Yes, as soon as I entered the enchanted world of Beanermunky, I knew that that was the word to describe my new year’s resolution “No between meal snacks.”
Beanermunky(www.beanermunky.com) is a sort of fantasy space that actually exists in a very real setting: at 50 King Street West, in downtown Dundas, close to Starbucks and the Carnegie Gallery. Inside, the shop is filled with delights: handmade artisan chocolates, dipped chocolate licorice, chocolate covered pretzels, hot drinking chocolate, jars of mole (the spicy rub for chicken or turkey), chocolate bark, chocolate fantasies, chocolate peanut butter cups, chili chocolate, chocolate covered bacon, chocolate ice cream and — well, everything you might think of that could be made of milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate.
The kingdom of Beanermunky is presided over by Lori Eisenberger — a certified chocolatier and a very practical woman. Eisenberger offers me a cup of steaming hot chocolate (Is it because of the icicles hanging off my eyebrows on this -24 degree morning?) and explains the origin of the shop’s quirky name: Beanermunky is actually a combination of her two sons’ childhood nicknames – Beaner and Munky. The boys are grown up now, quite happily, apparently, bearing no long term scars whatsoever from their earlier nomenclature.
As I sip the divine chocolate concoction (rich, creamy, a bit of cinnamon — did I mention rich?), Eisenberger outlines the genesis of the business. Her earlier career was as a financial planner at a major bank, an excellent background, she believes, for starting an independent business. Her lifelong hobby was cooking and baking and, once the children had grown, she decided to change course and to do what she really wanted to do. She started out at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market with a licenced commercial kitchen in her own house in the fall of 2005. (A great way to incubate a business, she notes.) In 2010, she moved to the present location in Dundas. She is a real booster of the town and maintains that it is a perfect fit for any kind of small independent business.
Eisenberger’s relationship with her product is one of passion and creativity. She does most of the cooking herself but she is training two junior chocolatiers. To become a certified professional chocolatier, she explains, one must pass a rigorous course at the École Chocolat in Montreal, pass a written examination and serve an apprenticeship. Working with chocolate is very tricky and detailed and not for the novice. For instance, one of the most difficult things that must be learned is the proper tempering of chocolate. Pure chocolate doesn’t just melt, it must be cooled very slowly and very carefully.
“We make 12 different kinds of artisan chocolates here,” Eisenberger explains, “and enrobe our chocolates in a high quality cocoa, Belgian-made chocolate – 40 percent milk chocolate and 80 percent dark chocolate. We use only pure, white chocolate with a smooth buttery taste. We use Belgian chocolate because when it is manufactured it is ground into finer particles which leaves a smoother mouth feel. We use our own secret blend of two different flavours.”
Eisenberger’s life is centred on chocolate. Her hobby is collecting antique chocolate tins, hot chocolate pots and other chocolate artefacts and she spends her weekends scouring antique shops. There is a small “museum” in the shop where her discoveries can be admired. She is also very concerned about issues such as sustainability. She is a member of the World Cocoa Foundation an organization that promotes economic and social development as well as improved environmental stewardship at the farm level for cacao farmers. The WCF programs raise farmers’ incomes, encourage responsible, sustainable cocoa farming and strengthen communities.
“Our handmade chocolates themselves are the key to our success,” she says, “anyone can dip marshmallows and pretzels. It’s the finishing and decorating that’s crucial. Our most popular kinds are the sea salted caramels and the raspberry merlot chocolates. We make them with merlot from a local winery, the Leaning Post Winery.”
Her newest interest is in the pairing of wine and chocolate. There are two approaches to this pairing — complementary and contrasting. A small brochure from her shop gives tasting tips and rules for combining distilled spirits, beer and wine with chocolate.
“Don’t be afraid to experiment,” she says, “you may end up with a clunker … but you may discover some great and unexpected results.”
One of her best pairings, she recalls, occurred at the Food and Wine Festival, when she picked up a sea salted caramel on a little platter and tried it out with some Nickel Brook amber ale.
We’re looking forward to taking advantage of Lori’s expertise at our Go Cooking session on January 29th, when she will be teaming up with our sommelier, Peter Kline from Bacchus Sommelier Services, for a formidable evening of tastings.
Lori’s chocolate recipes are top secret. So I’ll leave you with a recipe for Belgian chocolate mousse.
Belgian Chocolate Mousse
Using Callebaut chocolate
Place the cream and chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (a bain-marie) over medium heat. Whisk until the chocolate has melted and is smooth. Remove the bowl from the bain-marie and stir in the egg yolks.
Add a pinch of cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat until fairly firm. Add the sugar and continue beating the whites into stiff peaks.
Using a whisk, gently incorporate one-quarter of the beaten whites into the chocolate preparation, then carefully fold in the rest of the whites.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe it into six glasses. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to set for half a day.
Before serving, pipe a little whipped cream on top of each mousse and garnish with a few raspberries.
Here is a link that will illustrate the proper procedure