Questions and Answers with Debby Maugans of Small Batch Baking

debby maugansONE GOOD THING ABOUT VALENTINE’S DAY’s appearance on the horizon (warning, warning: VD2013 in less than three weeks) is its reminder of all we did wrong last year in the name of love.  One mistake for which he hope to atone was to ignore highlighting the creation of intimate chocolates — those meant to be enjoyed by two (and absolutely not just one) — celebrated by Asheville (N.C.) Baking Belle Debby Maugans in her Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers.

Maugans’s first book, the 2005 Small-Batch Baking200 downsized recipes and included a section devoted to Valentines Day, but that wasn’t enough. Inspired by her teen daughter’s desire for chocolate bites made in quantities that too often sat at home after her daughter left for school, seducing in unflattering quantities, Maugans set out to create the recipes for reveling in chocolate, but in moderation.

Forgiving us our sins, the former food editor, recipe developer, columnist, TV and radio personality, food stylist and all-around cuisine biz veteran, kindhearted and talented Maugans let us steal a few moments of her time to learn more.

Cupid Alley Chocolatieres: What was the moment or event or day or taste that was the inspiration for your personal and professional interest in creating chocolate sensations?

Debby Maugans: In the late 1990’s, I attended a seminar during an IACP [International Association of Culinary Professionals] conference, and John Scharffenberger spoke about his new company.  I tasted dark chocolate with a new appreciation and fondness for all things richly cacao, without the sugar and emulsifiers and milk.

CAC: Two years on from the debut of your Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers, what new thoughts have you had about chocolate for two?

DM: We are fortunate to live in Asheville, N.C., near the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.  We are never without several bars of Mast Brothers and French Broad Chocolates — 70 to 85 percent cacao — from various regions. We break off tiny pieces and savor them from pre-breakfast to just before bed. My youngest daughter loves dark chocolate now, so everything we make and eat is 70 percent and above. The great thing about making those small-batch desserts, which I still do frequently, is they never call for more than one bar. I keep them around for spur of the moment baking.

CAC: Which recipe will you be considering for the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day in your house?

DM: I’ll be making the Bittersweet Chocolate Tarts with Salted Pistachio Brittle. I’ve recently developed a passion for making and eating homemade pie crusts,and small batches are so much more fun and less mess to make.

CAC: Which recipe would you recommend for the less expert baker hoping to make their very best impression on that day?

DM: I would recommend the Chocolate Raspberry Cake Hearts. The steps are each easy, but the results look like the dessert was more complicated. The success from following the instructions and resulting in beautiful small cakes will encourage the cook to bake more and more!

CAC: Are there shortcuts or hints or particular chocolates you recommend to those who want to maximize both flavor and health?

DM: I think that the investment in a good bar of chocolate is worth it to make these desserts. I tested all with Ghiradelli chocolates because I knew that it is widely distributed. And I recommend finding premium chocolate bars and keeping them around to taste when your sweet tooth kicks in — just break off a half-inch piece and let it melt on your tongue. It is quite satisfying and you really don’t want to put anything else in your mouth to take away the lingering flavor!

CAC: Have you found any recipes including chocolate (perhaps ones you’ve already posted about so that I can link to it and not give anything away) or new sources or techniques that you would consider for a possible update of the book?

DM: If I were to update the book, I would recommend and provide information about some of my favorite artisan bars. I would also include gluten free recipes to appeal and make sure we satisfy those folks too!

CAC: Are there any new projects possibly involving chocolate about which you are particularly excited?

DM: My new project, Farmer and Chef Asheville, will include many chocolate desserts — not just for two, but chef recipes that are edited for the home cook. The website is only just begun — I hate to direct readers to it right now because we are only beginning to work out the design — but it will have desserts for two from the book, as well as many, many other chocolate recipes in many meal categories. The site should be up in two weeks. I’m also regularly posting on Twitter: @smallbatchbakin and @farmerchefAVL.

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