Tonya Meinerding dipped a paintbrush in green luster, copper and gold colored cocoa butter. She painted tiny molds, which could later serve as the tops of bonbons as iridescent as marbles.
Meinerding is a pharmacist by day, a whole-sale chocolatier by night. She makes chai infusion bars, lime basil dark chocolate, passion fruit caramelized ganache bonbons for her side business L'Apothicaire Chocolat (pronounced la-PO-ti-care).
And her specialty is the bonbon.
“I’ve always loved to cook, and chocolate is very challenging,” she said.
Humidity, temperature and movement can affect the final product, and the standard bonbon takes three to five days to make.
She first starts with cleaning, shining and painting the molds, which create the top shell of the treats. The second day is spent melting different chocolates and mixing flavors to for her ganache fillings, and day three is sealing and unmolding.
With each step, you have to temper the chocolate, heat it to the right temperature. There are different molecules, fats, carbohydrates, sugars in chocolate, and tempering is “putting the puzzle pieces together,” keeping the molecules trapped together, she said.
Once it’s tempered, Meinerding has to work quickly, and afterward, she lets the chocolate harden overnight between layers.
Meinerding makes a peanut butter and jelly bonbon with organic raspberry pate de fruit and crunchy organic peanut butter praline; also a s’more bonbon with marshmallow, chocolate and graham.
In creating her recipes, Meinerding considers the fat, sugars and water content of her materials. They all need to be balanced in a ganache because if any element is off, it can fall apart, the oils can separate, or the end result can taste oily. Knowing your ratios is key.
“Chocolate is very feisty,” she said.
She’s had good luck with her recipes, which she keeps and updates in a computer document.
She wants her bonbon flavors to be spot on, and she makes it intense. “So even though it’s tiny and beautiful, it’s got good flavor,” she said.
She’s had chocolate stick to molds and flavors that weren’t up to standards; she calls those “belly flops,” and they go to friends, family and coworkers.
Chocolate can cost $200 for three bags, and she can go through an 11-pound bag in a weekend. For tools, she uses scrapers, melting pots, hand blenders, spatulas, disposable food-grade sponges.
“A chocolatier’s best friend is the hardware store,” she said.
Meinerding’s first focus was on pastries, and she got serious about chocolate-making last year after visiting a chocolate shop in France. There, she had the first bonbon that wowed her.
Soon after, she pursued online chocolate school programs, where she learned different types of fillings, ganaches, nut-based, liquor, caramels, also about business, food safety and history.
Chocolate from different regions in the world have different flavor profiles, she said. For instance, she’s going to pair a raspberry filling with a fruitier chocolate from Madagascar or Brazil rather than a tobacco-y chocolate from Venezuela, she said.
An early lesson in the chocolate kitchen was to pay attention to detail. “Home cooks are ‘a little of this, a little of that’ but that doesn’t work in chocolate. You have to be exact,” she said.
“Food is science,” said Nicole Wilde, Love Creamery owner. “She’s bringing this whole different level of expertise in her chocolatiering.”
Wilde reached out to Meinerding after hearing her chocolate was “exceptional.” They talked business philosophy and values, Wilde tried some samples and Meinerding’s chocolates soon graced Love Creamery’s merchandise shelves.
Their arrangement is pretty “free range.” Meinerding stocks what she makes, and it sells, Wilde said.
Wilde called Meinerding bubbly and creative. “I can't wait to see where she goes with this business,” she said.
Meinerding has held tastings and popups at Hucklebeary and Hoops Brewing, and she will be at Chester Bowl Fall Fest on Sept. 21. In the future, she has her sights set on vegan offerings.
She said her inspirations are chocolatiers Patrick Roger and Jacques Genin, and she finds support from a chocolate community online, where they bounce ideas off each other.
And even though she makes it, Meinerding said she still eats store-bought chocolate. Her go-tos are from Taza, Ritual or Dandelion, and her favorite flavors are dark chocolate and anything with hazelnut. “I always have some chocolate on me,” she said.
Chocolate-making, and bonbons especially, are a lot of work, but Meinerding likes them particularly because they pack a punch, she said. “It’s the amount of satisfaction in a whole piece of cake in a little tiny bonbon.”
If you go
What: Chester Bowl Fall Fest
When: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 22
Where: 1801 East Skyline Pkwy
Suggested donation: $5
= = =
What: Art sale
When: 1-6 p.m. Sept. 21
Where: Bent Paddle