How I started making chocolate!
Once I knew my son was allergic to nuts, my momma bear antennas went up and I became very interested in food labels – “may contain nuts,” “made in a facility that processes peanuts and tree nuts,” “made in a facility that handles nuts,” “made in a nut free facility,” “may contain peanuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.” The list can go on and on and you need to make the best judgement call based on your situation. I personally had no interest in taking risks with a little boy who was allergic to all nuts so I was strict.
Hershey kisses became my go to for regular occasions but the biggest challenge was always finding something around the holidays. I wanted my kids to have special things, pretty things, really yummy things like I did when I grew up. I tried a handful of nut free companies for treats at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter, but I could never find exactly what I wanted or what I thought tasted really luscious.
Being an avid cook, I decided one day that I should try to make my own chocolate. How hard could it be? I was ready to sign myself up for classes (as this had always been my way), but my husband encouraged me to try on my own first. Well, the first challenge was finding chocolate that tasted good and was made in a nut free facility. Who would have thought sourcing the stuff could be a big obstacle? This took much longer than I anticipated. Luckily over time some manufacturers have become more progressive and in tune with allergies and have aligned their production methods to fit these situations. Thus, providing more options to choose from.
The second challenge was turning the raw chocolate into wonderful treats. It turns out that making chocolate is not like regular cooking or baking. It is a different animal - disciplined, finnicky, and science based. There was a lot of frustration in the beginning and a lot of very homemade looking items. My family and close friends were my cheerleaders and it kept the negativity out of my brain. Hours and hours of You Tube and Instagram videos later (thank you Callebaut!), as well as hands on practice and experimentation, things started coming together. I became an avid reader of tempering techniques, ganache recipes, hollow figures and the like.
My initial hobby became my obsession. Every problem I encountered I would not let go until it was solved. My husband calls me the research Queen. Today I am still learning. I don’t think you ever stop, but now I am empowered with a lot more knowledge, skill, and technique.