An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jan 25, 2014
06:58 AMThe Connecticut Table
Connecticut's Hot New Artisan Chocolates; Insider's Scoop (for Valentine's Day)
Toffee from the Plum Brook Chocolate Facebook page. Photos in text by Laurie Gaboardi/Litchfield County Times.
Shortly before Christmas, as snow generously brought a glistening new beauty to the Litchfield Hills, word spread among discerning women and sophisticated moms who trade intel on lifestyle finds as they wait for young girls in ballet class, or sons at basketball practice: There was a new artisan chocolatier in Woodbury and her salted caramel truffles were to die for—sweet and salty and satisfying.
The confection that is described like this, “A velvety caramel center is enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with a pinch of Mediterranean sea salt,” started gaining a following as one of those half-whispered semi-secrets: You want the other moms to know that you know about the newest, most delicious thing around with an instant cult following among those in the know—but do you really want other people to know, to make your good thing public knowledge?
In the end, the corps of moms decided that this intel was too good not to share, and declarations grew louder that Connecticut’s hottest new artisan chocolate business had arrived in the form of Plum Brook Chocolate, the venture Pamela Dorgan launched last October.
The line includes a half-dozen varieties of truffles, a couple of barks and—new this month—a decadent toffee.
“What is it about this treat that makes it so irresistible,” Plum Brook’s newsletter says of the new toffee. “The buttery flavor, the soft crunch, or the rich, caramel-like aftertaste? We’re not sure, but we know that our variety, coated in velvety dark chocolate and sprinkled with chopped pecans, will delight the most discriminating toffee enthusiasts.” (Above, Ginger-Rum truffles, and seasonal dark truffles with snowflakes.)
(See the full line, descriptions and pricing details on page two of the story. Anyone can place an order by calling (203) 491-6041 or emailing email@example.com. The website is still a work in progress—a testament to just how new this venture is—and can be found at www.plumbrookchocolate.com.)
Also see our story Chocolate Treats Across Connecticut: Pancakes With Chips to Banana Chimichanga, Even Chocolate Truffle Stout
As Christmas closed in, Dorgan was working around the clock to fill all her orders—as she also hand-delivered her handmade confections to folks in the greater Woodbury area—and the situation is sure to get more (sweetly) challenging over the next couple of weeks as the official holiday of romance closes in.
For Valentine’s Day, Plum Brook is offering a special heart-shaped box filled with 11 of its richest-tasting truffles at a cost of $22—or any of its chocolates in any configuration, of course.
When is the last time you could find an amuse bouche for romance that incorporates elements only the most sensitive lovers have at their command—a gourmet item with great context that bespeaks sophistication for being savvy enough to find it, the exclusivity of the handmade, limited availability, a (delicious) wow factor, and the intimacy of a gift individually selected—all for $22.
The sweet satisfaction that will improve your stock with a loved one on Valentine’s Day, or any other day, springs forth from the newly-minted chocolatier's long-simmering love affair with a childhood memory and its associations.
“When I was young my mother made buttercreams,” Dorgan says, referring to the chocolates her mother made in the hundreds over the holidays. She had them every year growing up, and as an adult she tried her mother’s recipe and found it needed tweaking, so she experimented with that formula and others from her childhood.
A 20-year career in the pharmaceutical industry intervened in the continuity of the pursuit and she forget about making buttercreams and other treats for a long stretch. (Above, Pamela Dorgan at Winding Drive/Plum Brook Chocolate. Right, a six-piece selection.)
Eventually, the pharma career was behind her and she returned to making chocolates, and, as these types of success stories go, every time Dorgan shared one of her creations, whoever tasted it invariably expressed pleasure, and offered encouragement: “People kept saying, ‘These are so good you need to sell them.’”
Meanwhile, she completed and online course on chocolate, studying its history and the artistry and chemistry involved in making fine chocolates. “I just loved it,” she says. “I said, ‘This is what I’m supposed to be doing.’”
There was further study last January in New York City, and Dorgan became an Ecole Chocolate Certified Chocolatier.
Through a fortuitous meeting with the owners of Winding Drive Jams & Jellies in Woodbury, Dorgan found a site from which to launch her passion as a business; she shares the artisan jam makers’ commercial kitchen in a Route 6 site in a lease arrangement.
In the pre-Christmas season last year, Dorgan found initial exposure through holiday fairs and farmers markets, notably the terrific Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Market in Litchfield, which is in the midst of an indoor season at the Litchfield Community Center.
“Doors keep opening,” Dorgan says, crediting her quickly growing success largely to the word-of-mouth that filtered through the Litchfield Hills about how wonderful her chocolates are.
It’s not just the delicious factor that explains their appeal: Dorgan is devoted to the fair trade and farm-to-table movements, and she sources only ethically-produced cocoa for her line, which also features locally-made components such as milk, cream, butter and other accoutrements.
The Connecticut Farmer’s Cow cooperative, for example, is her source for cream, and she uses butter from Cabot Creamery and from Litchfield’s Arethusa Farm Dairy, the farm of Manolo Blahnik USA owners George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, which has a creamery and retail store in Bantam, and an Italian-inspired wine bar and restaurant, Arethusa al tavolo, next door. (Above, butter crunch toffee.)
“The community has a lot to do with it,” Dorgan says of her inspiration, the ethics underlying her business and her early success.
The newest addition to the line, meanwhile, is decadent-looking toffee. “That really did very well at the markets last week," Dorgan says. "We don’t have a bag left.”
The salted caramel, ginger rum (made with Myers’s Jamaican rum) and Sugar Shed Maple truffles are the most requested flavors, and it’s easy to see why from the descriptions below.
There’s a new variation on the salted caramel truffle, using coffee instead of water, and the “dark chocolate-dipped treat” is sprinkled with locally ground espresso powder. In the local foods spirit, that latter ingredient comes courtesy of Nicholas Benson, an English teacher at The Gunnery private school in Washington, who has a micro-coffee-roasting business on the side.
“It was debuted last week at the farmers market,” Dorgan says of the truffle dubbed Caramel Latte, giving another indication of just how young and fresh this startup is.
“We’re working on a truffle infused with cabernet,” adds Dorgan. “We hope to get that one out in time for Valentine’s Day.” The cabernet aspect is cabernet franc from Hopkins Vineyard in New Preston.
As for what’s coming after that, stay tuned. Dorgan, who says, “I’m just having so much fun doing it,” has been talking to producers of local honey and other sweet products.
Meanwhile, see the full descriptions below, and to place an order call (203) 491-6041 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Dorgan will also be selling her artisan chocolates at the indoor farmers market in Litchfield on Feb. 1, March 8, April 5 and April 19. For more, see the farmers market’s website.
Plum Brook Chocolate
At Plum Brook, we strive to deliver the finest quality, handmade chocolates using the best possible ingredients. Real chocolate grown on small, shaded farms in dense equatorial jungles and transformed with pure, locally grown and sourced ingredients into an all-natural, delectable result. Freshly made in small batches, and no preservatives, our chocolates are cut, dipped and packed by hand*.
Our Seasonal Truffle Collection
A velvety caramel center is enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with a pinch of Mediterranean sea salt.
Dark rum and fresh ginger blend delicately in this white chocolate ganache, enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with organic candied ginger.
SUGAR SHED MAPLE
Our local maple syrup ganache, coated in dark chocolate and topped with toasted pecan, bursts with the taste of New England.
BETTY’S VANILLA BEAN
Enrobed in dark chocolate, this truffle’s creamy white center is steeped in vanilla beans and speckled with their seeds to produce a gently unfolding, vanilla-like-you’ve-never-tasted-it-before flavor.
A variation on our much-loved caramel, using coffee instead of water, this dark chocolate-dipped treat is sprinkled with locally ground espresso powder.
The vibrant flavor of our raspberry truffle comes from the infusion of fresh jam from Winding Drive Jams and Jellies of Woodbury and a splash of Chambord. Our truffle is drizzled with white chocolate, tinted with natural coloring.
Rich, soft and not too sweet, our 72% chocolate ganache produces a deep, dark lasting flavor. Enrobed in 67% chocolate.
A crisp and complex flavor emerges from this white chocolate center infused with local, fresh peppermint leaves and enrobed in dark chocolate.
A delicate blend of milk chocolate and hazelnut paste is enrobed in dark chocolate and coated with chopped hazelnuts.
4 piece sampler $7.00
8 piece sampler $13.50
12 piece sampler $20.00
5 piece salted caramel box $8.50
24 piece box: Chocolatier’s choice. Our signature box. $38.00
Bark: Dark Hazelnut-Espresso or Milk Cranberry-Orange-Pistachio. 5 oz bag $9.00
Buttercrunch Toffee: 3.5 oz. bag $10.00
Velvet drinking chocolate mix: Made from 64% chocolate. 6 generous servings. $10.00
*Please enjoy our truffles within 3 weeks, barks within 6 weeks and sipping chocolate within 3 months. (Right, sample packs.)Connecticut's Hot New Artisan Chocolates; Insider's Scoop (for Valentine's Day)