Photos by Shannon Richardson
In anticipation of Amarillo Little Theatre’s musical production of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this month, we were approached with an idea: What if we challenged some of the best chefs in Amarillo to embrace their inner Willy Wonka and create a magical, chocolatey confection? What could they come up with? Of course, we wondered after we photographed it for Brick & Elm, could we eat it?
Thankfully, these restaurants jumped at the opportunity and the results are just as tempting as we expected. We recommend trying them yourself: Most of these desserts will be available at each location throughout the run of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (The white chocolate panna cotta at OHMS will only be available September 12-16.)
TWENTY606 Wonka Bar
Chef Marcus Snead
Twenty606 Wine & Bistro
2606 Wolflin Village
Snead called this delicacy an “adult take on a Wonka bar,” which appears in the book and musical and which were even sold as promotional merchandise for the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The chocolate bar contains a pretzel crust with caramel filling, and was topped with house-made stout-and-pretzel ice cream.
Golden Ticket Croquette
Chef Tyler Ryen
Savór Tapas Bar
7669 Hillside Road
Ryen says this graham-cracker-encrusted chocolate ganache with a marshmallow cream, graham-cracker bites and chocolate chips is his take on campfire s’mores. He rolled the chocolate ganache in graham-cracker crumbs, then fried it in what he describes as “almost like a pancake batter.” The result was rich, smoky and decadent.
Chocolate Willy Wonka Cake
Baker Juanita Campos
Crush Wine Bar & Grill
627 S. Polk St.
The rich, moist texture of this decadent chocolate cake is offset by the whimsical exterior color—which includes candy sourced from the Candy Palace at Westgate Mall. Juanita Campos created the drip cake by carefully pouring melted chocolate buttercream frosting onto the top center of the cake and letting it flow down the sides, a technique that works best when the cake is chilled before icing.
White Chocolate Blueberry Panna Cotta
Dessert Specialist Leslie Meier
OHMS Café & Bar
619 S. Tyler St.
“I knew nobody would cover the blueberry aspect, but it’s a big part of the story,” says Leslie Meier, head baker at OHMS. (In the book and musical, the character Violet Beauregard turns indigo and blueberry-round from experimental gum.) White chocolate can be overly sweet, but pairing it with the tart blueberries made for a crisp, refreshing dessert, garnished with a white-chocolate-chip-and-lemon cookie.
Since these extravagant, complex confections aren’t necessarily the kinds of things a home cook can successfully tackle, we asked our expert participants to provide a tip for working with chocolate at home.
Splurge on chocolate.
“Spend the extra and use a higher quality,” says Leslie Meier. “That is my tip for chocolate.” Rather than relying on household names like Hershey’s or Ghirardelli, OHMS swears by three brands: the American-based Guittard Chocolate Company, Belgium’s Callebaut Chocolate, or France’s Cacao Barry. “The texture, the overall flavor, everything is just nicer,” she says of these company’s products, which are available from WorldwideChocolate.com.
Learn to temper.
Properly tempered chocolate is what allows a chef to turn a crisp bar of chocolate into something moldable or even saucy. As part of this multi-step process, Ryen added small amounts of cream to manage texture and appearance. “That’s how we achieve the runny chocolate versus it just being a gloopy ball of hot chocolate,” says Tyler Ryen of Savór. Tempering allowed him to scoop and batter the chocolate for his take on s’mores.
Pay attention to the heat.
“Always use the best chocolate you can find,” says Marcus Snead of TWENTY606. He recommends anything 65 percent cacao and above. Then pay attention to the heat. “You can’t really work in a hot kitchen,” he says. To melt chocolate at home, he recommends a double boiler, which uses steam from simmering water to heat the contents of an upper bowl. “That way you’re not going to burn the chocolate. Chocolate’s pretty forgiving … until it’s not,” Snead says.
Keep it fresh.
Crush first hired Juanita Campos as a dishwasher. Then General Manager Seth Quinn began hearing she was an amazing baker. It wasn’t long before Campos became responsible for all the restaurant’s desserts, other than the crème brûlée. To ensure a moist chocolate cake, Campos says to “pay special attention” to the instructions. Overbaking can dry out any cake, so use the toothpick method to monitor doneness—start checking several minutes ahead of the final baking time. Then don’t let it sit too long, she says. “Always bake the day of.”