Archive for the ‘White Chocolate’ Category

A few months ago, I heard about a famous pastry chef who opened up a unique storefront just minutes from my home. Turns out it’s like a mini Willy Wonka Factory.

Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva, IL, is filled with Chef Alain Roby’s life-sized chocolate and sugar creations, including a replica of his own custom kitchen made out of 1,500 pounds of Barry Callebaut chocolate.

Chef Alain Roby sculpting sugar into edible art.

Last week, I sat down with the French pastry chef and found out how he went from studying culinary art in Paris to becoming one of the world’s best sugar and chocolate artists. (He also earned two Guinness World Records, had a 20-year career as corporate pastry chef for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, and appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and several Food Network shows in between. Overachiever!)

Frosty the Sugar-man.

While I was  sipping inhaling Chef Roby’s signature hot cocoa, he showed me the top of his “World’s Tallest Chocolate Sculpture,” which is on display in the shop and in the Guinness World Book of Records.

Right as he was explaining how he constructed the chocolate skyscraper, he got an e-mail asking if he’d be interested in a third Guinness World Record: making the world’s tallest chocolate cactus. Not sure if he’s going to do it, but he was thinking out loud about how he’d construct it. If he winds up in the 2012 Guinness World Book of Records with an enormous edible cactus, you heard it here first.

Also on display in the shop/museum are life-sized chocolate sculptures, including a Chicago Blackhawks hockey player, a dinosaur, and an astronaut. (Funny story on the astronaut: Chef Roby originally created it for Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. Every two weeks, he says he’d get a call from the Planetarium asking him to come out and replace one of the chocolate fingers, which, I presume, was broken/eaten by one of the field-trip kids.)

The all-chocolate kitchen.

The painting in the kitchen was done by Chef Roby's artistic wife, Esther, who used white chocolate as her medium.

If you’re in the Chicago area and have an interest in culinary arts, chocolate, and heavenly hot cocoa, Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen is well worth the trip … and 100% kid-friendly.

If you go, there’s a good chance you’ll see Chef Roby making chocolates or sculpting sugar figurines in the middle of his shop.

Admission to the edible museum is free. The storefront offers a sit-down cafe with Chef Roby’s hot cocoa, chocolates, and pastries, as well as freshly brewed Starbucks coffee. Private tastings, birthday parties, and demonstrations are available upon request.

Visitors can also learn about the Saving Tiny Hearts Society, which is something near and dear to Chef Roby and his wife Esther’s hearts as their own son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. A portion of the profits from Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen are donated to the organization.

Chef Roby's gorgeous truffles.

GO Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen, 507 S. Third St., Geneva, IL,
 (630) 232-2395, ChefAlainRoby.com. Hours: Fridays from 12 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Mondays from 2 to 7 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Steve Eisen Photography


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The Marich Confectionery Company is the kind of candy company you want to buy from, work for, or—in my case—write about.

It’s a family-owned manufacturing business that was started in 1983 by the late Dutch candy maker Marinus van Dam. He was 57 at the time of launch. His two sons, Brad and Troy, now run the California-based company, but that was not by design (more in a minute).

Marinus’ candy career started in his early teens in Rotterdam, Netherlands, shortly after his father died in a German work camp during WWII. To support his family, he got a job at the DeHeer chocolate factory (now owned by The Baronie Group) scraping chocolate and other confections off the floor.

Over time, Marinus proved himself and was chosen to attend a candy technology school. Brad says his dad was a sponge and learned how to make every type of candy under the sun, including Marich Confectionery Company’s hallmark panned candies (candy with a coating or candy shell).

“My dad knew candy from a creative standpoint and by its molecular structure,” says Brad. “People in the industry would frequently call on him to troubleshoot process, technique, and formula issues.”

Marinus took his honed skills to the United States and went to work for a series of candy manufacturers, including Anthony-Thomas Chocolates, Herman Goelitz Candy Co. (now the Jelly Belly Candy Company), and Harmony Foods before opening his own operation in the early 1980s.

Family Matters
To keep his young confectionery company afloat, Marinus asked his son Brad, who, at the time, was 20, living on his own, and pursuing an engineering degree, if he would please come home and help with the business.

“My dad said, ‘I can’t afford to pay you, but you can live at home,’” says Brad who chuckles when he tells what it was like to move back to the nest. “My dad is old-school Dutch, so working for him was like going to the college of hard knocks.”

Brad and his younger brother Troy both rose to the occasion and started out making boxes, mopping floors, cleaning the bathroom, and other necessary evils. “For the first two years, we didn’t get paid,” says Brad.

When one of the candy makers left Marich for health reasons, Brad stepped up again. “I made more scrap than candy and got an earful.”

Flash-Forward to 2011
Brad and Troy are both master candy makers and are doing exactly what their dad was skillfully able to do with chocolate and sugar: read and respond to it.

“Chocolate and sugar have a mind of their own,” says Brad with a big laugh. He also mentions how the panning process brings its own unique set of challenges to the art of candy making.

“For what seems to be a simple process, you’d be amazed at the number of things that can go wrong. I equate it to bowling. You’ll get good at it, but you’re never going to bowl a 300 game every time,” he explains. “You can do everything the same way you did it the last time, and it won’t work. They key is staying ahead of the process so you have time to read and react to the product.”

Heart and Soul
Just like their father, Brad and Troy use Guittard Chocolate for their chocolate products and are very proud of that 27-year relationship.

As I’m talking to Brad about this longstanding partnership, he tells me a great story about Guittard’s now-retired sales director, Hank Spini.

“No matter where in the world Hank was on October 24, he would find my dad to have lunch with him. It was my dad’s birthday,” he explains. “This went on for decades. They were good friends.”

Hank eventually became Brad’s mentor and taught him how to buy cocoa and work with customers. Hank’s son Mark Spini followed in his own father’s footsteps and is a cornerstone at Guittard today.

How cool is that?

The Goods
The Marich Confectionery Company’s chocolate and non-chocolate products (almost too pretty to eat) are available at Candy.com and Marich.com as well as specialty retailers. Here is a tiny teaser to get you to check out the entire collection, which includes all-natural, organic, and sugar-free options. (Click on each image below for detailed product information.)

Best Seller! Pastel Chocolate Cherries

Valentine Jordan Almonds

Holland Mints

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There has been quite a bit of talk on Twitter and the food blogs this week over the classic combination of peppermint and chocolate.

Slashfood came out with a slide show of The Best Peppermint Treats. (Spoiler alert: Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Squares, Dove Peppermint Bark Promises, and Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses made the cut.)

Cybele May of CandyBlog.net just gave Russell Stover’s Peppermint Bark Snowman a favorable review.

Today on MarthaStewart.com, editor Amy Conway, posts a super-simple Candy Cane Ice Cream Sandwich made with crushed candy canes and chocolate wafers.

This all makes me wonder …

What’s your favorite Peppermint-Chocolate Treat?

Is it …

- Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark Squares

- Dove Peppermint Promises

- Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses

- York Peppermint Patties

- Andes Mints (did you know Andes Mints are now available as baking chips? I just spied them at Target!)

- Junior Mints (must see heart-shaped Junior Mints!)

- Williams-Sonoma’s Peppermint Bark

- Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s

… or something else?

Name your peppermint-chocolate poison after this post or on Facebook. Mine? Dove’s Peppermint Bark Promises. One bite, tons of choco-pepperminty bark.

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Last weekend, my niece and nephew popped in for a sleepover with my kids (A.K.A. cousin camp).  As luck would have it, Greg at Candy.com stocked me with all the necessary supplies to make chocolatey Halloween suckers with the kids, ranging in age from 6 to 10.

So, away we went on Saturday night with our science project. We unleashed our sucker sticks, microwaved each pound of orange, white, and milk chocolate discs, and carefully poured our just-barely-melted chocolates into Jack-O-Lantern and Skull chocolate molds.

The kids loved “painting” the eyes, nose, and mouth on the Jack-O-Lanterns and Skulls with chocolate after the pops cooled (we put them in the freezer). We found that small craft paint brushes worked best.

Another tip? Insert Icing Eyeballs into the molds before pouring in the melted chocolate. I didn’t try this trick, but Greg at Candy.com says it works like a charm.

The kids did everything but microwave the chocolate and had at least two hours of fun creating and eating their treats on a stick. The final products might not be Martha Stewart worthy, but not bad for the young chocolatiers.

I am going to experiment with more molds from Candy.com to see what else we can cook up at the Gillerlain household over the holidays. My son is planning on making chocolate suckers for an upcoming fundraiser in lieu of a standard baked goods sale. My thought is to package the suckers in clear mini cello bags and finish them off with a twist-tie bow. Why not give it a whirl?

If you’re in need of an all-ages and edible DIY project, check out Candy.com’s crazy huge selection of inexpensive chocolate molds and hard candy molds. You’ll find molds in the shape of lipstick tubes, teapots, states, business cards, police badges, pineapples, zodiacs, owls, you name it. (Note: You can use Candy.com’s hard candy molds with chocolate, but you can’t use the chocolate molds to create hard candies.)

Lastly, and most importantly, if you’ve experimented with chocolate and chocolate molds, share your creations and tips. Add your comments after this post or on Facebook.

Thanks!

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