Askinosie Chocolate Proves CollaBARation Is Sweet

You could call Shawn Askinosie passionate. Maybe even a little obsessive. After 20 years of working as a criminal defense lawyer and battling through back-to-back murder trials, he needed a new passion. That’s when he turned to chocolate.

“The kitchen was kind of taken over with chocolate-making equipment,” said his daughter, Lawren Askinosie, who runs sales and marketing for the company. “It was pretty fascinating to watch, but eventually my mom said, ‘You know Shawn, you’re kind of taking over the kitchen. I think you should move this to your law office.’”

So he did. Eventually, the family bought a building in Springfield, Mo., and set up shop permanently. In 2007 they made their first bar, and the company quickly amassed a growing following (O Magazine named Shawn one of the “15 Guys Who Are Saving The World”).

In 2011, the Askinosie family started collaborating with their foodie friends from around the world to develop chocolate bars that would highlight unique ingredients or techniques their partners were known for.

“It started like most projects do at the factory with my dad and I talking and just visioning and dreaming,” said 23-year-old Lawren Askinosie.

More than two years later, Askinosie Chocolate has partnered with artisans on six chocolate bars for its CollaBARation line. Read about their creations below.

Dark Milk + Black Licorice

For its first collaboration bar, Askinosie Chocolate partnered with its Scandinavian distributor, Martin Jörgensen, and his licorice factory, Lakritsfabriken, located in Ramlösa.

“I’m not a black licorice fan. Most people you talk to are not. But it’s fun because you taste this bar and all of a sudden you’ve tasted black licorice in a way you never have before,” Askinosie said.

Dark Chocolate + Coffee 

Similar philosophies of directly sourcing fair trade ingredients brought Askinosie Chocolate and Intelligentsia together.

“This bar is a really special one, because we work with them on their in-season coffee, so the coffee inclusion changes depending on what’s in season for them,” said Askinosie.

Currently, the bar combines coffee from Oaxaca, Mexico and chocolate from Tanzania.

“It’s kind of a breathing bar in that the recipe can change,” Askinosie said.

Dark Chocolate + Malted Milk

To make their creamy dessert, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams pasteurizes raw milk and cream from small herds of grass-pastured cows.

“They are meticulous about sourcing those [high-quality] ingredients and finding ways to craft ice cream that really highlights those flavors and honors them,” Askinosie said.

It’s a philosophy Askinosie Chocolate shares. The company sources their beans from farmers in four different countries, and presses its own cocoa butter from the same bean they used to create the liquor for the chocolate.

Dark Chocolate + Crunchy Sugar Crystals & Vanilla Bean

Ari Weinzweig, from specialty food company Zingerman’s, wanted a chocolate bar reminiscent of Mexican-style chocolate. Here’s what Askinosie Chocolate did in tribute to that style:

 “This bar is unconched and lightly refined, so it lends itself to a rustic texture,” Askinosie said. “Conching is a process that refines the particle size of the chocolate. When it’s unconched, it means that is has a higher particle size. You can really taste the sugar crystals.”

Dark Milk Chocolate + Ancho Chile & Pistachio

“This is the most complex bar we make in terms of ingredients and flavor,”Askinosie said. “It’s like a flavor journey in your mouth.”

For over 25 years, the Askinosie family has traveled regularly to Santa Fe. They never miss an opportunity to eat at their favorite restaurant, the James Beard award-winning Café Pasqual’s, headed by Katherin Kagel.

“She’s very famous for her southwestern-inspired cuisine,” Askinosie said. “That’s where the ancho chile comes in.”

Dark Chocolate + Toasted Hemp Seeds

“Serendipity brought us together. We had been searching for a kind of super seed complement to our chocolate. Tara Miko (of Happy Hemp) really found us,” Askinosie said. “You’re combining dark chocolate, which is already kind of a super food with its health properties, with this hemp which is the same way. It’s very rich in protein and high in fatty acids.”

Askinosie recommends eating this bar hemp side down. The seeds seem to pop against the chocolate, just like the pop rocks you’d eat as a kid.