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Sweet Success

A passion for chocolate and good works

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Most people wouldn't suspect they could find professional chocolatiers in the middle of residential Dilworth, but husband and wife Drs. Joal Fischer and Debbie Langsam have been making chocolates for seven years. The pair now work together, producing gourmet chocolates for their company, Barking Dog Chocolatiers. Fischer, a retired pediatrician, and Langsam, a Biology professor at UNCC, started their adventure into chocolate while on vacation in Paris. Langsam explained, "We have never been ones to just visit a place. We needed a focus. On many trips I went to cooking classes since I love to cook, but Joal didn't want to go with me." But on one trip to Paris, Langsam elected to take a chocolate class at the Ecole Ritz Escoffier and Fischer joined her.

After that, Fischer was hooked. To sharpen his culinary skills, Fischer called Chef Bruce Schlernitzauer at the then Porcupine Cafe (now Porcupine Provisions catering company). Fischer said, "I told him I needed to learn knife skills so I volunteered to be a prep cook. I "volunteered' there 25 hours a week. Then I started working with the pastry chef and learned how to make truffles."

The couple took further chocolate classes including one at the Barry Callebaut Institute outside of Montreal. Barry Callebaut is currently the only chocolate and cocoa processor in North America to operate a "chocolate college." After the Callebaut class came further classes. Langsam commented, "We have taken Beginning Chocolate with four or five chocolatiers. Each chocolatier has taught us a little bit more."

I visited with Fischer and Langsam on an afternoon they were making their popular Chocolate Bark. Their back-to-back kitchens, inspected by the US Department of Agriculture, have long stretches of gleaming granite counters. ("Chocolate stains marble," Fischer noted.) The second kitchen, which was built after their venture into chocolate, has a bookcase crammed with several dozen cookbooks on chocolate and pastries, a computer to access their website, long granite counters, a refrigerator, and ample storage for all the ingredients.

There is no Willy Wonka huge tempering unit, nor copper kettles in their kitchens. Fischer removed the chocolate from a microwave and then very methodically weighed the next substance, isolated beta crystals, which is not available to non-professionals. These beta crystals temper the chocolate. Tempering chocolate is a different technique from melting. Traditionally, chocolate is tempered by melting it at a high temperature, cooling it to a medium temperature, and then melting again at a slightly higher than moderate temperature. Tempering makes the chocolate shiny and gives it the snap when bitten into.

Once the chocolate is tempered, flavoring ingredients are added -- in this case drunken cherries in Grand Marnier and chopped pecans. Then the chocolate is quickly slathered in molds where it rests until firm and cooled.

Barking Dog makes and sells a variety of chocolates that includes a white chocolate signature "mouse" with toasted almond ears and chocolate-hazelnut center; Triple Delight Bouchee with three layers of apricot pâte de fruit, white chocolate coconut hazelnut mousse, and milk & dark chocolate ganache; white chocolate lemon verbena truffles; decorated heart truffles with dark chocolate ganache and a trace of Cointreau; Earl Grey tea and lemon; zen mints; domino and chess game pieces, and miniature seashells.

What is most evident in this Dilworth kitchen is the passion both Fischer and Langsam share for their chocolate, a business they have gotten into not for profit. All the profit from the sale of their chocolate goes to SupportWorks, a nonprofit organization, founded by Fischer, that helps people find and form support groups and share research medical information. Fischer noted, "But if we can fully fund Support Works we will look around to find another charity to donate to."

Recently Barking Dog Chocolatiers garnered national attention when they appeared in the Food Network's Food Finds show. While I was visiting, a chocolate maker from the Midwest called to ask them about their Food Find experience. Langsam was only too happy to talk to this stranger.

Barking Dog Chocolates are served and sold locally at Bonterra Dining and Wine Room in Dilworth, 1829 Cleveland Avenue, and through the Barking Dog website: www.supportworks.org/dog. To place an order with Barking Dog Chocolatiers, call 704-332-4880. Please note that this is a private home; and they would appreciate your calling between 9am to 5pm EST.

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