Sunday, January 3, 2021

How Bean to Baked Goods at Real Chocolate Shops Inspired The Bean to Bar Mysteries: Guest post by Amber Royer


My Bean to Bar Mysteries series is my newest foray into the realm of all things chocolate.  Ever since I did the chocolate cookbook (my first chocolate-related project), I have made it a point to visit chocolate shops/factories whenever I travel (oh, pre-COVID travel, how I miss you!) so that I can Instagram my favorite flavors and wrappers.  As a result, Felicity’s shop is basically a combination of some of the coolest aspects of different shops I’ve seen – from the bean to baked good aspect, to the artistic labels that tell her story, to the coffee and dirty horchata station to keep visitors in the shop.

I acknowledge that in some ways this may be unrealistic.  For instance, I have her just starting out, but she’s already visited origin to purchase beans for one of the chocolates she’s working on.  But I gave her the funds to do so because I wanted to be able to write about the most interesting aspects of craft chocolate.  After all, it is those kind of visits – in person or virtual -- that allow craft chocolate makers to sell you a story, of the farm the beans came from, of the care that went into turning those beans into something special.

But once you’ve bought that special chocolate, how can you show it off?  Consider baking with it.

Although most baking recipes call for blended-origin chocolate, so that you don’t have to take into account a particular chocolate’s flavors to get the “chocolaty” notes people expect, you can intentionally use the specific flavor notes of single-origin chocolate to either reinforce or contrast other flavor notes in a dish.  This is why a chocolate with a lot of tannins, which often comes across as citrus, goes well with lemon or bergamot flavors.  Chocolate with bright, fruity notes can often be paired with – or even take the place of – raisins or cherries. 

If you’re going for contrast, pair a fruity chocolate in a crust for a more savory cheesecake base.  A bitter chocolate layer can be the foil for a super-sweet filling.

And look for unexpected ways to be playful.  A tip I picked up from one maker that also has a café: chocolate with smoky notes go great in anything s’mores-inspired.

In Grand Openings Can Be Murder, Felicity’s assistant Carmen makes baked goods from Felicity’s chocolate.  One of the things she makes is chocolate-chunk pan dulce – in this case Besos (the word is Spanish for kisses), also known as yo-yos, because that’s what they look like.  There are a number of variations on what they’re sandwiched together with, and how they’re coated. 

Here’s a snippet of the scene from the book, showing how Carmen makes hers:

Logan takes a mini chocolate-chunk beso off the plate that had been under the glass cloche. “If Carmen’s innocent, then Monaco’s our main suspect. Unless you think it was Paul.”

“I’m not sure it was either of them. . . .”

I pick up one of the besos too and bite into it. Besos are a traditional Mexican sweet bread, made from a raised dough baked as two half spheres. Carmen had added chunks of my fruity Sierra Nevada chocolate to the mix, and joined the pieces with home-made strawberry jam and rolled the whole thing in fine coconut that had been infused with lavender. Traditional, yet elevated.

NOTES: If you’re up for making your own jam, you can infuse it with vanilla bean, which Carmen would have done for added depth of flavor. If you plan well in advance, you can make proper lavender infused sugar by layering lavender and sugar in a jar and shaking it once a day for about a month, then sifting out the flowers.  What I’m detailing below is a quick version that grinds the flowers into the sugar.

Single Origin Chocolate Chunk Mini Besos


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

2 teaspoons baking powder

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 egg, plus one additional yolk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup water

1 cup chocolate chunks

1 tablespoon food grade lavender flowers

1 tablespoon caster sugar, plus 2 additional tablespoons

1 cup coconut flour

3/4 cup strawberry jam

1/2 cup butter, room temperature


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, yeast and baking powder. Set aside.

Place the softened butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, and cream the mixture until it becomes fluffy. Add the eggs and the vanilla, then mix until well combined  Add the flour mixture, the water, and the vanilla extract.  Mix on low for 1 minute, to combine and then increase the speed to medium. Continue mixing until the dough takes on a soft, smooth texture (about 10-20 minutes). Add the chocolate chunks and work them into the mixture using your hands or a spoon.

Using a 2-ounce baking scoop or the palm of your hand, place half spheres of dough roughly 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the spheres are browned (about 15-20 minutes). Cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle, combine the lavender flowers and the tablespoon of caster sugar. Grind until you achieve a fine powder, then put the powder through a fine-mesh strainer. Re-grind any remaining solids. Discard anything that won’t go through the strainer. Place the lavender sugar in a medium bowl, add the remining caster sugar and the coconut flour and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of strawberry jam on the flat side of one cooled beso half. Place another half, flat side against the filling to create a sandwich with the jam in the middle.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes to stick better. 

Using your fingers, coat the cooled beso halves with the room-temperature butter. Roll into coconut sugar mixture, then tap off the excess coconut.


Amber Royer writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate at

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