Hand-dipped bonbons certainly sound romantic and fancy, but the story behind Somerville-based chocolatier Alexandra Whisnant’s current venture is a bit more mechanical and ordinary.
She bought a refrigerator from the owner of Lizzy’s Ice Cream a few years ago—a meeting that eventually led to Whisnant’s Gâté Comme des Filles shop-within-a-shop in the Cambridge ice cream store alongside Somerville Chocolate. The set-up, which began during this time last year, allows Whisnant to serve her chocolates when the store would otherwise be closed, from December through February. Instead of an empty space, the shelves are now lined with jewel-like bonbons that are topped with candied fruits, halved walnuts and pink and blue shimmer reminiscent of pixie dust—and ice cream lovers needn’t worry, as starting this month they can snag some scoops as well.
Whisnant, a Cambridge native, has whipped up creamy ganache and praliné-filled confections ever since enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu Paris. After an internship at renowned patisserie Laudree and a brainstorming session with a poet friend, Gâté Comme des Filles was named. “It’s more like poetry than anything,” Whisnant says. “It’s pretty French words that together evoke a feeling of indulgence and treating yourself well.” From a kitchen inside Aeronaut Brewery’s Food Hub, Gâté Comme des Filles focuses on seasonal flavors, like passion fruit chocolates in the fall with produce sent from a customer’s own backyard pureed into the ganache. “I do a lot of looking for ingredients at farmers markets,” says Whisnant, who’s busy making small batches every week. “They’re meant to be eaten right away, so you always get that fresh experience without any preservatives to change the texture of the chocolate,” Whisnant adds.
In even sweeter news, Gâté Comme des Filles will soon have a more permanent location at Somerville’s Bow Market, slated to open on March 1. Guests can expect to cuddle up on a vintage love seat and sip hot chocolate infused with fresh herbs or coffee beans served in vintage teacups as they watch Whisnant craft her signature bonbons in the open kitchen. Other treats available will include chocolate mousse in a handmade chocolate cone (currently available at the Godfrey Hotel’s pop-up series through December) and decadent fudge brownies. “People can really watch me make things as well as take in the smells and tastes,” Whisnant says. “It’s like a holistic chocolate experience.”
1 1/2 cups organic raspberries
1/4-1/3 cup sugar (adjust to taste)
8-9 ounces dark chocolate (add until thick, but not “split”)
Salt to taste
Lemon juice to taste
• Heat whole raspberries in a metal pot on the stove until juicy and warm (1-2 minutes). Puree them with an immersion blender and strain out the seeds. Pour 3/4 cup of the juice into a metal bowl and place over a pot of almost-simmering water so that the bottom of the bowl is in full contact with the water. Add sugar and stir with a whisk until the sugar fully dissolves.
• Begin stirring in handfuls of chocolate. When each handful is melted into the puree, add the next. The mixture will slowly thicken. Too high of a chocolate-to-water ratio will cause the ganache to separate or “split,” so add the last bits of chocolate very slowly. (If the mixture starts to peel away from the sides of the bowl, then that means the ganache is splitting. Add a splash of raspberry puree, cream, lemon juice or water so that it clings to the sides of the bowl.) Once the ganache is slightly thick, shiny and elastic—but still sticking to the sides of the bowl—remove the bowl from the heat.
• Whisk in a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Wipe the water droplets from the bottom of the bowl with a cloth, and immediately pour the ganache into a shallow pan lined with plastic wrap. Gently press more plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ganache to make it flat and even (about 1 centimeter high). Let the ganache cool undisturbed at room temperature overnight and then chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving.
• Once it has set, slice the raspberry ganache into small squares with a hot knife. Dust the squares with cocoa powder and serve. Or temper some dark chocolate and dip the ganache into it to create hand-dipped chocolates.
Gâté Comme Des Filles at Lizzy’s Ice Cream, 29 Church St., Cambridge. gatecommedesfilles.fr