MICK and Karen Dwyer, from Blackrock in Cork city, have been chocolatiers for nearly a decade.
Their interest began through a partial involvement in a chocolate business that involved a lot of produce being bought in ready-made.
One day, they said to each other: “Wouldn’t we be better off making it ourselves!” And so the journey began.
They are friendly and familiar faces, known to many frequenters of Cork’s farmers’ markets, as they started at the markets in 2013. Eventually they ended up in Mahon and Douglas, where they can be found every Thursday and Saturday selling Danero Cork Chocolate.
Their online shop is very extensive also, and it stocks far more than what can be found at the farmers’ markets alone.
Karen has completed an array of chocolate courses and has developed a strong expertise over the years.
“Quality is everything,” she said.
“And once you find a quality brand that you’re happy with, it’s best to stick with it.”
Fine quality chocolate pellets are imported into Ireland, generally of Belgian, Swiss, and French origin, and they can be of varying cacao percentages. The cacao beans are sourced from all over the world.
The tempering process is the trickiest part to master initially. Chocolate can’t be simply melted and then poured into a mould. A batch of pellets are first melted at 45 degrees, and then cooler pellets are added into the warm batch. There’s a fine balance of warm to cold that’s critical to get perfect chocolate. The “shine, snap, and break,” says Karen.
If it isn’t tempered correctly, the chocolate will bloom and it won’t have the desired sheen or texture.
A big, old stainless steel machine sits in the corner of their prep area with a melting funnel full of chocolate. It seems like quite the workhorse, and I can imagine the streams of chocolate that have flowed through it over the years.
Their kitchen is very warm. Mick explains how the atmospheric temperature is very important for storage and for setting.
“About 21 degrees is ideal. Not too warm, but not too cold either,” he says.
The dining area of their kitchen has been transformed into a cooling and setting station for their chocolate pieces, with moulds of different shapes stretching across tables; including a group of chocolate Christmas trees that stand like a little plot of edible woodland at the end of the room.
Karen takes me through the process of their Rockies, which are chocolate discs with candied hazelnuts and a covering of ganache. The ganache, which is chocolate and cream, is sometimes swirled with peanut butter and is one of their best sellers.
“People go mad for anything with peanut butter!” Mick says.
They have peanut butter oat bars, various kinds of brownies, and my personal favourite – the citrus strips - which are candied orange strips dipped in chocolate which sparked nostalgic memories of Jaffa Cakes from childhood – minus the cake part.
They have a wide range of truffles with as many as 20 flavours on the menu. The truffles have a hard outer shell with a soft chocolate filling infused with everything from caramel, Baileys, gin and lime, amaretto, Madeira, vanilla, and many more. They can be bought through their online shop and are packaged in a gorgeous little box resembling a jewellery box. They’ve even been sent as far as Boston!
For the health conscious, there’s plenty of dark chocolate varieties to choose from, too. Karen explains to me how dark chocolate is actually her favourite to play with because there are so many things that can be done with it, as so many flavours compliment a dark chocolate very well.
Whereas milk chocolate, although delicious, can be quite one dimensional.
Mick and Karen are known at the markets for having the best hot chocolate around and you can find them whipping it up every Thursday at Mahon and every Saturday at Douglas. Their hot chocolate comes in milk, white, and vegan.
Alternatively you can find their wide- ranging menu online and through their social media sites.
See www.danerocorkchocolate.ie Facebook and Instagram: @danerocorkchocolate