Waistlines across Wyoming might be in trouble next year, with the Meeteetse Chocolatier’s latest European find.
Every year, Meeteetse Chocolatier Tim Kellogg heads to Europe’s vibrant chocolate scene for a peek at the latest trends. He brings them back to the U.S. a year, and sometimes even two years, before they would normally make it here.
It’s part of his personal quest to always be learning new skills and bring ever more interesting chocolate confections home to his Wyoming shop in Meeteetse, as well as his occasional pop-up shop in Cody.
Snacking bars, his latest find, are mind-blowing confections built from multiple layers of adventurous flavors, encased in a smooth, bar of rich chocolate.
“It’s like a long, narrow bar with multiple layers of flavors inside,” Kellogg told Cowboy State Daily. “It could be praline or like a fruit gel, or ganache, you know, a caramel.”
The chocolate shell that keeps all the creamy insides together might look very minimalist on the outside.
But bite into the bar and “there’s all these flavors and colors and textures on the inside,” Kellogg said.
A Vibrant Chocolate Scene
Kellogg discovered the London chocolate scene while looking for answers to all of his confection questions, when he was first starting out.
He was watching the Food Network, YouTube videos and reading everything he could get his hands on, but America didn’t yet really have a thriving artisan chocolate scene outside of New York or maybe Chicago.
“The London Times has this great food section, and there’s almost always an article about desserts or chocolate,” Kellogg said. “And so one Sunday there was an article about a chocolatier in London who was doing what I was trying to do and was very, very successful at it.”
When he saw all the amazing flavor combinations, he knew he just had to make a trip across the pond learn more. When he got there, he realized it wasn’t just this one chocolatier. There were four, five, six chocolatiers trying unique flavor pairings with fresh ingredients that have short shelf lives and aren’t mass-produced, which was exactly the path Kellogg was on.
“There just seems to be this chocolate vibrancy there that I didn’t see anywhere else,” Kellogg said.
Stores like Aneesh Popat, for example, which is doing water-based ganaches without cream or butter in incredible flavors and combinations, or London chocolate, which has made a name for itself in the bean to bar, small-batch chocolates.
Charbonnel & Walker, meanwhile, are renowned for their rose and violet creams, while Buck’s Fizz has a champagne and orange chocolate that inspired a flavor combination in Kellogg’s own store.
“Both Harrod’s and Selfridge’s department stores have a dedicated choologate hall, filled with case of chocolates from a variety of chocolatiers,” Kellogg said. “These are great areas to pick up on emerging trends, as well as try a wide variety of chocolates.”
Kellogg has made a European chocolate adventure a tradition every year since the first to check out the London chocolate scene and absorb everything he can about the latest trends. It brings inspiration and innovation to his store. He’ll also attend a class or two at the Chocolate Academy for working professionals to learn new skills.
A Train Of Delicious Thought
Snacking bars are something Kellogg has tried before.
“I’ve never been able to make them on my own,” Kellogg said. “I didn’t know how to do them properly, but we spent several days working on that, and I was actually quite pleased with the way they turned out.”
Kellogg posted a delicious train of snacking bars he was making in the UK at the Chocolate Academy this year.
There was a hazelnut, almond and pistachio confection dipped in Belgian dark chocolate, followed by a pistachio praline with cranberries and Belgian white chocolate dipped in Belgian ruby chocolate. Finally, there was a tropical concoction that had pineapple, yuzu, and coconut, topped with apricots and caramelized popcorn, dipped in Callebaut Gold chocolate.
Kellogg, though, was modest about his progress.
“All the really good-looking photos were of Mark and Claire’s (snacking bars),” he said. ”They were not mine. Some of mine were just like, well it’s a good thing that tastes good. I just have to serve them to my friends when it’s very dark.”
Mark and Claire were fellow students in the snacking bar class Kellogg took this year while he was in London.
While he was modest about his own program, a simple glance at photos of candies from Kellogg’s store shows he clearly has very high standards for the chocolates he serves.
When he says they’re just “OK,” you can bet they’re actually exceptional.
They’re A Speed Test
Making a snacking bar is a demanding task that requires both insane organization and speed, especially since Kellogg is not using any fancy machinery to speed things up. He does it all by hand.
“You start with kind of the inside, and you build up the layers,” Kellogg said. “So, if you’re doing a ganache layer, you’d make that, and it goes into kind of like a square pan.”
On top of that, the next layers are built, whether fruit gel, caramel, ganache, or something else.
“When it’s set, they’re cut into kind of rectangle shapes and then dipped,” Kellogg said. “Then it’s dipped again, so you have like a double layer to hold everything together on the inside.”
Kellogg has to keep his store at a particular temperature, so that the inside of the bars won’t soften too quickly before they’re dipped.
“If they’re at room temperature too long, they’ll obviously kind of revert back to a cream state,” Kellogg said. “That’s why, when you bite into them, they’re nice and soft on the inside. But they’re impossible to enrobe or dip at that point. It’ll just blend with the chocolate.”
The other speed factor here is the temper of the chocolate, which only lasts so long.
“I don’t have massive machines that have a constant flow of tempered chocolate,” he said. “These are literally done by hand and dipped right away. Once the chocolate starts to go out of temper, I have to stop and then kind of start over with the next part of the batch.”
New Enrobing Method
The other cool trick Kellogg worked on learning this year is how to enrobe chocolates. This new technique will allow him to make chocolates that are just a little more durable and last a little bit longer than his signature truffles.
“Truffles have been kind of my main items and those are like a chocolate ganache with a very thin chocolate shell,” Kellogg said. Enrobed chocolates “have a much thicker shell and, because of that, you can do layers on the inside.”
It’s also a little more stable, so will last a few days longer than truffles.
“The shell is also thick enough that it can support multiple layers within it if you want to do that,” Kellogg said.
In addition to the new enrobing technique, Kellogg learned a new technique for decorating the surfaces of these enrobed chocolates. Now, not only can he play with lots of new layered flavors inside a truffle-like ball, but he can give the balls interesting new patterns like speckles and colorful clouds.
Kellogg has already added some of the new flavor combinations this new technique will allow into his holiday lineup.
There’s, for example, a mulled wine chocolate, which is pinot noir with orange peel, clove, and warming spices, as well as a gingerbread caramel, a four-spice chocolate candy, and a new candy cane chocolate.
“After the holidays, there’ll be a lot more time to kind of present a whole new collection in addition to what I’m doing now,” Kellogg said. “During Christmas, it’s just so overwhelmingly busy, it’s hard to do a whole lot of the new stuff.”
And, too, Kellogg is planning his next chocolate-buying trip to Belize, where he’ll once again be looking for one-of-a-kind chocolates for his bean to chocolate bar tasting parties.
“I’d like to concentrate more on the bean to bar, you know, making my own chocolate and doing more with that,” he said. “Just finding new, unique, and creative flavors to put out for my customers to enjoy.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.