I have had a lifelong love affair with chocolate. Born and raised in Paris, I grew up following my mother along on her quests to seek out the very best chocolate and pastries. It was not unusual for us to travel across town, or even outside of the city, to find the confections we desired.
In the 1980’s, we discovered the chocolate shop of master chocolatier Jean-Claude Briet. It was more than an hour away on narrow country roads, but still my mother and I would drive there weekly to get our chocolate fix. Even today, I can’t forget my favorite of Briet’s chocolates — a chocolate-coated ball filled with a luscious blend of caramelized hazelnuts and chocolate called praliné.
Years later, I had moved to the United States. I was eating chocolate every day (I still do), and I found myself doing what my mother and I used to do — hunting down exquisite treats. But, even with all that effort, I couldn’t find anything that matched my memory of that praliné ball. Unlike ganache truffles, praliné chocolates are hard to come by in the U.S.
So I decided to learn to make them myself.
I consulted the internet, of course, as well as many different cookbooks in my quest to recreate my beloved praliné. It turned out that my background in engineering was great for chocolate-making — it gave me fierce attention to detail and a strong training in the arts of both precision and experimentation. After I landed on what I thought was a good recipe for classic praliné, I began sharing my confections with my friends. They convinced me that my treats were worthy enough to sell.
In 2015, I opened Les Chocolats de Pascale thanks to the passage of the California Homemade Food Act (a.k.a. the Cottage Food Law). It allows people like me to prepare and package foods in our own homes.
After I started selling my pralinés, I continued to tinker with my recipe, adding unique ingredients like organic quinoa (for crunch) and reducing the amount of sugar in each treat. Indeed, my pralinés contain 30 to 40 percent less sugar than is typical for these confections, which truly lets the flavors of the delicious chocolate and nuts shine.
I have very high expectations for my chocolates — I want them to be the absolute best in class. Each batch of chocolates is unique and carefully hand-crafted. I never cut corners and am always thinking about how to improve what I’m doing, batch in and batch out, even down to my packaging, which I designed.
Today, I offer an assortment of dark and milk chocolate pralinés made with a mix of hazelnuts, almonds and quinoa. As of early 2016, I began sourcing my chocolate through New Tree, a Belgium-based company selling organic and fair trade chocolate. After I met the founder Benoit de Bruyn and tasted to his delicious chocolate, I made the switch.
In the end, my goal as a chocolatier is to give my customers the same experience I had when I first tried that praliné in France. I hope that long after they’ve finished eating a box of my chocolates, my customers will cherish the memory of them just as I have.
What others say about my chocolates: