Tuesday, January 01, 2013

How sweet it is

Local chocolatier Stacy Noland makes decadent desserts for any occasion

Care to sink your teeth into a decadent Dark Cherry Cardamom Truffle? How about a refreshing Mint Bon Bon? Perhaps the crunch of heat-infused habanera peanut brittle or smooth-tasting beer brittle would better tantalize your taste buds?

Decadent treats make an irresistible addition to any Valentine’s Day menu, but who needs a holiday that only comes around once a year as an excuse to indulge? Not local chocolatier Stacy Noland, owner of Stacy’s Sweet Spot. She makes sweet sensations in her home kitchen all year long.

“I started developing recipes for sweet stuff when I was young,” said Noland. “Instead of spending my hard-earned cash on clothes like most adolescent girls, I spent mine on chocolate. I would buy chocolates from the local candy store, eat them and recreate the flavors in brownie, cake or frosting form.”

Noland put aside the childhood hobby to pursue careers in retail and construction management, moving from Houston to Smith Mountain Lake where family members, including sister Tiffany Silva and brother-in-law Bruno Silva, owners of The Landing Restaurant, had settled. She met and married her husband, Steve, in 2010, and they have a blended family that includes six children and three grandchildren.

Four years ago, Noland rediscovered her love of chocolate creation.
“Steve was looking for Christmas gift ideas for his friends and clients, and I suggested making up gifts of homemade candies, chocolates and cookies. When year two of doing this came around, everyone could not wait for their sweets, and many suggested I go into business for myself,” Noland said. “I enrolled in the professional chocolatiers program at Ecole Chocolat chocolate arts school and ended up graduating with honors.”

Steve cashed in their Aruba fund (fortunately, they were gifted a trip there last May) to pay for the course and supplies. Stacy’s Sweet Spot was launched in 2010.

“Just as with any business, you breathe and sleep what you do. It is a full-time job for two of me, maybe three,” said Noland. “Right now, I am the only full-time worker, but I have help when it comes to keeping up with demand, right down to my 6-year-old granddaughter, Johana, who is a labeling princess.”

Stacy’s Sweet Spot ships online orders from Florida to California, Texas to Minnesota, and sells to Smith Mountain Lake-area retailers, including The Landing, Bruno’s GastroTruck and Hickory Hill Vineyards and Winery. Noland’s chocolates, which range in price from $5 to $36, require hours of effort.

“One batch of truffles is at least a 24-hour process,” she said. “There is the initial preparation of the ganache, the time needed to crystallize the formation of the actual truffle if hand rolled or piped into molded shells, overnight time to cure, and then the actual dipping of hand-rolled truffles or placing the cap on molded truffles, and any further decorations required.”

Noland said Valentine’s Day is her busiest holiday, followed closely by Christmas and Easter. Each occasion provides inspiration to experiment with different flavors and molds.
“New items are a constant,” she said. “I keep a notepad on the nightstand to capture [the ones that come] in my dreams. Popcorn truffle is one of them ,and we have some new and even funkier brittles due to launch, some involving basil and tomato. As for my favorites, I tend to gravitate toward the stronger, darker flavors - and anything spicy. So, Bad Ass Brittle dipped in 80-percent dark chocolate or a dark chocolate truffle gets me every time.”

Last Valentine’s Day, Noland partnered with Hickory Hill for special wine-and-chocolate-pairing events. Wendy Furrow-Scott, who operates the family owned winery with her husband, Donald Scott, said they plan to host a similar class on Feb. 15.
“It was fun to learn about the chocolates from Stacy, who created nuances I would never have imagined,” said Furrow-Scott. “People loved her chocolates. It’s the quality that sets them apart. She goes to a lot of trouble to bring in good chocolate.”

Furrow-Scott said the Deep Dark Espresso Truffle paired well with the winery’s cabernet sauvignon, and the Strawberry Breeze Truffle enhanced the flavors of their Smith Mountain Lake Redbud, a sweet wine.

Cakes, cookies, pies and cheesecakes are also part of the goodies offered by Stacy’s Sweet Spot. Whenever possible, Noland incorporates local products in her recipes, including dairy from Homestead Creamery, beer from local breweries such as Blue Mountain near Afton and produce from PePaws Produce in Penhook.

“My goal is to teach and inspire others about fine chocolates,” Noland said. “Try a fresh Cherry Cardamom Truffle, made with a single-origin chocolate made with pure cocoa butter and not all the additives mainstream chocolate companies use. Once you do, you will never look at chocolate the same again.”

Visit stacyssweetspot.com for more information or to place an order. To make a reservation for the wine and chocolate class, which is $25 per person and will take place Feb. 15 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Hickory Hill Vineyards and Winery in Moneta, call 540.296-1393. In the event of a sellout, a second class will be scheduled for Feb. 22.

Mini Chocolate Swirl Cheesecakes
Recipe courtesy of Stacy Noland
    1½    cups pecan shortbread cookie crumbs
    ¼    cup flour
    ¼    cup sugar
    ½    teaspoon ground ginger
    ¼    cup butter, melted

    1    pound cream cheese
        (two 8-ounce packages)
    2    eggs
    4    ounces white chocolate, melted
    3    ounces milk chocolate, melted
    ¼     cup sour cream
    2    tablespoons sugar
    2    tablespoons flour
    1½    teaspoons vanilla

    1    cup sweet wine such as Hickory Hill Sunset
    1    cup sugar
    1    fresh or cannned pear, peeled and sliced

Prepare crust: Stir together all ingredients and press into the bottom of one 8-inch spring form pan, two 4-inch spring form pans or 12 muffin tins. Bake at 350° for 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool.

Prepare filling: Pre-heat oven to 450°. Melt white and milk chocolates (separately) by microwaving at 50-percent power until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool. Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy; add eggs one at a time until blended. Mix in white chocolate, sour cream, sugar, flour and vanilla, beating well after each addition. Remove 1½ cups of the filling, transfer to another bowl and blend in the milk chocolate. Place one spoonful of milk chocolate filling into each muffin tin, follow with white chocolate filling.  Using a knife, toothpick or fork, pull through filling to create a swirled effect. Place muffin tins in oven on pans filled with hot water and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 240° and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Infuse pears:  Mix wine and sugar in saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add pears to pan and cook for several minutes until pears are slightly softened. Remove from heat, let cool and then chill. Serve atop cheesecake.