YOU MIGHT say that Carmen Portillo knows chocolate. You might also say that she’s made a name for herself as one of Arkansas’ leading chocolatiers, chalking up bona fides like a certification from Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts and an appearance on the Food Network’s Bake You Rich back in April.
But when it comes to chocolate gravy? That decadent and distinctly Arkansan treat? It might surprise you, but Carmen first experienced it somewhat late in her career as a cocoa creative.
“It’s funny because I didn’t grow up with chocolate gravy,” Carmen says. “It actually came to me by way of a friend’s husband, and I didn’t probably have it until I was in my 20s. He was super excited to share it with me because he knew I was a chocolatier.”
Carmen admits that she was a little skeptical at first but was surprised by how much she enjoyed it. Her daughter, on the other hand, experienced no such reservations. “Particularly the recipe that I’ve shared with you,” Carmen says, “my daughter licked the spoon, licked the plate—licked everything!”
You might say Carmen’s chocolate recipe has an almost addictive quality to it, and that’s thanks to her secret ingredient: instant coffee. “Being a chocolatier, whenever we’re developing truffles or any type of product, we always think about the different flavor notes, right?” Carmen says. “We think about texture and everything that’s going to play on the palate—particularly flavor. So I was wanting something that’s complementary. … [The] instant coffee really punches another little dimension of flavor, kind of makes it more multidimensional and more adultlike.”
Does that mean eating biscuits and chocolate gravy counts as adulting? Because that’s an idea we can get behind.
1/3 cup quality unsweetened dutch-processed cocoa powder
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 ½ cups milk, warmed in the microwave for 2 minutes
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
3 tablespoons butter, small-diced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, sugar and salt. If ingredients are lumpy, push through a strainer or sieve. Steep the instant coffee in warmed milk. Pour the milk mixture into the saucepan, and whisk until all the lumps are gone. Place the pan over medium heat, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly, until the gravy just begins to boil, then thickens. Once thick, remove from the heat, and stir in the butter and vanilla. Stir until the butter has melted. Serve over hot biscuits or pound cake, or eat with a spoon!
Catch Carmen at Choctoberfest at Moonbroch Brewing Company in downtown Rogers on Oct. 10, or swing by her downtown Little Rock location at 108 W. 6th Street. Need chocolate all the time? Order a subscription by visiting cocoabellechocolates.com