September 30, 2016

The Art of Making Great Chocolate

Cummings Studio Chocolates and Hatch Family Chocolates reveal the fine art to fine taste.
chocolate covered stawberries

Cummings Studio Chocolates has become famous for their chocolate covered strawberries in the summertime.

Smooth and subtle or dark and intense? Do these words describe a confection or a romantic encounter? There is a reason chocolate and love are intimately entwined. The complex chemistry of the cocoa plant mimics the neuro-transmitters the brain identifies with passion.
Utah’s love affair with chocolate is a sweet one and extends beyond Easter and Valentine’s Day. A sign in Cummings Studio Chocolates reminds the patron that “Chocolate is cheaper than therapy and you don’t need an appointment.” Cummings, the granddaddy of Utah candy-makers, has been satisfying customers for four generations. Started in 1924, and continuously operating out of the same location at 700 East and 900 South, Cummings is the model of a “family business.”

“My father-in-law started it,” says Marion Cummings, the current owner. “He wanted to meet girls, so he took a course in cooking.” Soon the confections concocted and given away from his mother’s basement were in demand. A banking friend saw his potential and the business was born. “V. Clyde developed the formulas and methods we use today.” says Marion. “My husband, Paul, took over when his father died, and I married into it.” Now Marion’s granddaughter, Allie, is learning the secrets of the Cummings kitchen. “She’s a natural,” says Marion.
Cummings offers over 60 different varieties of its unique “therapy,” which they ship worldwide. However, their creams and truffles remain a local delight. The confections displayed on the store shelves, whether molded, dipped, or boxed, were formed just a few yards away, mostly by hand, by a staff of 20 dedicated employees who frequently learned their skills from their own mothers. As Marion observes, “It’s a labor of love and is something handed down from one generation to the next.”

He wanted to meet girls, so he took a course in cooking.” Soon the confections concocted and given away from his mother’s basement were in demand.

Love, family and heritage is also at the center of Hatch Family Chocolates, which is a newer arrival to the Utah chocolate scene. In the cafe area of their new shop on Eighth Avenue hangs a life-sized photograph of the married owners, Katie Masterson and Stephen Hatch, standing under a rainbow-colored umbrella and looking up while chocolate rains on them from above making puddles all around. It could be a metaphor for their life.

“I love chocolate,” says Katie who is a trained pastry chef. “I always wondered about having a sweet or dessert shop.” The Chicago native candied to the idea when Steve’s father suggested they all open a sweet shop using Steve’s grandmother’s recipes for caramel which dated from the end of the 19th century.

“Back then they did it for fun at holidays,” says Katie, “making everything from scratch, by hand. We’re basically continuing that tradition and expanding it.” The hand-written, chalkboard menu behind the counter includes ice cream, beverages and confections. You can sit at a table and drink Hatch signature hot chocolate or espresso while sampling your choice of chocolate-coated fresh and dried fruit, or “Worms In Mud” (a surprise!), penuche, or pots de creme.

Featured two years ago on the TLC reality show, “Little Chocolatiers,” Steve and Katie have received a lot of media attention since opening their first shop in the Avenues in 2003. The exposure has undoubtedly helped them grow, but Katie admits it’s a double-edged sword. “There’s a fine line,” she says. “We don’t want to lose who we are and being part of the neighborhood with all the kids coming over after school to get something sweet. It’s like being part of an extended family.”
She smiles. The black and white photograph on the wall behind her is of a child, nose pressed to the case, kissing a display of chocolate. The image is on their business cards, too. “Our number one satisfaction comes from creating something people enjoy.” she says. Her favorite? By all means it is a peanut butter and chocolate combination “It’s like having a party in your mouth.” §