Sunday, July 22, 2007

Christopher Elbow's Chocolate Heaven

At Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates, in Kansas City, Mo., Elbow and his staff of three create and store 10,000 to 12,000 handmade chocolates per average week. Between November and Valentine’s day, they churn out 30,000 to 40,000 pieces each week.

There are Belgian-style chocolates –with molded exteriors, a thick shell and soft fillings; and French-style, with a thin, delicate chocolate shell formed when a ‘curtain’ of chocolate pours over flavored fillings. Dark chocolate pairs with French lavender and black tea combines with citrus.

The chocolates are gorgeous too. Architectural and design magazines and individual artists inspire Elbow’s designs. Sprays of white cocoa butter splattered across Tahitian vanilla enrobed chocolates mimic Jackson Pollack’s painting style.

Everyone has specific jobs to do. J.K. cleanly cuts large slabs of ganache with a ‘guitar’ slicer and then quickly arranges it on cooling trays so her hands do not melt the chocolate. Steven paints bon bon molds with finger strokes of colored liquid cocoa butter.

Ethan fills boxes with chocolates and flavor diagrams. As 60 confections emerge from the French enrobing machine onto chilled fillings, every 90 seconds, Elbow transfers pre-printed ‘pages’ of repeating cocoa butter patterns onto the finished tray. They repeat each process dozens of times every day and I marvel at their consistency.

After I say good-bye, the scent of fine chocolate lingers on my clothes for hours.