Apotheker’s Kitchen: Bee-Sweetened Hot Cocoa & The Secret Life of Chocolatiers

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Just one taste of their honey-sweetened confections, and you know instantly that Russ and Shari Apotheker of Apotheker’s Kitchen were destined to create all-natural and delicious chocolates (and marshmallows, for that matter). Their handcrafted treats are made with only the very best ingredients, like their chocolate, which is organically and biodynamically grown and sourced from a small, family cooperative in Dominican Republic, and their raw tupelo honey that comes from a third generation beekeeper who raises happy, antibiotic- and chemical-free bees.

Plus, they also happen to be two of the very sweetest people we know–Russ actually created his first marshmallow for Shari; talk about Food Gift Love. The darling duo joined us for a quick Q&A about why they do what they do and shared their recipe for decadent (and feel-good) hot cocoa. ~Kate

Why do you make food? What makes you get up early or stay up late to do what is generally considered to be some of the hardest work out there?

{Russ} I’ve been passionate about cooking since I was a kid helping my mom prepare our family meals. I grew up in a household that put a lot of emphasis on family mealtime, which shaped my view on sharing food. Over the years I began to realize that cooking was where I felt the most passionate and creative, which I never truly felt in other artistic fields.

Loving to make food keeps me going during those long days in the kitchen, which has become my art studio where I can be most at ease. Shari is a huge help and thankfully, we share the same passion for creativity and being true to one’s self. We support each other and typically when one of us is struggling, the other one is there to pick us back up.

What’s been the greatest struggle in becoming a professional maker?

{Russ} The struggle to find a balance between the business side and the maker side of owning your own business is something that we didn’t fully understand when we started Apotheker’s. I generally love all that we are doing, but sometimes wish I could devote more time to experimenting in the kitchen, trying out new recipes, and just messing around with ingredients. Shari and I made a deal that we would both spend more time tinkering around in our kitchen, making crafts, and generally doing more creative activities to make us happy this year.

chocolate-fan

What dish makes your food product shine?

{Shari} We have been really excited about the reception to our chocolate drinks starting last summer with our iced chocolate and at markets now with our hot chocolate. Our goal when creating the chocolate bars was to keep it simple and let the ingredients shine. We tasted many different cacaos and honeys and tinkered with the recipe for a year and a half to achieve the perfect balance of ingredients. With just hot water and a bit more honey, our hot chocolate does not alter our chocolate but instead emphasizes the unique cherry and coffee notes in our single origin, organic and biodynamic Dominican cacao and the smoothness of our Tupelo honey sweetened chocolate.

What do you eat when no one is looking?

{Shari} I love this question and I very much wish we could answer with Sour Patch Kids or Doritos or even, Hershey’s (that would be scandalous), because we’re 80s kids and we had it so good. I sometimes miss the days of being blissfully unaware of how food is made and eating every orange “cheese” product under the sun, but we know too much now and so, we generally eat really well. I eat a lot of healthy fats and probably go through a jar of coconut oil and a whole lot of bacon every week, and I am not sure anyone would want to see that.

Tell us about your prize kitchen tool.

{Russ} Can I name two? I would have to say both our tempering machine and kitchen-aid stand mixer for different reasons. I love our tempering machine and it feels like another member of our team in the kitchen, I know how it behaves and all of its quirks. The kitchen-aid has a special place in our heart because we got it when we got married and now it’s our all around workhorse. We used it when we first started making our marshmallows in REALLY small batches and still use it to test new flavors and recipes.

mallowsandbox

Share a little tip to inspire a home cook.

{Russ} Don’t be afraid of failure in the kitchen. I have and continue to fail at making food, but it inspires me to push myself to try a new technique or method that leads to successful results. Shari calls me the mad scientist when I’m in the kitchen and I embrace that title as a badge of honor.

What’s one of the best homemade food gift you’ve ever received?

{Shari} Sometimes I think about what 6-year-old Shari, or even 26-year-old Shari would have thought if I knew one day I would marry a man who would make me chocolate and marshmallows. To me, delicious food is the greatest gift especially because there are a fair amount of foods I have to avoid. I think we can all relate to the joy felt from really good food and Russ has made it his goal in life to make sure I don’t have to be without that. So, I could talk about the first time Russ made me marshmallows and how I giggled because they were so delicious and fluffy or how I couldn’t stop smiling the first time he made me chocolate, but I’ve been given more than that. I also consider his positivity and excitement to try new things with every new food restriction–and his ability to make me like beets–the best gifts ever, too.

What is the best homemade food gift you’ve ever given to someone?

{Russ} Seriously, you should have seen her giggle when I gave her those marshmallows.

Homemade Cocoa Mix - Eat Boutique

Apotheker’s Simple Hot or Iced Chocolate

We highly recommend topping your hot chocolate with one of our Dark Chocolate Topped Mallows. For a warm weather treat, serve over ice for a creamy iced chocolate drink.

*We have found that our chocolate makes a perfectly smooth hot chocolate with just water, no dairy needed! Give it a try.

Makes: 1 to 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bar of Apotheker’s Classic Dark Chocolate
  • 8 to 10 ounces water* or milk of your choice
  • Raw honey (preferably untreated) or pure maple syrup (optional)
  • Pinch of Sea Salt, preferably Red Alaea Salt. (optional)

Directions:

  1. Break up Apotheker’s chocolate and melt in saucepan with water or milk. Add a scoop of honey or maple syrup and a pinch of salt, if you wish. Stir until chocolate is melted and ENJOY!
All photos taken and styled by Alexandra Roberts, except the last photo was taken by Vincent Kan on Flickr.

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