For La Cascade du Chocolat owner and Master Chocolatier Sam Brown, a chocolate lover and life-long learner, chocolate making is her passion, a creative outlet, and a source of inspiration.
Obsessed with all things chocolate since childhood, Sam smiles, recalling her chocolate-scented calculator, pens, pencils, stickers, lipstick, and the many school reports on the history of chocolate. Family vacations touring the Hershey chocolate factory seeded her interest in chocolate making.
While earning her education degree, Sam stoked her chocolate passion by taking courses in chocolatiering, gastronomy, and the culinary arts. For 16 years, she continued expanding her craft, studying in France, Italy, and at the Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver, Canada.
After six years teaching middle school math with chocolate making as a side gig, Sam’s wake-up call came in 2016 when her home caught fire, and she and her husband Andy lost nearly everything. “Life was too short, and there was so much chocolate to be made,” said Sam. “So, I decided to make chocolate my full-time mission, and in 2016, we opened our first shop in Exeter, and four years later, we opened the Portsmouth location.”
For Sam, perfecting her art involves endless tasting and experimenting. “Chocolate has many flavor profiles and can taste quite different, depending on what you’re eating or drinking. So, the more you taste, the more you taste! Introducing fresh new flavor concoctions to our chocolate-lover fans means we are continually learning the latest techniques and exploring new ideas and recipes."
Sam and her team start with the three basic chocolate types every chocolatier needs–white, milk, and dark. The art of chocolate making comes as they experiment with chocolates from different countries, makers, and cacao roasts, the main raw ingredient in chocolate. These subtle nuances can substantially affect flavors, similar to regional and creator influences in coffee or wine. La Cascade du Chocolat uses over thirty chocolates and pairs these flavors with spices, nuts, maple syrup, and fruits. Sam’s top choice is Mele Kalikimaka, which combines passion fruit and white chocolate with a dark chocolate shell.
Unlike commercial chocolates, La Cascade du Chocolat tempers, enrobes, and molds their chocolates by hand as much as possible. Sam and her team take pride and ownership of every step in creating each delectable product. Decorating each piece to make a unique and delicious morsel of edible art is the best part for Sam. They use only sustainably and ethically sourced chocolate, separating them from other brands and shops.
Sam aspires to be the “Julia Child” of chocolate making. “I love educating customers and sharing my joy for chocolate. Julia Child did not just teach people how to master the art of French cooking at home; she helped them appreciate and connect with good food...and wine. She is my inspiration.”
Like Julia, Sam hopes to inspire you to experiment with chocolate-making at home. Test your culinary skills with her decadent Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Ganache recipe. For a Valentine’s Day pairing that is delicious and romantic, enjoy it with Vigne Regali Rosa Regale Brachetto D’Acqui Sparkling Red ($16.99). This seductively sweet treat is a fruity and floral wine from the Brachetto grape. It is from Acqui Terme in the Piedmont region of Italy, a town known for its ancient Roman thermal baths. Legend says that this was Cleopatra’s favorite wine, shared with her lovers, including Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, to unleash their passions.
Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Ganache
- 12 ounces dark chocolate chips
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 8 ounces 60% + cocoa chocolate
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces caster sugar (aka superfine sugar)
- 4 tablespoons plain or almond flour
- 6 large eggs, separated.
- 8” cake pan, deep, greased, and floured lightly
- Finely chop the chocolate. The smaller and more consistent the pieces, the better the smoothness.
- Heat the cream in a pan until it starts to simmer/scald.
- Pour the cream over the chocolate slowly. Let this sit for five minutes.
- Stir briskly until the cream and the chocolate are thoroughly mixed and smooth.
- Let the ganache cool on the counter. The longer it sits, the thicker the consistency.
- Preheat the oven to 335 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Break up the chocolate into small pieces, add the butter, and in a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate and butter on medium. Stir until completely smooth and melted together.
- Mix the sugar, flour, egg yolks, and melted chocolate in a large bowl until smooth.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Fold half of the egg whites into the mixture with a gentle hand. Take care not to over-mix. Carefully fold the remaining egg whites in, just until combined.
- Pour the mixture into the greased and floured cake pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes on 335. If the edges start to darken, reduce the temperature to 300 degrees. To check if it’s done--a skewer through the center should come out clean.
- Let the cake cool completely. Pour or spread the ganache on the cake.
- Let it set, and then decorate with fresh berries.