The history of chocolate is deep. In a nutshell: It traces all the way back to the Mayans and Aztecs, who deemed it magical and suitable for use in rituals. When the Europeans discovered America, it was sweetened to tantalize their taste buds, and by the 17th century, it crossed the ocean to intoxicate Europe, where folks were going cuckoo for the delicacy. Today, we thankfully have constant access to the sweet edible force. But with Valentine's Day just past, we're reminded by truffles in heart-shaped boxes that chocolate goes far beyond the stomach. It's even a satisfying way to say "I love you." For chef Rachael Burns, it's primarily a versatile ingredient in cooking — that is, if you know what you're doing, like she does. A graduate of Johnson and Wales University, Burns made desserts at Noble's Restaurant and Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen before moving onto her current position as head pastry chef at BLT Steak. She can be found in the kitchen whipping up signature sweets like popovers, crêpe soufflé and chocolate tarts, among other enticing options. From time to time, she also hosts informative culinary classes at the restaurant. Her most recent Bon Bons and Bubbly class taught participants how to make desserts like chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate bon bons and truffles.
Creative Loafing: What inspired you to enter the baking biz?
Rachael Burns: I guess when I was really young, I was always in the kitchen with my grandmother and she would have me help her cook. One of our special things to do together was a birthday cake that we would make for everybody's birthdays. I had the crème, the butter and sugar together with my hands, because it always turned out right and came out best when I did it. I think she really inspired me. I've always had that in me since I was really young because of her. Once I got into high school, I started taking culinary classes and decided baking was really my passion.
What are some of the trickiest challenges to cooking with chocolate? Also, what is your favorite dessert to make with chocolate?
Chocolate can be pretty temperamental, and there can be a lot of factors in cooking with it. It's very delicate at times and just a little bit of moisture can ruin it. If you get it too hot, it also burns very easily. Chocolate mousse is my favorite thing to make with chocolate.
What kinds of ingredients do you like to plug into chocolate?
I actually like to put some different spices and herbs in there, some things that you wouldn't normally associate with chocolate. I love the combination of spice and chocolate, as well as the combination of salt and chocolate. Salt and caramel is also one of my favorites.