Creative Chemistry

Sue Machelski applies the same principles of chemistry she uses at The Dow Chemical Company to make mouthwatering chocolates for The Gourmet Cupcake Shoppe.

Science and math combine to make fine, flavorful chocolates

Sue Machelski applies the same principles of chemistry she uses at The Dow Chemical Company to make mouthwatering chocolates for The Gourmet Cupcake Shoppe.

By day, Machelski, research and development technologist at Dow, mixes up this and that from the periodic table, coming up with and securing patents on such innovations as fibrillated polyolefin foam, which can be used in absorbent articles such as diapers.

When her day is done at Dow, Machelski heads over to Midland’s The Gourmet Cupcake Shoppe to apply those same chemistry principles, along with a little algebra, to make luscious chocolate truffles for the shop’s new line of Luxe Chocolates.

“Working in chocolate involves the same principles I use at Dow,” Machelski explains. “Chocolate comes in different fluidity and viscosity, so it’s related to chemistry. She continues, “I always wanted to play with chocolate. It’s my dream job. But being a chocolatier doesn’t pay the bills.”

After studying chemistry at Michigan Technological University, Machelski took her skills to the U.S. Navy in the anti-submarine warfare department before heading to Dow. “I like troubleshooting and solving things,” she adds. “I like innovations.”

She got all that and more five years ago when she partnered with Carrie Fisher, owner of The Gourmet Cupcake Shoppe. Last March, Machelski got the chance to live the dream, combining science and creativity to develop melt-in-your-mouth truffles.

In case you think making chocolates would be the easier of the two endeavors, take note: Making truffles is a three-day affair, with Machelski and Fisher working into the nights and through the weekends.

But when you are doing what you love, what’s a little lost sleep?

The truffle creation process begins with color when Machelski chooses just the right shade of cocoa butter to go along with the flavor she is developing. “I try to be creative and artistic with the colors,” she explains. “I try not to limit the colors to the flavor. I want them to be pretty.”

After the cocoa butter is heated in a microwave to 80° F,  it goes into an airbrush gun. Next, the cocoa butter is sprayed into polished molds, and it is left to dry.

The next step is heating chocolate to 117° F before cooling it to approximately

87° F, which will give the truffles a shiny look that is crisp to the bite once they are finished. Machelski uses an infrared thermometer to check the temperature of the chocolate, and she dips a series of spoons into the chocolate every so often to make sure it is smooth.

Once the chocolate passes inspection, it is poured over the cocoa butter and then poured out again, leaving just enough to form an outer shell.

Last up is the flavorful ganache, which is chocolate with added flavors of blueberry, lemon curd, raspberry, hazelnut, cayenne, or cigar, to name a few.

Getting the cigar taste wasn’t easy. “In the beginning, I tried a lot of things,” Machelski explains. Through trial and error, she chopped up a cigar, boiled it in cream, and strained it before adding it to the ganache to add a deep smoky flavor.

Machelski continues to experiment, producing Luxe Chocolates for chocolate lovers around the region.

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