There’s a little store in Dallas tucked amongst the eclectic mix of retail and restaurants in Snider Plaza that I was told not to miss on my recent trip down to Texas.
When I say “serious,” I suppose I’m referring to their chocolate operation and not their bakery. Sadly, I didn’t sample enough of their pastries to make a fair assessment.
However, of the three cookies I tried, only the Chocolate Espresso got me worked up: it was soft, moist and rewardingly rich and dark. And, it managed to stay relatively fresh, unlike the other two, which were stale (my friend said her Cashew cookie was stale too). At $1 a piece, I thought they were rather well-priced, although I’d pay nearly double if the were better.
The Tasmanian Honey Snickerdoodle not only lacked flavor – I was hoping for more honey and cinnamon – it was also disappointingly tough and chewy (a trait I find commonly among baked goods containing honey or molasses, both of which are hydrophilic).
The “Trail Mix” didn’t taste as stale as the Tasmanian Honey Snickerdoodle, but it also had a lot more ingredients in and on the cookie to distract me. True to its name, it was choc-a-bloc with a nuts (walnuts, and my friend got cashews in hers), seeds, and raisins. The cookie dough base seemed to be similar to, if not the same as the one they used for the Tasmanian Honey Snickerdoodle.
Although Doughmonkey’s case held other tempting baked goods – croissants, mini pies, cakes, and an indecently indulgent-looking brownie made from DeVries Costa Rica 77% chocolate – I was more intently focused on their chocolate program.
Doughmonkey carries an impressive selection of heavyweight chocolates. Here, I’m talking chocolate bars – the stuff that makes a chocolate purist’s heart skip.
But the real excitement for me was getting to see some of the newer, hard-to-find, cult bean-to-chocolate artisans, like Amano (Utah), Chris Devrie’s DeVries (Colorado), and Alan McClure’s Patric, (out of my home-state of Missouri). Just to give you an idea of how hard these artisanal products are to find in retail (for a while, they couldn’t be purchased online), I had to travel all the way to Dallas to get my hands on a piece of Patric chocolate – a bar that was made in Columbia, Missouri, only two and a half hours drive from my house. I can’t find a single outlet in Kansas City that sells Patric bars.
From these high-end chocolates, Doughmonkey crafts their own molded and free-form chocolate truffles.
I could not be bothered with choosing among all of the choices in their truffle case, so I ended up buying one of each dark chocolate truffle, and adding a couple of others, like the Meyer Lemon, a flat molded El Rey “Icoa” white chocolate (cocoa butter from the Carenero bean) piece whimsically painted with a kaleidescope of pink, white, and butter yellow splotches. The inside was a tongue-grippingly tart Meyer Lemon-infused white chocolate ganache.
Doughmonkey’s “signature” chocolate (or, so I was told) is the “Salt & Pepper,” a speckled molded half-dome that, I think, has a misleading name. It’s not so much the nose-tickling, savory experience that I had eagerly expected. Rather, the interior dark chocolate ganache, infused with toasted Sichuan peppers – the kind that makes your tongue go numb rather than sneeze – is less peppy and more floral. Sadly, I didn’t get any salt.
But, the “Fleur de Sel” certainly did. The multi-faceted turquoise molded chocolate was filled with a runny, mild caramel with a touch of sweet salinity. How does it compare to my hometown haute chocolatier‘s version? I like Christopher Elbow’s “Caramel Fleur de Sel” better: his caramel is slightly sturdier with a richer mouthfeel. Christopher Elbow’s fusion has the salt leaning on the caramel more, so that the overall combination is bolder and, to me, more compelling.
I would make the same observation regarding the caramel in the “Espresso Caramel” molded chocolate piece. The caramel wasn’t as runny as Doughmonkey’s “Fleur de Sel” – there was an added touch of Valhrona 40% Lactee – but, for a robust, dark coffee drinker like me, the infusion was depressingly light. More creamy and sweet than *espresso,* it actually tasted more like mellow caramel cappuccino. (Does that even exist? )
But generally, boldness isn’t particularly a problem with Doughmonkey’s chocolates. As far as infusions go, Doughmonkey doesn’t pussyfoot around with flavors like most chocolatiers.
The “Chipotle Chili Truffle” is the most flavor-packed piece I tried. This truffle is a little fireball. The smoke from the chipotle is the first thing that strikes you. The smoke gives way to an earthiness, which in turn awakens the the dark chocolate and then heats up for a long, smooth finish of chili de arbol spice. There are cocao nibs on and in the truffle, which give it a nice textural contrast.
The “Tasmanian Honey” is another good example of Doughmonkey’s rewardingly aggressive infusions. The effect isn’t as punctuated as that of the “Chipotle Chili Truffle,” but it is bold and has staying power. It’s also my favorite chocolate piece I tried. More earthy than floral, it was very much both, with a touch of leather. It was like eating honey in a Coach store filled with lavender. The honey is infused with a touch of that El Rey Icoa white chocolate to give it a creamy smoothness.
The “Hazelnut Lait” – a Mangaro Lait milk chocolate piece – was like a ball of fine Torino gianduja. The truffle was coated in chopped hazelnuts, which gave it a toasty edge and a crunchy texture.
Of the two red fruit pieces, I liked the “Fruits Noir Tea” better than the “Cherry Tahitian Vanilla.” Both were good and I admit that my decision is based solely on which piece had the stronger reach. While the tart morello cherry was assertive in the “Cherry Tahitian Vanilla,” the Tahitian vanilla was completely masked.
By comparison, the ganache in the “Fruits Noir Tea” was thick with fruit paste (black currants, blackberries, and blueberries) – sweet and tart. I think that the dark Valrhona Caraibe was a good match for these flavors. Most importantly, you can taste the tea infusion at the end (a little tannic bitterness). Like all of the molded pieces, the shell had a nice crisp snap to it. (See also La Maison du Chocolat’s “Sévillane Collection,” which also includes a “Ganache noir á l’infusion de thé 4 fruits rouges.“)
For the purists, there are single bar chocolate truffles.
I sampled three and my favorite was the “DeVries Truffle” made from 77% Costa Rican Trinitario cocoa beans. There’s a bit of earthiness and even savoriness to this dark chocolate truffle. It also had a rich red wine flavor with an aggressive licorice flavor – more than the “Patric Truffle” and the “Amedei Chuao Truffle” – both of which were described as having fruity wine notes.
Despite its unique flavor, the “DeVries Truffle” was extremely balanced. The ganache had excellent texture. The couverture didn’t *snap* as much as I had expected, but it was not bad by any means.
Whereas the “Patric Truffle” had a slight hint of dark fruit which rose just above the (my favorite) dark Madagascar chocolate, the “Amedei Chuao Truffle” preyed upon my weakness for that familiar and straightforward flavor of Venezuelan chocolate.
I applaud Doughmonkey’s dedication to artisanal chocolate-making. I also admire their creativity and bold approach to chocolate infusions. They’re clearly one of the better chocolatiers I’ve encountered in the United States.
There are a few general points that I would make about their chocolate pieces:
1. Doughmonkey’s chocolate ganache is not as smooth as most of the other higher-end chocolatiers I’ve enjoyed. Doughmonkey’s is a style chocolate-making that is more rustic, which I can appreciate and do enjoy. Having been spoiled with a string of chocolate tastings that have all been exceptionally smooth, Doughmonkey’s slightly more gritty texture is a change of pace. However, I must say that none of Doughmonkey’s chocolate pieces were pasty or clay-like, a quality that I consider to be the kiss of death for any chocolate piece.
2. There were a number of molded pieces where the bottom (the last side of the couverture to be added) was way too thick. The result, as you can imagine, is that while the rest of the couverture sides and ganache have faded, you’re left with a plank of melting couverture in your mouth.
3. I’m not sure what they add to their chocolate to make their ganache, bu for a number of Doughmonkey’s pieces, I detected a butter flavor that I tend to dislike in ganaches. I prefer cream-based ganaches.
Thirty dollars for 15-piece box is a very reasonable price, considering that Doughmonkey only uses high-end and artisanal chocolates, infuse their own ganaches, and hand-enrobe their truffles.
That Doughmonkey is entirely unpretentious and approachable makes it particularly endearing. They’re not above asking for feedback from their customers. And, there are absolutely no frills in this simple outfit. There are two cases (one for pastries and one for chocolates), a cash register, and a few racks of chocolate bars. That’s it. There’s not even a place to sit to enjoy their pastries and chocolates with a cup of coffee.
But, I don’t think they’re interested in providing a full-service experience. They seem pretty hard-core, choco-focused bean nerds. You buy, you eat. No need to sit. I can’t say that’s such a bad thing.
6708 Snider Plaza