Noted chocolatier, Elaine Gonzalez, passed away this July. Our owner Sue, and myself both had the opportunity to attend some of her classes and learn about chocolate with her. Elaine’s passion for chocolate, mastery of chocolate, and kind unassuming nature was an inspiration to both of us as well as countless other chocolate lovers. Here are excerpts from an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune commemorating her life and work.
Noted chocolatier, Elaine Gonzalez, passed away this July.
Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune
3:18 p.m. CDT, July 26, 2014
Elaine Gonzalez of Northbrook, an innovative chocolatier noted for transforming chocolate into edible bowls, plates, ornaments, flowers and much, much more, died July 25. She was 79.
“She was an artist and took chocolate to new places,” said restaurateur Ina Pinkney. “Everything she did had this artistry. She was more comfortable with that ingredient than anyone I ever saw with any other ingredient. It was like she was one with the chocolate.” “I never saw anyone roll, twist and coax chocolate like she did,” Pinkney added. “I was always in awe and always learned something.”
Judith Dunbar Hines, formerly Chicago’s director of culinary arts and events, agreed that Gonzalez was a chocolate trail-blazer who could create all sorts of “fantastical things.” But what Hines remembers most is a recipe for chocolate rice pudding. “It was a Mexican recipe…and she made it her signature,” Hines recalled. “Her style was more like the chocolate pudding. She was very quiet and calming….There was no drama out of this woman – ever.”
While Gonzalez trained with some chefs, she told the Chicago Tribune in 1983 that she most of what she learned came from family. Her mother, the late Mary Garcia, was a cooking teacher noted for elaborate cakes, the Tribune wrote in 2001 in reporting Mrs. Garcia’s death, and “whose lessons in the 1960s and ’70s opened an era of specialized cooking at home.”
Gonzalez modestly attributed her success to timing and fate in a brief biographical passage included in “Chicago Cooks,” a book of food history and memories by members of the Chicago chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a professional group. “I was there when the chocolate craze hit this country in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” she recalled, crediting an assignment to teach a chocolate class – a subject she claimed to knowing “next to nothing” – at The Complete Cook, a North Shore cookware shop owned by the late Elaine Sherman, for getting her in the chocolate game.
“Using skills from my party-food and cake-decorating experiences, I taught what turned out to be my first class in chocolate artistry: edible, chocolate-mint-flavored place cards, personalized lollipops, and a few fancy confections,” Gonzales remembered. “Nobody had ever seen anything like that before and neither had I. I must have had an angel sitting on my shoulder that night because in spite of my lack of chocolate experience, everything worked and the excitement in the classroom was beyond description – mine as well as theirs.”
Described in “Chicago Cooks” as “an accomplished teacher of ‘all things chocolate,'” she taught at local cookware shops; became a master chocolatier; launched in 1983 a chocolate consulting firm called Chocolate Artistry; served as a consultant for Peter’s Chocolate and, in 2006, was inducted into the Candy Hall of Fame. She also wrote two books on chocolate, 1983’s “Chocolate Artistry” and “The Art of Chocolate,” published in 1998.
Chocolate rice pudding recipe
Makes: 8 servings
Elaine Gonzalez demonstrated and shared this recipe with students in the now-defunct city of Chicago’s World Kitchen program. The director, Judith Dunbar Hines, added the following headnote: “This recipe is a favorite from friend and author Elaine Gonzalez, who like the dish, has roots in Spain but a heart in Mexico, where the large production of fine cooking chocolate with cinnamon is reflected in this dish. It takes a bit of patience to make, but is well worth it!”
2 quarts milk
1 ounce coarsely chopped unsweetened chocolate (use Mexican chocolate if possible)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 4-inch piece Mexican cinnamon bark
1/2 cup short-grain rice
2 large egg yolks
Cocoa for dusting the final dish before serving
1.) In a large, deep saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk, chocolate and 1 cup of the sugar plus the cinnamon bark to a boil, stirring frequently. Lower the heat and add the rice. Stir with a wooden spoon to prevent the grains from sticking together. Don’t be concerned if the milk at first appears to be speckled with chocolate, as this will change as the cooking progresses.
2.) Simmer, uncovered, over very gentle heat for 1 hour, stirring the mixture most of the time. Check for doneness by squeezing a grain of rice between your fingers…it should feel completely tender with no hard part in the center.
3.) Whisk the egg yolks and the remaining tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl until well mixed. Remove 1/2 cup of cooked rice from the pot and stir into the eggs, stirring vigorously to avoid scrambling the eggs. Add this mixture to the pot, stirring for 5 minutes. The pudding should now be the consistency of soft custard (it will continue to thicken as it cools). Discard the cinnamon bark, transfer the pudding to a metal bowl set over ice and let cool, stirring occasionally. When it is room temperature, it may be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for several hours.
4.) Dust the pudding with cocoa powder and serve with lots of hot coffee, also flavored with Mexican cinnamon.
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