"We ate a lot of mole," Brian Pelletier says with a laugh.
That's how the owner and chief chocolatier of Kakao Chocolate describes the arduous recipe testing process for the St. Louis-based chocolate company's newest product, a Mexican mole sauce.
"Coming up on the 10th anniversary of Kakao, we wanted to do something out of the box," Pelletier says. "We wanted to launch a completely new product: a mole sauce. One of the key ingredients in this sauce is chocolate, so it fits right in with what we do, except it’s completely different because first of all, it’s savory and secondly, it’s something that we’re going to put in jars."
Kakao chef Amanda Calvert spent about a month researching different mole styles and and reading cookbooks. She perfected her recipe after about a month and a half of testing. The traditional sauce gets its complexity from the layering of different ingredients. Some styles, which vary across regions, can include upwards of 100 different herbs, chiles, nuts, seeds and spices.
"I’ve always loved mole; it’s always been one of my favorite foods," Calvert says. "It’s really hard to make; it’s not something where you can grab a few ingredients and make it at home. But it’s really delicious when it’s done well. There isn’t anyone around here that’s doing mole like this, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to make a statement."
Kakao's recipe is a take on mole poblano, which is known for its use of chocolate. Calvert says it's a non-traditional spin, however; while traditional recipes call for milk chocolate and cinnamon, Kakao's recipe uses dark chocolate to give it a bolder chocolate flavor. "It’s not quite a Mexican grandmother’s sauce," she says. "It has a combination of 28 different ingredients and it takes approximately forever to make."
Wondering how to use the mole sauce at home? Kakao has a few ideas, including slow-cooked shredded chicken thighs with mole and sesame seeds; enchiladas with black beans, mushrooms, squash, mole and pickled onions; or pork chili with ancho peppers and mole.
"We’ve been eating a lot of it, as you can imagine," Pelletier says. "We’ve used it in tacos, pizza and breakfast dishes. There’s a ton of different things that you can do with it; it’s a very versatile sauce." Look for a variety of mole-inspired recipes to be posted on the Kakao website soon.
Kakao will introduce its new mole sauce at the Tower Grove Farmers Market on Sat., April 21, and at the St. Louis Earth Day festival on April 21 to 22. Immediately after, the sauce will be available in Kakao stores and at select retailers in St. Louis.
Kakao Chocolate, multiple locations, kakaochocolate.com