A Taste Explosion

Creative Sweets from Pyroclastic Chocolate…

The origins of chocolate trace back to the Mayans, who called it “the drink of the Gods” and consumed it as a bitter-tasting liquid with cinnamon and pepper to capitalize on its stimulating effects. Since then, the taste has come a long way as a romantic item and art form. But for chocolatier Becca Larson, the fundamentals of chocolate-making remain the same. “Chocolate can form something like five or six different crystal structures. Some of them are stable, some of them are unstable, so you have to melt out all the unstable crystal structures so the stable crystal structures can take over and seed themselves. It’s really a lot of attention spent on temperature control.”

Chocolatier Becca Larson of Pyroclastic Chocolate. Photo courtesy of Pyroclastic Chocolate.

Larson is the owner of Pyroclastic Chocolates in Weed, a home-based cottage business that has also evolved over time. “I started out making traditional hand-rolled rustic-looking truffles, but what I do now are technically molded bonbons. Sometimes I’ll refer to what I make as a truffle just because people around here know what that is, but technically a truffle is named after the fungus, you know, the mushroom that grows under the dirt. So, it’s round and rustic and coated in cocoa powder or something like that. With molded bon bons, you do the shells, you dump out the tempered chocolate to leave a cavity and pipe in the centers.”

The shape of Larson’s chocolates often resembles the popular crystals or prisms found in shops around Mt. Shasta, and the fact that Larson calls her business Pyroclastic has everything to do with Siskiyou County. “I wanted something that was reflective of the area, and the volcano here is all-inspiring. It dominates our entire skyline in Weed. Pyroclastic was also a word that isn’t super common and something I found a little more elevated and interesting. It means the chunks of rock that come out of volcanoes, like a pyroclastic flow. Some of my designs even look like a lava flow. For example, the strawberry balsamic, it’s really red and drippy-looking like lava.”

Photo courtesy of Pyroclastic Chocolate.

Some of Larson’s most popular flavors seem to harken back to chocolate’s origins. “Among my most popular are my Mexican chocolate, which has cinnamon, cayenne and a little bit of habanero. The addition of the habanero was the idea of my sister and my ex-sister-in-law. They were tasting and they were like, ‘You know, all of the hot is in one spot.’ So, we looked up what different chili peppers do, and if you add a little habanero, then you’ll get some tingle up front and something in the back of your throat. It worked out really well.” Other flavors become more of a tasteful balancing act. “I really make an effort to balance out the sweetness of white chocolate especially with things like lemon.”

The love and care that Larson puts into her chocolate extends to her sourcing. “I use all-natural colors with the colored cocoa butter, and I have recently switched from a big company that was sourcing chocolate from dubious African origin to a smaller, more ethical company out of Columbia. The chocolate tastes better and it’s a smaller carbon footprint coming from the same hemisphere. I’m always trying to improve when I can, where I can.” Larson has even started making some vegan options based on customer need. “The mocha raspberry is inspired by my sister. She loves chocolate and raspberry and coffee, but she’s lactose intolerant, so if I can cut the butter out, that helps her a little bit. That means with the vegan flavors, I don’t put any kind of substitute in. They just have more chocolate. Honestly, they’ve been extremely popular even among my regular customers.”

Photo courtesy of Pyroclastic Chocolate.

For the first-time customer, Larson recommends tasting with an open mind and savoring the experience. “I would say don’t cram the whole thing in your mouth. Some people take teeny, tiny bites. That might be overkill, but give it at least two bites. And I always recommend trying something new and different.” Larson laughs as she adds, “You don’t have to worry. I don’t make anything that’s not good. So maybe it’s not your favorite, but you’re going to like it one way or another.” • • Find them on Instagram

About Megan Peterson

Megan Peterson is a freelance storyteller who loves her family, her pets, and Northern California. Her favorite part of writing is finding flow, and she always relishes a touching human story. Aside from Enjoy, she’s typically busy writing and producing for television, having created more than 220 hours of on-air content on networks ranging from National Geographic to Netflix.

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