MY FRIEND Suzy Muery and I had the notion one day that we would start a baking business. Her oldest son Lex and my son Walker were born in the spring of 1987. We made this somewhat impulsive decision one night after a couple of glasses of wine and while still recovering from the brain fog of pregnancy and new babies. So we decided to follow our chocolate dreams and Dark Secrets Chocolate Desserts was born.
Based on the enthusiastic response to our tasty cakes, we pooled our resources to purchase a new Kitchen Aid mixer with multiple bowls and whisk attachments and pooled sheet pans and other essential kitchen gear. We had boxes and cake boards custom made, a logo designed and labels printed. As the holiday season drew near, we transformed Suzy’s kitchen into a Yule log factory. My memories of the holiday season from Thanksgiving through Christmas during those years are filled with dozens upon dozens of flats of eggs, gallons of heavy cream, mounds of meringue, bowls overflowing with chocolate ganache and mousse and sheets of rolled genoise. The “Cake Bible,” by Ruth Levy Beranbaum became our personal bible and guided us through the mixing, folding, whisking and assembling of hundreds of cakes, fillings and glazes. Julia Child and Jacques Pepin provided us with instruction on how to pipe out the perfect meringue mushrooms and shape marzipan leaves and berries. These were tedious tasks but essential to our quest for authenticity.
Later I took the Dark Secrets show down the road to a newly opened coffee shop on Lee Lane, Coffee Rani. Thanks to my friends and mentors Angele and Gary Darling and Ann Jemison, owners of Coffee Rani, Dark Secrets grew to be more than chocolate desserts. Coffee Rani favorites in those early years included scones, brioche, frozen chocolate terrines, chocolate raspberry truffle tarts, signature brownies and bars, buttercream cakes and linzer tarts. I am grateful to them for sharing their vision and encouraging me to push my talents and go to places I may not have ventured to otherwise.
Ruby red Louisiana strawberries have been my inspiration for many a dessert, salad, scone and even a cocktail or two. The combination of chocolate and strawberries is sublime. The Louisiana strawberries appeared at the local farmers markets before Christmas this year. I cannot get enough of these sweet and luscious juicy gems. As the peak of the season nears and we approach the ultimate celebration of the sacred strawberry at the Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest, I begin dreaming of strawberries.
You will find some favorite strawberry recipes from my cookbook collection, my personal repertoire and from my experiences cooking and sharing with friends online at sophisticatedwoman.com!