Christine Doerr

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Tour of the Straus Family Creamery

By Christine Doerr, 2010-01-30
In November we were invited to take a tour of my favorite creamery, Straus Family Creamery near Pedaluma. Although we didnt get to see any actual cows, the pasture was too wet, we did get to observe a family-run business and try some of their tasty experimental ice cream flavors!I was particularly excited as I have been using Straus cream in my truffles since I started my business. It really does make a difference in the taste and texture of the ganache. Most people I talk with know of the Creamerys ethical reputation and rich history but Im always willing to educate them if not.Im very fortunate to live in a place where I have easy access to such a quality product made by artisans.Interestingly, I often get questions about the glass bottles. Certainly an unique feature, it also serves a practical function. Glass is inert and produces no off flavors, not to mention that it recyclable and reusable. I pay a $1.50 deposit on each bottle that is refunded when I return the bottles. Im usually buying more cream at the same time so the deposit is in constant rotation.Please take a look at some of my pictures of our creamery tour.

Vintage glass milk bottles lined the conference room where we were greeted by Rich Martin, VP of Sales and Marketing, AKA our tour guide.

We were provided with clean suits, which included baby-blue booties.

Wendy from Socola Chocolates adorning the fashion of the tour.

Birds eye view of the surprisingly small facility.

Many metal pipes crossing every which way above our heads. These two taking raw milk from pasture to bottle.

Line em up and ship em out!

Each bottle is inspected before leaving the building.

Pasteurized not homogenized so the cream floats to the top. Made the old-fashioned way in small batches.

We got to see plain, vanilla and maple flavored yogurt in the process of heating and cooling. So tempting to stick a finger in the cratered surface!

Only four yogurts across being filmed at one time.

Amazing to see the yogurt go from the vats to the containers.

Only one guy filling the ice cream containers.

Today it was the Vanilla Bean ice cream.

Flanking Albert Straus in front of the two-story high signature red Straus milk crates. We proudly display our canvas goodie-bags.
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Women and Chocolate: A Natural Combination

By Christine Doerr, 2009-07-12
I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate on a panel of local women chocolate experts at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club. The subject - Women and Chocolate: A Natural CombinationHow did that happen? Melena, owner of The Xocolate Bar in Berkeley asked me how I felt about public speaking. I suspiciously answered that I was better at demonstrating something like truffle making rather than being perched behind a podium. When she explained the panel-style of the discussion and that I'd be one of four, I eagerly agreed.A couple of weeks before the discussion, us panelists, the moderator and the organizer met to get to know each other and develop some pointed questions. What do you love about the chocolate business, what could you do without? Any advice for people trying to get into the chocolate business? What are some of the latest trends in chocolate? But one of the more provocative questions was, Most of the nationally renowned chocolatiers are men. Why is that? I found this most intriguing because I didn't know how to answer it. I and my other women chocolate-centric friends could only name a couple of "renowned" woman chocolatiers, Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut-Chocolat and Fran Bigelow of Fran's Chocolates and of course Alice Medrich. Who else? Try putting the phase, "women chocolatiers" into Google and the results are very thin indeed.After pondering the issue for a few days I decided to pose the question to the members of The Chocolate Life, an online forum of "chocophiles". Although the thread went a bit astray from the topic, I still got some insight. Perhaps it's true that women have not had the same opportunity as men. There seems to be an increasing number of women in the culinary field and I hope that number will soon be reflected in the chocolate field as well.What do you think? I invite you to answer the question.Women and Chocolate are A Natural Combination and have historically had a close relationship. You'd think that women would dominate the industry. Maybe we four will be the next nationally renowned chocolatiers... despite our sex.

An opportunity to speak at the Commonwealth Cluband be associated with such amazing women.Kathy Wiley - Poco DolceChristine Doerr - Neo CocoaMalena Lopez-Maggi - The Xocolate BarMindy Fong -Jade Chocolates
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A Rare Tour at 10 Guittard Road

By Christine Doerr, 2009-04-06

I must share with you one of the most incredible tours of anything I've ever been on, a rare tour through the Guittard Chocolate factory in Burlingame!Mark Hodgson, Pastry Chef Instructor at City College of San Francisco has been working with me on product development for the last few months. He works with someone who is friends with Gary Guittard. It's always who you know and that allowed Mark 25 spaces for a tour of the factory. Since he knew I used their product he asked if I'd be interested. Well you didn't need to ask me twice. I had heard they didn't give tours often and to see how much work and preparation went into it, I understand why.To begin, we were asked to take a big sniff of the air which smelled of roasted beans.Unfortunately no picture-taking was allowed inside "We don't even allow the FDA to take photos" stated our tour group leader, Alvin, Guittard's Safety Manager. So you will just have to use your imagination...Most of the factory was hot with small spaces of air-conditioned rooms such as the "big panel room" where they control the formulation and the "Mint Room" that holds pallets of mint flavored chocolate. Because chocolate easily absorbs scents, the flavored chocolates must be separated from the rest of the factory. I was almost left deaf by the end of the tour. Lots of big, loud, hot machinery to make that scrumptious little chocolate bar.We started with the sorting room where pallets of burlap-bagged beans were being poured into an industrial grader. They must separate the beans from other foreign objects like stones, concrete, nails and knobs of beans that had been stuck together during the fermentation process. Next, it was off to the roaster. The roasted beans are removed of their skins by winnowing. Most were on their way to becoming chocolate liquor, about 1:1 cocoa mass to cocoa butter, but some were saved to be sold as cacao nibs. These are the nibs I use to top my Crushed Bittersweet Nib Truffles!Then on to the grinder where the beans are ground down into tiny particles to create a smooth texture. Although the factory was very clean there was evidence of Oompa-Loompas at work. You can't go to a chocolate factory without thinking "Oompa-Loompa". We had been warned about the slippery cocoa butter floors so I wasn't surprised when I noticed the tourists in front of me taking tiny steps as we walked through the pressing machines extracting the cocoa butter from the cocoa powder.One of the highlights was climbing up to the top of the conching machine and taking a deep breathe. A slightly acidy burn cut through my sinuses, but the essence of the roasted bean was there. I thought of the history and origin of conching by Rudolphe Lindt...We did a taste test with coverture. Do you know how you tell if your tasting coverture vs. chocolate? Before this test it was an indescribable yuckiness but now I have the vocabulary, sticky (from the replacement of cocoa butter with oil) and a lack of depth of chocolatey flavor. All in all, I think the world would be just fine without coating chocolate.Tempering: Amazing to see 10 pound bars being made! We got to see these large bars being poured, slowly passed through refrigeration and gently turned out and boxed to be aged in their case.At the end of the tour Alvin scored us each a 2oz, Sur del Lago 65% bittersweet chocolate bar as they were being wrapped and boxed up. Then he asked us if we had any last questions and started to escort us out of the building. But right next to the door was a stack of big white cardboard Guittard boxes and we were astounded when Alvin announced that we each got to take one home.

A smart move for the company as they recognized that the culinary students were future buyers of their products.
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Votes are in...

By Christine Doerr, 2009-03-29
Awards for the 2009 San Francisco International Chocolate Salon came out on Thursday. Neo Cocoa did quite well taking First Place in the BEST TRUFFLE category!BEST TRUFFLEFirst PlaceBEST TRADITIONAL CHOCOLATESSecond PlaceTOP ARTISAN CHOCOLATIERSecond Place - sharedMOST LUXURIOUS CHOCOLATE EXPERIENCESecond Place - sharedBEST IN SALONSecond Place - sharedNEW PRODUCT AWARD - sharedWe are so proud to share some of the awards with chocolate makers and fellow chocolatiers. Congratulation to all!
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