February 2010

Love Bites

A Wevertown chocolatier’s handcrafted truffles

Photograph by Matt Paul

The tempering machine—a compact metal box with a keypad on top and a round reservoir that heats chocolate to 85 degrees—churns on the counter. At the ready are dozens of little brown balls, in regimental lines on a tray. Deb Morris dips her gloved hands in the warm, dark goop, then deftly rolls the globes between her palms. As she talks, one, two, 10 wasabi-ginger ganache centers get a deep chocolate veneer.

“Did you make mud pies as a kid?” I ask.

“No, but I did have an Easy-Bake Oven,” says Morris, 41, from Wevertown. For two years her company, Bark­eater Chocolates (518-369-2078), has been producing truf­fles—only truffles, not molded candies, barks or bars—for an audience that stretches from farm markets in Warrensburg to boutiques in Saratoga Springs and downstate chocolate shows. The Internet brings in sales from across the country and Canada.

Though she worked in network television as a producer, director and public-affairs man­ager and ran her own production company that created corporate videos and marketing pieces, Morris says, “Chocolate was always a hobby. I’ve always loved experimenting with it. And eating it.”

When her family moved to the Adirondacks full time four years ago, Morris moved from amateur chocolatier to professional. She found a mentor in Vermont who made truffles, read extensively and cooked up countless batches that her husband, daughter and two sons were happy to test.

She struck a deal with Sarah Hayden-Williams, in North Creek, to use the Cafe Sarah kitchen when the bakery is closed two days a week. Morris’s marketing background dictated that Bark­eater Chocolates packaging had to be simple and elegant to showcase the .7-ounce bites.

Beyond the classic combinations of dark, milk and white chocolate, Morris has delved into unusual flavors for the hearts of the candy. “I use mostly organic flavors and spices for the filling,” she says. Wasabi ginger, sage and brown butter, Chardonnay and champagne were followed by seasonal offerings like pumpkin pie and cider donut. “I enrobe them in two coats of bittersweet chocolate from California that’s about 63 percent cacao,” Morris explains. She’s perfected a non­dairy truffle that uses soy milk, but a sugar-free candy with the right mouth feel and taste is still in the works.

From time to time, Barkeater creates custom products using essences from wineries. Morris has made a port truffle in conjunction with a winery in Gansevoort, New York, and rolled out an assortment for Barefoot Vineyards, in California. Her biggest special order was dozens of boxes requested by a cruise line as thank-you gifts for travel agents.

A typical batch requires 10 pounds of chocolate and is more than 300 pieces. Truffles come in packages of four, eight and 12 and cost from nine dollars to $16.50. Busy times of the year are Christmas, Mother’s Day and, of course, Valentine’s Day.

Busy is a relative term when you’re having fun. For Morris, the art and craft of chocolate are as essential as the flavors themselves. There’s the reward of making something unusual that people want, plus the low-tech process of creating something delicious, truly by hand.

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