top of page

Becoming One with the Chocolate

The Chocolate Affair - an annual Downtown CdA tradition. Every February, anywhere between 15-30 businesses seek out a chocolatier to compete for two awards: Chocolatier Mater (chosen by a panel of judges) and Chocolate Connoisseur's Choice (chosen by event attendees). Each chocolatier is required to make 800 bite-sized samples with one rule - it must be chocolate!

Back in December, the wonderful ladies at Mix It Up Gift on Sherman allowed me to sell my Gingerbread and Sugar Cookie Dip-n-Go Cups in a corner of the shop. They have since taken me under their wings, giving me valuable business advice, referring my business to those who ask, and also asked me to be their chocolatier for The Chocolate Affair. I had done a bit of chocolate work in the past in the form of tempered chocolate cupcake toppers, but I had never worked with tempering large amounts of chocolate, using polycarbonate molds, or making 800 servings of... anything! But you all know me, I will rarely shy away from a challenge, and I was not about to start now!

For those of you that know little about chocolate, there are two main kinds: couverture and compound. Compound chocolate is what you typically use for things like chocolate chip cookies - it is high in vegetable oil and other unnecessary (but inexpensive) ingredients, it can be melted simply in the microwave, but it will not produce a shiny chocolate with a rich flavor and nice snap when broken. Couverture chocolate is vastly different in both flavor and workability - it is made with real cocoa butter as opposed to vegetable oil, is generally more pure in ingredients, and requires tempering. Improperly tempering couverture chocolate will result in dull, bendy chocolate or cause bloom, which is where you can see splotches or streaks of cocoa butter that did not bond to the sugar molecules. To put it simply, tempering chocolate involves heating it to a high temperature, rapidly decreasing the temperature, and then bringing the heat back up to be workable.

Like I said, I had worked with small amounts of tempered chocolate in the past. What I didn't know, however, is that once you allow your chocolate to cool, you must re-start the tempering process all over again - something I never encountered with the small orders I'd done before. This was a particularly annoying development because tempering large amounts of chocolate can become a 45 minute process. I did a sample batch with my digital kitchen thermometer the week before. The chocolate would not come out of the molds, and I could see the bloom, indicating that the chocolate had not been tempered properly. Thankfully I discovered a handy-dandy spatula on Amazon that has a thermometer running through it to read the temperature as you stir. Throughout the week, I made the other components of my chocolates (orange jelly, candied orange peels, and dark chocolate cake) while occasionally doing small trials of tempered chocolate to ensure I would be able to get them out of the molds properly.

The day before the event was when things started to really go sideways. I completely underestimated how long it would take to make THAT many batches of tempered chocolate. I started at 9:30am with 3 molds that could make a total of 63 pieces at a time. While the chocolate was setting in the molds, I was filling the chocolates from the previous batch, then re-tempering the chocolate, and so on. By the time my boyfriend, David, got home from work around 2pm, we stood back and realized I had only gotten about 80 or so usable pieces of chocolate because not every one comes out the right thickness, without bubbles, etc. After a couple more hours of troubleshooting and trying to figure out how to make the process go faster, I ended up teaching David how to temper the chocolate for me so he could be doing that while I would turn the chocolates out of the molds and fill them. By 6am the following morning and 10lbs of chocolate later, we had finally finished the chocolate portion!

I didn't know until recently upon renewing my cottage food permit with Panhandle Health that ganache is acceptable for cottage bakers to offer, and there is no better form of chocolate than ganache, in my opinion! So come 6am when we finished the chocolate work, I turned to my ganache and realized that it had no set properly. The fats had clearly separated, and I decided to try a couple of things to see if I could salvage it; after all, it was 5lbs of chocolate plus over half a gallon of heavy cream! I tried whipping it, adding butter, and whipping it some more before realizing it was not going to come together and resorted to sending David to go buy another half gallon of heavy cream... thank goodness I still had one 5lb bag of chocolate left! He returned with the cream, I re-made the ganache, and at 7:30am we decided to go to sleep for 3 hours to let the ganache set.

10:30am the day of the event, I was delighted to get up and discover that the second batch of ganache turned out perfect! I started piping the ganache onto the chocolates while David followed with the candied orange peels. We finished with barely enough time to make ourselves presentable and head to Mix It Up Gift with our 15 boxes (840 pieces) of chocolate!

The event was so much fun to experience and be a part of! One of my favorite things about what I do is seeing people's reactions when they love what I made. There were a lot of meaningful conversations and laughs with guests, fun discussions with other businesses about what everyone made, and genuinely friendly competition between all of the chocolatiers...

...but, there could only be two winners.

I am honored to have received the award for Chocolatier Master, alongside Whoops! Bakeshop who won the Connoiseur's Choice award!

As David and I were cleaning up and gathering our empty chocolate boxes, Teresa from Mix It Up came in the back and told me there were a couple more people who wanted to meet me. Exhausted, I walked out into the gift shop oblivious to the fact that everyone was staring at me with their phones out, and the ladies at the Downtown Association held out the award and announced, "You won the Chocolatier Master award!" I was honestly shocked and I wish someone got a picture of my face, because my jaw dropped and I didn't know what to say! The next 10 minutes or so was a complete blur. All I know is that I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and pride in what I had accomplished.

This year's Chocolate Affair was my first official competition, and I am still shocked to have won an award. A few days later, I also received an email with the top 3 results for each award and was delighted to read that I also came in second place for the Connoisseur's Choice award behind Whoops! I have already seen a positive impact on my business, and I am so excited to participate next year!

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page