Stormy Skies Chocolate Silk Pie with Jordan Smith of Small Comforts Kitchen

I have to admit that baking a pie is not my favorite thing to do. —Baking—I love. But baking a pie? Not so much. If I'm going to do it, this is it.

 #piegoals Stormy Skies Chocolate Silk Pie made by Jordan Smith  *Here strictly for pie? Go on and skip ahead and scroll down the page to the recipe link. Disclaimer: shortcuts can work miracles, but here you’ll be missing out on the secret ingredients: AKA all the soul.

#piegoals Stormy Skies Chocolate Silk Pie made by Jordan Smith

*Here strictly for pie? Go on and skip ahead and scroll down the page to the recipe link. Disclaimer: shortcuts can work miracles, but here you’ll be missing out on the secret ingredients: AKA all the soul.

OUT OF THE FOG

Over the past year I found myself in and out of depression, waking up from the lull of a stagnant yet increasingly toxic relationship. When I decided to bake this pie, I realized I had no one to share it with. And I was in a relationship. How lonely is that? It was a wake up call. The smack you on the lips and show yourself some love kind of wake up call. This isn’t just Stormy Skies Pie. This is Stay Woke Pie.

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Pie Is Love

Especially chocolate pie. Chocolate pie has a romantic feel to it, a deep comfort. I decided this pie was an expression of love, even if it was just to share with myself. I ended up sharing with neighbors and friends. Each day felt like I was just trudging through the motions with ominous cliches looming overhead. Even when I immersed myself in the things I love.

Had I become some depressed girl cliche coping with an abundance of chocolate? Nah, that's just part of who I am regardless of emotion, savoring it in small bits to the best of my abilities.

C’mon, y’all. Pie is love.

Becoming Comfortable in the Uncomfortable

I'd never actually baked my own pie of any kind before. (I helped my mom cook growing up, and baked cookies and pizza on my own, but never attempted to bake a full blown dessert type pie.)  Now, as an adrenaline junkie of sorts, and no stranger to the kitchen, I hadn't considered baking as a way to get out of my comfort zone of familiarity, and back into the comfort zone of growth—which for me really means being comfortable facing the uncomfortable. That's where something as innocent as pie caught me off guard and opened my heart back up. Something cliqued. It was that small action of doing something new by myself, that also allowed versatility along the way.  

When Jordan Smith debuted her home cooking blog, Small Comforts Kitchen earlier this year, I was psyched for three reasons (Pie itself was not one of them): 

First, was that I know Jordan. As a volunteering member for a non-profit organization known as The Writers League of Texas, I've spent several hours under her wing at various events, and have only glimpsed a splinter of her workload. (She is currently the Member Services Manager). I can't say I know her deeply, but that I know she is compassionate, dedicated, and her shoes are hard to fill. She wasn't someone that popped up for me in an online recipe rabbit hole—nothing wrong with that—but it was that direct personal connection that amplified my intrigue. 

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Second, was that her recipes are incidentally gluten free. Jordan describes them as "gluten-free recipes that aren’t good in spite of being gluten-free; they’re just damn good recipes." 

Third, chocolate. Need I say more? I'll let Jordan do the talking here. In the following interview with Jordan Smith, get inside the mind behind Small Comforts Kitchen, and discover why her debut recipe incorporates chocolate. If you're already drooling, please be careful tilting your head. Breathe. Her recipe can be found towards the end of this post. Or here

INTERVIEW: JORDAN SMITH of SMALL COMFORTS KITCHEN 

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When and how did you get into home cooking?

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when, but one of my first memories of cooking on my own was attempting a strawberry whipped cream cake for mother's day when I was nine or ten. I'm pretty sure the whipped cream "frosting" kept sliding off the cake. But I inherently understood that it was special to make food for a loved one, and then when I was a teenager, I started to find solace in being home by myself and cooking my own food.

Under your mouthwatering art on Instagram, you shared that you have depression, and that cooking is a form of self care. Personally, how has cooking your own meals helped you through your depression?

Cooking literally gave me a reason to get up in the morning. I was going through a rough period and couldn't get myself out of bed for my day job, even though I didn't have to be at work until 10 am. When I started cooking breakfast for myself each morning, things started to shift, and then eventually posting my breakfast on Instagram led to wanting to start a blog. I wanted the name for my blog to hint at my experience —something that would be warm and welcoming but also subtly convey how I use cooking to alleviate the depression.

What are your favorite small comforts outside of the kitchen?

I practice yoga (I used to teach it, but stopped during the low point of my depression). I also enjoy coloring books and have recently started gardening. (I may have a house plant-buying problem.) And I have way too many lavender-scented things in my bathroom cabinet right now.

At what point did you decide to take your recipes and way of home cooking a step further and share it with the world?

This is actually my second time starting a food blog. I had a blog on and off in college, but it was just a personal diary of sorts and not really something I was trying to share with others. This time around, I was worried that if I started a blog, cooking might become stressful instead of fun. But on Instagram, it seemed like I was getting really authentic interest from friends and strangers, which can be hard to do on social media. One day I told myself that if I got 100 likes on a post, I'd think about starting a blog. Around the same time, I was contacted by Addie Broyles about running some photos of a cake I made in the Austin American-Statesman. That's when I started to feel like maybe I was onto something.

Your blog features recipes that are delicious, uplifting,  and incidentally gluten free.  When did you personally shift to eat gluten free?

I was diagnosed with celiac in summer 2012. I may have had symptoms my whole life, but they only became severe that summer. I was lucky in that I got a diagnosis very quickly after I got sick. I happened to know two others who had been recently diagnosed. My doctors never proposed that I might have celiac, and I was met with some resistance when I asked to be tested for it. I'd encourage anyone who suspects that they might have it -- or any other illness -- to keep advocating for themselves until they find answers.

After my diagnosis, I very quickly made the switch to eating gluten-free, though it took me years to start enjoying eating and cooking again.

If I made your Stormy Skies Pie when it is bright and sunny outside, what nickname do you suggest to call it?

Love this question! Chocolate Dream Pie!

Do you have a favorite kind of chocolate?

I'm typically more of a milk chocolate person, but I also tend to gravitate toward chocolate paired with other interesting flavors. I love salty chocolate, as well as anything with lavender or hazelnuts.

What is your favorite chocolate related memory?

Truthfully, making the Stormy Skies Pie. I chose to post that recipe first on my blog because it came together in such a seamless, enjoyable way, and I really think it encapsulates what I'm trying to do with the blog, which is to make gluten-free food that everyone will love. And at a very close second is being interviewed by you! 

Get Jordan's Recipe Here: Stormy Skies Chocolate Silk Pie (or Dreamy Skies Pie) with Cointreau Whip Cream (gluten free)  

Recipe Variations

What I love about this recipe is its tremendous versatility. It can be modified for any diet. It can be a bake or no bake pie, and finally, it is one I have come to enjoy during any season, through cloudy haze, or under a sapphire blanket studded with stars. 

Jordan's recipe was adapted from several sources: gluten-free cookie crust adapted from Kate McDermot via bon appetit, and the chocolate silk was adapted from the New York TimesThe boozey Cointreau whip cream is all her. 

I decided to experiment with my own variations, which became a challenge as the heat was picking up here in Austin, Texas. In a 540 sq ft studio apartment, an oven isn't exactly calling me when it is between 90 and 100+ degrees fahrenheight outside. So I took some time to play with the versatility of the recipe outdoors on the grill, which isn't something I do unless I'm grilling several things, so as not to be wasteful. Now that we have finally entered what feels like Fall (late October), I will continue to experiment with this delicious recipe.

Special Ingredients: Put a Little Soul Into It

In my own adaptation, I didn't stray far from Jordan's recipe, but still wanted to personalize it. I decided to do this with ingredients that are references to my memories and a few individuals who have empowered me along the way in my chocolate and writing journey. Small details are also small comforts, right? Let's call this Writing up a Storm Pie. Something like that. Hmm. No. Dreamy Skies Pie fits better. 

The pie itself is my reference to Jordan. 

Because I know Jordan through the writing community, sharing her debut recipe is a huge joy in itself. Plus, the chocolate silk reminds me of my childhood love for chocolate mousse. I still love it.

TCHO Cocoa powder is a reference to two people. 

The very first interview I posted on my blog here was with Simran Sethi, author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of The foods We Love, a compassionate woman whom I dearly respect. In her opening chapter, she introduces us to TCHO Chocolate, of California.  

The very first person I shared any of my chocolate writing with in the industry was Sander Wolf, Founder of The Dallas Chocolate Festival. He is also a fan of TCHO chocolate, and was the first person I ever heard pronounce the name in person. Even having read about it, I was mispronouncing the name! (Though sometimes I will adore a mispronunciation and it will become a nickname or joke). 

Fair Trade bakers chocolate used is by Divine Chocolate, which is ethically sourced from Africa's first farmer owned cooperative organization Kuapo Kokoo, of Ghana, Africa. The heart of my research in cacao was on the ground in the Volta region of Ghana, where I joined some students on their college dissertations. We surveyed 16 rural cacao farming villages. 

*Butter was from Vital Farms, because I believe in supporting small local businesses when and where you can. Plus, ethics. Bullshit free. 

*Sugar used was also Fair Trade, which is often an overlooked ingredient when it comes to ethical food sourcing. 

I also added grilled strawberries, because, I was grilling. 

 It wasn't me.

It wasn't me.

 Grilled strawberries and a smoky version of the Stormy Skies Pie.

Grilled strawberries and a smoky version of the Stormy Skies Pie.

DOUBLE FEATURE: RIP Dead Dog Chocolate, Viva Cultura Craft Chocolate

Fridge art, curated by Heather Holland

On my fridge, alphabet magnets and spur of the moment poems are scattered across the door, with mementos weighed down in between. A Valentine's card from a local taco vendor called Fresa's reads, "I love being jalepeno business." An Everest Beer label from Nepal reminds me to work hard to play hard, and because the girly side of me thinks it's too cute to use, a little rub on tattoo of a dog's skeleton is proudly preserved.

 Closeup of the tattoo on fridge in previous photo, Logo of Dead Dog Chocolate,  photo by HH

Closeup of the tattoo on fridge in previous photo, Logo of Dead Dog Chocolate,  photo by HH

So what's with the tattoo?  Some of you may have never seen this logo before, and sadly, may never get to see it on the market again.

This cutie is the former logo of a Denver based bean to bar chocolate company, Dead Dog Chocolate.  Back in 2014, co-founders Katelyn and Damaris agreed to an interview with me for a book, but we decided to go ahead and share this sweet little piece of history here. Since then, many things have changed. Before diving into the sweet little piece of history, Damaris Graves answered a few questions for me to help keep us up to speed:

Death means change. What changes occurred that lead to the reshaping of your brand?  How did Dead Dog Chocolate come to an end?

In the beginning of 2016 Katelyn decided to pursue other interests in her life and stop making chocolate. At the same time, the co-founder of Mutari chocolate, Matt Armstrong, moved to Colorado and began working with me. While I have always loved Dead Dog Chocolate, I felt the name had become a distraction. I felt like I spent more time defending the name than being able to talk about our products. With Katelyn leaving and Matt joining, I felt like it was a perfect opportunity to redefine our brand while still staying true to our original values.

If anything, what will you miss about Dead Dog Chocolate?

I will, of course, miss working with Katelyn, who is now my sister in law. I will also miss the controversy of our name. While it became exhausting trying to defend it, I appreciated the fact that it provoked people and created a conversation. I will also miss our Dead Dog tattoos!

What are you most excited about in the evolution of your brand?

I have always found one of the best ways to learn is to embrace change. It is a philosophy I have held onto throughout my chocolate making experience and what has allowed me to be creative, to grow and to improve as business and chocolate maker. While Dead Dog Chocolate may be ending, its existence was crucial to getting me where I am today. Our new brand Cultura Craft Chocolate embodies that history and is a reflection of my experience and evolution.

Why the name Cultura Craft Chocolate?

I wanted to create a brand that held onto the spirit of Dead Dog Chocolate while incorporating all the changes that were happening. Both Matt and I have very different experiences with cacao. This brand embraces these differences and reflects our evolution in the chocolate world.

Where do you see chocolate taking you in the future (literally or metaphorically)?

There is still so much I don't know about chocolate and I feel like a lifetime could be spent learning about it. Some short term goals include being able to visit more cacao farms and learning about what is happening on the farm level; understanding more about the history of chocolate and its importance in so many different cultures both in the past and today.

An official introduction online teases the newest line of dark chocolate bars. "Say hello to Cultura Craft Chocolate." Photo by Cultura Craft Chocolate

*Please note that the death and rebirth of a chocolate brand, the images, and discussion in this post are not in any way making light of the cultural traditions of any people. My thoughts and prayers go out to all observing the loss of their loved ones during El Dia de Los Muertos, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day. Kindly, Heather Holland

REVIVED FROM OCTOBER 10th, 2014: A SWEET LITTLE PIECE OF HISTORY: AN INTERVIEW WITH DAMARIS GRAVES, CO-FOUNDER OF DEAD DOG CHOCOLATE

Name: Damaris Graves

Hometown: Denver, CO

Family: Most of my family lives here in Denver but I also have family in Mexico from my mom’s side and in Finland from my husband’s side.

Hobbies: Cooking! I’m always experimenting and love learning about modern cooking techniques. I also love hiking, running, biking and seeing new places.

Personal Motto: To be curious about everything. There is so much interesting stuff happening in this world. I only wish there was time to explore everything.

 Damaris Graves, (Right) and Katelyn Fox (Left), Co-founders of Denver based bean to bar chocolate company, Dead Dog Chocolate, Photo courtesy of Damaris

Damaris Graves, (Right) and Katelyn Fox (Left), Co-founders of Denver based bean to bar chocolate company, Dead Dog Chocolate, Photo courtesy of Damaris

How did you two meet?

I met Katelyn almost ten years ago when she started dating my brother. When I moved back to Colorado 4 years ago we became much closer and eventually decided to go into business together.

What inspired you to make your own chocolate?

 I had previously worked as a pastry chef and was curious about learning the process behind making certain products. I used to follow a cooking blog called “Cooking Issues” and in one of the issues they mentioned making “ketchup chocolate”. Essentially they were trying to replicate the texture of chocolate with other products. Anyway, through that blog I found Chocolate Alchemy, a site devoted to teaching people how to make bean-to-bar chocolate at home. I figured why not give it a shot? Since Katelyn has been working for another chocolatier we decided to pursue this together.

Why the name Dead Dog Chocolate?

We really wanted to have a name that matched the values and culture behind our company. We wanted it to be edgy, creative, funny, and authentic. It was actually our mascot’s owner, Ross who suggested the name. Ross was Katelyn’s roommate and their dog, Scout was always around. When we first started make chocolate we did a lot of it at Katelyn’s house and we constantly joked about how we needed to make sure to not leave any chocolate out otherwise “Scout would be a dead dog”.  When we decided on the name we felt that not only could we help remind people to never feed their dog chocolate but that we could tie in the Mexican influence our company has by creating a Day of the Dead inspired logo.

Tell me about your mascot:

Scout is our mascot. He is a blue healer that used to live with Katelyn. Even though he is not around as much anymore he still holds a special place in heart and will forever be our mascot.

Scout the dog, photo by Jacoby Design, courtesy of Damaris Graves

What tips/tricks do you have to keep dogs safe from chocolate? Are there any alternatives for them you recommend?

Dogs are allergic to a stimulant in chocolate called theobromine. The higher the percentage of cacao in chocolate the more theobromine there will be. Cats and other animals are also allergic to theobromine but dogs specifically love sweet things which is why you always hear about chocolate being bad for dogs and not cats or other animals. I definitely recommend keeping chocolate on high shelves. Of course, the size of the dog and the amount of chocolate they consume will determine if they get sick or not. I have had people tell me their dogs have eaten multiple bars of chocolate and been fine. I would definitely always be cautious though, no matter the size of your dog. I have heard of some companies that used carob in dog treats. That is a possible alternative for dogs as it doesn’t contain theobromine.

Please describe the quality and sourcing of your ingredients:

We source beans from Central and South America that is always organic and ethically sourced. Most of the beans we use are fair trade but some come from such small farms that fair trade certification isn’t feasible. We do always make sure that farmers are receiving fair wages and that our cacao is always of the highest quality.

Describe your roles with the company (who does what):

Katelyn and I try to split the work evenly. Our production, marketing and sales is split with each of us having specific tasks and accounts that we work with. Since I have an office management background I tend to handle most of the administrative tasks. However, we always try to make sure we are on the same page of things and our completely transparent with each other.

Has anyone influenced or inspired you directly in the chocolate world?

If so, who and how? I really didn’t know much about the craft chocolate world until we started this business. However, while I was in school in Somerville, MA I used to always buy Taza Chocolate and loved their authentic Mexican-style chocolate. Since starting the business, Potomac Chocolate, Dick Taylor, and Dandeloin have all been inspiration.

What is your favorite kind of chocolate?

I love Mexican style chocolate that is a little spicy and a little gritty.

Do you have a favorite product that you make?

Our Mexican drinking chocolate and our Mexican chocolate bar are my two favorite. I also never thought I would like white chocolate or lavender but our cherry lavender truffle in white chocolate is one of my favorites.

What do you enjoy pairing chocolate with? 

Wine, whiskey, coffee are all great. I also love cooking with chocolate. We make an authentic mole poblano sauce with our chocolate.

Is there anything you think chocolate doesn't go with?

No, at least I haven’t encountered anything. I think that cacao in some form can pair with almost anything.

What is your favorite chocolate related memory?

When I used to go backpacking with my dad he used to always save a Special extra dark Hershey’s bar for when we were 3-4 days into our trip. It was definitely the most delicious thing to eat after being in the wilderness for a few days.

If you were to receive the death sentence, what would you choose as your last meal? Dessert?

Mexican food definitely! My mom makes this soup called guachemole and it definitely the best thing ever! Definitely a piece of whiskey chocolate for dessert as well.

Do you have any traditions you follow for El Dia de Los Muertos?

My family doesn’t really have any traditions here in the U.S. but when we go to Mexico my family goes to the graveyard with lots of candles and flowers and then has a huge feast at midnight.

Is this the last of the tea? Stashed, sipped, and photographed by Heather Holland

 

Interview: Simran Sethi, author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love

Not just about food, Simran's nourishing journey over six continents in five years held me captive page to page. With the occasional strange coincidence to my own life (if you know anyone else fascinated by octopus, who has enjoyed cena solo en Lima,  and gone on a cleanse while interviewing chocolate makers, please send them my way), it is no coincidence that I find myself constantly re-assessing my relationships with food, with others, with life. 

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