By
Michael Laiskonis—Creative Director

In ICE’s Chocolate Lab, students get to take part in the bean-to-bar chocolate process, giving them a firsthand education on the importance of ingredient sourcing, refining and selection. Below, I’ve compiled some surprising facts about the different stages of the chocolate making process. These observations may be old hat to professional chocolate makers, but they are rarely — if ever — considered by chefs and consumers.

Raw Chocolate Sorting Beans Chocolate Lab Bean to Bar

Raw Beans
Straight out of the bag, fermented and dried beans present a serious microbiological risk, including E. coli and salmonella. Outbreaks linked to chocolate are rare, but the risk necessitates proper handling and storage. Simply put, I treat raw beans as if they were raw meat. Also, raw beans must be carefully sorted and cleaned of the various debris found in each bag (flat and moldy beans, stones, leaves, sticks, etc.). If that’s not enough, it isn’t uncommon for tropical moth eggs to hitch a ride on the surface of a cocoa bean! All of the beans that arrive at ICE’s lab are immediately bagged, sealed and chilled until roasting — before any of those tiny wings get an opportunity to hatch.

Roasting
In addition to providing the only bacteria and moth “kill step” that renders the beans safe to consume, roasting allows for critical flavor development of the cocoa bean, further developing the precursors created during fermentation. Roasting also reduces the moisture content of the dried bean (chocolatiers always seek to minimize the amount of water in finished chocolate), which upon delivery is around 6-8%. Roasting parameters vary by bean type, origin, quantity and the desired flavor profiles—but typically roasters aim for 30-60 minutes or more at temperatures in the range of 300-350°F. Determining “doneness” is mostly subjective and instinctive. Chocolatiers primarily go by smell and taste, but also closely monitor the temperature of the bean mass throughout the process.

Winnowing
After roasting, the beans must be cracked and winnowed, separating the nibs from the shell. The shell alone can account for almost 15% of the roasted bean by weight and adversely affects the flavor and texture of finished chocolate. What’s more, the shell contains elevated levels of toxic heavy metals. Unsurprisingly, the acceptable industry standard for shell content in processed nibs is less than 1%.

Roasting Winnowing Chocolate Production Bean to Bar

Roasting beans and winnowed cocoa nibs

Grinding
In most cocoa processing systems a “pre-grinding” of the nibs is necessary, to reduce both overall processing time and the eventual wear on refining machines. After grinding, the nibs are reduced to a thick paste referred to as “chocolate liquor,” with a mean particle size around 100 microns. (And yes, the term “liquor” is confusing to many, as there is no actual alcohol involved!)

Pressing Cocoa Butter
A portion of the liquor can be pressed to produce cocoa butter, which makes up roughly 50% of the beans’ weight. In the lab, this process takes one to two hours and nearly 65 tons of force. The remaining byproduct — known as “press cake” — can be further processed into cocoa powder.

Unlike the deodorized cocoa butter most chefs are familiar with, freshly pressed butter reflects the flavor compounds from the original beans. As most fine chocolate has a total fat content of 35-40% by weight, this additional cocoa butter can be added to boost the final percentage. For some single origin enthusiasts, this added butter makes or breaks a product’s bean-to-bar status, depending on whether or not the extra butter and original liquor are extracted from the same batch of beans.

Refining
Refining reduces the particle size of the liquor to an average of 20 microns. The human tongue can begin to detect grittiness at particle sizes larger than 35 microns, but reducing particle size below 20 microns increases the surface area of the cocoa butter, resulting in an unpleasantly thick consistency.

Refining is also the point in the bean-to-bar process at which other ingredients are introduced — sugar, additional cocoa butter, whole milk powder, etc. This process is achieved by an array of different machines, from stone melangeurs to roller refiners. Some systems, like our ball mill, work as a “universal,” allowing for “conching” to occur simultaneously with refining, due to the addition of temperature and airflow control.

Cocoa Butter Sifting Chocolate Refining Bean to Bar

Freshly pressed cocoa butter and sifting chocolate liquor

Conching
Conching — which involves heat, airflow and agitation — is critical for flavor development (removing unwanted volatile compounds), texture (coating the solid particles with cocoa butter) and further moisture reduction. This process can last for hours or days, depending on the desired results. However, conching time alone is not necessarily a measure of quality.

Formulation
The final “recipe” for a batch of chocolate is determined by the addition of other ingredients, and will vary depending on such factors as bean type, desired flavor profile and application. The percentage you see on the label of finished chocolate refers to the total amount of cocoa solids by weight — meaning the nibs or liquor plus any added cocoa butter. This number alone is quantitative, not qualitative — a 70% chocolate may be 70% nibs or any equivalent combination of nibs and cocoa butter. Therefore, these percentages may not offer much insight into flavor, but they can tell us how much sugar was added. The percentage of sugar simply equals 100 minus the cocoa percentage (accounting for less than 1% additional vanilla or stabilizers like lecithin, etc.).

Sifting
Before tempering, it is beneficial to sift or strain the finished chocolate through vibrating screens to remove any large particles that are difficult to refine — notably the “radicle” (or germ stem) that is a part of each bean. This hard stem is very bitter and can produce a gritty texture if left in the chocolate. Integrating a pass by powerful magnets into the sifting process can also eliminate the worry of any remaining hard metals in the chocolate.

Finished Chocolate Bean to Bar Aging

Aging
While the aging process is not well understood or widely researched, both large manufacturers and small-batch artisans agree that several weeks of aging finished chocolate allows for better, rounder flavor. Large companies inherently allow for this process in their distribution network, while artisan producers will hold chocolate batches in reserve for two months or more before tempering, molding and packaging.

Can’t wait to check out ICE’s Chocolate Lab? Learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program. 

By Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director

While it’s back-to-school season for most, class is always in session at ICE. More to the point, cooks are perpetual students for whom the learning never ends, no matter our level of skill or experience. Ideas and inspiration that fill our social media feeds are at our fingertips 24 hours a day, but I still rely on — and often prefer — books and magazines. The autumn publishing season also means a shelf-load of new releases. Below are a few of those just-published books I am looking forward to, as well as one or two that I’m finally catching up on.

Image courtesy of Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream

Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop
By Dane Cree

Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean ice cream season is. Dana Cree’s book is a revelation on two fronts — in addition to creative frozen dessert recipes, it was one of the first books of its kind to make accessible the technical approach to ice cream that professionals employ. A well-traveled pastry chef, Dana presents the material much in the same way she approaches high-end plated desserts: serious, but with a playful ease.

BraveTart

BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts
By Stella Parks

When I first started reading Stella’s BraveTart blog several years ago, I knew it would lead to a book. She approaches sweet traditions and preparations not just through the eyes of a cook, but rather an investigative journalist, always digging deeper to tell a story or to better understand the complex chemistry of the pastry kitchen. If baking perfection is built simply on the sum of many well-executed steps, the attention to detail in Stella’s book gives cooks of all skill levels essential building blocks for classic American desserts and beyond. Be sure to check out her work as contributor to Serious Eats.

Megan Giller

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution: The Origins, the Makers, and the Mind-Blowing Flavors
By Megan Giller

As a cook, I often think about how the discovery of a new ingredient or technique is able to radically redirect one’s career path. Certainly, I never set out to make chocolate, but since we created the Chocolate Lab two years ago, I think about chocolate for most of my waking moments. For Megan Giller, a sartorial moment with a fruity, complex bar made from Madagascar cocoa beans created an obsession that led to a blog, and then this book. While covering the basics of chocolate from origin to processing to tasting, she also takes on the task of documenting the dynamic “craft” chocolate scene in real time. I liked the idea so much, that when asked, I wrote the foreword. I will also join Megan for a discussion and tasting here in NYC next month. Also of interest is a new release from our friends at Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco, Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’more.

Bread Wine Chocolate

Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
By Simran Sethi

Just as important as acquiring recipes and technique, a deeper understanding of the complex culture of our foodways is also valuable to cooks. Released last year, Simran’s book explores our relationship with nature through the lens of products we might take for granted. Her perspective on chocolate has also led to my favorite podcast of the year, the Slow Melt, which tackles issues big and small, in addition to insightful interviews with the most influential of today’s “craft” chocolate-makers.

Fou de Patisserie

Fou de Patisserie
http://www.foudepatisserie.com/

This time last summer, I had just returned, inspired and energized, from a quick three-day tour of the Paris haute patisserie scene. Few resources capture the trends of the moment better than the French magazine, Fou de Patisserie. Each issue (virtually ad-free) is jam-packed with recipes and ideas from pastry legends and rising stars alike, including Philippe Conticini, Christophe Felder, Cedric Grolet and Cyril Lignac. In addition to publishing, the magazine also runs a shop in Paris — part pop-up, part fancy pastry exhibit — featuring the work of a rotating line-up of pastry chefs. On the topic of pastry magazines, one can’t forget what may be the most exciting resource, So Good, the hefty haute patisserie magazine of international scope.

Modernist Bread

Modernist Bread: The Art and Science
By Nathan Myhrvold, Francisco Migoya

After the release of the mammoth multi-volume set of Modernist Cuisine several years ago, the question on everyone’s mind was: “What will Nathan Myhrvold do next?” To the surprise of many, The Cooking Lab, which is home to Modernist Cuisine, immediately took on the subject of bread – its traditions and pathways toward innovation. Talented pastry chef Francisco Migoya led the effort, which resulted in a new set of books that actually rivals the first in size (and weight). Ahead of its October release, Francisco visited ICE last month to offer a sneak preview of the book, over three years in the making. From what I’ve seen thus far, all I can say is that the project will become a defining resource for bread bakers for years to come.

What are you reading this fall? Let us know in the comments! 

Take your pastry practice to the next level — learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

Ever wonder what it takes to make one bar of chocolate? ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis, our resident chocolate expert, takes us through the entire process — from sourcing and roasting, to refining and conching, to finally molding and tasting — in less than a minute. But don’t be fooled by the video: though it may seem like a piece of (chocolate) cake, careful thought and calculation goes into each stage. According to Chef Michael, “Every step of the chocolate-making process, from fruit to bean to bar, presents an opportunity to influence the flavor and texture of the finished chocolate.”

Sweet tooth piqued? Discover how you can become a pastry pro with ICE’s award-winning career training programs by clicking here

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since we launched ICE’s bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab (the first education-focused one of its kind!). We decided to check in with ICE’s Creative Director Michael Laiskonis to find out what he’s been up to. As it turns out: a lot.

Having produced over 120 batches of chocolate with beans sourced from more than 20 countries, the Chocolate Lab has given Chef Michael the chance to tinker with each step of the chocolate-making process and bring out the best qualities in each bean. What’s more, Chef Michael has been meticulously tracking these changes and differences in process and flavor, which he then shares with interested students and colleagues in a number of hands-on classes at ICE.

Our Pastry & Baking Arts students have also had the opportunity to swap textbooks for hands-on experience with Chef Michael inside the Chocolate Lab, benefitting from a full understanding of the bean-to-bar process.. Watch below our two-year check in with Chef Michael.

Want to study in the ICE Chocolate Lab with Chef Michael? Click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

By Michael Laiskonis ­– Creative Director

As we look back at the latter half of the 19th century, continuing the results of historical research I’ve posted here and here, we arrive upon what might be considered the “golden age” of chocolate manufacturing in Manhattan. We see what began as a localized industry concentrated in lower Manhattan shift from small-scale “independent” makers to the greater reach of regional and nationally known brands, whose sizable factories often took up the length of a city block, moving uptown as the city continued to grow in size and influence.

Henry McCobb chocolate advertisement

With the industrial revolution of the 1800s, chocolate and cocoa made an interesting transition from the beverage served at coffeehouses and pharmacies into the realm of confections. The innovation of pressing ground cocoa beans into its cocoa butter and powdered components (a process perfected by Dutchman Casparus Van Houten Sr. in the 1820s) allowed for a number of new applications and refinements. We first see this shift in early advertisements extolling the virtues of “digestible” cocoa — lower in fat and thus lighter and easier to prepare. Extra cocoa butter from this pressing would soon be added to bars of “eating” chocolate, leading to the smooth refined textures of the bars we consume today. Of course, the range of traditionally sugar-based confections expanded with the introduction of sweet chocolate products. While I tried to limit my own research to manufacturers who produced chocolate from the cocoa bean itself, those lines between chocolate-maker and confectioner began to intersect even 150 years ago — a distinction that continues to confuse most consumers today. Indeed, many of the most prominent chocolate companies in New York City branched out into chocolate candies in addition to manufacturing plain bars and cocoa powders.

I’ve come to think of the latter half of the 19th century as New York’s “golden age” of chocolate, in part because of the growth in number of chocolate makers in the city, from a handful in the early 1800s to a dozen or more before the turn of the 20th century. Much of what we know of chocolate culture during this period is preserved in the form of ornate tins and whimsical advertisements of the day. One might also imagine the role these chocolate makers played in the daily life of the street, tempting passersby with colorful displays, and perhaps a view of the chocolate-making process itself. One contemporary account describes the shop run by Felix Effray at 64 East 9th Street, whose stone melangeur was prominently positioned in the store’s window:

December 10, 1849

On the corner of Broadway and Ninth Street is a store kept by Felix Effray, and I love to stand at the window and watch the wheel go ‘round. It has three white stone rollers and they grind chocolate into paste all day long… (Diary of a Little Girl in Old New York, by Catherine E. Havens)

Effray was among a group of small, independent chocolate businesses in the city; we first see him at Broadway and Grand in the early 1840s, then at his shop near Astor Place, which he operated until at least 1880. Eugene Mendes, whose chocolate career spanned the same period, began on William Street and later moved to Fulton Street in lower Manhattan, then to Leonard Street in Tribeca, and finally to Broadway near Bleecker Street — one of the few chocolate-related buildings of its time that still stands, at least in part, to this day. New York poet Walt Whitman was known to have frequented an adjacent bar during the time of Mendes’ chocolate operation. Maine-born Henry McCobb’s Owl Brand chocolate was short-lived and the site of his 1880s shop on East 22nd Street near Gramercy Park is now a modern apartment building. McCobb was among the first to use photography in his advertising. Claude Crave made chocolate at the same location in the years after McCobb, and with him we see not only the transfer of existing chocolate companies, but also an example of shifting partnerships in New York’s chocolate “community.” Crave started making chocolate in SoHo at 16 Grand Street in the 1870s and at 176 Chambers Street in the 1880s. Though the relationship between Crave and McCobb is unknown, Crave partnered over the years with Philander Griffing and Alfred Martin, who at various points were independent themselves. Martin was also a partner of Mendes years prior. Other similar professional relationships I’ve uncovered suggest a tight-knit community and exchange of ideas and skills that mirror the craft chocolate industry today.

645 Broadway, Mendes chocolate factory

645 Broadway, site of the Mendes chocolate factory

In contrast to the small independent makers, likely limited to serving the local or regional consumer, larger companies with broader reach emerged, with large factories that no doubt employed the latest in chocolate-making machinery. Henry Maillard emigrated to New York in the 1840s and built an empire that culminated in a massive factory along Sixth Avenue, as well as a flagship retail store that stood nearby at the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue across from Madison Square Park (the current site of Eataly). Herman Runkel began making chocolate at Maiden Lane and Broadway downtown in the 1870s and eventually operated out of a block-long facility on West 30th Street near today’s Penn Station. Huyler’s was another well-known brand that continued into the early 1900s, with a modest factory at Irving Place and 18th Street that opened in the 1880s. John Hawley and Herman Hoops, two independent confectioners, would join forces to create the Hawley & Hoops brand that would later be acquired by Mars; their factory on Lafayette Street just below Houston Street now houses fashionable condos. Of note is the fact that many of these companies used chocolate making equipment manufactured by Jabez Burns (a pioneer in both coffee and cocoa roasting) at his factory at 43rd Street and 11th Avenue.

Henry Maillard Chelsea factory

Henry Maillard’s Chelsea factory

hawley-and-hoops-cigars8

Advertisement for Hawley & Hoops

Other companies, both domestic and foreign, would at various times set up shop in New York for retail and for limited manufacturing. The Massachusetts-based Walter Baker Co. was perhaps the most prominent brand of its day, with offices in lower Manhattan, and at a later date, ownership of the East 22nd Street factory previously occupied by McCobb and Crave. English import Cadbury ran its New York operation out of 78 Reade Street in Tribeca, and Emile Menier opened an outpost of his French company nearby at Greenwich and Murray Streets. One surprising discovery was the brief existence of a Hershey factory at 21st Street and 6th Avenue around 1920; it is a bit ironic that I began this project looking for chocolate near the current downtown location of ICE, when it existed just a block away from our former facility!

After the turn of the 20th century, virtually all of the chocolate-makers in New York faded or were simply absorbed by larger companies that eventually moved either to the outer boroughs or out of the city altogether as density (and property value) increased. As these final remnants of chocolate manufacturing disappeared, there remained a decades-long void, bridging little gap between iconic brands of their day and the current crop of craft chocolate makers in the city. Once again, we find the number of New York-based chocolate makers fairly small (and admittedly, located primarily in Brooklyn). Walking into the ICE Chocolate Lab each day, I feel honored to play a small role in the city’s rich chocolate history and as I wander the neighborhoods from the Financial District to SoHo to Chelsea to the East Village, I’m now constantly reminded of the names and places of chocolate-makers past.

Want to study with Chef Michael? Click here to learn about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.


Introduction by Caitlin Gunther
Interview by Carly Evans

Chocolate: where most people see a tasty treat for immediate consumption, Chef Ebow Dadzie sees a world of possibilities for his next creation. A chef instructor at Monroe College and pastry chef for the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, Chef Ebow has earned a host of praise for his chocolate artistry — named as one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional magazine in 2015; awarded the honor of Most Influential Pastry Chef by the Black Culinary Alliance in 2012; named pastry chef of the year by Paris Gourmet in 2007; and more. Chef Ebow even earned the Guinness World Record for building the tallest sugar skyscraper in 2006 — talk about setting your sights high.

ICE is excited to host Chef Ebow for his upcoming hands-on course, Chocolate Showpiece with Ebow Dadzie, where students will learn to create their own sweet masterpieces. We spoke with the award-winning pastry chef to ask him about his signature style and his advice for rising pastry students.

Pastry Chef Ebow Dadzie

If you had to choose, what would you say is your “signature” item?

It’s very hard to choose a signature item, but if I had to, it would incorporate hazelnut and dark chocolate. I’ve had success with these flavors within the classroom, work and in competition for many years.

Your family is from Trinidad and Tobago. Do you ever integrate ingredients or recipes from these roots into your work?

Absolutely — I’d be crazy not to! When I introduce flavors from Trinidad, I am able to bring something different to the table. These are not necessarily new flavors, but they’re flavors that people don’t see often so they add intrigue. The response to this has always been positive. I also like to take risks with my creations. By introducing Caribbean flavors like tamarind, soursop (a creamy, sweet and sour fruit) and sorrel, I’m adding my personal touch but also challenging myself to create something special that represents where I come from.

As a teacher in Monroe College’s hospitality program, do you have any thoughts on the future of traditional food education?

I’ve noticed that the drive and energy that we used to have back in the day just isn’t in some students entering the industry today. If the students aren’t passionate about what they are doing, then the educational program isn’t going to be successful either. I believe, as educators, it’s our responsibility to energize and fuel the excitement in our students. We have to promote our industry and prepare these students to work hard and challenge themselves. We also have to lead by example, by being passionate, working hard ourselves and becoming mentors to the next generation of great chefs.

Sky’s the limit: where would you go on your next trip and why?

I have a few places on my list for the near future. Egypt has always been on my radar. Ever since I was young, I wanted to see the pyramids and experience the culture, so Egypt might be next for me.

What is one piece of general advice you would give students of pastry and confections?

As a student in my very first baking class, I received a C grade and I questioned if pastry was the industry for me. But I didn’t allow that grade to discourage me. I continued to push myself because I wanted better for myself. I practice something that I learned in high school, which I now pass on to my students: The 4 Ds. You must have the Desire to want to achieve something. Be Determined to do the necessary things in order to achieve what you desire, because it won’t be handed to you. Continue to stay Dedicated to your goal. And while you continue to achieve all these great things, stay Disciplined and remember to stay humble in your success. Great words from one of my favorite reggae artists, Buju Banton, that I like to remind my students: “It’s not an easy road.”

Ready to get creative with chocolate? Click here to register for Chocolate Showpiece with Chef Ebow.


By Caitlin Gunther

Calling all foodies: Beginning October 13, the New York City Food & Wine Festival will be taking New York by storm. Held in the culinary capital of the world, the four-day festival has an amazing lineup that includes tastings, demonstrations, dinners and hands-on classes led by culinary experts. Over a dozen ICE alumni are participating in this year’s events, including Matt Hyland of Emily Pizza and Emmy Squared, Anne Redding of Uncle Boons and Mr. Donahue’s, Sohui Kim of the Good Fork and Insa, Miguel Trinidad of Jeepney and MaharlikaMarc Murphy of Landmarc and Ditch Plains, Julian Plyter of Melt Bakery, Amy Scherber of Amy’s BreadScott Levine of Underwest Donuts, and Eden Grinshpan, who will be hosting a Kosher Dinner at the brand new restaurant Bison & Bourbon in Brooklyn, where innovative chefs — including Amitzur Mor of Barbounia NYC — will share fresh takes on Israeli and Middle Eastern culinary traditions.

For its part, the Institute of Culinary Education will once again be hosting all of the festival’s Master Classes, including Bread Making with Bien Cuit’s Zachary Golper, a Roasting Master Class with prolific food writer Melissa Clark of The New York Times, Cake Decorating with the internationally celebrated Sylvia Weinstock and a Chocolate Master Class taught by ICE’s Creative Director and acclaimed Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis. In anticipation of Chef Michael’s sold-out course—being held in our educational bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab—we asked him a few questions about his chocolate preferences and what students will learn in his exciting course.

What can attendees of the Chocolate Master Class expect to walk away with?

Regrettably, we can’t make chocolate entirely from start to finish in such a short time, but attendees will get a crash course in the many steps and innumerable variables in play throughout the chocolate making process, touching and tasting each step from raw bean to finished bar.

Will they be able to recreate any of the in-class recipes at home?

Without chocolate making equipment at home, the process is difficult to replicate. However, I think the insight offered will radically change one’s perspective of chocolate as an ingredient. If anything, attendees can transform chocolate from our lab as they see fit in their own kitchen!

chocolate-lab-tomric

chocolate-making-master-course

Which do you prefer (for personal consumption): dark chocolate or milk chocolate?

Dark chocolate—typically anything reaching beyond 60% cocoa solids—will always provide the most intense and complex tasting experience. But most of us were raised on milk chocolate, which has become somewhat underrated and when done well can be spectacular. One of my favorite styles of chocolate to make (and consume) is what we might call “dark milk”—a higher cocoa percentage than average, but with just enough milky creaminess to satisfy nostalgic cravings.

Any other classes or events you are looking forward to at NYCWFF?

I’m seriously considering sneaking into Sylvia Weinstock’s cake decorating class; she’s a legend in the world of cake. I’m envious of all who are enrolled in Zachary Golper’s bread workshop; his bakery Bien Cuit is one of the best in NYC. And I’ve long respected Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern; it’s exciting just to have him in the building.

michael-laiskonis

To make amazing chocolate, ICE’s Chocolate Lab is equipped with high quality products including Tomric chocolate moulds and equipment

Didn’t score a spot at Chef Michael’s NYCWFF course? Click here to check out classes with Chef Michael at ICE. 


By Michael Laiskonis—ICE Creative Director

In my last blog post, I described my search for historical traces of chocolate in lower Manhattan. In a relatively short time, chocolate traveled from its South and Central American origins to Europe and later into North American settlements. Though the early Dutch colony of New Amsterdam rose and fell well before chocolate became a permanent fixture, by the early 1700s, New York’s port was an important link in cocoa trade. Among those merchant families importing beans, the first glimpse of cocoa processing can be found on the island. By the end of the American Revolution and the turn of the 19th century, the city grew northward and chocolate had gained popularity, with several chocolate makers setting up shop.

One might think that researching this topic is as easy as entering “New York,” “chocolate,” and “history” into a search engine. Surprisingly, those yield scant results and even less clues to work with. A few books pointed me in the right direction—some names and places—but I soon realized I was drifting into relatively uncharted territory. I eventually found that the best way to crack the cases of these mysterious chocoate-makers was to begin with surviving city directories whose listings often provide a name, an address and most importantly, an occupation. The first of these directories in New York was published in 1786, with increasing regularity in years to follow. From there, genealogy records, newspapers, civil documents and maps added more life to the stories. Most often, the labyrinth comes to an abrupt halt; I may come across a name and an address, but all other details remain a casualty of history.

1801-directory

It is worth noting that chocolate was still consumed as a beverage in these early days, though with the chocolate-makers of the 1800s, we witness a slow and steady shift toward the refined bars of eating chocolate we would recognize today. Unclear is the extent to which chocolate may have been processed by these craft producers of their day, but certainly roasting, winnowing and grinding of cocoa beans was essential, no matter the final product. Chocolate was often manufactured alongside other milled products. In 1815, Samuel Holcombe was listed at 47 Gold Street, as a manufacturer of both chocolate and mustard. Over at 227 William Street, Charles Cogswell was also multi-tasking in mustard and chocolate as late as 1825, though it appears his son Jonathan stuck to mustard as he moved the business uptown to Spring Street a decade later. Many grocers and retailers most likely processed small quantities too, like Abraham Wagg or Frederic Shonnard at 220 Bowery. According to the 1791 directory, Peter Montayne at 182 Queen Street coupled chocolate making with the seemingly disparate occupation of blacksmith. As the number of independent chocolate-makers grew, one would imagine that, with competition and branding, the quality, quantity and variety of products would increase as well.

From the period after the American Revolution (during which cocoa trade into New York was limited) through the first half of the 19th century, I discovered dozens of names and places associated with chocolate in Manhattan. Many of these chocolate-makers appear and then disappear from records within a few years, but we clearly see chocolate activity spread throughout the growing city. Among those uncovered, but with little of their story to tell, include:

  • John Austin, listed as a city resident and chocolate-maker in 1787 court records
  • David Whitehill, at 32 William Street in 1791
  • Joseph and Joshua Leavy, at 15 Broad Street from 1786 to 1799 (later at 2 Water Street in 1801)
  • Jedediah Waterman, at 322 Water Street from 1791 to 1805
  • John Black, at Murray Street and Chapel Street (today West Broadway) in 1812, and later at 182 Bowery in the 1830s
  • Noel Blanche, at 28 Beekman Street, from 1808 to 1819
  • Peter Malard, on Barclay Street and later at 84 Duane Street from 1822 to 1827
  • Silvanus Horton, at 47 Gold Street from 1822-1830 (note it is the same address for Samuel Holcombe’s mustard and chocolate business mentioned above)
NYC chocolate history

A furniture maker that dabbled in chocolate making

The lives of these chocolate-makers offer a bit more color, context and background for further research:

  • An early branch of the politically powerful Roosevelt family dabbled in chocolate. John Roosevelt (a civic leader in his own right) milled chocolate on Maiden Lane until his death in 1750, passing on the business to sons Cornelius and Oliver.
  • Peter Swigard, listed as chocolate-maker but also as a tobacconist, occupied Bayard Street from the 1750s through the 1770s. It is possible Swigard learned the craft in Philadelphia before moving to New York.
  • Peter Low, chocolate-maker at Maiden Lane and Broadway in the 1760s-1770s, may have also doubled as a cabinet-maker. Eventually he would move his chocolate business across the Hudson River to New Jersey. Merchant Nicholas Low, who appears to be his brother, sold Peter’s chocolate on the docks near Coenties Market. As a side note, in researching specific historical names and places, one is often confronted with a darker context of the times—a March 1771 newspaper notice announces a reward for a runaway slave in Low’s “employ.”
  • Brothers Francis and John Van Dyk were part of another chocolate-making legacy. Their father Nicholas operated a chocolate mill in Newark as early as the 1760s before setting up in the city. Various addresses are listed over the years from 1786 to 1801: 48 Queen Street in 1786 (Queen Street would later be named Pearl Street and at the time would have marked the shoreline of the East River), 66 Broad Street and 28 Beekman Street (again, note the same address a decade later used by Noel Blanche).
  • Tobias Van Zandt, an early political figure in the city after the Revolution, made chocolate at 92 Water Street until his death in 1794. Minutes of a city council meeting in 1796 suggest a prior professional relationship between Tobias and Jedediah Waterman (noted above), when his widow Mary leased property to Waterman.
  • The Van Dyk family introduced chocolate, albeit briefly, to another prominent family at the turn of the century when Joseph Meeks married John Van Dyk’s daughter Sarah. Joseph would become one of the city’s most celebrated and prolific furniture-makers, but was interestingly involved in the chocolate business in 1814 and 1815 at 45 Broad Street, the same location that would later manufacture furniture. One might assume a sluggish economy at the outset of the War of 1812 forced Meeks to give his wife’s family business a try before returning to his original calling and moving his shop up to Vesey Street. To this day, surviving Meeks pieces fetch high prices among collectors.
  • French-born John Juhel didn’t make chocolate, but by many accounts was responsible for much of the cocoa bean trade coming into Manhattan in the early 1800s. Shipping records survive that detail his extensive import and export business. Juhel’s office was at the heart of what would grow into the bustling market on Washington Street, between Liberty and Cedar Streets.
  • John Wait, originally from Boston, established a chocolate business first at 228 William Street by 1815 and later on Elm Street in the 1830s, near what at the time would have been referred to as the “Tombs”—New York’s notorious prison. Dominating headlines of the day, Wait’s two young sons died tragically in an 1816 steamboat accident in New York harbor.
  • Perhaps the longest running chocolate-making dynasty in the city of that era was that of John Poillon and sons Peter and John Jr., whose business spanned nearly six decades. By 1808, John was listed at 116 Bowery near Grand Street. The sons moved their operation around the neighborhood over the years, up the Bowery from what we would today call the Lower East Side into the East Village near Astor Place. Though it appears Peter filed for bankruptcy in the early 1840s, an 1860 newspaper gossip column of sorts suggests that “old Peter Poillon…made a fortune making chocolate.”
  • By 1827, what would evolve into the iconic Delmonico’s restaurant (perhaps the first “fine-dining” restaurant of its time) included confectionery and chocolate manufacturing at 23 William Street. Brothers John and Peter Delmonico operated the pastry shop and cafe at that location until it was destroyed by fire in 1835, a few doors up from where the latest incarnation of the restaurant still stands.

    NYC chocolate history - 1860

    A reference to Peter Poillon’s chocolate business

The early 1800s saw much change for the new country and its fastest growing city. At the same time, chocolate production was changing as well. The capabilities of the Industrial Revolution would transform coarse blocks of chocolate into “digestible” cocoa powder and refined bars for eating and, eventually, a staple in confections of all kinds. Large factories and nationally-known brands would emerge out of Manhattan, flourishing into a golden age of chocolate manufacturing. Some of these chocolate-makers would survive into the 20th century before being absorbed by ever-growing companies and ultimately moved out of the congested city. My next post will look at this period, in search of any traces of chocolate manufacturers that may still remain.

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By Michael Laiskonis—ICE Creative Director

Early last year, as the ICE staff was preparing to move from the school’s longtime home in the Flatiron District of Manhattan to its newly constructed downtown facility, I was immersed in organizing the details for our unique bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab. Considering our new digs in the oldest part of the city, it hit me that perhaps we were bringing chocolate back to the neighborhood—old New Amsterdam. I began to ponder the ghosts of chocolate makers past. Surely there must have been numerous traders, processors and merchants dealing in the popular product at various points in the city’s nearly 400-year history. Little did I realize how difficult the search for answers would prove, yet what I have uncovered thus far has only reinvigorated my quest.

Late 18th Century Map of Manhattan

Late 18th Century Map of Manhattan

I’m a bit of a history buff—with interests in our culinary past, of course, but also the rich history of the vibrant city I’ve called home for over 12 years. I’ve also spent countless hours tracing my family histories back to Eastern Europe, as well as my maternal lines back to England and Holland. My ancestors arrived in the first waves of settlers in the American colonies dating back to the mid-1600s. My meandering research came quite close to home at one point—a Dutch extended cousin turned out to be a prominent businessman in 1650s New Amsterdam, operating a brewery on Beaver Street, the site occupied today by a towering office building in Manhattan’s Financial District. This personal discovery fueled my broader search for chocolate in this colonial outpost—if I could find a distant relative in the neighborhood, surely I would eventually find traces of cocoa as well. But first, I had to step back a bit further to consider the greater story of chocolate’s travels.

The story goes that Columbus encountered cacao in the course of his later voyages at the turn of the 16th century, but was unimpressed or simply unaware of its attraction. At best, he may have traveled back to Europe with a token handful of the beans, which only grow in the tropics. Most historians agree that it was through Hernando Cortes, who conquered the Aztecs in the 1520s, that chocolate would make inroads into European aristocracy, eventually gaining popularity on par with coffee and tea. Throughout much of its history, chocolate was consumed as a beverage in coffeehouses or sold in small coarse-textured blocks (and only upon its arrival in Europe was sugar added). During its first century in Europe, accessibility to chocolate soon spread beyond the noble classes and was enjoyed by a wider audience. The drink thrived in those countries whose empires extended to tropical zones where cacao could be cultivated for the masses back home.

By the time the American Revolution was underway, chocolate had firmly established itself in the colonies. Numerous references and connections to the drink have been attributed to patriot luminaries like Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. The first colonial chocolate manufacturer was Baker’s, established by 1765 in Dorchester, Massachusetts (the famous brand still exists today). While this may be true in large-scale production, there were many small local producers and bean grinders predating Baker’s throughout the larger cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. These craft producers, around 70 total, are the objects of my interest. Unsurprisingly, they have been difficult to trace in great detail. Perhaps because chocolate at this point was still minimally refined, there were likely few who devoted themselves to chocolate full time. Individual grocers and local mills may have handled very small quantities. The dearth of pre-revolution information about chocolate culture in Lower Manhattan didn’t discourage me, but it did lead my search into a different direction.

We assume that chocolate first arrived in America as a European import, but when and where are still unclear. The earliest written accounts of chocolate in the northeastern colonies do not appear until the 1660s, with sporadic references to trade shipments continuing into the 1670-80s. By the time England assumed control of the renamed New York in the 1660s, its cocoa trade was taking shape. Their early colonies in the Caribbean had begun planting cocoa and adding sugar to it. As trade from the Caribbean increased—and by extension, from South and Central America—the colonial port cities became vital links in the supply chain. The port of New York City quickly became an important hub in this network of the cocoa trade—a pivotal discovery in my research. By the early 1700s, shipping documents reflect a significant flow of cocoa beans from the West Indies into New York; while much of the precious cargo was ultimately destined for Europe, local consumption was on the rise, too. Great quantities of cocoa were arriving from the Venezuelan port of Curaçao via a network of Jewish merchants of Spanish descent. This network grew to include dozens of businesses, some of which would eventually branch out into local wholesale and retail chocolate trade. I had finally caught a glimpse of the history I had been hoping to find—the emergence of the cocoa trade in lower Manhattan. What’s more, the city has more contemporary ties to the cocoa trade as well. The New York Cocoa Exchange occupied the narrow flatiron-shaped building at the intersection of Wall, Pearl and Beaver Streets from 1939 to 1979 (the building still bears that name, though its tenants now include a sushi restaurant and condominiums). At present, the offices of Atlantic Cocoa, a major player in the international chocolate trade, are located just a short walk from ICE, adjacent to Battery Park.

Present-Day John and Water Streets

Among the names of early merchants, several clues began to emerge, and with them more details into the chocolate world in colonial New York. While the extent of their processing and manufacturing is not yet clear, I finally began to pin chocolate-related locations to the map. Spanish-born Jacob Louzada was one such early merchant, active through the 1720s; his son Aaron is reported to have processed chocolate as well. I came across the Gomez family, with three generations involved in chocolate—first with trade and later with manufacturing. Moses Gomez was active in trade and chocolate making as early as 1700. By the 1750s, Daniel Gomez advertised the sale of drinking chocolate near “Burling’s Slip”—today, near the foot of John Street and South Street at the East River. More promising is a surviving advertisement from 1780 describing the shop and “chocolate manufactory” of Rebecca Gomez, which carried all manner of imported food goods, including her own superfine “manufactured chocolate, warranted free from any sediments and pure. Great allowance made to those who buy to sell again.” Rebecca’s shop stood at the corner of Nassau Street and Ann Street—a busy intersection of its day and a stone’s throw from the ICE Chocolate Lab. Rebecca’s son-in-law, Abraham Wagg, was a grocer who also dabbled in chocolate. Other 18th century names and locations have surfaced as well, such as Peter Low, who had made chocolate in Manhattan before moving the business across the river to New Jersey, as well as Peter Swigart and his chocolate-making shop on Bayard Street, in what is now the heart of Chinatown.

While it remains difficult to find traces of chocolate in the very earliest days of the Dutch colony, we see that it became a common item on the docks and in the shops of New York in the 1700s. After unearthing the stories of these early entrepreneurs, I am excited to discover what I might find as chocolate making in this neighborhood has evolved, coming into the 19th century and, ultimately, full circle back to our little lab on the third floor of Brookfield Place at ICE!

Further reading for chocolate aficionados:
  • On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, by Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz
  • Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage, by Louis E. Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro

Want to study Pastry Arts with Chef Michael? Click here for more information on ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts career program. 


By
 Jenny McCoy—Chef Instructor, School of Pastry & Baking Arts

Did you know that the history of the s’more dates back as far as the early 1900s? Or that marshmallows were being roasted in the late 1800s? Or better yet, that the marshmallow is a confection that has been around for over 200 years? If you’re the average marshmallow consumer and not a food historian, that can be hard to believe. The commercially made and mass-produced treats that seem to have a never-ending shelf life feel like a product of the 1950s to me, right alongside Cheez Whiz. However, there’s more to the history of marshmallows.

Jenny mccoy smores

In the briefest way, I shall now tell you the history of the marshmallow:

It began with a plant called “marsh mallow,” which happens to grow in swampy, marshy regions of the world, and has a super sticky, thick, white sap. The sap was mostly used for medicinal purposes, often as a remedy for sore throats. Over time the root of the marsh mallow plant was combined with sugar, making it sweet and perhaps the first rendition of a throat lozenge. Fast-forward many, many years (maybe even centuries), the French decided to transform its purpose as cure into confection. The marsh mallow sap was whipped with egg whites and sugar to create what we now know marshmallows to be—a super sweet, soft, fluffy and, when melted, deliciously addictive gooey treat.

According to Tim Richardson’s account in Sweets: A History of Candy, this mild illness remedy turned fancy French confection occurred in the mid-1800s or so. By the late 1800s, the mallow sap was replaced by a less expensive and more readily available ingredient—gelatin. The gelatin was used as the gelling agent in marshmallows to hold their shape—just as they are made today. This replacement reduced the price of the sweets, making them easily procured by all. Marshmallow roasts became popular activities and groups would gather to enjoy these sweet summertime festivities.

But, who could just stop there? As roasting marshmallows became popular, so did the exploration of their uses. Enter: the s’more.

S'mores

Loretta Scott Crew dubbed s’mores as “Some More” in 1927 in Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. (If that’s not enough to sign your daughters up for the Girl Scouts, I don’t know what is—so clever, those little darlings!). The recipe directs readers to roast marshmallows on a stick over a campfire and press them between two graham crackers and a piece of a chocolate bar, like a sandwich. The recipe also says something like, “while the recipe is called ‘some more,’ eating one is enough.” (Clearly, the author and I have never met.)

So there you have it. S’mores have been around for a looooooooong time. Still, the original method of making a s’more remains the same. The only thing that has changed, really, is the spelling of its name. I can’t say that for a lot of desserts. So mark your calendars and please raise your twigs in their honor, because Wednesday, August 10th is National S’mores Day.

For a fancier twist on s’mores, grab a copy of my latest cookbook, Modern Eclairs: And Other Sweet and Savory Puffs, for a yummy s’mores eclairs recipe!

Want to study with Chef Jenny? Click here to learn more about our award-winning Pastry & Baking Arts program.