Meet Kerry Beal, a fascinating woman with two hearts: one made of gold and the other, chocolate.
She is a family physician and an emergency room doctor at Dunnville Hospital who moonlights as a chocolatier.
I discovered Kerry’s story while researching the medicinal benefits of chocolate. Thinking I’d unearth information about beneficial flavonoids and other scientific facts, I unexpectedly stumbled on her website, The Chocolate Doctor.
Photo credit: Dr. Monika Spurek
After a follow-up conversation with Kerry, I was excited to find her two seeming unrelated jobs actually have much in common. Science and creative problem-solving tie them together and Kerry’s passion for both makes her story a tremendously compelling one.
As an emergency room physician, Dr. Kerry Beal must quickly determine the cause of a patient’s problem and prescribe the appropriate treatment. Making chocolate isn’t that different. Any number of problems can occur and require a diagnose and treatment.
Who knew the pitfalls of making chocolate might include spotted, runny or shrunken chocolate? Although there’s no Hippocratic Oath for this kind of job and a real emergency situation in the process of creating is highly unlikely, my need chocolate for chocolate has sometimes felt like a matter of life and death when I was a child. My parents rarely saved me even when I swore I might die without the chocolate bar from the grocery store!
What I do know is that when you visit Kerry’s website (The Chocolate Doctor) you’ll find loads of fascinating information. There are helpful tips for producing top quality chocolate and, like the doctor she is in her other life, Kerry’s question and answer directory is a helpful guide for diagnosing chocolatier problems.
A few of the additional services offered on the website include recipes for making different kinds of truffles, private party services, and chocolate-making demonstrations. Newbie chocolatiers exploring the art and science of chocolate, or the chocolatier who runs into a seemingly unsolvable problem, can also find answers in Kerry’s inexpensive teaching videos.
Kerry’s interest in chocolate developed years ago when every Fine Cooking magazine she opened had an ad in the back for something called the Sinsation Chocolate Tempering machine. Of course, Kerry knew she had to have one. This was pre-internet days so the good doctor had to wait until she found one in a Sur La Table retail store in San Francisco.
A whopping $650 Canadian dollars later, it was hers. The machine spurred her chocolate-making journey and her desire to master skills and efficiencies in the kitchen.
Despite Kerry’s disappointment with the machine and the loud noises it made, the adventure surrounding the art of chocolate stuck.
Kerry immersed herself in the science of chocolate’s physical properties and learned to balance the taste of her chocolate fillings by manipulating ingredients. With great joy, Kerry shares these insights and results online and inspires others who share her passion.
One particular problem that Kerry noted as she became more involved with the art and science of chocolate was how difficult it was to master tempering. Tempering is an essential step for working with good quality chocolate. When purchased, it is in a crystallized form that is stable. This means it tastes good, it has shine and it snaps when you break it.
If, however, you want to melt it to make figurines, molds or to enrobe a filling – the process of melting the chocolate also melts out the desired crystals. If the chocolate is not returned to its correct crystalline form, the chocolate loses its luster and original texture.
Other issues? It will melt in your hands and it won’t contract from a mold. If it does not contract properly, then say goodbye to that happy Santa or little bunny stuck in the mold because it won’t release in one piece.
Oh, and I can’t forget the most important side effect of poorly tempered chocolate: it won’t taste very good.
Turns out there are six – yes six – types of crystalline forms of chocolate: Alpha, Gamma, Beta Prime, Beta, Beta V, and Beta VI crystals. These are more commonly known as Form I, II, III, IV, V, and VI. On the website, Kerry explains their properties in relation to the types of problems they create, as well as specific problems when making anything from ganache and truffles to properly tempered chocolate for molding or enrobing.
What impressed me most about Kerry Beal was her experimentation with the underlying science of crystallization. She wanted to find faster and more consistent ways to temper chocolate at home so that anyone could produce delicious-tasting chocolate that looked, felt and behaved as only properly tempered chocolate can.
That’s when Kerry Beal – the doctor and chocolatier – added inventor and producer of the Eztemper to her resume of success. The machine is a cocoa butter seed generator that helps individuals and small businesses make professional-grade chocolate confections.
A self-proclaimed geek, Dr. Beal’s equipment creates form V cocoa butter crystals which seed melted chocolate and result in instantly tempered chocolate. Kerry travels worldwide doing demonstrations and attending trade shows promoting her new tool. In November 2018, the Eztemper was named a sponsor of the World Chocolate Masters in Paris.
Greater success for Kerry looms because there are other industries that could benefit from the EZtemper. Lipstick is a great example. Its shiny smooth texture is tempered to create a smooth consistency. Entrepreneurs wanting to maximize the quality of many different cottage industry products would love Kerry’s invention.
I don’t know that I’ll ever see chocolate the same way, having learned so much about the exacting science that goes into it. Dr. Kerry Beal is a trailblazing woman whose work as a doctor, chocolatier and inventor are truly impressive.
My admiration for Kerry reached a new height when I learned she served in the military for three years and continues to help veterans at the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital. This special connection is a timely bonus to our WomanScape Cares initiative. This year, we are focused on raising support for Canadian our military and their families.