When my friend and I walked into Tschudin Chocolates and Confections, we were immediately greeted with glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice, served to us by none other than the chocolate mastermind himself, Rob Tschudin, as well as his cohort Lara. As seniors with little to no idea what we’re going to do post-Wes, we felt impelled to ask Lara, who looked to be just a little older than us, what led her to a career in the chocolate business. Turns out she has a BFA from NYU, but was “corrupted,” as Rob affectionately put it, and went back to school for French culinary training. After seeing and tasting the colorful array of chocolates, pastries, and frozen treats available at Tschudin, and observing the joyful, warm atmosphere that Rob creates for his employees, going back to school to learn how to make desserts doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea after all.
While Rob got ingredients ready in the back, Lara chatted with us over a bowl of blueberry scone dough. Scones are her favorite thing to make, she said, because even though it’s important to meticulously measure out all the ingredients on a scale to get the consistency just right, she can have a good amount of creative leeway with the recipe.
This time, she added lemon zest and brandy to the mix before molding the crumbly dough into squares. The scones were then brushed in butter and sprinkled with sugar before being put in the oven.
While we waited for them to bake, Lara explained to us what she likes most about working at Tschudin. “Here,” she says, “I’m not just a cog in the machine;” the cozy and personal vibe at Tschudin, as well as the small number of employees (four, on a busy day), allows for a level of intimacy that you wouldn’t get with a larger company. It’s clear that Lara’s contributions are important to the success of the shop. In fact, Rob describes many of the treats he shows us, such as some frozen mounds of chocolate mousse with a gooey pistachio filling (pictured below), as “Lara’s creations.”
Rob’s shop serves not only as a chocolaterie and pastry destination, but also as a hub for many of the culinary bigwigs of Middletown. During our stay, we were delighted to see Brian O’Rourke of O’Rourke’s Diner walk through the door. He warmly greeted Rob and Lara before picking out a few treats from the display case to take home with him. There was seldom a moment during our time in the store when customers weren’t trickling in and out the doors. One person walked in and requested every macaron they had. This, Lara explained to us, is typical. Their menu changes from hour to hour depending on what is popular and what Rob and Lara decide to whip up, so if someone sees a treat they love, they jump at the opportunity.
During these hot summer months, the store’s specialty is frozen mousse, which the chocolatiers form into “moussicles.” The finished product looks like a frozen bar of chocolate ice cream, but in reality, it’s much more. Tschudin’s moussicles are filled with gourmet chocolate-mango mousse and coated in dark chocolate. Then they are topped with a flourish of milk chocolate. The finished product is rich and decadent, but also perfectly refreshing. Another bonus? Moussicles don’t melt nearly as fast as ice cream and popsicles do.
For those who have heard of Dominique Ansel’s Cronut, which is currently sweeping the nation, you’ll be happy to hear that the trend has found its way to Middletown in the form of Tschudin’s “Laminonuts.” They get their name from the “laminated” (flaky, layered) croissant dough they’re made with, combined with the deep-fried deliciousness of a doughnut. You can order yours rolled in sugar, infused with pastry cream, or slathered in caramel sauce. I had mine with pastry cream and caramel sauce. While some doughnuts are overwhelmingly rich, Tschudin’s croissant dough is light and buttery, lending towards a less heavy but much more delicious version of the classic dessert.
Our stay lasted just long enough for us to see the scones come out of the oven. Although we didn’t try them, the sight alone was enough to make our mouths water. The tops looked perfectly crisp, and the dough appeared to be buttery and soft, with blueberries generously sprinkled throughout. When I asked if there were any new recipes on the horizon for Tschudin, Lara confirmed that there are, but that they are top secret. There’s no doubt that I’ll be coming back to find out.
Consensus? Tschudin’s is a must-try for everyone with a penchant for sweet treats and good conversation.
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