Elaine is the owner of EHChocolatier in Boston, Massachusetts. We sat down to ask her a few questions about-what else?-chocolate.
1. What inspired your love of chocolate, and how did you get started?
I was transitioning from my prior career in medicine and had enjoyed cooking as an avocation so I decided to attend culinary school about 12 years ago. Towards the end of my program, a good friend asked f I would make her wedding cake with another good friend of hers, Catharine Sweeney. We had never met and neither of us had ever made a wedding cake before. Our mutual friend wanted a cake with cascading edible seashells. And please bring it to Martha’s Vineyard. In the summer. Needless to say since Catharine and I are still together, all went well and when Catharine and I look back, we both realized that what we enjoyed the most was figuring out how to make those darn seashells (which were white chocolate) and decorating them to look ethereal and lovely.
Over the years, I continued working as a medical consult, and on the side, would make special order desserts and catered small events. Although I enjoyed baking, what I really loved was the creativity and aesthetic aspects of dessert making. Catharine and I continued to get together, and for the holidays, we would make confections, typically toffee or hand rolled truffles.
About two years ago, Catharine retired from her career at Harvard University and I had decided I was ready to leave medicine and “retired” as well. It was perfect timing since we both enjoyed working together, and felt like our chocolate making had reached a level that we could give it a “test” ride. We invested in some additional equipment, taste tested over 30 makes of chocolate manufacturers (tough job), created a handful of recipes, and practiced practiced practiced. Then we created a “Friends and Family Only” Chocolate Club for 9 months where members would receive a box of chef’s choice bonbons and a bag of “confection” such as pecan clusters, rochers, caramels. We had an unbelievable start and decided that we were ready to go into business. We opened our kitchen in November, 2010 in Somerville, MA.
I think what really inspires me about chocolate and making bonbons and confections is the whole process. How do you bring a flavor or flavors you enjoy or are inspired by and put it into a small square of ganache which then in turn inspire others? How do you choose a look (shape, height, topping) that not only is beautiful, but best represents and accentuates the ganache? The entire experience is important to convey to our tasters from the presentation, to the texture, to the smell, to the end. We test and retest our bonbons multiple times just to achieve what we envision.
And it’s not just an art, but a science as well. There is a real beauty and sense of satisfaction in the rhythm of creating bonbons. When the ganache comes together and looks like a lush smooth chocolate pudding you just want to dive into, to the slabbing, the bottoming, the cutting, the tempering, the dipping and the decoration. It’s really remarkable. Although it feels like the same routine, it never is, and we’re always trying to make it better.
2. Tell me about your chocolate. What makes your store unique?
Our chocolates are each made by hand, to order – we don’t hold any product in stock as we feel that chocolate and confection taste at their peak when eaten within hours to several days after being made. We work with classic european chocolate making techniques and tweak the bonbons with bold and unique flavors which highlight the chocolate that we use (Valrhona and single plantation Michel Cluizel), pairing them as you would with food and wine.
3. What inspires the art on your chocolate?
As mentioned above, we come to the art or design that represents each flavor based on the whole process of developing that particular bonbon and what we feel compliments and creates the experience we want the tasters to have when looking and eating that specific bonbon.
4. What is something about the process of making artisan chocolates that people don’t generally know?
It takes several days to complete the process of producing a bonbon as the ganache has to set, and the crystallizing aspect of tempered chocolate takes 24 hours to complete.
5. In your opinion, what is the best chocolate that your store offers?
Gosh, that’s difficult to answer – I like all of them! Lately I’ve been very into one of our confections, the Ancho Bar, which is a candy bar with ancho chile roasted pecans / almonds, pretzels in a 12 year old Belvenie Scotch caramel all dipped in a dark varietal chocolate. It has the ancho chile flavors in the beginning and then a nice burn at the end that lingers. It’s almost more of a savory sweet bar.
6. Besides your own, of course, what is your favorite chocolate?
Oh, boy – there are too many to pick just one! I love a number of flavors at Chocolate Springs (Lenox, MA), the olive bonbon from La Maison du Chocolat is inspiring, and the rose from Pierre Marcolini is delicious.
You can view what the store has to offer and even order online at www.ehchocolatier.com.