Photo Credit Charity Burggraaf
Theo Chocolate : Recipes & Sweet Secrets from Seattle’s Favorite Chocolate Maker — Debra Music & Joe Whinney founders of Theo Chocolate Company // Recipes Below!
From ages 8 to 14 if you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d have answered, “A chocolate shop owner.”
My confectionary skills were given minimal practice, however, and at 12 I recall making obscenely large mounds of fudge as Christmas gifts, painstakingly molding them into various shapes. Sadly, aside from the courteous Christmas morning nibble and thanks, most of my confection remained uneaten.
Tired of having all that effort go to waste, my sister and I made good use of the fudge’s color, putting together a large pile of fudge “poop” on the doorstep for our father. He wasn’t impressed. Even less so when we said he could eat it.
My next confectionary attempt was again at Christmas a year or so after getting married. I ambitiously created truffles for everyone, only to seize up the couverture, turning several pounds of expensive chocolate into a lumpy bitter mess.
My failed qualifications as a natural chocolatier led me to purchase the book by Peter Greweling, CMB — Certified Master Baker: Chocolates & Confections | Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner. But my “D” in chemistry reared its ugly head, and I couldn’t get my brain wrapped around the concept of “chocolate tempering curves” and the “polymorphism of cocoa butter.”
Given the fumbling attempts at my childhood dream, I was elated at the news of a Theo Chocolate cookbook by chocolate makers* Debra Music and Joe Whinney: Theo Chocolate — Recipes & Sweet Secrets from Seattle’s Favorite Chocolate Maker. After taking a Theo factory tour soon after their start they became a favorite chocolate maker of mine. Theo chocolate is organic, fair trade, made without any stabilizers like soy lecithin and supports environmentally sustainable cocoa** farms. I highly recommend taking one of their daily tours, Theo is a friendly place and I was sure their cookbook would be too.
Separating company from cookbook is virtually impossible. The prologue to the cookbook’s chocolatey recipes are personal stories, an introduction to cocoa and a thank-you to those who’ve helped support Theo. This cookbook serves as both a prize for chocolate-lovers and a window into what motivates Theo from bean to bar.
Creating a steady need for quality cocoa and supporting cocoa farmers is top on Theo’s mission as a company. Several Theo bars support specific causes like World Bicycle Relief and the Eastern Congo Initiative.
“We’ve exceeded goals,” said Music, “being able to purchase more and create greater affect and change. Every bag of cocoa beans we can buy up is just one more farmer we can support.”
Music admits their product was rough at first, “In the early days,” said Music, “not every batch was great.” Through trial and care they’ve honed their chocolate to be some of the best in the world, winning awards and becoming the fastest growing chocolate company in the category of natural and organic chocolate. Each batch of Theo chocolate is tested before release, and this makes for a quality product that’s especially good to work with.
Along with their own favorites, Theo’s cookbook has recipes from local chef’s like Tom Douglas, Thierry Rautureau (aka The Chef in the Hat), Naomi Pomeroy and James Beard Award winning Maria Hines. These chefs have all contributed to this cookbook in support of Theo’s pursuit of improving the chocolate industry. Their recipes moved to the top of my to-cook list, starting with Rautureau’s childhood drinking chocolate served with buttered brioche and Maria Hines’ Lamb Sugo.
The cookbook isn’t just full of chocolaty sweets, chocolate is bitter and its subtle sweetness brings depth to savory recipes. But the last section of the cookbook is for the truest chocolate-lover and offers redemption for my past chocolate failures — confections. They even have a cheat for couverture that doesn’t require all that finicky tempering.
Gracing the cover of the cookbook, Theo’s popular Big Daddy Marshmallow Bites tempt me — a layer of graham, caramel and marshmallow dipped in a rich chocolate coating. “The Big Daddy Bites are iconic,” said Music “a really special product that’s worth it.” My sensibility got the better of me, and I opted to start first with Chris Cosentino’s Agrodolce Brittle — a layer of blonde brittle filled with pine nuts, currants and capers.
I’m a sucker for funky combinations, and the marriage of briny capers with the sweet of currant and brittle coated in Theo chocolate was bizarrely wonderful.
Music and Whinney have made sure that each recipe has been rigorously tested for the home kitchen. The cookbook has several challenging recipes, but this is still a cookbook for home cooks, not just CMBs.
Many of the recipes in Theo’s cookbook require quite of a bit of chocolate, but they are also “worth it,” and make for a special dish to share. Music said that I needn’t use Theo chocolate in the recipes, just get the best I can afford and have fun with the book. I do prefer to use Theo when I can, because of their quality and what they stand for, and I still have plans to make those Big Daddy Marshmallow Bars. Who knows, they may make it onto this year’s to-give Christmas list. Ah, redemption is sweet.
Who should buy this: Chocolate lovers. Great gift to give to a chocolate-loving friend or loved one. Those who enjoy Theo Chocolate and value their goals as a company.
* Chocolate Maker vs. Chocolatier, what’s the difference? Thank you Megan Giller of Chocolate Noise!
“The most befuddling terms? Chocolatier and chocolate maker. Chocolatiers take pre-made chocolate and create ganaches, truffles, bark, and other delicious concoctions out of it. It’s an art unto itself, one that deserves celebration too. Chocolate makers, on the other hand, take cacao beans and roast, grind, and otherwise shape them into bars” — Megan Giller
**A Note on Cacao vs. Cocoa: Most commonly, these terms are interchangeable. Here at Theo we fondly refer to the source of all chocolate, the fruit of Theobroma cacao, as “cacao” while it is on the tree and while it is undergoing fermentation and drying, but once it arrives at our factory we call it “cocoa.” However, for the purposes of this book, we have simplified matters and just call it “cocoa” at every stage.
— Theo Chocolate
Click above images from the Theo Chocolate cookbook for the recipes for Dark Chocolate Stout Bunt Cake and Roasted Baby Carrots with Balsamic-Bitter Chocolate Syrup. // Photo Credit Charity Burggraaf
Want your own Big Daddy Marshmallow Bite and don’t want to have to make it yourself? Theo will send one to you!
Theo Chocolate : Recipes & Sweet Secrets from Seattle’s Favorite Chocolate Maker is available now from Sasquatch Books and sold on Amazon.com.