What makes our chocolates special?
Here are 10 corners that we don't cut:
* * * * *
1. We use real ingredients, not extracts. When I attended pastry school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, they taught us how to make a "basic" ganache, then to "perfume" it with extracts made for pastry chefs. A coffee ganache was attained by adding coffee extract to plain ganache, for example. Later, as a pastry cook at Chez Panisse, I learned techniques by Lindsey Shere for infusing ingredients, like steeping freshly-roasted coffee beans in cream. These techniques produce vibrant flavors expressing their own terroir.
2. We make our own pralinés and fruit purées. Most chocolatiers use the same mass-produced frozen fruit purées and buckets of praliné. In order to build unique flavors, we process our own ingredients from extra special fruits and nuts. We highlight these ingredients simply, rather than combining many generic ingredients together.
3. Only the best chocolate. This means the most expensive chocolate, chocolate that you would enjoy eating "out of hand". We only use Valrhona from the Rhône valley, and TCHO from Berkeley, and sometimes we make single origin bonbons using chocolate from small craft makers. Other chocolatiers use a chocolate that is one step down from delicious, thinking that somehow, through all the sugar and glucose and extracts, you won't be able to taste the difference anyways.
4. Different coatings for different flavors. Large chocolate factories have three "lines" of enrobers (chocolate waterfalls, to the layperson), through which they send their centers for coating: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate. Since our bonbons are made in small batches, we use smaller machines and are able to switch out the tempered chocolate completely between batches. We choose the specific dark chocolate coating that has the best flavor synergy with the filling. Much as you might carefully select the color of a mat to frame a painting.
5. Our coatings are slightly thicker. Chocolate is often the most expensive ingredient in a ganache, so most makers shake their bonbons to keep the coating as thin as possible. They also don't want to bring the coating taste too far in to the foreground, since this taste would be identical on every bonbon, and probably not very good. We like to have a slightly thicker coating of chocolate (not too thick, obviously) so you can taste it.
6. No glucose or trimoline! Glucose and trimoline are "invert" sugars, sugars that have been made into a gooey paste. Melt them into a ganache and they extend shelf life and reduce ingredients cost. But they also create a gel-like texture that makes your ganache reminiscent of toothpaste. Our ganaches are not stabilized with glucose. The ganache is a living thing. Delicate flavors bloom and dissipate. This luscious quality cannot be maintained for more than a few days - and sometime it is even best in the first two/three days, as is the case with our Meyer lemon ganache.
7. We don't remove air from our ganache. Most chocolatiers make their ganaches in a sous-vide ganache machine, which sucks air out of the ganache as it mixes it together. This prolongs the shelf life. We whisk by hand in a bowl, resulting in a rich, fluffy, refreshing, melt-in-your-mouth texture. We designed our business model around our ganaches - making them in small batches at the last possible moment and shipping overnight - so that you can experience this unique texture.
8. We make them with our own hands! Instead of an enrober, we use a dipping fork. We use molds only sparingly. Instead of filling empty chocolate shells, we hand-roll ganache centers, then dip them in two separate coats. The process takes days, but we love giving each bonbon its own personality.
9. We don't "fridge & freeze". Most chocolatiers will make their Christmas products over the course of many moons before Christmas, freezing either slabs of ganache or their entire finished collections, to pull out of deep freeze in December. Freezing compromises the flavor and texture of our ganache, so we make everything at the last minute.
10. Our packaging is handmade. I designed the boxes taking ideas from Italian paper box traditions, and the decorative tapes were inspired by Japanese packaging. My box designs were cut out by local die-cutters, the lids were letterpressed by Loyal Supply Co., and we hand-fold the boxes before we fill them with chocolates. Also, no plastic to throw into a landfill!
* * * * *
I hope this gave you a good idea of what we're about! See you at the shop!