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Voracious Valentines

dining ashby chocolateAshby Confections gives locals a taste of love

Nothing says Valentine’s Day quite like chocolate. Whether you’re head over heels in love or single and ready to mingle, few can resist sneaking a sweet treat—or five—particularly at this time of year.

Luckily for locals, Ashby Confections has recently opened up shop in Scotts Valley, and is armed and ready to satisfy every sweet tooth.

At the helm of the operation, which specializes in artisan confections that are just as delectable as they are pieces of art, is Jennifer Ashby.

A lifelong baker, Ashby discovered her passion for chocolate while attending the Culinary Institute of America after graduating from UC Santa Cruz.

“It was new and very challenging, and that appealed to me,” Ashby recalls of her first introduction to making chocolate. “I love how versatile chocolate is. You can mold it, shape it, and even add a pattern to it. It can be savory or sweet. Little chocolates and confections are like jewels. For me, it was part artistry, part science, and part magic.”

That magic comes to life at Ashby Confections, where she dazzles locals with her unique concoctions, including Tortoises—her take on the classic turtle—truffles, English toffee, rocky road, and more. While many of the confections available at the shop come from her own original recipes, a few are from her great grandmother and others are adapted from cookbooks. “I like making classic confections, but with really great ingredients and a twist,” she says.

Some of Ashby’s best-sellers are her Tortoises, which are made with either dark chocolate or milk chocolate, and feature roasted pecans, her own caramel recipe, and either Monterey Bay sea salt or smoked sea salt. Her truffles, bonbons and Pâté de Fruit—a French-style candy made with fresh local organic fruits, including pomegranate, pomelo, blood orange and apple—are also customer favorites.

dining jennifer ashby chocolateJennifer Ashby shares some of her tasty confections. Photos by Keana Parker.But for Ashby, it’s all about the Key Lime Pie Marshmallows.

“It’s a lime marshmallow dipped in white chocolate with organic lime zest, set on a graham cracker crust,” Ashby says, adding that the marshmallow is made in-house. “I was sampling it out the other day, and I kept being tempted by it.”

Asked how she practices self control while working in a chocolate shop day after day, Ashby admits with a laugh, “There are definitely times when I’m like, ‘I gotta get out of here!’ Especially in that hour after dinner …”

But with Valentine’s Day upon us, Ashby doesn’t have time to get distracted by her own taste buds. Her primary focus is on that of her customers.

Her two varieties of Aphrodisiac Truffles, her Valentine’s Collection—a five-piece set of heart-shaped chocolates—Mixed Box Chocolates, four- and 12-piece Boxed Varieties, are inexpensive, yet ornate, gifts that will delight any chocoholic.

“There are many reasons why chocolate makes a great gift,” says Ashby. “For one, eating chocolate is a sensual experience. When you see it, it’s beautiful. When you smell it, it has a wonderful aroma. When you bite it, you can hear it crack. And you can feel it melt on your tongue. So it really affects all of your senses.”

In addition to being associated with romance, Ashby adds that the chemical makeup of chocolate offers some explanation as to why it’s so closely linked to Valentine’s Day and love in general.

“Historically, chocolate has been known to have a lot of aphrodisiac qualities to it,” she explains. “Chocolate also has properties that are calming, like phenylethylamine, which releases dopamine in the pleasure points of the brain. It’s known as the love chemical. Chocolate also contains tryptophan, which is found in turkey, too. It’s known to promote a sense of well-being and relaxation.”

For Ashby, chocolate is far more than dessert.

“We eat with our eyes first,” she says, adding that detail and color are of the utmost importance when crafting her sweets. “When I unmold the truffles, for instance, it’s like opening a present on Christmas morning.”


Ashby Confections is located at 16C Victor Square, Scotts Valley. For more information about handmade chocolate by Jennifer Ashby, visit ashbyconfections.com, or call 234-1171.

Spice Truffles
Ingredients:
14 oz whipping cream
3.5 oz agave syrup
1 pound 2 oz dark chocolate
1/2 – 1 teaspoon apple pie spice mix
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 oz soft butter
Chop the chocolate and place in a glass bowl. Heat in the microwave in 10- to 20-second increments until melted. This can also be done in a double boiler on low-medium heat. Bring cream, agave syrup and spice mix to a boil. If you have a food processor, pour the chocolate into the processor, turn it on and pour the creme mixture into the chocolate in a thin stream. Alternatively, you can pour the creme into the chocolate in a bowl and whisk rapidly to emulsify. Next, add the vanilla extract, then the butter.  
Leave in the bowl to set up in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the bowl and then scoop out spoonfuls of the ganache onto a sheet pan.
Roll into balls and coat with cocoa powder.
These will keep for up to two weeks in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Comments (1)Add Comment
AshbyConfectionsLover
written by Kia, February 12, 2014
Thank you for sharing Ashby Confections! Not only are they gorgeous, Jen has a flavor for every palette. I am so thankful that she takes the time to find the best local ingredients. More please :)

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