When Fremont's Theo Chocolate opened, it was the only organic fair-trade chocolate company in the country. Of course, the craft chocolate movement has sprung up in the 10 years since the company's founding. Now cocoa with credentials is easy to come by, so much so that it's easy to forget that Debra Music and Joe Whinney were embarking on something truly unconventional when they created Theo back in 2006.
Unconventional in more ways than one, actually. Music and Whinney had been divorced for eight years when they decided to move across the country with their young son and open a chocolate factory together.
Their new cookbook, Theo Chocolate: Recipes and Sweet Secrets from Seattle's Favorite Chocolate Maker, opens with an account of the erstwhile couple's risky decision from each person's perspective. It may seem like a formula for disaster, but Music and Whinney co-own Theo to this day, and have only sweet things to say about each other.
Sometimes a little too sweet, perhaps; the book's tone can err on the cutesy side—lots of exclamation marks, a recipe called "Nougottahavit." But beneath the fluffy exterior is a hard core of technique. There's a primer on tasting chocolate, information on storing, melting, and tempering, a breakdown of cacao percentages, and a verbose how-to on coating the company's signature confections—and that's just in the 15-page "basics" section.
The recipes, too, are kept on the right side of cloying. Two chapters are devoted to savory dishes, including Portland chef Naomi Pomeroy's chocolate mole, Tom Douglas's wild mushroom and cocoa nib salad, and chili-cocoa nib spot prawns from Westward's Zoi Antonitsas. (Seattle's chef community features prominently in the book, as do Theo's roasted nibs.)
But predictably, sweets take center stage. They fill seven glorious chapters, from classic chocolate brownies to standouts like a fig, fennel and almond dacquoise that you'd be hard-pressed to not stick your face in.
Sure, filling an entire cookbook with chocolate recipes leads to some eyebrow-raisers: a caper-topped chocolate brittle, a nib-infused vodka. Might as well give them a try—after all, Theo is always at its best when it's doing something a little different.