This weekend, Elaine Hsieh of EHChocolatier answered some questions for Local Pickins about chocolates, confections, and her love of the trade. With a focus on flavor balance, texture, and simple beauty, EHChocolatier’s treats are undeniably impeccable in their craftmanship, and unavoidably delicious. Read on for Elaine’s inside take on chocolate-making, and her personal truffle recipe…
How did you become interested in making chocolate?
I had been making desserts for private clients as well as wedding cakes and realized over a couple of years that what I particularly enjoyed was the chocolate work some of my projects entailed. During this time, I also became very good friends with Catharine Sweeney, my business partner and fellow chocolatier, and we made confections for the holidays. Ultimately we both gravitated towards chocolate as something that was not only delicious, but could be beautiful as well. It allowed us to be creative in many ways as well as requiring that we understand the science behind it and the craft of a chocolatier.
Tell me about the process of chocolate making in five simple steps.
Here’s a basic truffle recipe:
Start with a 2:1 ratio of good quality chocolate (chopped finely) to heavy cream.
1. Bring the cream to boil.
2. Wait till bubbles disappear, then pour the cream over the chocolate. Wait a minute or two, then stir with spatula until the mixture comes together and appears glossy and pudding-like.
3. Leave at room temperature until it firms up.
4. Scoop out a teaspoon at a time, roll into ball with hands, and dump into sifted cocoa powder.
5. Serve at room temperature, keep stored in fridge in air tight container for 2 weeks.
Where do you get your ingredients?
We have a great local family owned distributor that brings us our chocolate, purees, cocoa powders and such. We go to our local Restaurant Depot for the Hood Cream and Cabot Butter that we use. Our nuts come from the Superior Nut Company, and our spices come from Penzey’s. Fresh herbs and organic fruits come from Whole Foods.
What gets out of bed in the morning? What is the best part of making chocolate?
There are so many parts that I enjoy — creating new flavors, testing recipes and tweaking them, working on designs and packaging, and interacting with customers in both retail and wholesale. Probably the most fun I have in making chocolate is the response I get from folks when I tell them that’s what I do. There’s always a “wow” in the mix.
Tell me about your seasonal chocolates? What’s new this season? What do you recommend?
We recently introduced a couple of new caramels – passionfruit and blood orange almond. Also, mint meltaways which were made in honor of Catharine’s midwest upbringing – think Frango Mints. We’ll be offering a basket of chocolates at Easter time, including a new rabbit bonbon called the “Honey Bunny”. I have a weakness for all of our confections, and right now I’m very into the Ancho Bar. We make a caramel with a 12 year Belvenie Scotch, then add spiced roasted nuts and pretzels (got to have pretzels), mix it all together, turn them into slim bars and dip them in a dark Peruvian chocolate. In the bonbon department, I love our chef’s choice, which is a mix of whatever is fresh. I’m a big fan of variety.
Tell me about your Chocolate Club deal.
We started our business with friends and family through our Chocolate Club – a monthly membership of chocolate delivered to your home! The season runs from October to May. You can sign up for 3 months right now, as we’re halfway through the season, or a full 6 – 8 months at the beginning of next season. The deal includes a 6 or 12 piece box of bonbons that is a mixture of new flavors and our standards. We also throw in a bag of confection like our pecan clusters, the Chocolate Chew, passionfruit caramels, etc. It makes a great gift!
What sets E.H. Chocolatier apart from other local small-batch chocolate shops?
Our particular style of chocolates (bonbons) are more French in nature, and less sweet than Belgian or Swiss style. Our flavors are a mix of both traditional and creatively unique. Our goal is to accentuate and compliment the chocolate with the flavors that we pair. We make to order so products are at their peak in flavor, texture and beauty when customers receive them. For us, it’s about the whole package from the beginning of an idea, formulation of recipe, production, packaging and display and finally, delivery.