavors a try at home.  And this at-home recipe is about about as easy as it gets.  The results are spectacular!  Be sure to use the best quality chocolate you can find.

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As far as the bourbon, use whatever you have on hand!

BOURBON WHISKEY TRUFFLES
Yield: 12-15 truffles

Ingredients

4 oz. whipping cream
7 oz. semisweet or dark chocolate (61 – 65%), finely chopped
1/2 oz. butter, very soft
1 oz. bourbon whiskey
1/2 cup  cocoa

Method

Bring whipping cream just to boil.

Pour slowly over the chocolate and mix rapidly to create an elastic and shiny mixture. Add butter and mix it again with the spatula. Add bourbon whiskey and mix to incorporate.

 

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Let ganache set in the refrigerator. Dust hands with cocoa powder, scoop ganache with a tablespoon and shape truffles before rolling in cocoa powder. Serve at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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Perks of the Job – Newport, Rhode Island!

 

Wedding Table Favors

 

We opened our season a little early this year to make and deliver chocolate favors for 160 special guests at the beautiful wedding of Hilary Dees who married Rickey Rodriquez last month on the campus of Salve Regina College in Newport, RI. Yes it is a challenge to make and deliver chocolate in hot weather but for Hillary an exception was gladly made!

The title of this blog is “Perks of the Job” but then there’s the old saying “Find a job you love and never work another day in your life”.  Well I guess that means I don’t really have a job!  I love what I do and to be able to do it and play a part in such a special celebration doesn’t seem like work at all.  Instead it was 3 days spent in lively, historical and gorgeous Newport with old friends and fun people coming together from everywhere for Hilary’s special day.

 

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The ceremony took place in an intimate and lovely chapel right next to the Ochre Court, a perfectly maintained historical building from the days when well-heeled families built their summer homes along the coast.  Now famously known as the Cliff Walk.   It was here that the reception was held, and walking into the festivities felt like a scene right out of the Great Gatsby. Champagne poured into elegant flutes, delicious hors d’oeuvres passed by uniformed servers on the back lawn sloping down to the rocky coastline.

 

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Here I am with my hubby Peter and caramel maker extraordinaire in front of the elegant Ochre Court on our way into the festivities.  It was a fabulous time!

The big bonus for us was an overnight visit from our daughter Genny who jumped at the opportunity to add Newport to her New England travel blog,  The Waterfowl.  Visit her Newport post HERE!

We managed some fun outings during Genny’s visit, walking around, eating good food and exploring some of Newport’s many neighborhoods.  One historical home we passed had a sign that read:

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I couldn’t resist this photo of Peter and Genny in front of the 1750s confectioner’s shop and home!

 

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It was a  perfect weekend full of sweet memories. It was also an inspiration for the start of yet another chocolate season.  Season number FIVE!  Where will it lead me?  Who knows but if it’s more travel to new and fun places, and friends and family that works for me!

 

Wedding Favors

 

The Hacienda Jeanmarie – Post Hurricane Maria

OPTIMISM & PASSION AFTER HURRICANE MARIA

I’ve just returned from visiting Puerto Rico’s west coast and am full of inspiration!  It is inspiring to personally witness the optimism and resiliency of the western folks since the ravage of Hurricane Maria.

The Hotel Cofresi, oldest on the coast, was severely damaged and reopened more beautiful than ever in mid December after much hard work.  They opened their doors immediately after the storm to citizens and FEMA staff to offer shelter and provide meals.  They gave FEMA a headquarters to work from.  Here I am at the newly renovated lobby and bar right on the water!

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HACIENDA JEANMARIE – A YEAR LATER

And nowhere has passion and optimism been more on display than at the Hacienda Jeanmarie.  Last year I posted my excitement (Hacienda Jeanmarie – Visiting a Puerto Rican Cacao Farm) to meet Juan Echevarria, leader of the Puerto Rico Cacao Project, and visit his family’s beautiful farm, the Hacienda Jeanmarie.

The project’s goal is to build a working cooperative that connects small organic Puerto Rican cacao famers to the fine chocolate industry through direct, transparent relationships. Many farmers on the island joined the project and the fine cacao industry was beginning to take hold again in PR.

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At The Hacienda Jeanmarie February 2017

 

Hurricane Maria devastated most of this hard work. Juan’s large farm, purchased in 2014, is 90% lost. The smaller, old family farm (which I visited in 2016) survives. Of his 30,000 trees before Maria there are now 3,000.

 

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The Hacienda Jeanmarie – AFTER Hurricane Maria – FEB 2018

Juan has started to produce new trees to replant for his and other farms and has resumed holding workshops to teach others. Since cacao trees take at least 2 1/2 years to make pods, he and other farmers in the project are targeting 2021 to be back. This target assumes all goes well and requires at least 3 full time workers at his farm.

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Juan teaching students about the Cacao Industry

 

TO LEARN MORE

More than 200,000 cacao trees were planted through the cacao project initiative since Juan began in 2009. Since cacao is considered a new crop in Puerto Rico, the Agriculture Dept does not offer insurance so all losses are personal.

For lots more information or to make a contribution towards rebuilding the island’s economy by providing high quality trees to farmers visit   https://www.facebook.com/jeanmariechocolat/

I look forward to returning to the Hacienda Jeanmarie and watching the rebuilding of Project Cacao under Juan’s leadership.  Yet another wonderful place that chocolate has led me.

 

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HOLIDAY TRUFFLES

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TRUFFLES FOR THE HOLIDAYS

The year-end holiday season – whether it involves Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or some other treasured family celebration – evokes nostalgia in many of us. Many of you bake homemade goodies to give as gifts or take to cookie swaps and what is more appreciated than something from the heart and the kitchen?

Creamy and elegant, these truffles have a soft, melt-in-your-mouth filling. Beautiful enough to give as gifts or serve to guests, this truffle recipe is easy, too!

The key is to keep it simple and use the best ingredients you can find and you will end up with a rich, creamy ganache. What is “ganache” and how did it get that name? It’s simply a mixture of chocolate and cream. Rumor has it that a chef called an assistant a “ganache” (French word for idiot) when he dumped hot cream into a bowl of chocolate. Serendipity I say!

Be prepared to get your hands “dirty” with chocolate!

SPIRITED DARK CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Yield: 12-15 truffles

Ingredients

4 oz. whipping cream
7 oz. finest quality dark chocolate (61% or higher)*
1/2 oz. butter, very soft but not melted
1 oz. bourbon whiskey (if you’re not a fan of bourbon, substitute another liquor)
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Bring whipping cream just to boil.

Pour slowly over the chocolate and mix rapidly to create an elastic and shiny mixture. Add butter and mix it again with the spatula. Add bourbon whiskey and mix to incorporate.

Let ganache set for 12 hours in the refrigerator or till firm enough to handle. Dust hands with cocoa powder and shape into one inch balls using a scoop or teaspoon and roll in cocoa to coat surface.

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Drop in cocoa powder and roll around with a fork.

Store covered in refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve at room temperature. Enjoy compliments!

Variation: After rolling in cocoa powder, drop into finely chopped nuts (we like hazelnuts), pressing lightly.

*I use Guittard Chocolate, a 4th generation family owned San Francisco chocolate maker.

Photos courtesy of Ecole Chocolat.

Pilgrimage to Theo 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.

 

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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 hands of Janet, our friendly 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 engaged us in a discussion about cacao trees and their pods, the harvesting, fermentation and drying processes and the many steps in the journey that cacao undergoes to become the wonderful chocolate all of us enjoyed.

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Onto the factory floor the roasters, grinders and other chocolate machines – some of them vintage – were working hard in each area. I felt like I was in the magic world of Willie Wonka!  My favorite area was the kitchen where truffles, toffee and various bon bons were being finished…what envy I had!

The tour ended at the retail chocolate shop which was filled with many, many 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 was Big Daddy, layers of gram cracker, marshmallow and burnt caramel in dark chocolate which was to die for!

TheoShop

My pilgrimage left me 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 have. Do not miss Theo’s tour if you ever visit Seattle!

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theochocolate.com