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A Tesla engineer designed the perfect chocolate chip

Remy Labesque has over a dozen patents with Tesla. But it’s about time he got to work.

A Tesla engineer designed the perfect chocolate chip
[Photo: Dandelion Chocolate]
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In the millennial-old tradition of baking, the classic chocolate chip cookie is a remarkably new invention. The cookie itself was developed around 1937 by a baker at Toll House Inn, when Ruth Graves Wakefield—for all sorts of debatable reasons—first decided to add a chopped chocolate bar to a cookie. They were a hit, and she sold the recipe to Nestlé in 1939. By 1941, Nestlé figured out how to mass-produce chocolate chips, a novel drop of melted chocolate that solidified into a tiny morsel. And the rest is history.

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[Photo: Dandelion Chocolate]
Or is it? Because nearly 80 years later, a Tesla engineer named Remy Labesque teamed up with Todd Masonis, CEO and cofounder of Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco. The team spent three years reimagining a more perfect chocolate chip. And apparently, it’s a flat, polygonal wafer—or perhaps a square that dreams to be a diamond. Dandelion calls these chocolate bites “facets.”

Todd Masonis [Photo: Dandelion Chocolate]
As Masonis is quick to point out, the original chocolate chip design is an artifact of industrialization and mass production, but not necessarily the perfect delivery mechanism for Dandelion’s single origin chocolates, which have subtle floral and fruity notes more along the lines of third wave coffee than a Hershey’s Kiss.

While the small, round shape of chips makes it easy to mix them into batter—and their dense bottoms thwart heat in the oven to retain some of their shape—chocolate chips are a lousy delivery mechanism to tasting chocolate. Any expert will tell you that chocolate is meant to melt on your tongue luxuriously, while a chip pretty much just gets stuck in your fillings by default.

[Photo: Dandelion Chocolate]
It’s why the best chocolate chip cookie recipes actually recommend that you still chop up a chocolate bar—like Bon Appétit‘s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie. A similar tack was taken by Dandelion, which sells its own “Maybe The Very Best Chocolate Chip Cookie.” Its laborious process of making these cookies requires hours of piping quarter-sized chocolate discs by hand. As Dandelion was upgrading its own chocolate production facilities, it enlisted long-time collaborator Labesque—a fan who is paid in chocolate (and some stock options)—to develop a better chip that could come off an assembly line.

“We had multiple goals: to melt [on your tongue] but hold up as pretty big chunks in our chocolate chip cookies,” says Masonis. “And also having our own unique design and personality—we wanted that to shine.”

[Photo: Dandelion Chocolate]
After countless sketches and many 3D-printed molds to test the flavor and sensation of different shapes, Labesque created the structure you see here. It optimizes the surface area that strikes your tongue, with two of its edges tapered so that they melt instantly. But it has enough verticality and texture that it’s more than a thin, substance-less wafer.

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[Photo: Dandelion Chocolate]
When you bite into one of these chips baked in a cookie, “you’re getting a nice big chunk, but it’s more a horizontal chunk if you will,” says Masonis. “We tried early taste tests. Our chocolate is honestly pretty strong, so we wanted a shape or experience that isn’t too overwhelming. This is a chunk that’s a bit more palatable.”

Most crucially, however, this design is scalable inside a factory. Despite its delicate mouthfeel, this chip can still be mass-produced in molds, and removed from them without cracking.

If you’d like to try the chips for yourself, Dandelion sells 17.6-oz bags online for $30 (smaller-sized chips may be available in the future, too, with the same quick-melt geometry). Yes, that’s about 10x the price of the alternative from Toll House. But keep in mind, Dandelion’s chocolate is 70% single origin, and per ounce, a bag of these chips is about a third of the price of their bars. In the world of premium chocolates, these new-fangled, polygonal chips are something of a deal.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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