High Street Chocolate: Sweet SuccessTexas Hill Country chocolate?
By Randy Lankford
There's white chocolate and milk chocolate and even dark chocolate. Then, there's Peggy Cloar's chocolate.
Cloar is a woman on the edge. She lives on the edge of civilization in a remote, heavily wooded area of the Texas Hill Country just north of San Antonio. And she works on the edge of science, making chocolate even most people in the confectionary industry don't understand. As the only employee of the High Street Chocolate Company, the Dallas native is building her business one bite at a time.
Fortunately, that's not a problem for Cloar. She's one of those people who never met a stranger. She's everyone's best friend, the life of the party, an easy person to talk to. Just don't get her started on chocolate.
"You have to reeducate people," Cloar explains, laughing. "People in Comfort won't talk to me anymore. They say, 'Enough with the chocolate.' So I have to go other places now."
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This is decadence from the dark side.
Making Chocolate Candy BarsMass-produced chocolate, like most consumables, has been reduced to the lowest common denominator: something to appeal to the broadest audience for the lowest cost. Cloar isn't interested in either one of those factors. Comparing her chocolate to candy is like calling a Filet Mignon a hamburger.
The standard recipe for chocolate candy bars is 20 percent base (cacao) 50 percent cocoa butter and 30 percent sugar. Cloar has not only flipped that recipe, she's gone 10 percent further. Her recipe is 60 percent cacao, 10 percent cocoa butter and the rest a sweetener she won't reveal.
Cloar won't say where she gets her chocolate either. She's friendly, not foolish. She plays her ingredient cards close to the vest. "I use a blend from different places," she says. "It's very confidential. I use organic oils out of Europe for flavorings and my vanilla comes from Tahiti."
And when Cloar says "vanilla," she means vanilla beans, not extract. Her chocolate is handmade. "Everyone else in the industry uses extracts and artificial flavors. Not me.
"What I use is $400 a kilo because it's the best. I could use cheaper vanilla but this is primo."
Like many small businesses, High Street was hurt by the recession.
"The first month I was in business I made $200. That's not a lot but I thought, 'this is going to work.' Then the recession hit and the next month I made $5. I looked around at all this equipment I had bought and all these ingredients I had and thought to myself, 'well, it looks like chocolate for dinner tonight.' My little dream of just stepping in and taking over the market changed. Now I have to work."
Even then the former real estate broker knew her fledgling business would be successful. She thinks there might even be a higher presence guiding her.
"Chocolate just likes me. It's hard to work with but it likes me and we came together. I started working with it and realized it just worked. I've tried other things that didn't work, but this just did.
"I was in the supermarket at 7 o'clock on a Saturday morning, looking for vanilla. I was frustrated and ready to give up when a man heard me grumbling about vanilla all being the same. It turned out he owned a vanilla plantation in Tahiti, where the best vanilla in the world comes from.
"What were the odds I was going to run into him? Someone or something put him in my path. I think that kind of thing happens more than we realize and we're just not paying attention."
Cloar isn't a chemist. She's a mom who wanted to eat well and feed her family well. A lesson she learned living in Mexico for 10 years where fresh, healthy food was the norm, even in the poorest households.
"I just got tired of the junk that's out there," says Cloar. "It's all the same. All the big manufacturers buy their chocolate from the same supplier and just pour it in different molds. It all comes from the Ivory Coast. They buy it cheap and make huge profits.
"I start with the best ingredients I can get. From there, it's a slam dunk. But the big manufacturers just want to use whatever's cheapest.
"My chocolate is vegan. I use no milk, no soy, no egg, no hidden oils. What makes my chocolate different is what I don't put in. The shelf life is probably a couple of years but it never lasts that long."
And while she has the capacity to make thousands of one-ounce bars a month, she doesn't spend much time on aesthetics. "I don't do any of that fancy stuff," Cloar laughs.
"I'm not a chocolatier. I'm not about making it pretty. I'm more interested in what it tastes like than what it looks like."
High Street Chocolates are available at: Green Fields Market Las Finezas Nature's Presence Health Food Center The Boerne Wine Company Singing Waters Vineyard Sandstone Cellars Winery Fredericksburg Candy Company Lone Star Candy Bar
Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Cream butter and both sugars. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and oats. Add to mixture and slowly beat until blended. Stir in nuts, chocolate and cherries.
Drop by tablespoonfuls an inch or so apart onto parchment covered or sprayed cookie
sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Do not overbake.
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