Archive for July, 2013

Dietrich’s Chocolate Costa Rican Single Bean Chocolate
Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Costa Rican single bean chocolate comes in an assorted box with white tea, ginger, vanilla and wildflower honey flavors.

Dietrich’s started in 1975 in the cheese-infatuated region of Green Bay, Mich., but soon moved to Denver just three years later. Erich Dietrich, owner of Dietrich’s Chocolate and Espresso, grew up in Germany and gained a valuable three and a half years of training from an established chocolatier before coming to the United States.

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Kakao Chocolate Focuses on Quality, Confection Passion
Monday, July 22nd, 2013
Brian Pelletier, owner of Kakao Chocolate

Brian Pelletier, owner of Kakao Chocolate

Brian Pelletier, owner and chief chocolatier of Kakao Chocolate, spent 20 years of his career in corporate America. In 2008 he found his true passion—chocolate confections. Kakao Chocolates now has two shops on South Jefferson and in Maplewood, Mo., where customers can find their favorite chocolate treats, hand-dipped truffles, sea salt caramels, marshmallow pies and more.

Being a chocolatier is quite a bit different than being in the corporate world and business marketing. Can you talk about your decision after 20 years to open your own business?

Having worked in corporate for 20 years, I had done everything I wanted to do, and wasn’t enjoying it as much as I had. I was just ready for a change.

I knew three things: I wanted to run my own business, I wanted to physically make something with my hands, and I wanted to do something with food, because I love to cook. I opened myself up to the universe, and the universe answered when a friend of a friend told me she had some chocolate equipment in her basement that she was planning to sell. I hadn’t come up with the idea myself, but as soon as I heard her say that I knew it would be a perfect fit for me.

The decision to go with chocolate was easy, but the decision to go at all involved a lot more effort. I had to be prepared to start over in a new career, to start at zero because I didn’t know anything about chocolate, and to be ready to work my tail off for at least a couple years before I would be able to actually make any money. But when I made that decision it felt great, and now I have the best job in the world.

You’ve learned so much along the way. How do you come up with new, fresh ideas for your two St. Louis locations?

A very important part of Kakao is that we color outside of the lines—we’re always asking the question, “What if?” What if we used this ingredient instead of this one? What if we tried to make chocolate with this? What if we used this ingredient to make candy?

A lot of that comes from the fact that I wasn’t “classically” trained. I didn’t learn a lot of rules, so I didn’t worry about breaking them, and that allowed us to discover completely new things, like how to make ganache without any dairy products, or even any other kind of milk.

I also encourage the team to come up with new ideas. I always ask, “What’s the next thing you’re going to make that we’ve never made before?” That’s intimidating at first, but after a while it’s just part of the job to always be thinking about new things.

What does it mean to you to be a chocolatier?

It means that we use chocolate as our main ingredient, although we have lots of candies that don’t have any chocolate. Chocolate is an amazing food, with lots of variations and flavors, and works well with all kinds of other foods, so there’s an endless variety of things we can do with it. It can be finicky sometimes, but that’s part of the challenge, and fun, in what we do.

Pairing honey with chocolate is a wonderful tasting experience. How do you come up with your flavor combinations?

We use local honey in our sea salt caramels, and it’s one of the things that make them so good, and so popular. We also use it to flavor our marshmallows, which are often dipped in chocolate.

Honey is another amazing food, with lots of varieties. Some honey is light and perfect for marshmallows or nougat, and some is more rich and great with more powerful foods. That gives us a lot of different combinations of chocolate and honey!

You use honey in other items like your nougat, honey-lavender marshmallows and Missouri pecan caramels. Do you have a favorite made with honey item?

That’s like asking someone which of their children is their favorite! The sea salt caramels are our most popular confection, by far. And I really love the pecan caramels. But, my favorite confection that showcases the honey flavor is the nougat.

Why do you love working with honey?

Honey is a great ingredient because it comes in so many varieties, so many wonderful flavors. But, one of our favorite reasons for using it is because we buy it from local farms, and it’s fantastic to be able to talk to the people who are working with the bees to produce it for us.

I see that you’ve had a honey pairing party before at Kakao. Any plans to do so again?

Mary Ellen, from Weider Farms (a local apiary),  did the pairing, and it was a lot of fun and very successful. We hope she’ll come in and do another one with us!

Do you have any future plans for chocolate items including honey?

We’re always coming up with new confections. I love coming into the shop and finding something completely surprising. I’m sure they’ll be something any day now!

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Vanille Patisserie’s Nougat Bars
Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Artisan honey, egg whites, roasted almonds and pistachios make up this feather-weighted candy.

Made with the style used in Montélimar, France, this candy with honey is chewy and malleable.

Dating back to 2002 and known for bringing French pastries to the Chicago area, the Vanille Patisserie team consists of classically trained French pastry chefs. Originally owned by award-winning Pastry Chef Dimitri Fayard, today the bakery is owned by Fayard’s former students Sophie Evanoff and Leslie Shaw.

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