See also: - Andrew Starr and Jennifer Spielman win at the Colorado Chocolate Festival - Photos: the sweet smells -- and tastes -- of the Colorado Chocolate Festival - Black Star Chocolates makes sweet chocolate lust -- one batch at a time.Starr and Spielman are no strangers to winning awards for their handmade boutique chocolates; They took the grand-champion prize at the 2012 Colorado Chocolate Festival with their saffron-rose creams, as well as the award for Best Non-Traditional Truffle in 2011 for their basil-lemon truffle.
And all of these accolades are for chocolates they make without a permanent, brick-and-mortar storefront.
Spielman and Starr create all of their chocolates and truffles on the weekends, in batches, in a leased kitchen space where they use fine imported chocolates, spices from local shops, and fresh, seasonal herbs and flowers. The result is their signature collection, including a heart-shaped hibiscus cream with a tropical, tangy filling; a smooth jasmine chocolate with an exotic floral scent and flavor; a minty, lingering rosemary caramel; a lavender chocolate of pure bliss, filled with cream and a lavender-bud-infused dark-chocolate ganache that melts like whipped butter.The duo just introduced some new flavors to their growing collection: a bourbon-grapefruit chocolate and a violet cream. The latter have dark-chocolate shells decorated with an edible purple shimmer and a lovely purple violet-scented filling that tastes as sweet as it smells. "As with all our cream filling, we begin by making fondant by hand -- similar to cake-decorating fondant, but made to be creamier for confectionery use. All our creams use organic butter to cut the sweetness a tad, and add that unmistakable mouthfeel and flavor of good dairy. Then we use the highest quality essence or extract for flavoring, since doing our own infusions with cream based flavors is exceedingly difficult. For the violet, we use a French violet essence of the highest quality."
The new bourbon-grapefruit chocolates are definitely not for timid chocolate enthusiasts -- they have a sharp, citrus bite from the fruit, and an even sharper smack of bourbon. "Pouring Wild Turkey in a stainless-steel bowl set on a metric food scale doesn't do much to paint me as a back-alley booze-hound," says Starr. "However, we do smell like grapefruit after cutting all the zest and juicing the fruits!"
And Starr is awash with ideas for the future, testing recipes for peanut butter cups, including Thai-spiced versions. "Peanut butter cups are still being worked on, we promise," says Starr. "They've gotta be out of this world, so we appreciate the patience from our customers who keep asking about the progress. Sometimes the silly little details hold things up, like getting the perfect size of candy cup for the peanut butter cups. We'll be making our own shells, of course, and we want the cups to sit perfectly with the rest of our chocolate collections."
As for the changes to the now-award-winning lemongrass-Kaffir lime-coconut truffle, he explains: "When using subtle flavors with chocolate -- lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaf are perfect examples -- we need to find a way for the flavors to sit well together, and not have the chocolate mask the intended flavor of the ganache. Sometimes a specific chocolate or combination of chocolates works well, as is the case with our salted caramel truffle, or coffee truffle, with two chocolates in those ganaches. After many flavor tests, we ended up using a combination of two French chocolates -- one bittersweet, one milk --- and pure cocoa butter, which imparts texture and mouthfeel, but contributes almost no flavor. We hope people love it as much as we do!"
The judges at this year's Colorado Chocolate Festival certainly did.