Uzma Sharif trained at the French Pastry School, worked a bit in Europe, but came back to Chicago, where, for the past year-and-a-half, she's been making her custom chocolates in Pilsen, along Halsted, at her spacious shop, Chocolat Uzma. Her South Asian roots inspire all of her unique, handmade offerings, meaning there's some spice combinations scattered among the dark and milk chocolates.
"We work in small batches. It's artisan, handcrafted, basically I've taken my French training and infused my South Asian heritage into our products," she said.
Her Pakistani roots are part of the equation, but so is the fact her grandfather was also in the business. Candy bars and truffles are a given, but check out the turtles, made with Himalayan salt and Texas pecans.
"Coriander, Himalayan pink salt, black salt, fresh mint leaves," Sharif said, listing off ingredients that make their way into her chocolates.
Cumin is another spice you might think to combine with chocolate, but Sharif does.
"So I took a milk chocolate from Ghana, and I infused crushed cumin into it and then I added honey to bring out the sweetness a little bit more. So it's more of a savory chocolate," she said.
Enrobed in dark chocolate, they're topped with a kiss of spice at the very end, as the outer layer dries. Summertime might also bring forth chocolate pots.
"They're all chocolate, filled with raspberry marshmallow and then we finish it with chocolate rocks," she said.
Winter isn't the only time of year for sipping chocolate, especially if you try one of her unique Belgian creations.
"Our Belgian sipping chocolate is made with two different types of chocolate. It's a Belgian chocolate and a single origin from Mexico. We usually make it the night before, let the flavors infuse, and then next day we serve it to our customers," said Sharif.
Cream and milk give them richness, but after the chocolate is poured into a mug, along with a homemade marshmallow, consider adding even more complexity.
"The Golden Spice is turmeric, cardamom, ginger," Sharif said. "The Kashmiri chili has cayenne, Kashmiri chili and Saigon cinnamon."
So you can come into the store, have a little snack and maybe a little bit of a drinking chocolate. But if you also wanted to get something for one of those parties this summer - the graduations, weddings, showers - pick up a gift box, which is already set to go.
In Steve's extra course video, he shows off a few weekend-only items from the bakery, like fudgy brownies and meringue tarts.
1900 S. Halsted St.