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Monday, January 12, 2009

Chocolate Bacon in the High Point Enterprise

Last Tuesday, Jimmy Tomlin of the High Point Enterprise paid me a visit. We talked about the joys of making candy for a living, and the strangeness of dipping cured meats in chocolate. I have to say, though, if I'm going to keep doing interviews, I'm going to have to either request that the photographer work before or after the interview concludes, or work on my multitasking. It's not easy to model chocolate covered bacon, holding a piece hovering in midair while also trying answer questions about your business and not sound like an idiot. I just hope I didn't sound too ditzy.

I've pasted it below, you can also visit the website, which includes a photo, but you'll have to register. It's a lovely article, but I do have a couple of footnotes. The print version states that you can purchase choco-bacon at the Randolph Arts Guild and all the Weaver Street Market locations. It's not available at Weaver Street, but it is available in limited quantities at the Arts Guild and of course, always online. And also, I did once dream of becoming a pastry chef. Now I am one. I'm just also a chocolatier...

Chocolate ... & Bacon?

By Jimmy Tomlin
Jan 09, 2009

Leslie Cooper admits that chocolate-covered bacon is one of the most popular items she makes in her Randolph County kitchen.
RANDOLPH COUNTY - Sometimes the fun in eating chocolate is discovering which tasty filling has been buried underneath the chocolate coating.

Is it caramel?

Is it a cherry?

How about coconut?


For Randolph County chocolatier Leslie Cooper, hickory-smoked bacon - cooked to a crisp, just the way we like it here in the South - is the filling that's been, well, bringing home the bacon for the past several months.

"It's been really popular," the 26-year-old Franklinville woman says. "(Chocolate-covered bacon) is the majority of what I made this Christmas."

Cooper, whose creativity in the kitchen once led her to make jalapeno cordials for a wedding, apparently has never met a filling she didn't like - or wasn't at least willing to try. So last March, when a blogger told readers of his desire to try some chocolate-covered bacon - fulfilling his lifelong dream of merging two of his favorite foods - Cooper was happy to oblige.

"I've never made it," she told him, "but I'd be glad to do it for you."

Cooper, who owns Luca Chocolate, retreated to her laboratory - er, um, her kitchen - and began to experiment, and before long she had a batch of chocolate-covered bacon ready for shipping. She also threw in a few bacon caramels, as well as another creation she'd been working on - bourbon and black pepper truffles.

"He loved it and wrote about it on his blog - he even did a little video that he put on YouTube - and people just started calling from all over, saying "I have to have that bacon,'" Cooper recalls. "One guy ordered two pounds for his father for Father's Day, sight unseen. He'd never even tasted it - he just said, "Send it now.'"

The orders came from all over the country - California, Arizona, Washington, New York, Connecticut - "anywhere and everywhere," Cooper says - and suddenly Luca Chocolate was a bit of an Internet sensation.

"What I'm learning is that there's this whole cult of bacon people out there who just love anything bacon - they've just gotta have it," she says, sounding a bit perplexed. "I mean, I like bacon - I like a BLT - but I guess it's not quite as much my thing as it is other people's."

Needless to say, chocolate-covered bacon has a uniquely distinctive taste.

"It's salty, it's sweet, it's smoky and a little meaty, but not too much," Cooper explains. "I think the contrast makes the flavors taste better. It's kind of like sweet and sour - the sourness is intensified by the sweet, and the sweetness is intensified by the sour. It's kind of like that with the chocolate and the bacon."

The cooking process is fairly straightforward. Cooper cooks the bacon in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes - until it's really crispy - then allows it to cool. Once the bacon has cooled, she dips the 3- to 4-inch strips in a bowl of tempered chocolate and lays them out to allow the chocolate to firm up. She sprinkles sea salt on top of the chocolate for one final zing of extra flavor.

Customers can buy a "bacon box," which includes the chocolate-covered bacon (with their choice of milk chocolate or dark chocolate) and bacon caramels, as well as bourbon and black pepper truffles.

Cooper once dreamed of becoming a pastry chef - she attended the French Culinary Institute in New York City - before launching Luca Chocolate a couple of years ago (Luca is the name of her horse). The business started slowly, "but it's grown steadily in these two years," she says. "It's exponentially better than it was at this time last year."

And for that - in part, at least - she can thank her lucky bacon.

"I never intended to make chocolate-covered bacon," Cooper says, "but it's easily one of the most popular things I make."

© 2009 by The High Point Enterprise. All rights reserved.

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