Magazine article Sunset

The Master of Milk and Dark

Magazine article Sunset

The Master of Milk and Dark

Article excerpt

Kings of chocolate, you imagine, are figures of Falstaffian amplitude. But Richard Donnelly has the restrained look of a mild-mannered graduate student, with wire-rimmed glasses and reddish hair poking out from under his cap.

Still, Donnelly does sport a nearly perpetual smudge of chocolate on his upper lip. And he has garnered a reputation as one of America's premier chocolatiers, thanks to creations like chipotle chocolates that fetch $65 a pound.

Me, I like chocolate as much as the next person, which is saying a lot given that the average American's consumption of the product has risen to 12 pounds annually. To be honest, I probably like chocolate more than the next person, a weakness that manifests itself every October, when I buy 10 times more Hershey's Kisses than we could ever distribute for Halloween.

So when I show up at Donnelly's shop in Santa Cruz, California, I am eager to start his introductory chocolate-making class. Here Donnelly works to impart techniques to people like me who have previously only been enthusiastic consumers.

"We'll start with tempering," Donnelly says to me and my fellow student, a psychotherapist from Massachusetts. He notes my blank look. "Putting the chocolate through the process of heat control," he explains Prior to this moment, I had associated tempering only with molten steel. But one hallmark of adult life is that things you have a fierce but ignorant enthusiasm for turn out to be more complex than you imagined. "Tempering ensures that the chocolate is homogenous," Donnelly continues. "That it has a nice snap, that it's shining." Shortly we are pushin8 hot melted chocolate around Donnelly's cool marble slabs until it reaches 80[degrees], a temperature we ascertain by spooning a daub onto our upper lip.

While we temper, we hear a bit about Donnelly's career. He was, he says, "always disappointed in chocolate as a child. …

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