Artisanal Hand-Crafted Fine Chocolate

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.


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

Yield: 12-15 truffles


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


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 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.



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.




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.




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:



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




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


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!




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.

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.


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.

Juan teaching students about the Cacao Industry



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

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.








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!


Yield: 12-15 truffles


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.


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.

The Hacienda Jeanmarie – Visiting a Puerto Rican Cacao Farm


If cacao trees only thrive 20 degrees north or south of the equator, why doesn’t Puerto Rico have any industry?  Every year I wondered this as I made my way to west-coast Rincon where my parents winter. I’d check out the latest on cacao production there hoping to find a farm nearby. During a visit to the agricultural research center in Mayaguez a few years ago I learned that Puerto Rico has an interesting cacao story (see my blog post “At The Foot of a Cacao Tree).  In the 17th century a hurricane wiped out most of the cacao crop and it was abandoned for easier-to-grow sugar cane and coffee.


Thanks to the Puerto Rico Cacao Project, farms are cropping up again and Juan Echevarria is leading the way.  He began to grow cacao on his family’s farm when he found some 17th century prized criollo trees on the land.  I was thrilled to visit  his Hacienda Jeanmarie a few weeks ago, walking among healthy cacao trees growing in the shade of other crops, seeing the different species and colors of pods and gaining knowledge from this passionate, articulate and intelligent man.





Juan explained how he harvests, ferments, dries and processes his beans in a traditional hand cultivated fashion.  He is dedicated to teaching and assisting others with the goal of eventually building a working cooperative that connects small organic cocoa farmers in Puerto Rico to the fine chocolate industry through direct, transparent relationships.


Juan opens a freshly cut pod and offers cacao pulp.
After fermentation the beans are naturally dried

Historically cacao farmers are impoverished because – put simply – the revenue they receive does not cover their cost of production.  By removing middlemen, farmers increase their value and quality, creating a positive social impact to farming communities while delivering premium quality cocoa to chocolate makers.  Juan is trying to drive this business model in Puerto Rico and to one day have his country recognized as producing some of the world’s best chocolate.

Taking advantage of Juan’s hospitality, I stayed and chatted long after the group on our little tour left.  I sampled his 100% chocolate bar, a rich melody of rustic fruity chocolate flavor and left with enough to make a batch of truffles (a future blog post!).

I will go back to Juan’s farm again and look forward to witnessing the thoughtful growth of cacao production in Puerto Rico through his efforts.  Another incredible experience, place and friendship made in my lifelong chocolate journey.




New Season, New Place

There’s an old saying ‘find the work you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’.

I use to have a job, now I have a passion! Don’t always know what drives me but that’s how passions are. Autumn is here and with that begins Season Number 4 (!) for Plum Brook Chocolate. I love what I do.  Working with amazing chocolate and making people happy one chocolate at a time. It’s very satisfying putting a smile on people’s faces.


The Mindful Kitchen


I’ve recently moved production to The Mindful Kitchen, a little commercial kitchen in New Preston CT. My landlord Harold is a great guy who is dedicated to fostering local food and small businesses. I’m there producing every Sunday and Monday right next to The Smithy Market. It’s a bright happy place and fun to be part of a new vibe.

It’s another place my chocolate life has taken me. There’s still so much to learn and see. What’s next? I’m not sure but willing to stay open, keep learning and put one foot in front of the other. Right now festivals and orders are keeping me busy and I’m excited for the season ahead!


Sal de Maras Caramels

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.



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.


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!  Whoa!

Farm to Table: The Litchfield Market


Tonight I roasted heirloom root vegetables from Wild Carrot Farm bartered with some Toffee-Almond Bark. Fresh and delicious! I’m excited to be back at the Litchfield Hills Farm Fresh Market. It’s my 3rd season here and I’m humbled to be among farmers and artisans who are so passionate and good at what they do. I feel like I’m among the royalty of Litchfield County’s farm to table movement…and I am!

It is here that I’ve met some very important people in my chocolate life. Kay Carroll is our market master who is responsible for running things when she is not tending to her maple syrup farm, Brookside Farm II. It is her rich robust dark amber syrup that popped my Sugar Shed Maple Truffle, which eventually led to it taking 3rd place at the CT Specialty Food Awards this year.


Kay Carroll, Market Master at the indoor Market


And this is where I met my friend Jim Baker while he was helping his mom Janet set up her honey table (Berry Ledges Apiary).  Jim is the brilliant wine master at Hopkins Vineyard. Our meeting led to co-developing a luxurious Cab Franc truffle that opened the door to meeting the wonderful folks at Hopkins Vineyard.  I’ve had many good times there.

It is here that I met Howard Rosenfeld, owner of The Smithy Store in New Preston and Chef Brendon from At The Corner in Litchfield who both frequent the market as friend and guest chef respectively. PlumBrook Chocolate is now on the shelves in both of these shops!


Raspberry Jam Truffles


Ron and Fran, my kitchen landlords at Winding Drive Jams & Jelly are here and it is there seedless fresh jam that gives my Raspberry Truffle its vibrant flavor.  I could fill a page with interesting people who frequent the Market on Saturdays!

This is definitely not your run of the mill farmers market, thanks to Kay’s creativity and attention to detail. Cooking Light Magazine named it one of the 50 best markets nationwide and after a visit or two it is obvious why. In addition to incredible farmers and artisans who offer fresh produce, jams, pickles, breads, maple syrup, honey, natural bison and beef, and more, there is often a guest chef and talented musicians to add spice.

Vendor requirements are very specific with emphasis placed on local, fresh and high quality with a willingness to engage and educate customers about your product. (This is right up my alley since I love to talk about chocolate!) Everyone is so knowledgeable and an expert in their field. I aspire to live up to their expectations and am honored to be in their presence.

My fellow vendors readily share their expertise and support each other. Regular and new customers visit my table each week and I meet so many wonderful and diverse people. From 9 to 96 years old, it is fun to talk about chocolate with everyone.

It has been said that “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. I am fortunate to have new teachers every week in my fellow vendors and market customers. It is yet another road in which this amazing journey of chocolate has led me. One of making new friends, gaining a deeper knowledge of the rich farm to table culture in Litchfield County and how it has become such a important and popular movement.

Please visit all of us at the Litchfield Hills Farm Fresh Indoor Market this season and take home some of the best that Connecticut has to offer. Hope to see you there!


Click here to see when Plum Brook Chocolate is at the market.

As local as it gets!

Snow showers on the first day of spring?!  Even with winter’s seemingly endless grip, signs of the season are all around us. We all have our favorites. I must admit top of my list of early signs is baseball spring training and opening day.

But spring’s arrival is most elegantly ushered in by its many signs in nature. One of my customers says his favorite is the arrival of the beautiful rose-breasted grosbeaks on his office feeder in Woodbury.  Every year without fail they arrive during the last week of April, neither earlier nor later. Such are the joys and mysteries of the season.


As I write this, Western Connecticut’s sugar maples are dotted with sap buckets giving way to maple syrup celebrations and announcing the arrival of warmer days. Maple sugaring time, a New England tradition, is underway.

In Woodbury, Flander’s Nature Center taps over 300 maple trees around town to make their syrup.  Its intense maple flavor and rich buttery taste is absolutely perfect on pancakes!  Which is why their annual pancake breakfast – complete with fresh maple syrup – is always a much-anticipated tradition in Woodbury. Demonstrations are being held at their Sugar House this month.

In Litchfield, Brookside Farm II makes four grades of maple syrup the old fashioned way with delicious results. Sap is collected from their sugar bush of 500 trees.  Using a high-efficiency oil-fired burner, their production process yields 100% pure organic maple syrup.  It is Brookside Farm II’s dark amber syrup that makes our Sugar Shed Maple Truffle “pop” with flavor.

At Plum Brook we proudly support our local community and the communities of cacao farmers, sourcing local ingredients and fair trade certified chocolate to craft our delectable creations.  It isn’t just about great chocolate, but about enriching the community through chocolate.  Caring for our community and about communities as far away as South America and West Africa and all the places where cacao is grown and traded is important to us. Folks here in the Northwest Corner and elsewhere in rural Connecticut know that choices about how and where things are grown and produced can make big differences for local communities wherever they may be.

Our Sugar Shed Maple Truffle is but one example of this. This is why we combine fine, ethically produced chocolate with the freshest locally produced and grown ingredients we can find. Love and passion for what we do is included! We think the results speak for themselves and hope you will too.

“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.” – Proverb


Chocolate and Beer?

Love chocolate?  Love beer?  Pairing beer and chocolate will lead you down an exciting road to discovery. Not to mention add zest to any get together with friends, office parties, special dinners and family celebrations.


 How about a beer and chocolate pairing for one of your events?

My family’s interest in craft beer has led us on an active and fun journey of chocolate and beer pairings. You can’t go wrong trying different combinations. There are lots of exceptional and delicious beers to choose from, as Connecticut has established a reputation for making some of the nation’s best craft brews.

Many top quality, superb breweries dot the map. See CT’s Beer Trail for more information.  If you live outside of New England, seek out your own local breweries.  Mass marketed beer certainly has it’s place, but not for our purposes here.  The same is true for chocolate.  Seek out smaller, quality chocolate makers for your pairings.

Of course, we would love to have Plum Brook Chocolate be a part of your pairing fun and so we offer the following suggestions (just a tip of an iceberg really) to get you started on your own journey.  It’s a great way to support your local craft beer industry, taste great chocolate and add zest to your gatherings.  Many of these beers pack a punch, so try sharing a bottle among friends as you move through different pairings.

A Basic List

American Double and / or Imperial IPA: We found the extraordinary Two Roads “Road 2 Ruin” paired with our Caramel Latte blissful.  This big, hoppy brew has plenty of bite.  The caramel’s sweetness and the espresso-salt dusting perfectly compliment the bitterness and hoppy flavor.  Not an espresso fan?  Our Salted Caramel should work just as well.   In general, pairing caramel with a hoppy beer should provide a nice contrast.

American Pale Ale: Try City Steam Brewerys Blonde on Blonde.  Brewed with German and Cascade hops, it touches of sweetness up front and finishes with floral, bitter hops which should interplay well with our Ginger Rum Truffle.  The ginger and floral compliment each other and the truffle’s overall mellow profile should round out the flavors.

Not a true APA, but Willi Brews Certified Gold is another choice for our Ginger Rum Truffle.  The bright, golden ale’s german hops aroma are floral and well balanced and mingles well with the truffle flavors.

Stout: New England Brewing Co.’s Imperial Russian Trooper is a bourbon-barrel stout that will be fabulous with big fruit flavors.  Our Raspberry Truffle’s vibrant flavor and tartness balances some of the stout’s prominent bourbon flavor and pops it’s dark fruit notes.

Imperial Porter:  Thomas Hooker describes their Imperial Porter as “Full bodied..hints of roasted coffee, cocoa with a generous hop finish…smooth yet complex”.  A match made in heaven with our 72% Double Dark Truffle?  You decide!  The truffle’s silky smooth meltdown followed by an intense chocolate flavor that lingers will interplay with the porter’s roasty malt flavors. And it’s delicate profile provides overall balance with this full bodied beer.

If you’ve never thought about pairing beer and chocolate before, what better time than now?  For yourself, your guests or as a unique gift of various local brews and chocolate for your hosts.

Just send an e-mail or give a call and specify the Beer Taster’s Box.  We will fill one of our boxes with truffles designed for your beer pairings.  Suggestions included!