Daily Herald
Nurturing an infatuation with chocolate at home
By Deborah Pankey | Daily Herald Food Editor
Published: 5/27/2009 12:00 AM

Recipes

When most people renovate their houses they add bedrooms, great rooms or home theater spaces. Not Mark Lannie.

Last year Lannie and his wife, Nadia, added a chocolate room to their Arlington Heights home.

Lannie, executive pastry chef at the Women's Athletic Club in Chicago, crafts high-end chocolates under the moniker Lannie Confections. A graduate of the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, he started making dark chocolate truffles and bonbons filled with natural fruit purees for the ladies at the club and received rave reviews.

After putting in an early shift at the club, he races home on the Kennedy to get his 8-year-old son, Mark, from school. After homework and dinner, Mark heads to the chocolate room where he melts, molds, whips and dips chocolates into a dazzling array of decadence.

When did you first get the chocolate bug? I took a chocolate class at the French Pastry School in Chicago. In that class, I learned how to melt, temper and create fine chocolates. That was the start of my chocolate infatuation. I've taken, and continue to take, classes from world-renowned chocolatiers.

What's the allure of chocolate? What attracts me to chocolate is its ability to be used in many forms, such as candies, pastries, cakes and showpieces. The variety of chocolate flavors produced from different cocoa beans allows me to create unique confections.

What chocolate do you use in your candies? I use high-grade cocoa bean from South America, or Madagascar off the Ivory Coast. My "everyday" chocolate is Venezuelan milk chocolate. When I sell you chocolate I want you to feel the texture, the softness; appreciate the quality of the chocolate.

We also make our own nut purees and fruit purees. There are some flavors I won't combine. Basil in chocolate; it doesn't make sense. If you want basil, order pasta.

What is your favorite kitchen tool? Professionally, a Robot Coupe Blixer. This is used for grinding nuts into a paste. At home, I like my KitchenAid stand mixer.

What was the last meal you cooked at home? For my son's communion party, we made Cajun crusted tenderloin, garlic and lemon butter Chilean sea bass, Italian/honey mustard chicken breast, banana cake and, of course, assorted fine chocolates.

What do you do in your free time? I coach my son's basketball and baseball teams. And create new chocolates.

Do you have any favorite places to eat out? Catch 35 (iChicago), PF Changs and La Tasca (in Arlington Heights).

Tell us about this recipe: Dark Chocolate Mousse. It can be used as a filling for cakes or mini pastries, and can also be served by itself in a stemmed glass with seasonal fruits. It is one of my favorite recipes for both home and work.

Lannie Confections are available for showers, weddings, celebrations and corporate events. Call (847) 421-5623 or visit mark@lannieconfections.com.

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