The Birth of a Professor of Chocolate
I was recently asked about my chocolate endeavors after liking and commenting on a fellow Allergy Pal's Instagram post where I referenced my own chocolate creation. I realized then that I post many photos of my chocolate confections, but have never written a post on how I became a Professor of Chocolate and amateur chocolatier. I commented with a bit about the topics and realized that I should share a blog post about it too, so we go...
As far as I can remember, I have always been a fan of chocolate almost everything. I have fond memories of making big batches of chocolate chip cookies on Saturdays, of enjoying my Tia's German Chocolate Pie during holiday celebrations, of receiving a 1 pound solid chocolate bunny every Easter, and looking forward to family visiting from the Azores Islands who might bring Regina chocolate bars (chocolate with almond pieces) to share. One of my most vivid elementary school memories is when a classmate, Nathaniel, who was of Swiss decent, had gone on a family vacation to Switzerland and brought Swiss chocolate to share for the class for show and tell. Wow! I remember the darkness of the chunks and thinking that it was not the "normal" chocolate I had been used to. I look back on that memory and realize that it was my first experience with a chocolate tasting where I savored the treat rather than simply ate it.
Fast forward a few years to graduate school in the last year of my PhD, I needed a stress reliever and found a community class run on a weekend for chocolate candy making. Score! I enrolled and was able to take a break while relaxing as I made chocolate candies and then enjoyed them. It was an all around win.
I took the basics I learned in that class and, like any good student, practiced honing my skills. Just over a year later, I humbly bragged to my now hubby about my cooking skills to which he replied by inviting himself to my place for what turned out to be our first date. I had already impressed him with our previous conversations followed by our meal of Spanish tapas, but I believe I snagged him with dessert which consisted of two platters loaded up with a variety of handmade chocolates served tapas style. Not only were my skills used to snag my Foodie-In-Crime, but I have also made chocolates for baby and bridal showers, other gatherings, craft fairs and fundraisers as well as gifts.
Eventually my chocolate hobby and my enjoyment of culinary history --which was born in my childhood with the matriarchs of my family and nurtured throughout my studies and bloomed as I taught at the university level-- led me to propose a unique course at my Alma Mater, Saint Mary's College of California for January Term where I taught a three component course on the history of cacao, chocolate tasting and chocolate making. I later expanded that course to include a personal care industry and product component as related to cacao.
The university courses I have taught on chocolate have allowed me to experiment by tasting the chocolates of many companies and really neat recipes. My most recent course was strictly paleo without dairy and accommodating nut allergies which included everything from traditional chocolate confections that are healthier than conventional ones to chocolate tortillas, chocolate empanadas, chocolate paleo chili to chocolate beverages from smoothies to teas. The best part aside from teaching others to taste / savor chocolate rather than eat it is that my Mini-Foodies have enjoyed being taste testers along with my Foodie-In-Crime on my journey and have inspired me to make healthier yummies accommodating our dietary restrictions.
There you have it, the story of how I became the professor who teaches a course titled "Confections of a Chocoholic". One day I will perhaps create my own confection line that is both allergy and Celiac-friendly so that those who are in the paleo, allergy, and or Celiac communities can enjoy healthier and safe chocolate treats.
Please leave a comment letting me know for which Chocolate Confections you would like to have a recipe that accommodates your dietary restrictions (please note these). Please also let me know if you would prefer to purchase or make your own.