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Article posted: 10/8/2013 6:00 AM

From the Food Editor: Suburban treat makers sweet on chocolate

By Deborah Pankey

When the wind blows in the right direction, the sweet aroma of Bloomer Chocolate Company can nearly knock you right off the road as you drive into the Loop.

But chocolate does not just hail from our Windy City. A handful of suburban chocolatiers and treat shops will be showing off their confections at the Chicago Fine Chocolate and Dessert Show Oct. 18-20 at Navy Pier, and, thankfully, this show is open to the public.

The Chocolate Pretzel Pizza from Sweet Secrets Artisan Chocolate in Wheaton, for example, is a finalist for Best New Product.

Chocolatiers Terri Kinney and DeDe Barnicle came up with the Chocolate Pretzel Pizza by combining their kids' love of chocolate and pretzels into a pizza. Their signature pretzel bark provides the crust; toppings include crunchy pretzel pieces, broken sugar cones, sugarcoated chocolate candies, chocolate cookie chunks, double chocolate chips, sprinkles and a chocolate drizzle.

This unique treat, available in single servings and shareable (or so they say!) 9-inch and 12.5-inch sizes, are packed in a pizza-style box. The larger pizzas also come with a special mallet for breaking into bite-sized pieces.

Kinney said the treat has become as popular, maybe even more so, as the truffles that started their business rolling.

"We're seeing many parents send them to their college-aged kids as a care package or a treat before finals." Check out sweetsecretschocolate.com for the entire line of treats.

Other suburban companies to keep an eye out for while you're at the show include All Chocolate Kitchen (Geneva), Aztec Gold Gourmet Chocolates (Cary), Crio Bru (St. Charles), Four Brothers (Wheaton), Oak Mill Bakery (Des Plaines) and Ts Toffee (Spring Grove).

Besides wandering among the aisles of handcrafted goodies, you can watch baking and treat-making demos from the passionate pros at the French Pastry School or sit in on the confectionery seminars. Tickets cost $25 and are available at chicagochocolatefestival.com.

Not singing the blues: Pastry chef extraordinaire Alain Roby will be among the celebrity chefs at the Navy Pier chocolate show and he's got plenty to sing about.

Besides the success of his shop All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva and his upcoming induction into the Chicago Culinary Museum's Chefs Hall of Fame, Roby will unveil his latest all-chocolate sculpture -- a 1,000-pound, life-size blues musician -- at the Chicago Fine Chocolate & Dessert Show. If that wasn't enough, this week he launches the second edition of his cookbook (it will be available on amazon.com as of Oct. 12).

"Alain Roby's American Classics, Casual and Elegant Desserts" ($39.95) includes mouthwatering recipes from the original book (Raspberry and Blueberry Summer Pudding, Caramel Pumpkin Flan) and promises more unique treats.

You can also get the book and see some of Roby's other chocolate and sugar creations at All Chocolate Kitchen, 33 S. Third St., in downtown Geneva.

Inspired, but need more time? The deadline for entering the Daily Herald's Home Baking Challenge has been pushed to Oct. 21.

As a refresher, we're looking for recipes in the following categories: bread pudding, butter tarts, carrot muffins, Christmas fruit cake, coconut macaroons, lemon pound cake, marble Bundt cake, oatmeal cookies, peanut brittle and pecan pie. You can enter multiple categories.

Baking experts will review the recipes and invite the bakers of the top three recipes in each of the categories to present their treats to a panel of judges (including Baking Secrets columnist Annie Overboe and myself) Nov. 7 during our Home Baking Event at Novak and Parker in Mount Prospect.

Recipes will be evaluated on taste, creativity, appearance and texture. The top recipe in each category will then compete for prizes at America's Baking and Sweets Show, Nov. 15-17 in Schaumburg.

Good luck.

If you just want to come to the Home Baking Event for the baking and treat decorating demos, sit tight. Details on tickets will be forthcoming.

Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at dpankey@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com/DebPankey.DailyHerald or follow her on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter @PankeysPlate.

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