Splendid Oaks Chocolates to the Rescue
Valentine’s Day. Love it or hate it, eventually we find ourselves in a mad dash to the grocery store at the eleventh hour for whatever forlorn chocolates and flowers are left malingering on the shelves. Hershey Kisses in a red bag? Sure. Heart-shaped box of whatevers? Fine. We grab indiscriminately, desperate not to show up empty-handed.
Fear not, for redemption is at hand. Whether you’re single, attached, or somewhere in-between, Splendid Oaks Chocolates has got your back. This artisan chocolate shop in downtown Waco is guaranteed to ease the V-Day pressure and bring a little joy to your February doldrums.
Delectable Edible Art
Upon entering Splendid Oaks Chocolates on Franklin Avenue, you are greeted by a sparkling glass display case featuring 32 chocolate bonbons in a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. They are entirely hand-made by owner-chocolatier Kevin DeVries and his team and feature delicate shells that burst open when bitten to reveal luscious, creamy interiors. White tables and chairs are sprinkled throughout the shop, should you choose to indulge in your treats there.
Flavors range from traditional classics like raspberry and coconut to more unusual pairings like cherry cheesecake and blackberry bourbon made with Balcones Distilling’s Pot Still Bourbon. One of their top sellers, the Bananas Foster, is an absolute showstopper, a dark chocolate shell that gives way to a rum-laced, cinnamony brown sugar ganache that compliments the tropical richness of fresh bananas. The single-origin bonbons showcase one chocolate from one region, and the Dominican Republic bonbon is an incredible example of just how complex, bright, even citrusy, an unadulterated chocolate can be. The pb&j, the passionfruit, the whiskey cinnamon bun—you really can’t go wrong here.
While you wait for your chocolates to be handsomely boxed, you can enjoy a selection of ice creams from Graeter’s, a family-owned creamery that still churns and packs their ice cream in tiny, 2.5-gallon batches. The decadently rich and intensely fruity black raspberry is flecked with thick chocolate shards, while the buckeye Blitz is a chocolate-peanut butter fantasy made real. It’s some of the best ice cream you’ll ever taste.
Crafting Chocolate at Splendid Oaks
Chocolate-making is a fiddly business, requiring an enormous amount of patience and precision. First, there’s the couverture, a French term for chocolate that contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter than your average chocolate chip. This makes the chocolate fluid and easy to work with in liquid form. (Yes, Willy Wonka’s chocolate river should come to mind.)
Next, the chocolate must be tempered, a process of heating, agitating, and cooling that crystalizes the cocoa butter. When properly aligned, those invisible crystals create an impossibly mirrored surface and a pleasingly resistant snap when broken.
(If you’ve ever unwrapped a chocolate bar to find it white, spotty, and crumbling, you’ve seen what can happen when tempering goes awry.)
Then, plastic molds of various shapes are carefully painted with colored cocoa butter and lined with the thinnest of chocolate shells in dark, milk, or white chocolate. Finally, they’re filled and bottomed with another thin layer of chocolate before being unmolded and popped in the case.
DeVries Brings Laser Focus to His Splendid Oaks Creations
While Kevin DeVries was completing his bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship at Baylor University, he began to dream of opening a chocolate shop in Waco. He had no culinary training and, at the outset, was busy researching the logistics of business ownership, the reverse of how most chocolatiers begin their careers (chocolate first, business later).
In his native Chicago, DeVries and his family frequented a shop that sold frozen chocolate-covered bananas. He began by recreating them at home, did a little reading, and realized there was a whole world of high-end confections that beckoned beyond the humble banana. What began as a whim evolved into an obsession.
“I think there are some people that have a little bit of interest in a hundred different things. When I get interested in something, I go deep,” said DeVries. “So, it’s like I only know four things, but about those four things, I know everything.”
He went on to hone his craft at the highly-respected Melissa Coppel Chocolate School in Las Vegas, Nevada. In October of 2020, he opened Splendid Oaks Chocolates.
DeVries is a perfectionist, constantly challenging himself by developing recipes gram by gram to achieve the proper balance of sweet, tart, bitter, and creamy. A dark chocolate shell will mask a delicate filling, while a sour fruit requires the sweetness of white chocolate to mediate the pucker. His current obsession is yuzu, a fragrant East Asian citrus reminiscent of mandarins, grapefruits, and lemons.
“Being the idiot I am, I want to make a vegan yuzu chocolate, which means it has to be dark chocolate, and bitterness and sourness do not go together,” said DeVries. “It’s like my Mount Everest right now. It’s the kind of thing I don’t know is possible because every yuzu chocolate I’ve ever seen is white chocolate.”
Undaunted, DeVries will continue experimenting until he achieves alchemical magic. He has space for four more chocolates in his case, and you can bet that whatever they are, they will be stellar.
Cookies & Cream Cookies
Most professional chocolatiers start their careers as pastry chefs, but DeVries has just begun to explore the world of baking. This is one of his favorite new recipes that he’s been testing out on his friends. So far, it’s a hit. They are a cinch to make at home and are sure to please your Valentine.
95 g butter, room temperature
30 g cream cheese, room temperature
120 g granulated sugar
90 g brown sugar
1 large egg
224 g flour
4 g baking soda
8 g salt
230 g Oreo cookies, roughly crushed (you can put them in a ziplock and crush them with a rolling pin or wine bottle)
Preheat oven to 315 °F.
In a stand mixer (or a bowl with a handheld mixer), cream together the butter, cream cheese, and both sugars until fully incorporated. Beat in the egg until fully incorporated, then add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix to incorporate. Add crushed Oreos to the mixture and mix until fully combined. Scoop the dough into 50 g balls (roughly 4 tablespoons) and bake on a lined baking sheet (parchment paper or Silpat) for 13 minutes.
Serve warm or cooled with a glass of milk, or double down with a mug of hot chocolate.
For a truly special Valentine’s, Galentine’s, or plain old made-it-through-Monday celebration, head over to Splendid Oaks Chocolates. After 6:30 pm on Valentine’s Day, they’ll be offering free hot chocolate with every ice cream purchase. And their neighbor, Bloom Waco, is offering 10% off bouquets when you bring in your box of chocolates.
Open Monday through Friday at 1020 Franklin Avenue from 11:30 am to 10 pm, Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm, and Sunday from 12:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
Learn more about Waco’s local food scene on the Waco Insider podcast Eat, Drink, Repeat, hosted by Angelica Mazé.
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