Pistachio. Rose. Cardamom. Chocolate may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of these ingredients, but it might be if you’ve ever visited the French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville and sampled the Indian kulfi milk chocolate truffle.
The creativity of owners Jael and Dan Rattigan, who formerly owned a chocolate and bread shop in Costa Rica, doesn’t stop there. A lemon pepper, French lavender, or blueberry cognac truffle? They’ve made those, too. “We’re inspired by food, not just dessert,” Jael says.
Even their classic truffle flavors are unexpected. For example, the Rattigans rely on fresh, locally grown raspberries to provide the raspberry flavor for their raspberry truffle, and when they combine those raspberries with Hawaiian dark chocolate, the Rattigans make a different kind of raspberry truffle — one that tastes like an actual berry.
The bottom line is that the chocolates at French Broad Chocolate Lounge are a labor of love — a love that Jael discovered years ago while making chocolate for friends and family at home. So, when you’re in the kitchen cooking for those you care about, take Jael’s advice. “Just keep it simple and pure,” she says. “If you use good ingredients, like good quality chocolate, fresh cream, and butter, then it’s easy to make a good product.”
Double Chocolate Sandwich Cookies Yields: 24 sandwich cookies.For cookies: 1 stick unsalted butter, softened 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 3 large eggs 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted (plus extra to shape cookies) 1 teaspoon baking powder pinch of salt
For filling: 3/4 cup heavy cream 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 325˚. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Place butter and sugar in the base of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt; mix until combined and dough comes together.
Shape the cookies. Using cocoa-powder dusted hands, roll about 2 teaspoons of dough into a ball. Place ball on baking sheet and flatten slightly. Repeat until all dough is used, placing about 12 cookies on each baking sheet. Bake in batches until cookies are set, about 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool.
While the cookies cool, make the filling. Heat heavy cream in a small saucepan until just simmering. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Stir until smooth and chocolate is melted; transfer to a small bowl. Chill in refrigerator about 1 hour or until filling is thickened and resembles the consistency of store-bought icing.
To finish the cookies, divide and spread filling equally onto the bottoms of half of the cookies. Top with the plain cookies to create sandwiches. Serve.
Spiced Brownies Yields: 12 to 16 brownies.1 stick unsalted butter, diced 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 3 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract pinch of salt 1 cup all-purpose flour 1/4teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Preheat oven to 375˚. Spray an 8×8-inch baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside. Melt butter and chocolate together in a saucepan set over low heat. Stir in instant coffee. Add sugar and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, and salt. Slowly whisk in chocolate mixture. Stir in flour, cinnamon, and cayenne. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until set. (Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a light crumb and a little unbaked batter.) Let cool completely, cut into squares, and serve.
Cook’s Note: If you’re in search of a plain brownie recipe, feel free to omit the instant coffee, cinnamon, and cayenne.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge’s Hot Chocolate Yields: 4 servings.For ganache: 4 ounces dark chocolate (Jael uses a 65 percent cacao chocolate), chopped into 1/4-inch pieces 1/2 cup organic heavy whipping cream
To finish the hot chocolate: 3 cups organic whole milk optional: ground chile for serving (Jael uses guajillo chile)
First, make the ganache. Place chopped chocolate in a medium-size heatproof bowl; set aside. Heat cream in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring cream to a boil and immediately pour over chopped chocolate. Let sit for about 3 minutes, and then gently whisk together until completely combined, being sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. At this point, you may either refrigerate the ganache for later use (Jael says you can keep it in the fridge for a week) or proceed directly to the next step.
When ready to finish the hot chocolate, whisk together prepared ganache and milk in a medium-size saucepan set over medium heat. Cook until steamy, whisking occasionally to be sure mixture is thoroughly combined. Ladle into warmed mugs, and sprinkle a pinch of chile powder over the top of each, if desired.
These places are the stewards of some very special items: Doc Watson’s first recording, the desk Virginia Woolf used to redefine the novel, and Elisha Mitchell’s pocket watch are just some of the cherished pieces that teach us about our state’s history and the people who preserve it.