THE LITTLE EASTER THAT COULD
Ten years ago, we opened one week before Easter. Chocolatiers spend months preparing for the holiday, we just kind of, well, unlocked the doors. Considering how far we have come, the beginning might seem a little inauspicious. "Sherman, set the WABAC machine to...9am on 4/3/2004." Poof! Our scene opens on the Woodhouse kitchen with lots of related people scurrying around not knowing what to do. As I was the only one with retail experience, I would be operating the register that day, but our daughters, 13 and 15, would help as they will be front of house the rest of the week. Fortunately they were on spring break from school. The salespeople I had hired wouldn't be able to start for another week. We open the door between the kitchen and the shop and discover that people are already waiting for us to open. My first thought is to run. My daughters look calm. At 9:15 a man begins to pound on the door, insisting to be let in. We oblige and take his order for six 24-piece boxes of chocolate that he must have immediately for a golf date. I go in the back to ask Tracy what to do and it is now that we realize that we have never actually placed an official Woodhouse Chocolate in an official Woodhouse Chocolate box. Doh! Tracy's sister, Cindy, takes charge and we quickly discover that two of our chocolates will need to be redesigned as they are too tall and don't actually fit in the boxes. Tasty, but tall, terribly tall! We were off! Other than being incredibly busy and having to make up everything as we went along, that first day went fairly well. It was the following days as we approached Easter that the fun set in. Have you ever had the experience of throwing a party, everyone comes, everyone comes hungry and every tray of hors d' oeuvres you send out is stripped clean before it reaches the buffet? Well that was Woodhouse Chocolate for the next week. No matter how fast Tracy and Chris made rabbits in the few molds we had at that time, they were gone before we could even set them down! Things are a tiny bit more leisurely these days. We can usually get a tray of rabbits through the door and we make them ahead of time now in the dozens so we can share them with friends across the nation. For those of you who knew we were always pros and all of this is simply made up, you are right and I would love to talk to you about a bridge I have for sale in New York.
John & Tracy Anderson
The "Etoile" restaurant at Domaine Chandon has always held a special place in my parents' heart. My father, who first ate there in 1973 at the age of eleven recalls that it was the best food he had ever had in his life and, as any eleven year old would think, couldn't believe any meal could last three hours. For my mother, the restaurant at Chandon was where she spent almost a year in the pastry department just after graduating culinary school. Etoile still holds a special place in both of their hearts. I, on the other hand, grew up literally a stones throw away and had never been! Luckily for me it was my boyfriend, Vince's, birthday which gave us all good cause to celebrate and spoil each other in culinary splendor. Now, before I even begin to describe the amazing meal we had, I feel compelled to mention just how gorgeous the property is....just...wow! As you are walking towards the restaurant you are fully immersed in a serene setting of vineyards, fruit trees, and twinkling lights. The restaurant has more a sleek and demure style with pockets of unexpected color, whether it be stunning flowers, sculpture or intriguing candies. I like to equate it to a sharply dressed man in a grey suit with brightly patterned socks. The menu has two options; a four course meal, which gives you the ability to choose each course, or the Chef's Tasting menu, which is six courses chosen by the chef. We all chose the four course option which was a stunning display of food and art, it was hard to believe it tasted even better than it looked! Each dish was very well balanced in flavor and in texture, but let's not forget utterly delicious. Dessert...desserts are my bread and buttercream but I am around them too much in my daily life. These desserts though...they had to take the plates away from my clutching hands as I licked the bowl. And I wasn't the only one (cough, dad, cough). And last but not least, the service was impeccable! It's not every day that a server can handle my father's antics (he was wearing an English bowler and shorts)...
Christina Wood Anderson
CARROT CUPCAKES WITH CARAMELIZED WHITE CHOCOLATE FROSTING
Carrots are usually considered an Easter thing. The other morning I wondered why? Yes I know, bunnies like carrots. After a little research I found that our modern idea of the Easter Bunny came from german immigrants in Pennsylvania Dutch area who brought with them the story of a hare who laid colored eggs. Children would leave out carrots for the hare much as we do with cookies for Santa Claus. An egg laying rabbit, huh? It's funny how we celebrate things like this year after year without really thinking about the reasons behind them.
Well, in honor of the "Osterhase" I offer carrots, They just happen to be in cupcake form. The frosting will take a little advance planning because of a fun technique of caramelizing white chocolate, but I think worth it.
For the cupcakes:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups grated carrots
The finely grated rind of one orange
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugars until well combined. Add the oil, whisk again. Add the vanilla, whisk again. And again. Combine the dry ingredients in another small bowl, then dump into the wet ones. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined, then add the carrots, orange rind and mix until well combined.
Line cupcake tins with paper liners (or get some fabulous stand alone without a baking pan papers like the blue ones above) and fill 3/4 full with batter. Put in oven and bake about 15 minutes, or until the tops bounce back to the touch, or a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool - I always get them out of the baking pan right away so they don't keep cooking from the residual heat.
To Caramelize White Chocolate:
16 ozs. high quality white couverture - you will need a good one with at least 30% cocoa butter. DO NOT use "coating chocolate", chips or anything found in a craft store.
Set your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. If your chocolate is in block form, chop it. If it is pistole, or little buttons - woo hoo no need to chop! Spread the chocolate in a rimmed baking sheet. Put in the oven. After twenty minutes, stir it about and spread evenly in the pan. Do this every ten minutes for the next 60-90 minutes. During this process, the chocolate will get lumpy, chalky and down-right ugly, but just keep turning and spreading. Eventually you will get something smooth and caramel colored. David Lebovitz calls for you to look for the color of natural peanut butter to know when it's done.(You might check out his web-site for more detailed instructions and photos on this process.) Then just let it cool. You can store it at room temperature for a couple of months.
For the frosting recipe I only used 12 ozs. of the final product. When I figure out what I'm going to do with the little bit left I'll let you know.
For the Frosting:
12 ozs. caramelized white chocolate
4 ozs. butter (I used unsalted European style, then added 1/4 teaspoon salt)
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 Tablespoons milk
In the bowl of a mixer, whip together the butter and caramelized white chocolate. Add the powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of the milk. Whip with the whisk until smooth. Add more milk if necessary to acheive a fluffy, spreadable frosting.
I found that if I whipped too much, it just sarted thickening up and I had to add more milk. I guess something about the chocolate does something when whipped. I don't know what or why. Our usual answer around here is "It's chocolate" while throwing our hands in the air.
So frost those cupcakes however you know how. If you're fancy and can wield a piping bag, go for it. Otherwise, just spread it on with a knife - it's all good.
Tracy Wood Anderson
IT'S NOT EVERY DAY YOU TURN 10!
How could you have not heard? Woodhouse Chocolate is celebrating its 10th anniversary and to cap the festivities we would like to invite you to a fund raising party where it all began. On Thursday, April 17th, 2014, 8:30pm at the Cameo Cinema, St. Helena, CA we will be showing Who's Killing the Great Chefs of Europe to raise funds for the Culinary School at St. Helena High School. Doors will open at 8:00pm with complimentary sparkling wine, hors d' oeuvres & chocolate followed by a screening of the film. Tickets are $20 with 100% of the proceeds going to the school. We were inspired to enter the chocolate business while watching Chocolat at the Cameo so we thought it only fitting to remember 10 wonderful years with our favorite "food" film. Released in 1978, starring George Segal, Jacqueline Bisset and the incomparable Robert Morley Great Chefs is a delight. The greatest chefs in Europe are being killed in the manner of their most honored dish. It is a romp of a who done it for a worthy cause. We hope to see you there! Tickets can be purchased at the Cameo box office or by calling Woodhouse at (800) 966-3468.