Child’s peanut problem inspires parent’s passion

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A Cochrane mom has discovered a passion for making chocolate – born out of a potentially deadly problem for her kids.

Jana Lascanec’s two children are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Like many other parents in the same situation, she struggled to find sweets treats her kids could safely enjoy – even those with a “may contain” warning could not be trusted.

So, about 18 months ago, she decided to do something about it. The first place Lascanec looked was online, finding the famed Chocolate Academy website. There, guest chefs from around the world taught her the techniques she needed to construct her own confections.

“I had no idea … I just spent hours watching those videos, and I just did it,” Lascanec said. “I’ve always baked and tried to do different things – the concepts weren’t foreign.”

Though the basics weren’t foreign, the chocolate is: Lascanec uses mostly rich and flavourful South American cocoa beans as the base for her treats, brought into Canada through a Vancouver-based distributor. She works with classic Belgian chocolate as well and packages it all under her company banner, Sweet Gypsy Bespoke Chocolates.

In keeping with her original inspiration, everything is peanut- and tree nut-free – and safe for her kids to eat.

Lascanec is mostly a one-woman show – she makes the chocolate, designs the labels and sells at artisan shows and farmers’ markets around the Cochrane area. She loves to experiment with rare and different flavours, rummaging around spice shops, sniffing and smelling different blends to see what might connect well with her chocolate.

Cochranites with a sweet tooth recently got a taste of Sweet Gypsy’s eclectic variety of specialty chocolates – from root beer bark to chocolate jerky made with Alberta beef – at the recent Maker’s Christmas Market at Frank Wills Memorial Hall.

Lascanec displayed pear moscato wine ganache bonbons beside others filled with white chocolate blood orange ganache. Pretzel Potato Chip, Strawberry Coconut and Lavender Fennel chocolate bars drew interest, as well as Dr. Who-inspired dainties.

She relies on customer feedback and tastes to generate new products, and scrap ones that just aren’t working.

“It’s not always the right pairing,” said Lascanec, adding with a smile, “My husband likes to be quality control.”

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