An unassuming new boutique shop with French flair has opened in Trentham to the delight of those with a sweet tooth.
Founded by Laetitia Hoffmann, Atelier Chocolat showcases a traditional means of making chocolate - from bean to bar - and with just two simple ingredients.
Rewind two decades and Ms Hoffmann was working as a graphic designer. Originally from Strasbourg, baking is in the blood of Ms Hoffmann's family.
Ever the chocoholic, she decided to make a career change and opted to learn the art of a chocolatier six years ago.
Beginning in Queensland, where she lived for 10 years, she embarked on her journey but quickly realised it was not the right location to make or sell chocolate.
So she moved to Melbourne, where she worked for revered chocolatiers Monsieur Truffe, where she learned how to make chocolate from scratch from cocoa beans, and Cioccolato Lombardo.
Ms Hoffmann founded her brand Pain et Chocolat three years ago and began by cooking up her creations in her home certified kitchen in Melbourne before selling her products at markets and festivals.
When she decided she needed to upgrade to a commercial kitchen, she started hunting for a shop front and eventually found her way to Trentham.
"I like Trentham because it is the most European place I have found. I fell in love with the area," she said.
When she opened her shop she named it Atelier Chocolat, meaning chocolate workshop or studio but retained the branding of Pain et Chocolat for her chocolate range.
Ms Hoffmann quickly realised that she had dropped into a region full of food fanatics who were obsessed with a beautiful product.
"There are so many people making beautiful things here in this area - it is so rich in produce," she said.
Ms Hoffmann carefully sources all of her products; organic cocoa beans from Panama for the small batches of chocolate she makes from scratch for her baking while for her chocolate bars, she sources chocolate from an ethical Switzerland-based company named Felchin.
"I have been working with them for five years. They work closely with farmers so it's all very transparent. I love their chocolate. Most of it is from Venezuela," she said.
Her other products, including bread and hazelnuts, are sourced from Victoria.
Ms Hoffmann is involved with the whole process of preparing each ingredient to be included in her goods, from making the chocolate to dehydrating the fruit.
"It's very hands on," she said.
Her handmade chocolate is very simple and contains only two ingredients: cocoa and sugar.
A cocoa pod contains between 40 and 60 cocoa beans and when Ms Hoffmann receives an order, the beans are raw.
The first step for her is to sort through the carton and separate the twigs and stones from the beans before putting them in the oven to roast. Next, the beans are put through a juicer to create cocoa nibs but remnants of husk remain, which are usually blown out with some sort of wind (she uses a hair dryer).
With the nibs then ready to be used, they are processed in a stone grinder where they are crushed and heated.
"The heat reduces the nibs to a syrup consistency like hot chocolate," she said. "If I am going to make 70 per cent dark chocolate then I need to add 30 per cent of the weight in sugar."
After 24 hours, the product is perfectly smooth without any particles in it and it is ready to be used in baking.
A speciality at the shop is a traditional French snack known as pain et chocolat. One of her favourites as a child, they remain her preferred way to eat chocolate as an adult.
The snack has also inspired one of her popular chocolate combinations: rye bread with smoked salt.
What Ms Hoffmann really wants to do with the Atelier is educate people about chocolate and the process making it involves.
"So what the difference is between the product you buy in the supermarket and what I make. That's my passion and I just hope I can share some knowledge with people about chocolate.
"The reality behind chocolate is that most of the products on the market come from beans that are harvested with child labour, which is not right and I don't support that kind of chocolate," she said.
"But the industry of making bean to bar chocolate is getting really big in Australia."
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